pedanther: (Default)
1. It's coming up to time for the Doctor Who season finale, and for the first time in a while I'm -- "really looking forward to it" isn't quite right, for several reasons; perhaps "firmly emotionally invested" is better. The last few season finales, I've been interested to see how things turned out but I wasn't particularly feeling a sense of jeopardy, or any doubt that the Doctor was going to save the day in the end. (And, it has to be said, in some cases the danger was too bizarre to be properly frightening.) But this time we've got the Doctor's companion Bill, who's one of my favourite characters in the series, in direct concrete peril, and I'm not at all sure the Doctor is going to be able to get her out, or that even if he does that it's going to be something they're going to be able to come back from.


2. Our production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado went pretty well. There were bits I would have liked to have done better (there always are), and I didn't really feel I was giving the performance I'd been aiming for until a couple of performances before we closed (I never do), but everybody on stage and in the audience had fun, and that's the important thing.


3. There is another attempt afoot to get a regular-ish improv event going here, with the first workshop being held this week. I'm not going to prognosticate about its chances, because I said the last one looked like it might survive and then it immediately collapsed. I'll just enjoy it while it lasts, however long that turns out to be.


4. At the gaming group last week, I got invited to play a game of X-Wing Miniatures, using pre-made teams based on the more recent Force Awakens ships and characters: I had Rey and Finn in the Millennium Falcon and Poe and R2-D2 in an X-Wing, while the guy who owned the set had Hux's flagship and Kylo Ren's shuttle. The encounter was a victory for the Resistance, which I attribute more to the inherent strength of the team I was given than to my own rather fumbling efforts. (In particular, I kept forgetting the movement order, with the result that nearly every turn the Falcon rear-ended some other ship because I'd incorrectly assumed it would have moved out of the way before the Falcon got there.)


5. I tried watching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight again recently, and found it a lot less entertaining now that I know what's coming. I mean that two different ways: First, it's a movie that depends a lot on surprising twists, and is at a disadvantage when the viewer knows all the twists in advance. Second, the events of the sequel cast a shadow back over this movie, not always to its benefit. Also, for a Batman movie, there really isn't all that much Batman in it.
pedanther: (Default)
1. I went to Swancon again this year, and had a good time. Based on past history, the odds are not good that I'll do a detailed write-up.

One memorable event was a discussion about gender-swapping -- examples of it being done such as the recent Ghostbusters movie, thoughts about the opportunities and pitfalls, and so on -- where there was an artist in the room who took suggestions for a series of sketches of characters people would like to see gender-swapped, with a camera set up so we could all watch the sketch taking shape while the discussion went on. The people whose suggestions were accepted got to keep the resulting sketch at the end if they wanted. I suggested "female Asian Iron Fist", which sprang to mind because the shortcomings of the Iron Fist TV series had been something of a recurring conversation topic at the convention, and without intially intending to keep the sketch. (For one thing, they were on quite large pieces of paper that looked like they'd be trouble to get home in my luggage unwrinkled.) I changed my mind when I saw the finished sketch, though; this is a character I would definitely read or watch a series about. I managed to get the sketch home mostly unscathed, too; now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

Games I played included Original Flavour Fluxx, Pandemic, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullfyrez (which I enjoyed the mechanics of but found the theme/story off-putting), Joking Hazard, Tsuro of the Seas, Hamsterolle, and King of Tokyo. And also, on the same trip but not actually at the convention, Fury of Dracula; I played Dracula, partly because I figured that would reduce the amount of explanations required to the novice players but mostly because it was my copy of the game so I could be Dracula if I wanted.


2. The British Museum's contribution to International Tabletop Day is a video in which Dr Irving Finkel, the museum's curator of cuneiform artifacts, demonstrates one of the oldest board games in recorded history, the rules for which he reconstructed from one of the tablets in his collection. His opponent is Youtube-based science communicator Tom Scott.


3. As part of my preparation for the Star Wars Rolling Remix, of which I have previously written, I rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy all the way through for the first time in years. I was struck by how young the characters are in the first one, compared to my memory of them (which is mostly of how they end up in Return of the Jedi). Han, and Luke -- not so much Leia, though I think that's down to her not being allowed to grow up as much as the men, so she ended up much closer to her beginning -- but the one that really surprised me was Darth Vader. I had a fixed mental image of him as being a sort of looming menace with a lot of ponderous gravitas, but that's really something he grows into over the trilogy; in the first movie, he has a lot more extraneous movement, and talks more rapidly too. (And I think I owe whoever played Vader in Rogue One an apology for thinking his body language was wrong; it was a lot closer to Vader-at-that-age than I'd remembered.)


4. A while back I read A Shilling for Candles, the first mystery novel to be published under the byline of Josephine Tey. I started it mainly out of a sense of historical curiosity -- it inspired a film by Alfred Hitchcock, and Tey went on to write a couple of novels that I rather liked (although less so on re-reading them and becoming more aware of the author's prejudices) -- but it turned out to have an unexpected point of interest. The action takes place mainly in Devon, in and around the (I'm guessing fictional) town of Westover -- which is also the setting of Brat Farrar, my favourite of Tey's later novels.


5. I finally got around to reading The Collected Kagan, Baen's ebook edition of Janet Kagan's short stories. The quality is somewhat variable, as it's a collection aiming for comprehensiveness, rather than a best-of, but there are some great stories in there. (Eventually; for some reason, the compiler decided to lead off with some of the weaker stories, and I worry that, should anyone who isn't already a Kagan fan happen to give the book a try, they'll give up before getting to the good stuff.) For fans of her science fiction novels, I particularly recommend "Christmas Wingding", "Winging It", "Fighting Words", and "The Nutcracker Coup", which are in a similar mode to the novels. (Not to mention "How First Woman Stole Language from tuli-tuli the Beast", which is actual backstory for one of the novels.) I also highly recommend "Naked Wish-Fulfillment", which is a contemporary fantasy story and great in a completely different way.
pedanther: (Default)
1. I've been listening a lot lately to the podcast Film Reroll, which has the premise that each episode a group of people play a one-off roleplaying campaign based on a famous movie, just to see how far off course the plot can go when it depends on dice rolls and player imagination instead of having an author handing out plot points and making sure things pan out in the way they intend. Pretty far off course, it turns out; apart from the obvious consequences like people muffing their dice rolls really badly and everybody dying, one of my favourite examples so far is an episode where one of the players ended up sitting on the sidelines for the whole thing, because the plot took a direction early on that completely bypassed the character they'd been planning to play.

