ltmurnau: (CX)
Believe it or not, I am here most days for a quick troll through my Friends page.
But I don't post much anymore, obviously - mostly because I am busy doing stuff that I would be posting about, if I posted more.

Aki made it through his bridging semester program and now he is in 3rd Year of Mechanical Engineering!
He's finding it a lot of work, but I think it's coming together for him and he can see the purpose of it, unlike the Shakespeare they made him swallow in high school.
They have them working on projects, he is doing one with a team where they are developing a way to 3-D print custom braces for children with club feet.
He's also 21 now, how did that happen....

Game designing takes up a lot of my outside-work time, my blog on that is at .
I never did figure out a way to feed entries from there to here, I should just do it manually but I am not sure who would be looking at it.

Current projects, since the last time I talked about them, include games on the following in no particular order:

- the French-Algerian War of 1954-62 (two games actually, using completely different systems: one large one with lavish production and wooden bits, another one a revision of an earlier design)
- the Battle of the Bulge (revision of earlier design, published 11/15)
- a set of 3 battles from the first year of the Korean War (published 11/15, mangled by publisher's "development" team)
- the 1973 coup in Chile
- the Slovak-Hungarian War of March, 1939
- the invasion of Canada by the United States, 193? (revision of earlier design)
- the Polish-Soviet War, 1920 (revision of earlier design)
- the Cyprus Emergency, 1955-59
- Binh Dinh province (central coast of Vietnam, 1969; did this one up a while ago for a history professor at Nipissing University for students in his course on 20C wars and revolutions to play)
- the 1943-45 Allied invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia that weren't (two games actually, using completely different systems; one from the publisher that mangled my work (though they seem to have not mangled it too much this time, it's still the last work I will ever send them) and one I published myself)
- the Finnish Civil War of 1918

People want me to talk about my work too, which I find extremely difficult to do... I mean, I can talk technique, but as to what value there is in it, or what makes some thing better than another thing - I can't be articulate.

But week after next I am going to Washington DC to talk to people at RAND Corporation about what I do, and how it might help them in what they do... a very unexpected offshoot of a conference I went to last September that featured a workshop on quick game design that I helped facilitate.

Then in mid-March, UVic has an event on gaming ( and I will be showing some of my work and maybe talking about it.

Then at the end of March, I am going to the American Popular Culture Association's national meeting in Seattle, to present a paper on... well, here's my abstract:

Bored of War

Board wargames, or manual military simulation games, are a form of civilian entertainment that peaked commercially in the 1980s but continue today as a small press, near-DIY activity. They remain one of Western culture’s most complex analog artifacts, rich in their ability to generate narrative and explore historical possibilities.

However, only a very small number of published civilian wargames address the dominant modes of actual post-World War Two conflict: irregular war and counterinsurgency. This paper will explore the cultural reasons for this absent focus, explain the social and political utility of these games as a means of interrogating and critiquing contemporary conflicts, and present specific games in this field as examples of “critical play” (Flanagan, 2009).

See what I mean about being inarticulate?
This is a big conference, with thousands of presentations... and the Game Studies area is quite new, with only about 100 presentations. But all of them are about digital games - their design, the sociology of people who play them, etc. - except for 3: my presentation, and 2 presentations on role-playing games.
I feel no one will have the vaguest idea what I am talking about, much less care, even if I could make myself understood.
But Lianne is making a presentation (on horror films) in much better company... I've never been to a conference quite like this before.

And then in April, trying to work through arrangements to visit the Army War College in Carlisle PA to do some facilitated play of my Algeria game, to match with a screening of The Battle of Algiers.
I wonder what the Army officers there will make of that one.

Then in June, to Tempe AZ for the annual Consimworld Expo, for more showing of work and meeting with publishers.

It took 25 years to get to this point, I don't mind being so busy but again, it's hard to write about this stuff in the larger sense.

Oh, and I have something in a book too: this spring will see a game studies anthology come out from MIT Press:
It's the first time any of my writing has been in an actual book!

Anyway, this is in large part what I have been doing instead of posting.
I will try to pop in here more often, if only to leave links.

Son, 20

Nov. 18th, 2014 11:40 am
ltmurnau: (CX)
... is about all I can say for now.
Once there was this little baby I could hold in both hands, and now there's a man living in my house who calls me "Dad".
I'm so proud of him in so many ways, and he is still surprising me in new ones.

Happy birthday, Akito.

(and no, I won't embarass him with a picture!)
ltmurnau: (Default)
Last night I took Aki out on his 18th birthday (Eighteen! Once there was this little baby I could hold in two hands, now there's a man living in my house who calls me Dad....) for dinner and a preview screening of the remake of Red Dawn (I scored tickets in a promotion by Monday magazine).

The inestimable [ profile] sabotabby has taken apart the original here: and
here and

and while she wrote the gut-bustingest review ever, after seeing the remake I think I prefer the hokey original, after all.

Why is that... I think in the end, I can say that I prefer it because it's more honest - more honest in the consistency of the mad logic of its paranoia, more honest in the effort it took to make, more honest in the authenticity of its overt manipulation, ham-handedness and earnest simple-mindedness.

The remake was originally made in 2008-09, I'm not sure why but perhaps they were looking to capitalize on some 80s nostalgia. The film was "updated" to revolve around an invasion by the People's Liberation Army. MGM, the production company, was to release it in 2010 but went bankrupt and restructured, delaying the film's release until 2011. When advance publicity came out, there was hue and cry in Chinese media and MGM, who wanted MGM movies to play in Chinese theatres one day (not this one of course, but MGM makes a lot of movies), yanked it again, to change the enemy from China to North Korea, a truly pariah nation.

According to Wikitoolazytolookfurtherpedia, the change took less than $1 M (on a production budget of $75 M) as they reshot a few scenes and changed all the Chinese insignia to North Korean in digital post-production. This alone reminds me so much of the event in Nineteen eighty-four where Winston Smith is at a Hate Week Rally and a speaker changes the enemy from Eurasia to Eastasia mid-speech - within a few minutes, after the posters and banners that had been put up by the agents of Goldstein have all been torn down, the crowd is back hating, just at a different enemy - and poor Winston has a week of overtime work and revision ahead of him as they have to prove that Eastasia has always been the enemy. Except that Winston is not manufacturing lies for ideological and political consistency, he is doing it so his employer does not lose market share.

