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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... )
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I haven't read Vonnegut in years, but this makes me want to go out and get his last book:

Read more... )

In other news, tomorrow we're off to Tempe AZ for the Consimworld convention! Lianne will lie by the pool and read while I bring her ice cream from time to time, and I will spend my time trying to get people interested in the batch of unpublished games I will be bringing with me, besides showing off Summer Lightning:

- EOKA (Cyprus 1955-59 - yep, whipped it into shape on the weekend, still think it's a bit too fiddly though)
- The Scheldt Campaign (First Canadian Army Oct-Nov 1944, first game focused on the campaign)
- Third Lebanon War (Israeli Army invades souther Leb in near-future to stop Hezbollah, Or Not)
- Kandahar (non-historical game on Afghanistan)
- Virtualia (FID in a fictionalized post-Chavez Venezuela)
- Greek Civil War (been waiting a long time for this to come out, there is a new mag-with-a-game-in-it coming out that focuses on post-WW 2 conflicts)
- Balkan Gambit (when, o when?)
- Guerrilla Checkers (simple, interesting abstract game I invented last year)

Holy mac, I have been busy the last couple of years.

We also plan a visit to a Goth club (the only one, I think) and visit downtown Phoenix; I think there's some kind of desert flora centre we can visit too - I like cacti and desert plants, they're interesting.

It's gonna be hot!
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Or rather, one of my games is... an Italian wargamer does a 14-minute video review of Summer Lightning, so you can take a look at what goes into one of these things:

You know, I think I've finally arrived as a game designer with this one, due to the packaging. When I first started, we packaged the games in plastic comic book bags; later those tin boxes and small cardboard boxes, that were roomier but still pretty full of cardboard. The box for this one is 80% air; it must mean I'm nearly a professional!
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I haven't received my personal copies yet, but here is a look inside my new Poland 1939 game:

Not a bad job on the graphics, not bad at all....
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This is kind of interesting:

Board games get electronic makeover at Queen's
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 | 4:28 PM ET

A group of Queen's University researchers in Kingston, Ont., have reworked the popular board game Settlers of Catan so that projected images of characters actually move about on the board.

"This is no doubt the future of board games," said Roel Vertegaal, who presented a research paper Monday on electronic board games at a conference hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

Settlers of Catan reimagined

Roel Vertegaal offers this description of the electronic version of Settlers of Catan:

"John, Jack and Peter are playing the electronic version of Settlers of Catan. As soon as their hexagonal board pieces are placed onto the table the game lights up, with every tile automatically sorted. A randomly selected tile lights up to begin play. The players with property on that tile receive resources from that tile, which they can use for construction. The tile shows an animation of a lumberjack cutting a tree.

John, who’s next, picks up his tile and pours the wood where he wants to construct a village. Animations show buildings being constructed, and the village is populated by animated game characters. Next, Jack commands the citizens of his village to conquer the newly built village through a marking menu.

Characters run out of their houses as Jack pours iron ore from a resource card onto his village. An animation shows the villagers smithing swords from the ore, and the arming of a band of men. He picks up the tile, and pours the band onto the village of Peter, which is easily overrun."

"This is about humanizing technology, getting people away from the screen," Vertegaal, an associate professor at the Queen's Human Media Lab, said in an interview. Gaming has become too successful in the last five years, with some terrible effects, he said.

"We're seeing kids sit inside with a screen. We're seeing adults walking under buses because they're looking at their technology."

The conference, sponsored by the card maker Hallmark, is entitled Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction and brings together researchers working on integrating interactive technology into traditionally low-tech objects such as board games and greeting cards.

Settlers of Catan is a board game where players compete to "settle" on the island of Catan by collecting and trading resources.

The electronic version uses a computer, an infrared camera, an overhead projector and thin hexagonal tiles of cardboard embedded with infrared markers. The tiles are pieced together as the game advances. Images are projected on the tiles but the players determine what images are projected and how the characters interact.

When someone moves or turns the cardboard tile, the image moves and turns. Connect one hexagonal piece to another and characters walk from one piece to another. Tilt a tile towards another to "spill" an army for war.

In his paper, Vertegaal wrote that people who tried out the electronic board game felt "they suspended belief that this was an electronic game."

Vertegaal envisions new display technologies such as flexible, organic light emitting diodes that would enable video screens the thickness of a hair to be fixed to the cardboard tiles. The screens would project a game's animation instead of the overhead projector.

Each tile would be like a mini-computer, capable of interacting with the adjoining tile, depending on what the player wanted to do.

Vertegaal said his version of Settlers of Catan is a futuristic take on the traditional game but he expects people will begin to see electronic board games come to the market in five to 10 years.

"The importance is to have families sit around the board game again," he said. "Playing Risk on the computer is not a great experience. Having tunnel vision because you're glued to a screen is not great, and that's what we're trying to break here."