Another example is the campaign I've just finished listening to, The Wizard of Oz. It follows the movie fairly faithfully up until the protagonists meet the Wizard (though a bit more smoothly in some places, as the players get some good dice rolls in when facing the obstacles the Wicked Witch puts in their path) -- and then the players have to decide how best to tackle the job of stealing the Wicked Witch's broom for the Wizard, at which point the plot jumps dramatically off the rails, and the campaign ends up turning into a four-episode, eight-hour epic fantasy quest with cut-throat politics and dragons. Bits of it are amazingly poetic and surprisingly moving, and it's the one so far where I really felt at the end like I had been immersed in a story and not just been listening to a group of friends joking around. (Not that there's anything wrong with listening to a group of friends joking around; that describes most of the podcasts I listen to regularly.)


2. Our run of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has ended, as usual just when I felt I was really beginning to get the hang of it. (If I ever get to the end of a show and think, that's okay, there wasn't anything left to do here, that's when I'll really be sad.)

Next up is another production with a very long title, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado. It's this year's big production by the director who's done Oliver! and Chicago and suchlike in previous years, and I was actually quite looking forward to having nothing to do with it for a change, but then I was invited to come on board as assistant director and gets some hands-on experience in the running of a big production, and I didn't feel I could say no.


3. I got to go to exactly one meeting of the gaming group between the end of rehearsals for Spelling Bee and the beginning of rehearsals for Mikado, but I got to do the things I'd wanted to do, so that was good. As I mentioned last time, I had two games I wanted to play, and I got to play both.

Ingenious is an abstract pattern-based competitive game with a tricky scoring mechanic where each player is scored on several different criteria and only the lowest score counts, so if you get too focussed on building up on one score and neglect the others you can easily find yourself in real trouble. I started playing the app version last year and was sufficiently impressed by it to buy the physical game in the hope of finding people to play it with me. As it happened I found two, which made things interesting because the app version only does two-player games and so I'd never played a three-player game before. It turns out that, like many other games, it's rather more complicated and more difficult to get on top of with two opponents than with only one. I ended up not coming last, and considered myself well satisfied with my performance. The other two players seemed to enjoy themselves too, so I expect I'll take it along again another time.

Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, is a collaborative game in which the players are exploring an island for centuries-old lost treasures while dealing with the inconvenient fact that the island is rapidly sinking. (If memory serves, the manual claims that this is the result of an ancient booby trap set by the owners of the lost treasures, who apparently really didn't want them to be found again.) Mechanically, it's kind of like a more family friendly (less complicated, less worldwide catastrophe depicting) version of the collaborative game Pandemic, which is not a coincidence as they're both designed by Matt Leacock.


4. Recently the emergency jump start box in the car ran low on juice, which it announced by beeping loudly and regularly and loudly, which inspired me to drive directly home and look for the charge cable instead of stopping on the way to do the shopping as I'd intended. This prompted three observations:

First, that it was probably designed deliberately to make a loud and irritating noise clearly audible throughout the car specifically to make it impossible for its owner to contemplate putting off the job of recharging it, because it's not a good idea to put off charging a piece equipment you might need in an emergency. In which case, congratulations to the designer, it worked.

Secondly, while driving home I had cause to ponder the subjective nature of time, because the beeps didn't always seem regularly spaced; sometimes they seemed closer together, and other times further apart. The most convincing mechanism I've seen proposed for the subjective experience of time changing speed is that it's a function of memory; the same amount of information is coming in at the same rate all the time, but when nothing much is happening we don't bother to remember most of it, and then it seems like time has gone by really quickly, but when things get exciting more detail gets stored and then it seems in retrospect that the experience was stretched out more.

Thirdly, if I hadn't been able to find the charge cable when I got home, I'd have been stuck with a loudly beeping box that I had no way to shut up, and that would not have been fun. Here's where I benefited from some of the work I've been doing sorting my clutter into boxes. It took a few attempts to guess which box I would have sorted the charge cable into (gadgets and accessories? extension cords? stuff I'm going to put away as soon as I figure where it goes?) but it was still probably faster and less stressful than if I'd had nothing more to go on than "it's in this huge pile of clutter somewhere, probably".


5. We had the state election last weekend. Overall, it was a landslide victory for the Labor Party, which has been in opposition for the last eight years, and a crushing defeat for the Liberal-National coalition government. (Obligatory Aus politics footnote: The Liberal Party's name refers to their economic stance; they're conservative on social issues.) In my local electorate, the contest was much closer, to the point that we still, a week later, don't know exactly who the winner is. Normally by this point in a vote count it's clear who won and the rest of the ballot counting is just to find out by how much, but in this case it's split almost evenly between the three major party candidates, which never happens. In this case, the Labor candidate has the lift that his entire party's getting but is a newcomer to politics running against two well-known local identities with long track records in public service. The Libs' candidate may even have got a boost from his own party's misbehaviour, or rather from his response to it; a couple of times during the election campaign he got caught wrongfooted when his party announced policies that would have a signficant local effect without warning him first, and he wasn't shy about saying what he thought about that.

(In other news, the populist party that was expected to be a protest vote magnet did much worse in the election than expected, possibly because they were frankly and very visibly incompetent, with several of their candidates being kicked out of the party during the election campaign for doing things that a proper recruitment process ought to have caught ahead of time. It's all very well going "vote for us because you can't trust those professional politicians and we're not professionals", but being so utterly unprofessional inevitably invites people to wonder how you can be trusted to the run the place if you can't even hold the party together long enough to get over the finish line.)
pedanther: (Default)
1. Our production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened this week. Everyone seems to be enjoying it so far. (Including us; not that we weren't enjoying it anyway, but it helps to be reminded how funny some of the bits are that had faded through over-familiarity.)


2. This weekend was the area final of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest and Evaluation Contest. I represented my club in the Evaluation Contest, and came second -- which came as a nice surprise, because I was pretty sure there were at least two other competitors who'd done better than me. My friend who represented the club in the International Speech Contest, with a speech about dealing with negative self-talk, was even more surprised to come first (but I wasn't, because it was clearly the best speech in the contest -- though I may be biased).


3. Now that rehearsals for Spelling Bee are over, I'll be able to start going to gaming group meetings again; I'm looking forward to it. Usually I just show up and see who's got a game that needs players, but this time I'm planning to suggest a few games of my own: Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, and Ingenious, which I gave myself for Christmas after getting hooked on the app version.


4. I've played a bit more Mass Effect since I last posted, and now know Garrus, Wrex, and Tali as more than just faces on Tumblr posts. I also, being me, managed to put my foot in my mouth with all three of them during their respective tell-me-about-your-backstory conversations. (No, that's not quite true; I did fumble things with Wrex and Garrus, but when I hacked off Tali I knew exactly what I was doing. Attempts to justify genocide make me prickly; who'd've guessed?)