I mentioned honesty in paranoid logic and honesty in effort with respect to the earlier movie. Of course the premise is ludicrous and logistically impossible, this is a fantasy movie after all - but in the original film they made some effort to draw up some backstory, made some reference to world events outside the USA, and made prodigious efforts to create realistic props, do research on uniforms and weapons, and even teach the actors and extras some infantry fieldcraft so the film has some military verisimilitude (I even recall reading at the time an admiring article in Soldier of Fortune magazine about how hard John Milius had tried to get the look of things right). In the remake all the vehicles and many of the weapons are actually American - the Korean invaders are driving around in Hummers and an M-1 tank - and while they are usually carrying AK-47s, the uniforms they are wearing appear to be variations on the digital camouflage currently used by the US Marine Corps (though there are lots of civilianized variations, the Korean People's Army does not wear anything like it). Certainly this does not mean anything to most people, but to me it is just one more measure of the film's half-assedness.

The original film was a loud, stupid action movie that was not afraid to stand up on its hind legs and bray about how stupid and manipulative it was - e.g. scenes like where Harry Dean Stanton and other prisoners, about to be gunned down by the invaders, start to sing America the Beautiful. The remake is much louder, the camera work far more jerky and kinetic, but there is a curious emotional detachment about it all. This is shown especially well in the original film, where there are a few attempts to humanize the enemy - e.g. the scene where C. Thomas Howell makes his first kill, the scene where they execute one of their own and a Russian prisoner, and the character of that doubtful-emo Cuban Colonel Bella. In the remake, the adversary is one Captain Cho, who does nothing but scowl at people and bark in Korean - and he's the only enemy we even hear speak with subtitled Korean, all the others are essentially faceless First-Person Shooter video game faceless ciphers who yell and fall down.

This emotional detachment extends to the "good guys" as well - the original film had some real actors in it, character actors like Powers Boothe, Judd Omen and Harry Dean Stanton but also young actors who mostly went on to longer if not exactly distinguished careers. And while you didn't exactly care about them, they could at least emote, and made some kind of personal adjustment during the course of the film. In the remake, the actors (who all seem to have been in quite a few movies and TV shows already) may change clothes from time to time, they don't change as people - consequently you care as little about them as you do the faceless enemy.

So in summary, the remake was just half-assed. From the interchangeable enemy altered in post-production, to the laziness of the film's art direction, to the general lack-of-affect involvement with any of the characters, the film just comes across as a left-handed job that was made because someone decreed that it be made, in the hopes that it would make money. At least John Milius had his crazed convictions to sustain him through the original film's absurdities and drag home an emotional carcass of a B-movie; this was just a waste of time that had learned nothing from its predecessor and was not intersted in making any new mistakes, either.

While copies of the original Red Dawn will still be on the shelves in years to come (preferably the Special Edition with the in-screen "Carnage Meter" that ticks up everytime someone gets killed), I don't think anyone associated with this project would care to remember it.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Ooooff, what a month it's been. I was looking forward to a good ten days off during the Xmas-New Years bit but halfway through it Body thought it should get even for all the stress Brain had been placing on it all fall and I fell ill from a terrible cold that's going around. That was over two weeks ago and I'm still an exhausted, brain-dead snot factory, at least for the first couple of hours until the night's accumulation of phlegm has dispersed.

I hate being ill, I mean there are a few perks like sitting in bed most of the day watching crappy movies, preferably on VHS (Saturday I saw Back to the Beach, Master of the World, Tunnelvision, and two Andy Kaufman TV specials - gave up on After the Fall of New York because of a headache). But there are always obligations, even when sick, and that's not much fun. Worst is the tiredness, of not feeling up to doing all the things you want to do, or starting something and tiring after just a little while.

Anyway blah blah poor poor pitiful me... otherwise December wasn't bad, I made progress on a couple of projects including the Naval Postgraduate School-related project, and finished the year with the information that one of my new(ish) games, Third Lebanon War, will be included in a new game magazine to be launched this August (but "my" issue probably won't be out until 2013 or maybe even 2014), and two other games, Greek Civil War 1947-49 and Balkan Gambit, will finally come out in the first half of 2012, four years after handing them in to the publisher. At least, that's the plan.

I cooked and baked a lot last month, my mom was sick (with that same terrible cold, don't think I got it from her but she has COPD so it's not good) so we took her turkey and I roasted it and it came out pretty well... and I made ten fruitcakes, a kilogram each, that's an awful lotta fruitcake but they made nice gifts (mostly fruit bits stuck together with buttery cake batter), and I made "Ginger Dead Men" - I found a 10 cent metal cookie cutter in the shape of a playing-card spade at the thrift store, and a moment's work with a pair of pliers turned it into a skull outline - couple of dents for eyes and teeth, and you have ginger cookies that will stare back at you, along with all the other people staring at you for bringing a box of these weird atrocities into the office!

Lianne went all-out for Christmas, she wanted a tree (we got an artificial one, I don't see the point of killing a tree, or rather buying an already-killed one, just to have it inside for two weeks while it drops needles on the carpet) and put up all kinds of lights and decorations. Her Mom died near last Christmas so this is the first time we'd all been together for the entire holidays. She gave me a nice little Toshiba netbook for Christmas, the one thing I would find quite useful but would never buy for myself. It's nice to carry around and I think I will brave the DHS goons and take it on trips, it also uses Skype so I can call folks on it for free - Akito calls his mother every week on Skype, and often talks to his friends that way. Wonder how much longer it will be before that little bit of convenience gets shut down or overrun by ads - yeah, you can talk as much as you want for free, but your call is interrupted by a 15-second ad every 45 seconds.

Akito is 17 now. Yikes, once there was this little baby I could hold in both hands and now there's this man living in my house who calls me Dad. He went to a school semi-formal dinner and dance, so we got him some nice clothes - he does clean up well, and he had fun, so that's all to the good. He has been accepted into the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Camosun, it's a good two-year program that offers a bridging semester right into 3rd year Mechanical Engineering at the University. It's an intense program and the bridging semester is tough but the classes are small and the instructors seem to care about the students, so I hope he will be all right.

