1 January 10

Virtual Airsickness

We spent New Year’s Eve lying nauseous in bed — this was following a dinner of pasta with a squash and arrugula sauce and some holiday champagne. Our leading theory is was the perhaps undercooked arrugula that laid us low. (Happily we are feeling much better this New Year’s Day).

Or maybe it was virtual airsickness. Not long after getting this new laptop, I installed the open source flight simulator FlightGear and have been addictively learning to pilot its simulated Cessna 172P since. Right now my game is going on an airport-hopping trip of short flights, having left University Airport in Davis a couple miles from our house a few days ago. Last night’s segment, made just after dinner, was flying from Arcata to Crescent City along the northwest coast of California, with Pica virtually riding along in the co-pilot’s seat.

To make things more interesting, I fly with the real weather conditions fetched from the Internet. Last night’s conditions were the diciest I’ve been in yet. There was a 25 to 35 knot wind aloft from the south-southwest with a good bit of turbulence. I worried about how I was going to land the plane just as my real-life nausea was kicking in. Fortunately the landing wasn’t as tricky as I feared. Below the clouds at 1500 feet the air was smoother. I flew past the airport as far as the Smith River, and then made a 180-degree turn so as to land into the wind. Thanks to the crossed pair of runways at Crescent City, I was able to land with pretty much a straight headwind (I’m not sure I’m up for landing in a 25-knot crosswind).

The wind conditions are pretty similar up there right now. I think I’ll wait before going on my next leg up to Coos Bay in Oregon.

Posted by at 11:13 AM in Games | Link | Comment [2]

28 May 09

Fivefold Pestilence

Don’t ask us to save the world. We are now 0-5 in games of Pandemic. This is a cooperative game from two to four players who form a team who try to rid the world of four nasty diseases before they do in much of humanity. The game turns out to be very hard to win. In the last game we played we eradicated the disease threatening North America and Europe, but got felled by cascading outbreaks of a second disease in the Middle East. Finally, an unrelated outbreak in Santiago, Chile spelled our doom.

Posted by at 10:24 PM in Games | Link | Comment [1]

25 May 09

Black Stone, White Stone

My rediscovered interest in board games has not abated. We’ve been playing lots of games of Carcassonne lately. Today on a trip to Berkeley we stopped by the friendly local game store and picked up a couple of Carcassonne expansions as well as a copy of Pandemic. I don’t wander very long in this gaming direction without contemplating learning the ultimate board game — go. Usually this takes the form of downloading a computer AI version of the game and practicing against it on a 9 × 9 board, routinely getting thrashed. But that is because I am exceptionally lousy at this point. One of the refreshing things about go is that unlike chess, computers aren’t very good at the game. A reasonably experienced amateur is better than the best of the computer programs. It’s a long way to go before I become reasonably experienced, however. Yesterday online I played my first game against another human, someone who was also an absolute beginner, and even won, which I suppose is a good start. I’m still worse than 99% of the people who play on that server though. It’s a long road of study — will I start travelling that way?

Posted by at 11:52 PM in Games | Link | Comment

7 May 09


I somehow missed the Eurogame revolution, which is remarkable since I spent a frightful amount of time in my teens and early twenties playing board games of various sorts. Last Saturday I took a step towards remedying this lacuna when I was invited out to play my first game ever of Settlers of Catan, a 1995 game which is one of the classics of this style of games. In the 1990s, board games started emerging from Europe that were elegant in design and conception, often with simple rules but with deep play and minimal luck, and more about resource allocation than direct conflict. (For some reason, many of these games come from Germany, so these games are sometimes called German-style games; the Germans buy more board games per capita than any other nationality.) Having quite enjoyed my Settlers session, I’ve decided that these style of games may be a good fit for me now, and am doing lots of research on game possibilities. Right now Pandemic and Carcassonne are on my shortlist; we’re planning a trip to the local game store in Sacramento for Saturday. And though it’s hardly a Eurogame, I can’t help but being intrigued by a game entitled American Megafauna (the theme is the evolution of life on this continent since the Triassic).

Posted by at 09:01 PM in Games | Link | Comment