Video is here:

Hm! Yes, being "glued to the screen" (which makes me feel like I'm playing with a bucket on my head, looking through a small hole) and the absence of any tactile element is what's always turned me off computer games. But then again, all a board game needs is some paper components and a flat surface - no power required, no fancy technology, if someone spills their drink or the dog eats a piece then make a new one. And you can change the rules, or invent new games, without having to be a programmer as well (well, it would be impossible to reprogram these small pieces, or at least uneconomic).
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This is interesting, in a silly way:

Mathematical formula predicts the perfect toy

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 | 11:26 AM ET CBC News

(Associated Press)A British psychologist has come up with a mathematical formula to help parents choose the toy that best matches their child's nature and their wallet's cash level.

Dr. Cliff Arnall was asked to devise the formula by British toy company Worlds Apart. The company had sponsored a survey that found a majority of youngsters received Christmas presents they didn't like or didn't play with.

"For a number of years now people have been saying, particularly parents of younger children, that a lot of the toys they buy end up not lasting too long," said Arnall in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's As It Happens.

Arnall, who has also developed mathematical formulas to predict the happiest day of the year (June 19) and the most depressing day of the year, (Jan. 24), took six basic criterion [sic] into consideration to come up with the best toy for your child.

The perfect toy formula was devised by British psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall. (Worlds Apart)
Each criterion was assigned a letter and parents could plug in a number between one and five.

Pi: Does the child prefer individual play?
Po: What is the child's ability to play with others?
CR: Does the toy stimulate a number of senses?
S: Does the toy promote social activity?
U: Can a child play with the toy all year around? Is it easy to store and easy to transport?
H: Is the toy robust enough to be handed down. Will it still be relevant for younger siblings in years to follow?

Then, and this is where a calculator comes in handy, you add all these numbers up, and then add them to (T multiplied by L), where T is the estimated number of hours the child will play with the toy in a week, and L is the number of months the toy will likely be played with.

That number is then divided by the square root of C, where C is the cost of the toy.

Even with a calculator, it's not so easy. The Worlds Apart toy company has a website where parents can simply plug in their numbers and get the answer with a few clicks.

A rating of 40 is considered a very good score, said Arnall. The simplest toys, like playing cards, tend to score highest. And a score will drop sharply if a toy is expensive.

Arnall is hoping the mathematical formula reduces the stress of gift buying, rather than raising it, as can happen when people are forced to figure out math.

"It's really to help discriminate between toys and give parents an opportunity to take a step back and have a think about their child, matching up a toy that's going to meet the needs of their children rather than some very complex and irritating formula," he said.

Pi + Po + CR + S + U + H + ((T x L) / sqrtC) = Play Value

Interesting, but it couldn't apply to all toys - let's take one of my newest games, Battle for China:

Pi = 5 (yes, it can be played solitaire easily)
Po: 5 (yes, it's meant to be played with others and it assumes the player-nerd is sufficiently socialized)
CR: 2 (eyes and brain, mostly)
S: 5 (yes, if "social activity" can be defined as two player-nerds staring at a map and arguing for several hours)
U: 5 (oh yes! Just don't play it in the rain)
H: 4 (OK trade value, to go by

And for T and L, let's say it's played once a week for two months, before the next issue of Strategy and Tactics comes out. Per-issue cost is $25.

So, 5 + 5 + 2 + 5 + 5 + 4 + ((4 x 2) / 5) = 27.6

So, not bad but not great either. Hope your stress level wasn't unduly affected by being "forced to figure out math".
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A couple of weeks ago issue #8 of World at War magazine, featuring a leading article and full-size wargame on the subject by Yours Truly, hit the stands. Yes, you probably missed it because the mag has a circulation of only about 7,000, but it was nice to see some of my game work hit the relative big time.

And you know, it wasn't long after the magazine came out that I got an e-mail from the publisher, passing on an e-mail he had received from a person billing himself as a visiting professor in Spanish studies at Indiana University. He had found the magazine at a Barnes & Noble and had written in to correct me on where he thought I was wrong, on separatist movements in the autonomous regions of Spain, and suggesting I refer to the works of Stanley Payne and Pio Moa, a Spanish writer. They were fairly minor points but Stanley Payne (who I did not use) has defended the work of Pío Moa, a controversial writer who is viewed by many academics as a pseudo-historian, revisionist writer and apologist for Franco. It's obvious that the war is not over yet!

I've been writing articles for this magazine's sister publication Strategy & Tactics for 16 years, and I have to say this is only the second time anyone has commented to me on the content of the article - and the first time it was to complain about a misdrawn provincial border on a map of 1848 Germany that I never even saw until it appeared in the magazine!