Uh, what else - last night was another Circuit Breaker, the one-year anniversary. Here's my setlist:

Nash the Slash - Reactor #2
Cabaret Voltaire - Spies in the Wires
Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened (spooky remix)
Skinny Puppy - Far Too Frail
Chris and Cosey - Lost
Hilary - Kinetic (remix)
Numb - Theme to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood
Encephalon - Rise
Die Sekto - Accelerant
Laibach - Alle Gegen Alle
AD:Key - Lass Mich Los
And One - Wet Spot
Digital Poodle - Head of Lenin
Soviet Radio - Love is a War
Covenant - Leviathan
Eco - Hass und Liebe

So that's that for now!

You know, Livejournal has not collpased as I thought it would four months ago - I'll be here for a bit yet, but will still maintain my game-design related blog on Wordpress:

So, Happy New Year to you - not going to bother with year-end memes this time. Heck, I did not even observe the 13th anniversary of my accident, save for riding over the spot I got hit in the bus home, but I do that half the time anyway....
ltmurnau: (Default)
Oh dear, and another month slips by. It has been such a busy year, at least since May, and there are only a few weeks left in 2011.

But not time for end-of-year accounting and 2011 memes yet.

Chronological accounting-for-myself:

October 10 (Thanksgiving) - we gave this a miss because Aki had his wisdom teeth out a few days before and couldn't chew - and I was not about to make a turkey smoothie for him. He had five (!) taken out, they are a lot bigger than I remember. The procedure is different now too - when I had mine out, about his age, it involved day surgery in a hospital with a general anaesthetic. He had it done in the dentist's office, with IV sedation. He bled for a day or so and recovered very quickly. The following weekend we had a proper dinner at my mother's.

October 19-22 - I went to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. Dear Readuhs will remember the conference I went to in early August, and how well one of my games went down at the demonstration period there ( Well, out of that I got an invitation to go to the NPS and talk to them about using digitized versions of this and other games of mine, in a project related to another, much larger project they have going on. I got to make a lunchtime presentation to their Irregular Warfare students, mostly Special Forces captains and majors - I was kind of nervous about this but they were very friendly and interested. I spoke for less than half an hour and they filled up the rest of the time with questions, so I didn't get a chance to talk with them which I really wanted to do. I did have a quick chat with a Marine Corps major who had trained in Armor, and instead of charging across the desert dealing death to enemy tanks from two miles away found himself and his tank company in a neighbourhood of Baghdad, working out which streets would have priority for garbage collection and which block leaders could or couldn't be trusted.

If anyone wants to look at my script or Powerpoint slides, they are here: . This is another blog I have started that will be confined to my game design and "serious games" development and other stuff. Not much there yet though, as it has not proven possible to port my game-design related entries on LJ over to Wordpress en masse.

Anyway, the ensuing discussions with the project team went well, I came up with some new ideas for games for them that I will be working on and I put them in touch with [ profile] emperorkefka who has made up a version of Guerrilla Checkers for Android mobile phones, and will probably do the technical work for the team on what they need for the project. See a screenshot at Little Viking Games.

A "guided gaming session" went less well, I tend to forget that a game I regard as being comparatively simple (especially if I've designed it) is still quite complex to people who have grown up playing ordinary board games or just computer games. As much as I tend to dislike computer games, a lot of the complexity and fiddliness of a game design can be subsumed into the structure and interface of a game. Players do not need to remember what pieces can move where or how, when the program will simply not let them do it, so they can concentrate on playing the game - and that's enough for most players, but there needs to be some explanation of why this or that thing can't happen, or the penalties for doing so. And it's a lot easier to change a sentence to two in a rulebook than it is to rewrite hundreds of lines of code. Anyway, I left them with a big bag of playable copies of my games.

Monterey is a beautiful little town, and Friday night I went out to look around. The NPS is just a few blocks from downtown, so I walked down to the big pier that is full of shops and restaurants. I looked at I don't know how many cheap t-shirts, and got a pound of salt water taffy for Aki (and a bunch of cheap assorted candy from the Walgreen's downtown later). I had a plate of completely ordinary chow mein at a small Chinese restaurant where this huge Mexican family was having dinner - I think it was someone's birthday or something. "Dad" was at the head of the table, obviously the patriarch and wearing the biggest hat - they were having a great time. Later I walked back by a different route but did not turn when I needed to, and ended up walking by this highway to a gigantic shopping mall with no way out except the way you came in, and the buses had all stopped running - in the end I did get out and back, but had walked five miles more than I had planned!

I went back on Saturday the 22nd - the NPS had actually paid for my flight and hotel, which was great. My flights were well spaced so I didn't have to hurry at all; and I have resolved to hand-carry my luggage from now on if I can possibly help it. You can get a lot into a small bag if you roll it right. (I saved even more room on the flight down by forgetting my good pants at home! Luckily I remembered this in the air on the way to San Francisco, and got a pair of acceptable golfing slacks at the pro shop in the airport - otherwise it would have been pretty embarassing.)

October 24 - was my 47th birthday, which we didn't really bother marking except for a good dinner at San Remo. I'm feeling rather more middle-aged now, and while I'm happy to have outlived George Orwell, I don't have TB and haven't come near to matching his output.

October 29 - was "Grave Situation II", the second annual Gothvic Halloween party. (entry in respect of the first: Lianne came out for this one too, and we had a nice time. I was supposed to DJ for the first hour and a bit, but the person who was supposed to bring the CD players didn't show up until late so for the first while I had to improvise some with what Gray had on his laptop, using Mixxx which was not-bad software. No one was dancing anyway, so it was OK - can't post my setlist right now but will later.

October 31 - we just left the lights off. I didn't see any kids out and about. Very disappointing. Aki went to play computer games and have some pizza with his friends.

November 4-6 - We went to deepest darkest Surrey, for BottosCon 2011 - the fifth annual board wargaming convention put on my Rob Bottos. It's small, maybe 60 people came this time and that was the biggest yet. About half of the attendees were Advanced Squad Leader players, who usually don’t play much else (or at least, they came to the convention to play ASL only), and the other half were people playing practically everything else, from non-wargames like Urban Sprawl to Angola or Storming the Reich.