5. Movie-wise, I have been to see Rogue One (I teared up at the end, in the good-heartwarming way not the bad-distressing way) and Moana (lots of fun).
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Joking Hazard is a card game along the lines of Cards Against Humanity, where the aim is to supply the missing part of a joke, but instead of one-liners it's three panel comic strips. That makes it a bit more involved than CAH, and will possibly mean that it takes longer for the novelty to wear off, but I suspect when it does I'll be as over it as I am over CAH, particularly since it has the same kind of sense of arguably-humor. (The game I played produced one or two actual jokes and a lot of strips where the punchline was "And then one of the stick figures does something rude and inappropriate".) It is only fair for me to admit, however, that the novelty did last all the way through the game I played, and I did kind of enjoy it.


2. I've played a few different variants of the card game Love Letter since I joined the gaming group; the most recent is Love Letter: Premium Edition, which uses the intial theme (the one with an actual love letter, as opposed to supervillains or hobbits) but includes extra cards that can be added to the deck if more people want to play. This is really useful at our gaming group, because the standard game is restricted to four players and usually there are more people than that who want to play; with the extra cards, a game can have up to eight players. Most of the extra cards have new abilities, some of which are intended to keep the game from dragging; for instance, in the standard game you can only get a victory point by winning a round, but the expanded game includes several other ways to gain victory points, such as a card that invites you to predict who will win the current round and awards you a victory point if you're right. Or a very interesting card which -- okay, the most reliable way to make sure a person doesn't win a round is to eliminate them from play, but one of the new cards awards the person who has it a victory point if they're eliminated. And of course they get a victory point if they win the round, so once someone plays that card everybody else has to try to steer the game so that they make it to the end of the round without a winning hand. What tends to happen a lot in practice is that someone will have a lapse of concentration and eliminate that player anyway, having forgotten why it's a bad idea. I've actually won a whole game that way.


3. Survive: Escape from Atlantis is a board game where the players are trying to evacuate the population of an island that's gradually sinking into a sea infested with carnivorous sea monsters, whirlpools and other hazards. It's not a co-operative game: each player has a particular group they're responsible for, there are a limited number of boats, and part of the gameplay is making the sea monsters go and bother somebody else. I enjoyed it a lot.


4. I got my old Magic: The Gathering cards out of storage recently, because I've noticed there's pretty much always Magic players at the gaming group even when nothing much else is happening. I haven't actually got to use them at a meet yet, but mentioning that I had them led to me getting invited to join a game of Magic: The Gathering: Commander, which is a variant of the game where several people fight each other simultaneously instead of one-on-one. This involves a different kind of deck from the usual one-on-one game; the player who was organizing the match kindly lent me one of his spares. I ended up being one of the last two players standing, I suspect largely because the more experienced players didn't see me as a threat and concentrated on knocking each other out. I very nearly won the match, too, but although I had all the cards I needed I didn't use them as well as I needed to, saving one up when I should have played it and playing others when I should have saved them. Well, I'll know better next time, if there's a next time.

The lost opportunity I regret most, although I don't think it would actually have changed the outcome, involved a card that lets the player swap the hitpoints of two opponents. At the point I drew it, one of the other players was nearly out of hitpoints, largely due to the efforts of another player who was not only in full health but had acquired extra hitpoints and had had to break out an extra hitpoint counter. Swapping their hitpoints would have been really entertaining. Alas, by the time I had the mana to use the spell, the weakest player had been eliminated, and the strongest had suffered a major reversal of fortune, with the result that the strongest player had only a three-point lead over the weakest remaining player. Much less entertaining.


5. I had played Tsuro before, and didn't think I liked it; it tends to be over very quickly and often ends in the last two players dying simultaneously, but it turns out to be a good game for filling in time while waiting for something else to happen. (The fact that I actually won a game probably also helped lift my opinion.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. At the gaming group this week, we played Carcassonne and Splendor. First we played a two-player game of Carcassonne, which I won convincingly, then another person arrived and we played a three-player game, which I lost even more convincingly. Then we played two three-player games of Splendor, and I lost both times.

At the end of the evening, everybody happened to finish up early except the role-playing group, who were in the middle of battling a kraken that was trying to sink their ship. I hung around to see how that turned out; how it turned out was that the kraken destroyed the ship, but the adventuring party did manage to rescue most of the people on board by stuffing them inside some kind of hammerspace pocket their wizard conjured up. On the one hand: Lots of survivors, yay! On the other hand: Lots of survivors stuck in a hammerspace pocket hovering in midair over open ocean with no chance of anybody happening along to rescue them... The wizard explained that he had a theoretically sound plan for getting everyone back to dry land in one piece, but the venue was closing up so we didn't get to find out yet how well that was going to go in practice.


2. The local music school runs a small choral group for adults that I've been vaguely aware for a while, but hadn't got around to checking out due to having other things on and general shyness about putting myself into new situations. Recently I've had some more free time due to not being in any shows at present, which happened to coincide with the beginning of a new school term, so it seemed like a good time to check it out. I am enjoying it so far.


3. In a rare burst of decluttering enthusiasm, I've done something about the pile of Things I Put Down For a Moment Intending to Deal With Them Later that was gradually engulfing my study. It's now sorted into three boxes: things to be put away when I figure out where they go, likewise but with a good chance I'll be wanting them again before then, and things that actually need dealing with. Next step: dealing with the things in the third box.

In a bit of carry-over, I also did a thing with the box that's been sitting in the kitchen since I moved in, which nominally contained things that needed to be unpacked in the kitchen. It's now been separated into a small box of things that really do need to be unpacked, and a larger box of things I never actually used in the old kitchen and don't see myself using in this one either. Next step: Figure out how to usefully get rid of the second and larger box.


4. The new online community platform Imzy recently moved from closed to open beta, in case anyone's interested in checking it out. (Can't have communities without people in, after all...) My impression is that so far the more broadly-drawn communities, like Fantasy, are making more of a go of it than the communities based on more specific topics, but that may change as more people get involved.


5. Fanfic rec: Working Backwards by Starlightify. In which Clark Kent wakes up in Lois Lane's bed and has to figure out how he got there, and also who Lois thought he was at the time. Normally I find stories with this kind of premise acutely embarrassing, but this is written with a great deal of warmth and empathy and I enjoyed it unreservedly.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. At the gaming group, last time I went, we played 7 Wonders: Duel. There were about half a dozen people interested in learning about it, so we ended up playing in rotation, where everyone got two games against different opponents and most people (including me) won the first and then lost the second.


