So I’m apparently doing a series of posts to which my reaction is “Hell yeah!” This weekend I tried cachaça for the first time. It’s a liquor made in Brazil, distilled from fresh-pressed sugarcane juice. It’s the same basic process used to make rhum agricole, but the taste is different–in addition to a subtle, rum-like flavor, cachaça tastes a little bit like the smoothest tequila ever. The classic drink made with it is a caipirinhia: muddle half a lime and two teaspoons of sugar in an Old Fashioned glass, fill with crushed ice, and add a generous pour of cachaça. They go down easy, maybe too easy. Looks like I have another liquor to keep in stock on a regular basis.
So I needed some work done on the car yesterday. I dropped it off in the morning, but didn’t really feel like spending 5 hours in a garage waiting room. I walked into downtown Montpelier and spent most of the day at Kellogg-Hubbard Library. I don’t live there, so I have to pay for a library card–$37 for the year, the equivalent in taxes that a single town resident pays. For that I get access to I don’t know how many thousands of books and DVDs. I can sit in a comfy chair in a warm, quiet room, and read to my heart’s content. I can go online for half an hour at a time or more (and if I didn’t have a home computer, that would be a lifeline to the rest of the world). I can consult an organized set of reference books and consult professionals when Google fails me.
Having that library available made my day yesterday, and that was just a matter of comfort and convenience. Many people rely on public libraries for job searches, books for fun and education, local classes, and an occasional Internet connection. Some “taxpayer” organizations have proposed getting rid of public libraries in recent years, claiming that citizens can just use their home computers for research and buy books to read. I’d like to write a cogent argument against them, showing how low-income people and children would be drastically harmed by these measures, and what a sound investment a local library is. But I haven’t had my tea yet this morning, so I’ll just share my immediate, honest opinion: if you want to get rid of public libraries as a cost-cutting measure, I would like to punch you right in the dick.
Got another chance last weekend to play one of my all-time favorite boardgames: Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola. The game came out in Germany a couple of years ago, then American publisher Z-Man Games snapped up the rights to an English-language version. It’s a worker placement economic strategy game, to use some semi-industry specific terms. At the start of game, each player controls one farmer in early-Modern Europe, with no resources but a little spare food, a two-room wooden hut, and some empty land. Each turn the farmer takes a single action–gathering wood or clay, plowing a field, going fishing, having a child, building fences, gathering sheep, etc. There are always more fun and useful actions to be taken than a character can do, but at the same time the most optimum choice may have already been taken by another player on that turn. The available options differ slightly depending on the number of players, and the game supports everything from five players down to solo play equally well. Given the number of cards and the plethora of choices available every turn, Agricola has a higher replay value than any boardgame I know.
The game uses victory points to determine a winner at the end–how big is your family? Have you improved your house? Plowed field and fenced in pastures? Stored up grain and vegetables?–but it doesn’t seem to matter much in play. Others have remarked on the phenomenon, and it was our experience this weekend as well. It’s so fun to grow your little farm that even the most hardcore gamers don’t start to really analyze and optimize their strategies for the first few sessions. It’s an expensive game, with several boards and many wooden pieces, so it lists for around $70. I still recommend it without reservation–look for a used copy or wait for a sale if you have to, but Agricola is one of the best boardgames out there.
Me and Red Joe go way back. Back to the days of funky dorm rooms and 3rd edition GURPS, shoegaze and the horrors of Rob Liefeld, late-night trips to Wal-Mart and the first years of MST3K. Joe has some of his artwork available on DeviantART, but it just doesn’t seem like enough. I can remember so many fun bits of artwork from Joe over the years: Joe and Benji as hobbits, the Viking in a snow-covered forest he did for the Lore Con graphic, Fight Man and Gunny Boy (least I THINK that was his), the world’s most hilarious map to a birthday party. Part of that is, I think, Joe’s spontaneity. Many of his pieces are fairly quickly done for a very specific purpose, and the charm and whimsy can make that kind of work ephemeral. He does other drawings too, though: I’m especially fond of his black and white fantasy comics. I sit here over a thousand miles away and raise a glass to a DAMN fine man with a pencil.
This is my favorite energy idea in a long, long time. Building solar panels into glass/composite roads, using all that United States highway surface area to power our homes and lives and help keep I-89 free from ice.
Benji is just damned versatile. Comic book inking, contemporary oil paintings, edgy graphic design–he seems to really enjoy all these styles and formats. What’s more, he does an astonishingly good impression of a velociraptor, and it seems like that ought to count for something.
I’m not the most edumacated feller in the visual arts, but Ben’s best work has always seemed very centered to me, very classically composed without ever being slavish. Ben’s resumé and portfolio can be found on designtaxi.
Dan listens to Slayer and Diamanda Galas and old Sabbath. He likes winter and Germany and Nietzsche and zombies and Lovecraft and the Battle of Stalingrad. He’s a lot more fun than this description might sound. I’ve recently done a website for Dan; the nearly-done site can be seen at http://roleplayhistory.com/moranworking. All the relevant art is present.
Truth be told, the lion’s share of Dan’s art isn’t even on this site. It shows Dan’s skill at drawing figures and old buildings for potential customers, but doesn’t include his more common subjects: Great Old Ones, zombies in the World War I trenches, hellish fiends erupting from within sacrificial victims, etc. That site will hopefully be coming along soon, so you can see more of the awesomeness that can come from a Bic ball-point pen.
I just found a poem I wrote years ago. Before you comment, please understand that this poem is bad. It’s supposed to be bad. I wrote it for a forum thread of bad poetry about gaming. Just thought I’d share for my gaming buddies.
“My Love of d20 Know No Limit”
You cannot fail me now,
Loyal and trusted polyhedron.
The bugbear’s dripping poleaxe felled the halfling thief,
and Simon’s cleric Cured my Serious Wounds–he can do no more today.
It’s up to me, the handsome noble elf,
Chaotic Good (as if you couldn’t guess),
to pierce these enemies of Good with arrows by the assload.
I’d like to stab one with an arrow, use the shaft
to shoot another foe, but Jerry (our DM) insists
I’d need to buy a special feat. He’s such a total fucktard.
No time for further thought–I draw–I aim–
O happy die! You rolled so high–I hit his eye! I watch him die!
Take THAT, you smelly humanoids! Teach you to settle caves
So near the Borderlands.
I’m off to quench my thirst with Mountain Dew
Whilst Carrie rolls a character anew.
She’ll likely make another halfling thief, just gath’ring treasure in the next room we explore.
Beyond that, caverns beckon us within.
Attack the darkness!–let the fight begin.
The last time I saw Wendy she was just a young freshthing back at Scholars’ College. Turn around a decade later and she’s a successful performer! The Austin-American Statesman recently named Wendy the city’s best singer-songwriter, and if you’ve ever been to Austin you know what kind of competition she’s up against. Her voice has just the right combination of clarity and grit, and both her songs and the band’s performances are solidly in the American blues-rock tradition. For a streaming album and some clips of their performances at Antone’s and elsewhere, follow the link to Wendy’s website.