Hell yeah, cachaça

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.

Caipirinhia

Caipirinhia

Hell yeah, libraries!

Kellogg-Hubbard Library

Kellogg-Hubbard Library at night

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.

 

Hell yeah, Agricola!

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.

Agricola

Agricola

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.

Cool artists I have known #7: Joe Parrie

Viking in Winter

Viking in Winter

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.

Cool artists I have know #6: Ben Moss

Three Love MathBenji 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.

Cool Artists I Have Known #5: Dan Moran

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.

Mt. Washington Hotel

Mt. Washington Hotel

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.