I don’t go to many conventions, and when I do I usually don’t play games – I spend my time talking to people, catching up with friends or trying to interest people in my new designs in the hope of snagging playtesters. Guerrilla Checkers ( ) proved to be a hit again, and someone expressed an interest in writing an iOS application for it so it can be played on iPad, iPhone, iKettle etc., which would be great. I also played out a few turns of the brigade-level version of my Finnish Civil War game ( ), which prompted someone to say that he thought he’d seen everything now, and did a complete run-through with a playtester of a newly written 2006 scenario for my Third Lebanon War game – it worked well and concluded on time, with a marginal Hezbollah victory. A minor revision to two to the rules and they’re even better – the basic designs are quite sound.

We also went out to one of Surrey's many industrial zones - the whole area looks like it's composed of strip malls, suburbs, and warehouse districts, there's more than that but that's what you see form the highway as you're whizzing through - to get 25 pounds of Cerrotru, the metal I use for casting my miniatures. It's gone up in price a lot, and this will probably be the last time I buy it for quite a while. I kind of like going to these industrial parks, reminds me that things are still made or at least assembled here.

Anyway, I went for the gaming and metal, Lianne went for the shopping. The con hotel was next door to the last Skytrain station, so it was easy for her to get downtown without aggravation. She went to check out the Occupy Vancouver campsite at the Vancouver Art Gallery, what she saw and what I've seen of our own Occupy Victoria site makes me think that perhaps it's time to fold the tents and continue the next phase in the fight. The continued and enlarged presence of conspiracy crazies (Truthers, chemtrail people etc.), deinstitutionalized mental health cases, homeless, criminals and drug addicts at these camps are just the sort of thing the detractors of the Occupy movement want to see (and in fact have even been encouraging, as NYPD cops regularly send these people from other parts of Manhattan to Zucotti Park, and police in other cities are infiltrating different Occupy campsites to instigate trouble themselves). Yes, I am fully aware that these people are just as much products of the version of semi-feudal corporate capitalism as anyone else camping out down there, but continuing to sleep out in tents like this will tend to make it easier to trivialize the whole movement as, well, sleeping out in tents.

I'm not going to say anything more about the Occupy movement itself; anyone who reads this has already read what I would say, in many other places and probably better phrased. I was looking up some George Orwell the other day and found this telling chapter from The Road to Wigan Pier, which he wrote in 1936 - he makes some good points, and this chapter contains some of his more spiteful writing, but it's also interesting to look at this from 75 years in his future.

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Yes, been a while, hasn't it... Among other things:

I didn't write about the outcome of the convention in Tempe. I think I found homes for ALL of these designs, except Virtualia, which nevertheless was the predecessor for Kandahar and EOKA, both of which attracted interest. But hoo boy, I never talked so much in all my life - and I owe a great debt to Todd Davis, He of the Blue Hair, who made sure that I got a chance to talk to people who mattered.

I observed and kibitzed some folks playing Summer Lightning, and at least one copy was given away as a door prize. I helped to playtest Andean Abyss, ( new game on counterinsurgency in the 1990s in Colombia that was quite clever, and showed Guerrilla Checkers ( to quite a few people. Got a couple of small games and picked up two items in the game auction, normally the high point of the convention.

It was up to 105 degrees in the daytime, and would cool to about 80 around 4 in the morning. My good intentions of getting exercise by walking up the butte behind the hotel in the relative cool of the morning soon evaporated, and we never did get into downtown Phoenix (it would have been easy as there is a new light rail station a couple of blocks away) to look around. But we did walk around in the general area, and I got some cheap CDs at the record exchange down the street we always visit - Lianne got some nice antique glassware at the little store down the street from there, that we also always visit.

We went out to the club (it was called Sanctum) twice that week, Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday the music wasn't so great, and not many people there, but Saturday was a lot better. Lianne came along the second time and had a good time, I think.

I hadn't been to this convention in three years, and it appears my reputation has grown slightly in the meantime - getting published in Strategy & Tactics and World at War magazine certainly helped. Joe Miranda and I also made a presentation at a rather sparsely-attended panel discussion on simulating modern warfare.

We left on Sunday, and getting home, while it took a while, was less unpleasant than getting there. On the way down I got the full TSA style pat-down three times, including having my hands swabbed for explosives/gunpowder residues in the Victoria airport, before I'd even left the damn country! It's the metal rod in my leg that does it - the metal detector trips, and then I get the business... the TSA drone knows I haven't done anything wrong, I know I haven't done anything wrong, but we both have to go through this non-consensual Security Theatre piece - he'll lose his job if he doesn't do it, all it takes is one smart crack from me and then I get on a watch list forevermore, and both of us, it has been decided, must demonstrate to everyone watching that You Must Submit, It's For Your Own Good, Really....

Anyway, in Phoenix airport they had a full body scanner, so all you do is stand with you hands in a triangle above your forehead while they probe your innards. It was easier that time. Then we flew to San Francisco and sat there for a few hours, thankfully did not have to go through Security again, and then a flight straight home to Victoria. But we arrived late, and took a while to get through Customs, so did not get home until almost midnight, too late for me to go and do a set at Circuit Breaker - sigh.

Monday the 13 I had a cleaning appointment at the dentist - tired as I was it was still only all right to sit in the chair while he poked and scraped at my teeth, until *SPUNG* an inlay popped off. Well, if you are going to have your dental work wrecked, a good place to do it is in the dentist's office - so they cemented it back on until I could get it seen to that Wednesday. Oh how I love these dental follies - but it beats having to whittle a new set of choppers every month.

The following week was Aki's final exams, he did OK on the things that counted - A in Math, A in Social Studies (he got extra credit for volunteering in the federal election and that made the difference), B in Auto Mech, C+ in English - could have been better but the exam was sooner than he thought it was - bad planning on the school's part, and I was certainly less than impressed with his teacher. Anyway, it's good enough and after English 12, he'll never analyze another novel in his life. This week he is on the Trades Awareness Program, something Camosun College puts on in the summer - each day they go to a different shop in the Trades area of the campus to see what's involved in being an electrician, plumber etc. and they go to a construction site to see how it all comes together.