2. I participated in the Multifandom Drabble Exchange on Imzy, because it seemed like a good excuse to check out Imzy and a good excuse to write some drabbles. I wrote one drabble, and attempted a second based on one of my recipient's other prompts but it refused to be squished down to 100 words.

* New Flowers Bloom expands a bit on some of the events that are summarized so briefly in the happily-ever-after paragraph of the fairy tale "Snow-white and Rose-red".

* A week next Saturday at the Stork Club is a shameless fix-fic for the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.

I received two drabbles, both for the TV series Ultraviolet (yay!). Neither of them seems to have been posted anywhere outside of Imzy (which is currently still only readable to the beta testers).


3. I have not signed up for Yuletide this year, though I may end up doing a pinch hit or a treat or something. This is my usual level of engagement with Yuletide, because I find that the most daunting part of Yuletide is thinking of things to ask for.


4. Kim Newman's new novel Angels of Music (a take on the Charlie's Angels premise populated with characters from 19th century genre fiction, including the Paris Opera Ghost as the mysterious faceless leader) is now available in a variety of formats. It's also been announced that his next book will be a short story collection with a theme of monsters, featuring a brand new Anno Dracula story titled "Yokai Town".


5. Ursula Vernon's new novel Summer in Orcus is being published online as a serial, with new chapters dropping twice a week. It's her version of the old "child dragged into another world for an adventure" genre.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. This year the music section of the annual performing arts festival, which in previous years has been held over a weekend, was further divided into vocal and intrumental sections and held over two weekends. This came about because last year we had about three days worth of entries crammed into two days, which was stressful for everyone. This year we had three days worth of entries spread out over four days, which was a lot less fraught; we could begin and end each day at a reasonable time and still have time for proper refreshment breaks between sessions, and there was one afternoon in each weekend given over to some very well-attended workshops run by the guest adjudicators. It does mean we need to find two guest adjudicators each year instead of one, but on the other hand it gives us more options in finding them, since we don't need to find one person who's strong on both vocal and instrumental music.


2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opens in a week. It's coming together pretty well.


3. I have been to the gaming group only once recently, as there have tended to be Jekyll & Hyde rehearsals scheduled against it. One of the X-Wing players, whose usual opponents hadn't made it, saw me wandering around at a loose end and recognised me as someone who occasionally watches them play, so he invited me to have a go. I had control of a small Rebel fleet, versus his swarm of Imperial TIE Fighters. There was an exciting moment during the battle where one of my ships was on a collision course with an asteroid, but I managed the dice rolls that converted it from "ship collides with asteroid, takes damage" to "ship hides on asteroid for a turn, takes no damage". It came down to one Rebel and one TIE fighter, but the TIE fighter won in the end. I enjoyed it okay once I started getting the hang of it, but I don't think I see myself becoming an X-Wing player who owns his own set; way too many little fiddly bits to obtain and keep track of.


4. I have finished playing through the storyline in Lego Jurassic World, and am now exploring the bits of the game that are unlocked as the storyline is completed. It's definitely more fun once the dinosaurs show up. The triceratops is still one of my favourite dinosaurs to play, probably followed by the brontosaurus. Playing as the brontosaurus is strangely relaxing, as it's so large that the camera pulls waaay out to fit it in, and the parts of the game that usually seem so important are reduced to tiny distant things going on down by the dinosaur's feet. The baby velociraptor is also surprisingly good value as a player character. (Then you get into the possibilities afforded by genetic manipulation, such as a tiny compsognathus with a headbutt as powerful as a triceratops or a t-rex's shattering roar.)

One thing that's still bothering me about it involves the distribution of character traits: there's a very large overlap between the sets "character is female", "character has a glass-shattering shriek", and "character is Agile" (can jump high and squeeze through small gaps), in a way that makes Agile often look like a consolation prize for female characters who can't really do much else. To some extent, I suppose this is a result of the game being constrained by the roles given to female characters in the original movies. One thing that can't be blamed on the movies, though, is the way that the game seems to be rubbing it in by using hot pink as the colour code for obstacles that only Agile characters can get past.


5. Fanfic rec: Shadow-Self, a retelling of the False Guinevere legend. In the usual version, King Arthur's wife is secretly replaced partway through his reign by an impostor of identical aspect, her low-born half-sister, who causes a number of problems before the switch is discovered. In this retelling, that's not quite how it goes.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I mentioned that the Rep Club will next be doing our annual season of one-act plays, then The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In an excess of enthusiasm, I have signed on for both, and there are very few evenings now that I'm not rehearsing for something. It makes a change from last year when I didn't get to act in anything at all, but I may end up having to beg off the Christmas Show just to get a bit of a rest.


2. At the gaming group, we played Stay Away!, in which the players represent a group of explorers in an isolated location who have to figure out which of their number is now an inhuman Thing in disguise, before they all get turned into inhuman Things themselves. (The flavour text and illustrations are all jazz-era Lovecraftian, down to namedropping R'lyeh, but I suspect the real inspiration is something that isn't out of copyright yet, particularly since the standard tool for Thing-destruction is a flamethrower.)

I said before that I don't get on well with games that are all about watching people's body language to figure out who's the traitor, but I do better with games where there's an abstract mechanic and things to do other than make and deflect accusations. The formal mechanism of this game involves drawing, playing, and trading cards: useful cards, like the flamethrower and the barricade, and other cards, like the one that says, The person who gave you this card is an inhuman Thing - and now, so are you...

I had a stroke of luck in the first game we played: my starting hand included the card which lets you prove you're not the Thing, and so did the starting hand of the more experienced player next to me. That meant we each had someone we could trust watching one flank, and also that I could learn from how he assessed the other players without having to worry that he was making stuff up to throw me off. We ended up being the last two humans in the game. And then one of the Things got him with a flamethrower, and I was the last human, and then I did something unwise and the Things won.

The second game went a lot quicker. Fairly early on one of the players was accused of being the Thing and completely failed to produce a convincingly innocent response. After that, the rest of the table closed ranks and it was only a matter of time before a flamethrower was found and deployed, securing victory for the humans.

The third game went even quicker than that, because less than one turn around the table a player got hold of the flamethrower and decided to torch one of his neighbours on spec, and it turned out that the neighbour was, in fact, the Thing, producing another easy victory for the humans.

The fourth game was another long one like the first. At one point I was one of only two humans who knew for sure the identity of the Thing. Then, while I was concentrating on setting the other one up to take a shot with a flamethrower, I let my guard down and got Thinged. My former ally did get his shot, but it turned out the Thing had a card that let him temporarily escape getting barbecued. I went on to make a key move in the eventual victory for us Things.