By the end of the week my boss was back from her vacation, so that was the end of my nearly-one-month-long Reign of Error acting in her position. I really don't care for being Boss. But I like the job a lot. Oh, and because of the dental stuff I missed the ceremony for getting my 15-year service pin too(actually I've been in the Public Service since 1993, but better late than never).

Canada Day I stayed well away from downtown! We finally got a big and good-quality barbecue, so I have been grilling dinners lately - so that's what I did, and later stood on a chair on the deck to see the fireworks going off over downtown, six miles away from drunken vomiting teenagers. The following night we went out to a gallery opening, and had dinner at San Remo, a place I have been meaning to go to for over ten years. It was pretty good. And Sunday the 3rd was the annual "Gothnic" in Beacon Hill Park: Lianne came along and I made up a big batch of sandwiches. I don't think my priest getup fooled anyone, but it does look rather like a demented church picnic.

And that night was Circuit Breaker again (a week earlier than usual because of Pride Week)! Here's my setlist:

Severed Heads - Come Visit the Big Bigot
Nash the Slash - Wolf
Epsilon Minus - Antigravity (to test the outpout from a laptop)
Yello - Bostich
Residents - Diskomo 2000
Einsturzende Neubauten - Abfackeln
Laibach - Now You Will Pay
Ad:Key - Seelenstrip
Front Line Assembly - Provision
Blutengel - Bloody Pleasures
Mythos - Robot Secret Agents
A;Grumh - New Fashion
Penal Colony - Third Life
Die Bunker - Gewalt
Die Krupps - Machineries of Joy
And One - Panzermensch
DAF - Der Mussolini
Apoptygma Berserk - Electronic Warfare
Einsturzende Neubauten - Yu-Gung

That about brings things up to date. This summer I am spacing out some vacation days to go to a four-day work week, and there's lots to do to fill in the time.

In the first week of August I am going to the Connections conference at the National Defense University in Washington DC to speak on a panel, and demonstrate some of my games. Again, I am not looking forward to getting there (Continental Airlines, which I understand is one notch above the way Aeroflot used to be, and a long period of cooling my heels in Houston TX of all places). I am taking just carry-on luggage so at least none of that can go wrong. And DC in August is a steambath, I hear, and there are no clubs for Joe and I to go to on the nights we are there (without travelling 90 miles to Richmond or Norfolk VA!).

Busy Times

Feb. 21st, 2011 04:27 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Busy times indeed. What's been going on...

Read more... )
ltmurnau: (Default)
Far too long since my last post, but it was a busy month or six weeks in there. I eked out some of my vacation and took most Fridays off, I suppose I could get used to a four-day week but certainly not as much gets done.

Aki got home without incident (pity about the 14-hour bus ride to his town from Tokyo, and back again), and I think making the flight by himself really boosted his self-confidence and ability to deal with the unknown. At least, I hope so. Like any 15 year old he has grumpy non-communicative days, and other days where he just amazes me with his insight and intelligence. Now he's in Grade 11, with a full load of demanding courses - Physics, Chemistry, Drafting and Design, and Computer Programming. Next term is English, Social Studies, Math and Auto Mechanics. He says he's planning on Engineering at UVic - if he can maintain the focus, not get distracted and cultivate good study habits, I think he'll make it. I hope so, because he doesn't have the option of becoming a glib nerdy Poli Sci fake-it type like me.

Tuvan Independence Day party went off well, lots of people showed and most of the meat got eaten. [ profile] shadesofwinter and Blair came with a big ice cream cake with the Tuvan flag on top - printed on a piece of rice paper so we could eat the flag! [ profile] epexegesis came, I hadn't seen or talked to him in a year or two. It was a nice warm day without too many bugs and afterwards we sat in chairs and watched the meteors come down.

A couple of weeks later my friend Lissa and her kids came to visit from Bainbridge Island. I've known Lissa for 24 years, she was one of my first contacts in Mail Art, back when she was "Phlegm Pets", doing pieces for a zine called Cerebral Discourse that her then boyfriend "Burnt Raisins" and other friend "CDR Rotor" printed on an offset press in a Seattle basement. Her kids are 19 and 15 now. They stayed for a few days and we all climbed Mount Doug, which I hadn't done before. With binoculars and difficulty I picked out our house from the summit.

I got to DJ again, this time in a public place! Recently the [ profile] goth_vic people have had two chances a month to dress up and go out - "Cabaret Noir" mid month at Logan's and "Boneshaker" near-end-month at Paparazzi. Dan usually plays a lot of vinyl but was getting bored with it, and gave me a chance to play for an hour and a bit at the latter night. I brought a bunch of CDs and had a lot of fun! The best part was playing Nash the Slash's "Dance After Curfew" and getting a really good reaction from people. I hope I can do it again some time.

For the first time in years I went to a Fringe play - a production of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". It was OK, the cast tired hard with some interesting set design (scrim on angular frames that suggested the distorted buildings and perspectives of the film) but no one had any voice control and the sound (drones and the odd "deee-DEEE" to underline moments that were supposed to be scary) was just plain annoying.

Labour Day weekend would have been a lot more fun if, midway through Saturday, I hadn't cracked a big porcelain onlay while eating a chicken salad sandwich. A month before the same thing had happened when I was eating a tortilla chip. At first I thought it was the same tooth, but no it was the neighbour tooth (cracked in 2007 - Still, I couldn't do anything about it until Tuesday - got it fixed all right, then Wednesday I had both toenails removed (I had lost both of them before in accidents, and each time they grew in more lumpy and ingrown, so I thought I would just get them removed once and for all, the scientific way) and I am still gimping around from that, then Thursday more dental indignities (cleaning and grinding). I mean, I'm glad I have a set of teeth in good repair (though many more of these porcelain onlays and my mouth will be on its way to life as a sink) and in a while my feet will be all right, but I was glad to see the end of that week.

The garden died with a whimper. Lots of snow peas came out, and there was some nice spinach and a few turnips, but most other plantings were - not good... radishes bolted, cabbage disappointing, onions flowered, and deer at lots of things. But the apple tree is loaded down - not so the pear, but next year should be good for it. I wonder what I should plant on the plot to save it from going back to sod during the winter, I'd like to do a bit less digging to prepare it this time.

Not a great deal of gaming done, but I am selling and trading a few items. I took Virtualia and pulled it apart into basic, intermediate and advanced versions, so that an acquaintance at McGill University could try and use it in his classroom. If it works and there is some kind of lesson from it we might make a presentation on it at the fall 2011 meeting of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, in Ottawa. Hope so.

And, you know, I think I am really starting to like instrumental surf music.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Took a short vacation. Lianne was on her way back from Ontario, and we agreed to meet up in Vancouver and go to Nelson for a couple of days. Which I did, and we did, and it was pretty nice. I'd forgotten how far it was to get there - a good eight hours driving but once we got there it was worth it. We went up to a hot springs a few km north of the town where they had the hot water coming out of a cave you could wade in, and a big pool, but a big thunder and lightning storm came so everyone had to leave the pool or become soup ingredients. (We had excellent weather otherwise.) We scooped quite a few DVDs as the local Movie Gallery was going out of business (along with the whole chain). We actually took two days to get home, first from Nelson to Hope (where we found a great small diner that had been there since 1962, very good food) and then from Hope to home. Then back to work the next day, at least for me.

Travel is nice but I prefer the being-someplace-else part to the getting-there part. We agreed there are lots of great places for us to see right here in BC; I'm reminded every day that this is the best province i've ever lived in.

Last night I talked to Akito on the phone. He's been doing all right - saw some movies, went to some caves - but he will be back home in only ten days. He was really worried about catching the right plane and about potential trouble at Customs/Immigration but there were no problems at all, which I think really boosted his self-confidence.


Jul. 6th, 2010 03:08 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Well, been a while but been-a busy too.

Stayed home on Canada Day, to avoid the horrific scenes downtown. It seems to me that, Back In The Day, people did get drunk but it was at barbecues etc. in their own backyards and they normally weren't a pain in the ass (except for immediate family members). But now it's de rigeur and somehow patriotic to dress up in a Canadian flag wearing like a toga or diaper and spend the evening vomiting on your friends and pissing on people's heads off the Embankment? I also note that display of the flag and waving it around on any and every occasion was also a lot more restrained, though people were no less patriotic then. This fixation on symbols of nationality has been a long time coming, due to our time-lag of adopting American cultural norms, and certainly was accelerated after 9/11. Anyway, we could see the top half of the fireworks show from the back sundeck.

Garden's done really well! Radishes bolted almost immediately, grew 2 feet tall and flowered. I got a lot of good spinach, it's mostly bolted now too. Cabbages making lots of leaves but no actual cabbage yet. Turnips good, I've picked and eaten most of them and the zucchini have bloomed and are ready to start fruiting. And peas, lots of snow peas... in fact, when they flowered that finally attracted the deer and I had to put up the deer barrier. I will probably weed and replant part of the garden this weekend. The pear and apple trees were pruned in March and the apple tree is simply loaded down with good-looking fruit; the pear tree has only a few pears on it but next year will probably be good.

On Saturday I took Aki to the Vancouver airport for his flight to Japan. Air Canada has stopped service to Osaka so his mother has to travel all the way to Tokyo to get him; over 500 miles. This is the first time he has ever travelled alone, I got him all the paper he needed but he was still nervous about the procedures at Immigration. He didn't really want to go to Japan, but he does want to see his mother and that's the only way that will happen. He will be back on the 31st.

Meanwhile, Lianne is still in Ontario visiting her Mom, so I am alone for about 10 days - haven't been on my own for so long in years. I should be at Monty's with my pants wrapped around my head hooting at the dancers, but instead I went to Value Village to buy a new old hoodie and went home to make lentil soup. I'm getting old.
ltmurnau: (Default)
I took a couple of days off to go to Seattle and see DEVO. It was Reading Break, so Lianne was happy to go too! This time we went on the Victoria Clipper - usually this is far too expensive but in the off-season they have some deals. We got transport there and back and two nights in the Ramada downtown (not great, but close to everything we needed) for about $320. Saved going on the Coho ferry, driving almost three hours to get to Seattle, and then parking at a hotel. The only problem is that the Clipper's schedule is very inconvenient if you are going to Seattle - it only leaves Victoria at 1700, and only leaves Seattle at 0800, so a day trip is impossible, and an overnighter just silly.

Anyway, we left on Sunday, and came back on Tuesday. Monday we shopped around for a bit - we went to the surplus place on 1st Avenue where I got Aki a birthday present (Russian gas mask in its original container, filter still in its wrapping paper) and Lianne bought me a black M-65 field jacket (Chinese Alpha Industries copy fo the real article, but well enough made). Then we looked around in the Pike Place Market and went to Left Bank Books, my favourite lefty bookstore down there ( and got a few things (wishing I had gotten that Dori Seda biography after all), then lunch and out to Wallingford to Archie McPhee (, where we always go but seems to disappoint just a bit each visit because there are so few weird old items left - the first time I went, in the late 80s, the store was full of bizarre old ephemera and surplus weird stuff, which I liked. But I did get an East German M43-feldmutze style cap and a Lenin all-day sucker. Then Lianne wanted to look for some clothes at Nordstrom's etc. so I went down to the Barnes and Noble and got a copy of US Army FM 3-07, Field Manual for Stability Operations, and looked around for some other things. Every second book in their "Current Affairs" shelf was something by some foaming right-wing moonbat, including four different titles by Glenn Beck.

Then it was time to go back and change for the concert - DEVO at the Moore Theatre, which I think is where we saw Kraftwerk in 2005 [check - no, it was the Paramount, in 2004]. They were playing two nights in each city: the first night they would play the entirety of their first album (Are we Not Men?) and the second night the third (Freedom of Choice). I like that album better, so this was the night we went. First we met our friends Lissa, Angie and Susan and had a drink and some izakaya snacks beforehand.

We were up in the gallery but not too nosebleedy, not a bad view. I had made two molds for casting Devo energy-dome style pins, like this

but 2-D, an inch wide and in tin. I made two models, one plain and one with "DEVO" marked on it. I made about 20 of these, painted them up with spray paint or nail polish, and gave them all away, to our friends and to people I saw wearing energy dome hats at the concert.