3. At home, I've started playing Lego Jurassic World. I wasn't sure I liked it at first; it felt like the game was being held back by adhering too closely to the events of the movie, not helped by the decision to use actual voice tracks, which don't suit the cartoony style that Lego game cutscenes are usually in. (Also, I started off resenting it somewhat because it turns out to be a bit much for my relatively-elderly computer to handle well. The actual game levels play smoothly, but it takes an awful long time for each one to load.) I have to admit, though, that it picked up quite a bit once all the introductory gubbins was out of the way and I got to a bit with actual dinosaurs in. Crashing around as a Triceratops busting up Lego scenery is quite a bit of fun.


4. Getting in early with a suggestion for next year's Hugo Award nominations: Freefall: Chapter One.

I've been wanting to plug Freefall for Best Graphic Story ever since the category was introduced, but always got stuck on the question of how to define the eligible portion of an ongoing webcomic where each plot thread flowed into the next. However, this week the creator announced "Thus brings us to the end of chapter one", so I guess that answers that question.

Freefall starts out as broad comedy but develops (while still being very funny) a deeper story about what it means to be human, featuring three characters who technically aren't: Florence is an uplifted animal, Sam is an extraterrestrial, and Helix is a robot.

It's not short - several thousand daily-comic-strip sized installments - hence why I'm putting it out there now, so anybody who might be interested has time to read it and see for themselves.


5. This week's fanfic rec: we must cultivate our garden is about Eve in Heaven, coming to grips with the ramifications of the choice she made that day in Eden. Somewhat complicated by Heaven transcending time and space, meaning that when she arrives it already contains crowds of her descendants, batting around names and concepts she doesn't understand. ("Oh, theology. After your time, dear.")
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. We have finished the run of Oliver!, to the disappointment apparently of many people who left it too late to get tickets. Apparently there were enough enquiries to suggest that we could have sold out a fourth weekend of performances, but that wasn't practicable because everyone in the cast and crew had already made other plans and in some cases would be out of town.

Despite the logistical complications (and having to share the green room with a crowd of small noisy people), I'm glad we were in our theatre instead of the big one. The trouble with the big one, which I think I've mentioned before, is that it's impossible to book it for more than a few days at a time, so we'd have only been able to do one weekend and would have had to stop just as we were all getting settled into the thing. As it was, we had the first weekend to get settled and then two more weekends to enjoy doing it properly.

The director says that between seeing me in action as Fagin, and hearing the violin player who got recruited for the pit orchestra, she's seriously considering doing Fiddler on the Roof as her next big show. That won't be for a year or two, though. What's coming up now is our annual season of one-act plays, then The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


2. I've been to the gaming group a couple of times since I last mentioned it.

The first time, we played The Resistance and Cards Against Humanity, and I was reminded why I don't like playing The Resistance or Cards Against Humanity. (The Resistance is one of those games that's all about watching people's body language to figure out who's the traitor, and I'm frankly terrible at it. Cards Against Humanity is kind of a joke game, and it's basically the same joke over and over again, which gets boring very quickly if you're not in the mood for that kind of joke, and I'm usually not.)

The second time went better. We played Formula D, a game where you roll dice to move a car around a board shaped like a race track, which is a lot more fun than it sounds. You get to roll different shaped dice depending on what gear you're in, and you have to be careful not to go around corners too fast, or bump into other cars, or several other things that can damage your car and put you out of the race. I drew pole position at the beginning, and had a lot of fun hogging the track by placing my car where it would be more difficult for the others to get past. Later in the race, I fell behind a bit due to some conservative cornering, and in the end I came in third.


3. For SF Writer Appreciation Day this year, I showed appreciation for Tim Powers by putting money down for his latest novel. And the one from a couple of years back, because I somehow hadn't got around to that one yet.


4. This week's fanfic rec is a sequel to the Batman & Catwoman one from last time: Give and Take


5. My current favourite podcast, and the one I'm most consistently keeping up with, is Robot or Not? with John Siracusa and Jason Snell. Episodes drop once a week, and are all under ten minutes long; many are under five minutes, and the shortest to date is 48 seconds including the opening and closing music. The format is very simple: Jason nominates a topic, and John explains why it is or is not a robot. Topics include robots, cyborgs, and AIs from fiction, mechanisms from real life, and occasional left-field balls such as "the dance called The Robot". John's answers are based on intuition rather than a pre-determined set of rules, although as the series progresses an empirical set of guidelines is beginning to take shape, and sometimes don't fall how you might expect. (Assembly-line robot arms? Not robots, for reasons that actually make sense when John explains them.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Oliver! opens on Friday. I've been singing the bridge section from "Another Op'nin', Another Show" a lot. One week - will it ever be right? Actually, we're doing pretty well, apart from a couple of scenes and a couple of crowd songs where the choreography could stand to be tightened a bit.

The junior contingent of the cast is doing pretty well on the stage, but is getting on a lot of nerves backstage. The last time we did Oliver!, about fifteen years ago, it was in a big modern theatre with a soundproofed backstage area and a separate room for the kids and their minders. For this production, we're back in our home theatre, which is older, smaller, and more rickety, so we're all sharing one green room and spending a lot of time trying out new variations on "Hey, pipe down, the audience will be able to hear you" in the hope that one of them will stick.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that there was one scene that kept going wrong because somebody was getting their lines out in the wrong places, and when we dug the script out to check it turned out to be me. Whoops. Still, I'm pretty confident we've got that straightened out now.


2. At the gaming group this week, we played Talisman, subtitled "The Magical Quest Game". Well, we started playing; the designers took the "epic quest" brief very seriously, so it's not a quick play. Three and half hours later it was nearly time to pack up and nobody was close to winning, so when the first player died we decided that would have to do as an outcome and ended it there.

Each player picks a character out of a deck of about a dozen, each of which has varying strengths and weaknesses. (I was playing the Minstrel, who has high intelligence/magical ability, low physical strength, and a special ability that means that if he is attacked by a wild animal, instead of having to fight it he can try to charm it with his music, and if he succeeds it will follow him around and help him fight things he can't charm.) If you're not playing with a time limit, the rule is apparently that when your character is killed you get to pick another one and start again from the beginning (otherwise you'd be sitting around for ages waiting for someone else to win, which would be no fun).

The board is laid out in three concentric rectangles. The outermost area is the settled world, with towns and fields and forests, and the best places to stock up on weapons and armour and other equipment before setting out on the quest properly. Across a river is the middle area, which has more adventurous climates, like deserts and mountains, as well as the royal palace and the high temple, and a big sinister portal that leads into the mountain fastness that is the object of the quest. The innermost area has encounters with vampires, werewolves, Death itself, and another door that can only be opened with the eponymous talisman, and leads to the treasure everyone seeks.