The show was great. I have been listening to Devo continuously for almost thirty years, was even in the Official Fan Club and this was the first time I had ever seen them live. For a bunch of pudgy nerds pushing sixty, they have still definitely got it! They had some character wearing only underwear and the Goofy Face rubber mask they called "Spudsie Pud" who came out with show cards to announce each track. Mark Mothersbaugh flung a few Energy Domes into the crowd, and after the album was done vanished from the stage for a few minutes and then came back as Booji Boy. They played a few more pieces but nothing from the new album, the last piece was a long version of "Beautiful World" and at the end of it Mark started digging out handfuls of little Superballs and beaming them into the crowd. One made it all the way up to the balcony, where it bopped Lianne above her left eye, then vanished!

As we were saying goodbye outside the theatre, someone with a digital camera and microphone setup came up to me and asked my opinion about the show and what I thought about Devo. Apparently they were making some kind of documentary or tour film, as I signed a model release later. But I bet I end up on the cutting room floor, AGAIN (, Why, oh why did I tell them I liked "Mr. B's Ballroom"?

Going home was uneventful - we had left Akito on his own for two days and the house was in fine shape when we got back, just some dirty cooking pots and TV dinner shells. He got himself to school and all. He seems to be growing up well - yesterday, after we got home from the Remembrance Day parade, I went out with him on his first day of doing his paper route, which is also his first paid job!

So, not a bad time.

Big News

Aug. 29th, 2008 01:26 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
My, it's been a while hasn't it... but I have a good excuse.

About two weeks ago Akito told me that he did not want to go back to Japan. I won't go into details but the situation Over There was not good, had not been good almost from the time he started living there in 2005, and was getting worse. The following week was of course the week when everyone I needed to talk to was on vacation, but in a few days I had the makings and people in line for an emergency court order to keep him here past the 26th of August (his departure date) while things got sorted out. In the end this was not required as his mother agreed without demur to let him live here - probably the hardest thing she's ever done, but as she had him for almost 90% of each year she knew far more than I did how things were going.

I have been heinously busy the last few days getting him into school here, gathering school supplies, getting him new clothes, starting to rearrange the house for his permanent presence.... He will be going to Mount Doug, they were very welcoming and will give him the support he did not get over there. Effectively he will be skipping Grade 8 which he had started in Japan in April but if he had never left Canada he would be entering Grade 9 anyway.

He is very glad to be here and we are both hopeful his passage back into school here will be OK. He was so tough to sit on this for almost three years and braver still to talk about it. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed - I knew this day would come, just not so soon or so quickly - but this is what he wants and it is definitely the right thing for him to do.

ltmurnau: (Default)
I picked Aki up at the airport on Sunday without incident.
He was awfully tired though, and slept almost 12 hours the first night.
He seems happy to be here.
He's grown more than two inches since last summer!
We spent yesterday playing games - suppose we should have been out mowing the lawn or cleaning the driveway with toothbrushes, but hey, it was a day off.
I am working Tuesdays to Thursdays now, so he is left on his own some days (when Grandma doesn't come) but he is old enough to keep himself entertained now.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Oh wow, it has been quite a while, hasn't it?

I've been very busy spending lots of days off with Akito, and we've been having fun. He goes home on Friday, and I will miss him, but I know he had a good summer here (such as it was; I feel robbed of decent weather this year). He is such a switched-on little guy, and he did very well in school. Things don't seem to be as dire as I thought they would be.

We went to Pender Island for a few days, and did some fishing off my dad's boat. We went to a small cove on Moresby Island, where no one lives, and went ashore. This cove was where we had our family vacation weekends when I was 14 or 15, so it was odd to come back to the same tide pools etc. after 27 years. Last week we went camping outside of Port Renfrew - it was nice the first day but it rained most of the next two days. I taught him a bit about how to use a map and compass, and how to pace off distances. We saw a dead raven by the road, and a marten in a tree.

In between we played a lot of board games, mostly from Tom Wham's back catalogue ( I taught him twelve new games (Kings and Things, The Generals, Zombietown, Planet Busters, Search for the Emperor's Treasure, Damn You!, The Awful Green Things From Outer Space, the Barons of Fyn, Kerplunk!, Rattle Battle, Cromwell 2026, and one other I can't recall) and he beat me twelve times, his first play every time! And I do not throw games.

I cooked him enough pork and pork products that I think he might go home with the beginnings of trotters. We watched some good movies, and now he loves Robot Chicken. We made a solar cooker out of a cardboard box and some tinfoil, and tried to cook potatoes. Anna Banana and her two grandsons came over one day to get a lesson in how to do metal casting, and we made up a bunch of miniatures. We went to a wedding and ate tiny sandwiches. He had a week-long day camp at UVic the science and engineering people put on called "Science Venture" and had a good time; we talked a lot about chemistry and the infinite nature of the universe. His honesty was rewarded when he found a copy of the new Harry Potter book at UVic, turned it in to the office and got to keep it when no one claimed it.

It's been a good time, but all too soon he will be off home again. And the very next day we are off to Black Rock City. I think things will be all right this year.

This might be my last entry until I get back from the playa, so see you all in September!


Aug. 24th, 2006 02:45 pm
ltmurnau: (Default)
Last day at work and on the Net for a couple of weeks.

Taking Akito to the airport tomorrow. He's sad and so am I. The time went by so quickly, but it's only about another 10 months until he is back.

Then, packing panic! I am sure I will forget something important. Well, doing without is an important lesson to be learned on this annual trip. Early early Saturday morning, we head off to Nevada and Burning Man. We plan to arrive Monday midafternoon and will be forming "Splatter Camp", around 7:00 and Brave, for those of you whom that means anything, and working at the Black Rock Beacon, 9:00 plaza at the 11:30 position (right on the northeast corner).

Full report will be made some time after I return - hopefully I will not be spending all my time working the printing press, my sciatica (have been in a lot of lower-back pain the last 10 days) won't run to it. I have packed my cane just in case. Otherwise the dress theme is either "Maoist Red Guard" or "Officer, 51st Division, 8th Army North Africa".

I have lots of ideas for articles to write for the Beacon. We'll see how many make it into print. Unfortunately F-SPACE won't be there this year, not even its various individual members.

See you on the 7th or so.

Eight Days

Aug. 17th, 2006 11:50 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
Seven and a half, actually, until Aki leaves.
I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. I knew it would, but that's not the same as actually having it speed away on me.
It was only last week that he started to loosen up and it became really apparent he was enjoying himself, talking freely, etc.
Only a week from now I'll be taking him to the airport, and won't see him again for the next 10 or so months.

And the day after that, we leave for Nevada. This year we are taking my dad's pickup truck with a camper on it, which will save tremendous amounts of time, money and setup/organizing angst. We have a camping zone picked out (right now, in the area of 7:00 and Brave, or maybe Chance if that's too crowded). Lianne is trying to get me to cut down on the amount of kit I take (in fact, I don't take very much at all, it was just that more of it was in evidence on the tent floor last year, while most of her stuff stayed in the truck - therefore, I took more stuff than she). I might get whittled down to two Kleenex boxes and a hat.

This year will feature working on the Black Rock Beacon, and I want to write art reviews of smaller art projects out on the deep playa that might be neglected.

Okay, back to work - time seems such a precious thing right now.
ltmurnau: (Default)
One day at a time, yes that's the way to do it, but the days are coming thick and fast. Heinously busy and stressy-strainy.

Akito was sick all the long weekend - on Thursday he started a fever of 39 or 40 degrees, it would go up and down, but he had no other symptoms than lethargy and an occasional headache. I thought it was just a chill but when it was still there two days later, we took him to the walk-in clinic, and the doc confirmed what I was beginning to think it was - a kind of low-grade viral infection that showed itself only as a fever, here's some Junior Advil to cut the fever, come back if it gets worse. (I'm sorry [ profile] scuttle, but this is why we missed your dance on the weekend, which I truly regret.)

He's OK now, but still giving me a bit of the Silent Treatment because I gave him a haircut on Monday that was a bit more of a cut than I think he expected. I think he looks fine but maybe he will listen to me next time I pester him about taking him to the barber.

Sixteen days until I take him to the airport. I had no idea things could roll by so fast. It's been a lot of adjustment for him in a very short while, first to life with me for a few weeks, and now getting used to Lianne (and just as much she to him), as she has been back only one week.

We haven't even had much of a chance to have any good talks, just once or twice - he seems more bored than anything else by his life in Japan, which has turned out apparently not to be so dire and ruinous as I thought, but is reconciled to going back. Now I can worry about whether he will actually want to come back next summer, or if his town will be levelled by North Korean ballistic missiles, or if Monster Zero will snatch his plane out of the air, or....
ltmurnau: (Default)
Sorry, but a formless wail/sigh/groan is what does it for me right now.

I have been so busy the last two weeks! Aki has been here for 18 days and goes back to Japan in only 23 more. We've been having a lot of fun, he was kind of subdued the first few days but has adjusted. He actually beat me at chess the other day, after we went to see the new pirate movie, what's its name, uhhh... anyway, he was proud, and rightly so - I don't throw games.

Kids are a lot more resilient than I thought, or at least more than they let on (you ever notice how, when they fall, they look around to see if anyone's watching before they start wailing?).

Lianne is back today, after more than a month in Sault Ste. Marie! Details will not be aired at 11. I am not anticipating any Aki/Lianne problems - he met her several times last year, at his request.

Leaving for Nevada in 24 days. PANIC PANIC! This year we will borrow my dad's pickup truck with camper, so we don't have to fuss with a tent, and can just pick up and go. But there are so many other things to do -
- write stuff for the Black Rock Beacon,
- check and service equipment (Pantzooka, water pump, bicycles, stoves)
- assemble stores (tools, food, sleeping bags, rope, chairs, carpet, water, gasoline, clothing, other gear)
- make new casting molds (thoughts: vampire fangs, better bat head, Golem head, Herman Munster head, suggestions?)
- do some actual casting (I had 45 pieces on consignement at "3 Crows Music and Notions", a store around the corner from the Starbuck's in Cook St. Village, then the place closed and I don't know if I can get them back - that's a day's casting), fortunately I have a new load of Cerrotru metal,
- and so on and on...this does not even mention "paid" work, and there is so much of that I am unsure I can get even a fraction of it done...
ltmurnau: (Default)
"Dear Dad

The reason why I sent this letter because, mom dosn't know Grampa's adress so please when you get this letter, can you send this letter to Grampa please. And whatever thank you very much about you gave me 5000 yen.

From Aki

PS. Today is NO TV and NO TV Game. I'm Ultra Hyper Super bored. Mom cut my hair."

Okay, it's not much but it's the first time he's written to me.
A thank-you letter to my dad, which I will forward, was enclosed.
The stationery features a train engine careening down a hillside, about to collide with another train coming out of a tunnel, while the boxcars attached to the original train have come off and are exploding in the background.
ltmurnau: (Default)
Sunday, for the first time in my 28 years of living here (well, less a few years for good behaviour) I went to the Chinese New Year parade to see the dragon dance etc.. Aki really liked it, he liked the BBQ duck and wonton soup even better! After lunch we went to Value Village, where we scooped a bunch of Archie comic books (which he seems to like much better than Donald Duck et al.), a double-nine set of dominoes, and a bunch of rubber balls.

Well, instead of a cake made of silage and hog feed, I made Espresso Brittle for Goodie Day. Roasted espresso beans whacked with a mallet, then boiled just-carmelized sugar syrup poured over. Probably the first time in the history of Office Goodie Day that not everything was scarfed in an hour. Hope they all lost fillings.

I've found a new sort of ever-mutable card game, Dvorak: Decks of cards to suit any occasion, or just make up new ones as you go along. I've downloaded and prepared decks on the themes of World Domination, Secret Police, Robot Wars, Medieval Warfare, Frankenstein, Vampires, Teeth and Mad Scientist. Looks like lots of fun, and Aki and I have a good time making up illustrations for the cards!

Bad news: the Glasses Place rang me up and said they made a mistake in making up my new lenses - some number did not get faxed clearly, Or Something. I have to wait another week. Glad someone checked the numbers, though!


ltmurnau: (Default)

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