3. I finally got around to seeing the caper film Now You See Me, which was very entertaining but I suspect is going to make less sense the more I think about it. (It's certainly a lot better constructed than The Illusionist, the last trick-ending movie featuring stage magicians I saw, but that's really not a high bar to clear.) I wish I'd gotten around to it before someone told me which character was the Fifth Horseman, because that's the kind of thing I enjoy trying to figure out for myself. I think I might have managed it; I'm pretty sure that even without knowing the answer in advance I would have ruled out three of the suspects by the time the endgame started, which would have narrowed the field considerably. (One of them gets ruled out for you at the end of the second act, another I think would have pinged my red herring detector from being pushed a bit too hard as Suspicious, and a third either can't be or must be the Fifth Horseman, depending on how much I-know-you-know one applies to the hints about the Fifth Horseman's motives, and I think I would have come down on the correct side.) But it would have been nice to find out.


4. It's not been a good month for my childhood, with the deaths of author Nicholas Fisk (Grinny, Monster Maker, et al.) and actor Alan Young (the definitive Scrooge McDuck, among many notable roles in a varied career).


5. This week's Batman fanfic rec: Unpaid Internship, in which there's less than an hour until a quarter of the earth's population meets explosive doom and Batman is carrying something that he's adamant isn't a baby.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Baen Books has recently released ebooks of Janet Kagan's novels Hellspark and Mirabile, and a collection of her short stories (including the Hugo-winner, "The Nutcracker Coup"). Hellspark is a mainstay of my collection of comfort reads, and I'm very much looking forward to making the acquaintance of Mirabile. The short stories, too; I've only read one up to now - "Standing in the Spirit", a heartwarming Christmas tale that wears its debt to Dickens on its sleeve without going down the well-worn "visited by three spirits" path.


2. Speaking of Dickens: Still rehearsing Oliver!. I think I'm managing to get the hang of Fagin's accent now. It seems to be largely a question of holding my tongue right. (Making a face like I smell something bad also seems to help.)


3. At the gaming group this week, the main thing I did was watch a group of people play X-Wing Miniatures. There were four people who wanted to play, so they set up a big square playing area, with each player starting on one side, and drew lots to see who would attack who. The result of the draw produced two battles going on separately in opposite corners of the playing area, and then the survivors of each battle took each other on. It started out with a wide variety of different ship types (including what I was told was the main ship from Rebels, which I still haven't seen), but in the end it came down to a couple of X-Wings vs a couple of TIE fighters.

After that we played a few rounds of Hobbit Love Letter (which is like Batman Love Letter apart from the obvious, and also with an extra card, The One Ring, which is worth 0 points except in one specific situation where it's the second most powerful card in the game) and then it was time to go home.


4. It tends to be the case with movies that either I'll see them in the first week they're in the cinema or the last, because it I don't have a great and specific desire to see a movie, I'll do my usual put-it-off-until-a-deadline-looms thing. (And then sometimes it happens that when the deadline's close enough to see there aren't any screenings left I can actually get to, and then I don't see the movie at all.) I'd been putting off going to see Zootopia until today's 1pm screening was absolutely my last chance, and likewise the new Jungle Book movie - also at 1pm. Faced with that decision, I realised that I didn't particularly want to see a new version of a movie that hadn't been that much like The Jungle Book in the first place, so I'm rereading the book instead and I went to see Zootopia.


5. The Australian election campaign's started, which means it's time to start hoarding and swapping links for informed voting. (If anyone spots a good run-down of this year's minor Senate parties, let me know, please?)

Vote Compass is available again for this election. If you don't know about it, it's a nifty application where you fill out a questionnaire about where you stand on the current hot public policy issues, and then it shows you where you are compared to the announced policies of the major parties. (I always turn out to be standing pretty much where I expected to be, but it's nice to know.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The fanfic I recommended last week has a sequel now: Christmas in Kansas, the story of the first time Clark Kent brought his colleagues Bruce and Diana home for the Christmas holidays. There's inevitably quite a bit of focus on Bruce, due to the inherent incongruity of Bruce Wayne + relaxed family holiday, but Diana gets some really nice moments, too.


2. Since I'm already recommending out-of-season Christmas fanfic, I don't think I've recced back in anno domini here; it's a crossover in which Susan Pevensie goes to stay with a friend in Tatchester and ends up befriending Kay Harker. It's really beautiful, but it hasn't got a lot of attention possibly because there aren't a lot of people on AO3 who know who Kay Harker is. (I mean, I suspect it would still be a beautiful story even if you have no idea, but I can see why people might be cautious.) (And of course I could be wrong, since I've known Kay nearly as long as I've known Susan.)


3. Rehearsals for Oliver! continue. I'm beginning to really get a feel for Fagin's physicality: how he holds his shoulders, how he moves his hands, how he walks. Not so much, alas! for how he speaks - I'm shifting unreliably between several different accents, and it seems like the more I attention I pay to how I'm speaking the less likely I am to get the result I'm after.

The children of the cast seem to have largely accepted me, in (will-I or nill-I) the role of the fun adult who'll often play along with a joke but needn't be paid any attention to if he tries to get one to settle down. Fortunately, there are other adults in the cast who can achieve more success if settling down is what's needed, including our Nancy, who's a teacher in real life.


4. I've been to see Captain America: Civil War. I have previously had occasion to comment that the MCU doesn't have a track record of sticking the distance with moral dilemmas or good-vs-good conflicts; the side that the heroes aren't on tends to see the light, or do something that allows their viewpoint to be swept under the carpet, like die or turn evil (or turn evil and then die). I didn't expect this movie to be any different, and it wasn't. Doubtless there will be bloggers who will examine the details in more depth, but that's not really my thing.

I like the new version of Spider-Man.


5. At the gaming group this week I played Hoax, Council of Verona, and Goblins, Inc..

Hoax is one of those bluffing games where you have to figure out what cards your opponents have while being free to lie as much as you like about your own. I've generally been pretty terrible at bluffing games because I have no poker face when I get a good card, but between Batman Love Letter last week and Hoax this week I've been working on a strategy where I attempt to mask my reaction to good news maintaining a cheerful demeanor all the time regardless. I was getting pretty good at it by the time we moved on to the next thing.

Council of Verona involves a meeting to settle the feud between the Montagues and Capulets, and cards representing various characters from Romeo and Juliet, each of which either has a goal for the outcome of the meeting or an action that will affect the outcome. (For example, Lord Montague's goal is to end the game with more Montagues at the meeting than Capulets, and there's a lesser Montague whose action can be used to have one of the Capulets kicked out of the meeting. Another character, I forget which, has the goal of ending the game with more people kicked out of the meeting than still in. Romeo, meanwhile, doesn't care what happens at the meeting, or whether he's in or out, only whether Juliet is there with him.) Where it gets complicated is that players score by betting on which characters will achieve their goals, and using the action characters to influence the outcome - and some of the characters' actions, instead of directly affecting other characters, can be used to mess with the other players' bets. I still don't think I've quite got my head around it.

Goblins, Inc. is about designing giant fighting machines and then playing them off against one another. It's an interesting mix of co-operation and competition. It's played with two teams of two, but halfway through the game the pairs are split and rearranged so that you end up allied with a former opponent. At various points in the game, each player is required to make important decisions without consulting their ally. Players are scored individually, and each player earns a different number of points from a victorious round depending on their secret agenda. (For instance, one player might earn points for each of their opponent's weapons that's destroyed, while another might earn points for each bit of armor; and similarly when it comes to the bits of their own machine remaining intact at the end of the fight.) In theory, the secret agenda might also influence a player to make a decision during the round that helps them but harms their ally. In practice, I found that I paid a lot of attention to my intactness agenda during the design phase (points for every intact weapon at the end of the fight? okay, we need to start with lots of weapons) but during the fight phase I would just forget about the destruction agenda and concentrate on the best outcome for the team. That seemed to work well for me, since I won the game.
 
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Since I mentioned that the brass band was contesting at the Nationals, I suppose I should add that they came second in their grade, which is pretty good going considering (a) there were around a dozen bands in that grade, and (b) it's a grade up from where we competed last time.

But I wonder what it says that my immediate reaction to the news was a little voice somewhere inside me asserting confidently that they'd never have done so well if I'd gone and played with them.


2. I have now seen every episode of the original series of Star Trek, plugging an obvious gap in my geek credentials. I started at the same time Mark Watches did, nearly two years ago, but fell behind almost immediately because I wasn't willing to buy the DVDs just to watch them once, and this turned out to be a bad part of the world to borrow them. Star Trek wasn't available on any online streaming service in Australia at the time, and none of the local bricks-and-mortar video libraries had it, so I ended up relying on a mail-order video library that would only send them out one disc at a time and took a whole week to get the next disc to me when I sent the previous disc back. It was a considerable relief when one of the Australian streaming services finally started offering Star Trek, and I could knock off the second half of season three in under a month.

(And yes, "it has Star Trek" was literally the sole criterion I used to decide which streaming video service to sign up for. It wasn't a bad decision, though; the same provider also has the Australian streaming rights for Doctor Who, as well as a pretty large collection of shows I've always intended to watch some day but couldn't be bothered when the best option looked like being the mail-order video library.)


3. A little while ago I discovered a YouTube channel dedicated to Tiny Planets, an animated show that was one of my favourite things in the world when I was younger. I’ve been watching episodes on and off since, and it’s just as delightful as I remember it being. (In fact, it’s even more delightful, because the version on YouTube is without the intrusive narration that was added when it aired here.)


4. This week I finally got around to attending a meeting of the local gaming group, whose existence I learned of a bit over a year ago. I insist that this is partly their fault for giving the impression that they don't want new people to find them: before this week, the only evidence I'd seen of their existence was a single flyer on the wall of a shop that is itself quite hard to find. (They also have a Facebook page, I'm told, but it's not visible to people who don't have Facebook.) To be fair, they're not hurting for members; there was a pretty good crowd the night I went.

They cover a range of tabletop gaming areas: the meeting I went to had a table each devoted to an RPG campaign (Pathfinder), a miniature wargame (Warhammer 40K), and Magic: The Gathering, as well as several tables devoted to more casual boardgaming.

Not being the kind of person who's good at interposing myself, I hovered until one of the organisers noticed me and gave me the tour, then hovered some more until one of the boardgames finished and the people on that table invited me to join their next game. They turned out to be a pretty friendly bunch, and did a lot to counteract the uncertainty I was still feeling about whether I was welcome.

We played 7 Wonders (I came third) and Love Letter: Batman (I came dead last, partly because I was having too much fun to concentrate on strategy). Love Letter: Batman isn't as weird as it sounds, and doesn't actually involve any love letters: it's a spin-off of a game about deducing the location of a compromising letter, but in the Batman edition you're deducing the hiding places of villains instead.

Once I got past the nervous hovering I had a lot of fun, and I don't intend to wait a whole year before I go again.


5. The single best thing I've read recently is a fanfic called Empty Graves, which is the story of why you never hear about anybody going back in time and killing Superman when he was a defenceless two-year-old. (The short answer is Martha Kent. The long answer is more complicated, and ends in a brighter place than I was afraid it would when I was halfway through.)

 
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
G K Chesterton. The Incredulity of Father Brown (e)
George MacDonald. At the Back of the North Wind
Tamora Pierce. Magic Steps (e)
Eric Frank Russell. Wasp
Ryk E Spoor. Grand Central Arena (e) (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Spheres of Influence (e)
Ursula Vernon. Dragonbreath

In progress
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Ghost Ship (e) (re-read)
Tamora Pierce. Street Magic (e)
Terry Pratchett. Moving Pictures (e) (re-read)

Abandoned
Kylie Chan. White Tiger (e)

Non-fiction books in progress
Simon Singh. Big Bang

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
George MacDonald. The Princess and the Goblin
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. When I saw the trailer for Home, the new DreamWorks movie inspired by The True Meaning of Smekday, I said to myself: "This looks like it's going to be fun and entertaining in a way that's almost completely different from the book." In this, I was basically correct. And I think that was probably the right decision by the filmmakers; The True Meaning of Smekday was such a thing in itself that I don't know if it could have been successfully translated to film, so much better to look at it as a source of inspiration for a good movie that is its own thing.

(Also, I was amused that, although they left out the running gag about the aliens giving themselves inappropriate human-type names, so we don't get J.Lo the Boov, they gave it a tip of the hat by casting J.Lo the human as the heroine's mom.)


2. As if I didn't have enough TV to catch up on (which reminds me: must catch up on Agents of SHIELD), the premiere of Thunderbirds Are Go was on at a time I could actually watch it, so now I'm following that as well. They've done a slightly odd thing where instead of going the usual reboot route and starting from the beginning again, they've actually advanced a few years from the point where the original series ended, so it's kind of like a sequel as well as a reboot, but because they've tweaked the setting and most of the characters it's a sequel to a version of the original series that never actually existed. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. I'm also not sure what to make of the fact that I get a swell of nostalgia every time the theme music plays, considering I never actually watched the original series.


3. I've been having ups and downs with HabitRPG lately. I got my first Perfect Day (completed all the habits on the daily recurring habits list) on the day before Swancon, though admittedly only because I'd disabled the habits I couldn't do while I was away from home, and those included most of the ones I really struggle with. (I then proceeded to blow the "Go to bed at a sensible time" habit every day of Swancon, so no more Perfect Days for me.) On the other hand, being away for a week threw me off my stride and I died twice in my first week back, after having managed to avoid dying at all up until then. Fortunately, dying in HabitRPG isn't too terribly painful - they don't want you to stop using HabitRPG, after all.


4. I have not yet given up on writing a proper post about what I did at Swancon. (I tried writing them as I went this year, but about halfway through the first full day I got too busy enjoying myself to waste time writing about it.)


5. I have not yet given up on writing a proper post about games I played at Swancon and on International Tabletop Day.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I mentioned that I was planning to keep the moustache I grew for a role last year until I found out what, if any, role I'd be playing in the Rep Club's next production, which is a season of short plays. As it turns out the role I've got is that of a director instead of an actor. This will be the second short play I've directed, and I realised after I picked the script that it has some interesting similarities to and differences from the first one. It's going well so far. (And I'm keeping the moustache, because having a colonel's moustache helps me feel like someone who is and should be in charge.)


2. I have managed to maintain fairly frequent gym-going even after the holidays ended and all my other time commitments started up again. I've even managed to schedule another meeting with the trainer without an unreasonable amount of procrastination, and was rewarded with a more challenging exercise routine.

I did slightly squib out the last time I was at the gym, though: one of the exercises requires a bit of solid flat wall, of which there isn't much in the gym that isn't rendered unsuitable by, for instance, being covered in floor-to-ceiling mirror glass, and the one bit of wall I've come to rely on is currently unavailable because they've parked a membership drive display in front of it.


3. One of the commitments that's started up again after the holidays is the brass band. So far this year, I've been alternating between playing trombone and baritone: I was moved from trombone to understudy first baritone last year, but most of the trombone section have left town and the old first baritone player hasn't yet, so depending on who shows up to any given rehearsal or performance I'm sometimes needed more in my old chair.


4. In a tiny victory against the forces of clutter, I obtained some press-seal bags and sorted all the counters and cards and tokens in my copy of A Study in Emerald so that if I ever play it again it will take a bit less time to set up. (The game did ship with some press-seal bags, but not enough to do a full divvy; I think whoever chose the number was expecting all the player bits to be kept together, but it's more useful to make a separate "here's all your starting bits" bag for each player.) My immediate reward was that I got to confirm that all the bits are present and correct, including the card that was apparently missing when I played with my brother (it was stuck to the back of one of the other cards).


5. The first two seasons of Sherlock have recently been being reaired here, with "The Reichenbach Fall" scheduled this evening. (I had hoped they'd also be doing season three, which I still haven't seen yet, but no dice: next week it's new episodes of Broadchurch.) There was an exchange in Steven Moffat's season-two episode that in retrospect strikes me as marking one of the stops on the train of thought that led to the latest Doctor Who season finale.
pedanther: (cheerful)
(via [livejournal.com profile] john_amend_all, who also links to a handy template)

Stats:

List of Completed Fics:

Bring Out the Lady (441 words)
Fandom: Chess (Board Game)
Characters: Queen (Chess), King (Chess)
Summary: The queen moves fast. The king can't keep up with her. There's a reason for that.

Uncommon Readers (232 words)
Fandom: Unusual Dragon Hoards - iguanamouth
Characters: Original Dragon Character(s)
Summary: There are many treasures to be found in the Hoard of Random Scraps of Paper.

The Question of Caroline Louisa (477 words)
Fandom: Kay Harker Series - John Masefield
Characters: Caroline Louisa, Eduardo da Vinci
Summary: "Do you ever miss it?" Edward asks suddenly, interrrupting his own description of his latest plan to raise the statue of St George from the ocean bed. Caroline Louisa takes a sip of tea while she considers the question.

Plus a couple more stanzas of last year's filk song, a few comment fics whose locations I can't now entirely recall, an [livejournal.com profile] isurrendered entry, and a reasonably substantial involvement in an LJ roleplay.

Read more... )
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Out-of-Town Sister couldn't make it for family Christmas this year, but the rest of the immediate family could, and we had a nice afternoon together in a shady part of the parents' yard. Two different people gave me TARDIS-shaped money boxes, one containing a fortune in jelly babies. My mother gave me, among other things I received more graciously, a can opener and frying pan, which I suspect was a Hint. (It's not as if I don't already own multiples of both already; in fact, I'm pretty sure one of my other can openers was also a Hint.) I gave the elder of my nieces The Book With No Pictures.


2. When Out-of-Town Brother is in town, our usual bonding activity is video games, but this year I got him to help me try out a couple of board games that I backed on Kickstarter but have never had a chance to play.

A Study in Emerald is a game of conspiratorial maneuvring in a world ruled by the Great Old Ones, with each player either attempting to overthrow the tentacle of tyranny or working as a loyal servant of Thing and Country. It has lots of dice and counters and cards and rules, and took almost as long to set up and read the rules the first time as it did to play, but I can see myself warming to it if I ever get to play it often enough to internalize the details.

Machine of Death is a collaborative storytelling game set in a world where there is a machine that produces accurate but cryptic predictions about how people are going to die; the players are a group of assassins who have been given a list of targets and have to plan and then carry out assassinations that fit their respective predictions. It was a lot of fun; more difficult than it looked in the demo videos I've seen, but I suspect that's because we only had two players.

We also played a few games of Star Fluxx and Once Upon a Time.


3. Less successful was my attempt to introduce the family to Dixit. It turned out not to be a good moment for it; there was a lot else going on, we only managed to get the minimum number of players, Younger Niece kept trying to make off with the score counters, and we only managed to get in one round before we had to stop, in which everybody got all the clues so we ended up on a draw. Oh, well; there's always next time.


4. The arrival of summer has meant the realisation of all the holes in my summer wardrobe and more clothing shopping. And more trying on multiple things just to find one that fits. Although when I did find something that fit I could really tell the difference, which reassures me that the difficulty of finding it is the clothes and not just me. (And perhaps, thinking back, that one particular shop. I forgot to mention, last time I was complaining about this, that at that one shop there was a shirt I tried on that was so badly cut that one sleeve fit fine but I couldn't get my arm all the way into the other.)


5. BBC Radio 4 recently aired a six-part adaptation of Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's comic novel about the end of the world. All the episodes are available on the official website for the next few weeks, even to people in foreign parts.

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