One of the best references I did use in writing the article was Anthony Beevor's relatively recent book The Battle for Spain. I found an interesting review of it online (from The Independent, published: 21 May 2006), not least for his comments on Kids Today:

Antony Beevor: On the joys of history

The Left isn't going to like Antony Beevor's book on the Spanish Civil War, but he's used to controversy - his account of the fall of Berlin elicited heated protests from the Russian ambassador. Danuta Kean talks to him about the joys of digging in the archives, his despair about history students today and his brush with Jackie Onassis

Antony Beevor is horrified, but, for once, it is not accounts of rape, torture or political betrayal uncovered in the archives of Berlin and Moscow that exercise the author of Stalingrad. What angers him is the state of British education, especially the teaching of history. "Britain is the only country in Europe, with the exception of Albania and Iceland, where history is no longer compulsory after the age of 14." His words are rapid as machine gunfire. "There is an extraordinary conviction, which has come partly from teacher training colleges, that history is elitist and reactionary and not worthy."

Read more... )
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Pretty obvious when you think about it, that is if you spend any time around gamers and if you think about Myers-Briggs stuff. This illustrative, um, illustration is from a recent online survey of 645 self-identified hardcore historical wargamers.

37% of the respondents are INTJs, while at most 3% of society is made up of this MBTI type. I test out as either INTP or INTJ, about equally.

Link back to the study itself:
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Boring day, but I'm glad it's not as hot as it was yesterday. It hurt to peel myself off the seat at the end of yesterday. Now it looks as if it might rain.

I've been very busy the last few nights getting my library out of boxes and sorted out onto bookshelves. I am about out of shelf space, so my military history collection will have to sit and wait for a bit. I am amazed at hwo well my books got through two years of storage in the garage - only some crush damage to some volumes because of the way the boxes were stacked.

Also, sorting out my old SF magazine collection - no idea how many items, maybe 2-300 issues. About half of it is Analogs from the 1950s to the 1970s, but lots of Galaxy, IF, Worlds of Imagination, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, one I always liked. It is all going into comic bags and then storage, until I can get it out onto shelves one day. Meanwhile, would be fun to dip into and read from time to time. The artwork is incredible on the earlier issues.

I want to get all this done before Aki arrives on Sunday(!!!). Apparently a typhoon is headed for Osaka but will peak on Saturday, so it's possible but not probable that his flight will be delayed or cancelled.

I've found out that my game on Algeria has been nominated for a Charles S. Roberts Award as "best post-WW2 game". This means exactly nothing, except for egoboo, and I know I won't win because one of the other nominations is a very good game on Vietnam by a friend of mine, that has over 10 times as many copies in print. But I dont' mind, it's nice to be nominated anyway.

Meme time:
Read more... )
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Maybe I should make up a modern scenario for my Operation Whirlwind game:

Last rioters cleared off streets after nearly 130 hurt in Hungary

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 | 8:22 AM ET
The Associated Press

Read more... )
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Today a box arrived at the house containing my comp copies of Algeria, the only game available in English (probably in French too, but I am not sure) on the 1954-62 war!

Or Not?

Cover art etc:

Maybe I'll watch Battle of Algiers again tonight.
Or Not.
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It's just here for reference's sake - a list of the games I've designed and where they have been reviewed:

Prophecy tonight - wheee!
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Another weekend filled with consumption of pork products - pork jerky on the way to Grandma's, a roast ham, and a huge feast of cornmeal back bacon and cornbread on Sunday. I think the reason why these boots don't fit is that I'm growing trotters.

other information, not so related to meat, follows )
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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!

Moan Day

Jun. 23rd, 2003 09:49 am
ltmurnau: (Default)
Well, a weekend spent resting, for once. Or mostly resting.

Friday night was Gothvic coffee night, so windy and cold that we all moved inside when it got dark. Kiri_bean's friend Manjari was in town, and a few other people came out of the woodwork. Scuttle was there before going to work, and now she's home dying of some awful biological thing, seaofrain was in Vancouver organizing her Elegant Gothic Lolita tea party, and that's all the Gothvic/Livejournal people I can reference for now.

Saturday we went grocery shopping and I deked out to the Salvation Army up the hill from the mall. I found a book of Varga pinup girls in good shape (the book was good too, only a few dog-ears) and a strange French-language {{metiers de loto}} bingo style game for 99 cents. It came with six cards with six pictures of people dressed in their work clothes but with empty hands, and 36 little cards showing various implements. So players had to match up the typewriter with the typist, or the {{machine a ecrire}} with {{la dactylo}} or something like that (sorry if I get the genders wrong, I wasn't paying attention). It was a pretty old set, because there were cards for gas jockeys in peaked caps, sculptors, manual typists and so forth. Funny too, because some of the implements were out of scale so the nurse was threatening her patient with a syringe the size of a bicycle pump! I suppose these days you could work a few changes on it, too - try to argue that {{le facteur}} (the postman) needs a cleaver to do his job correctly, and the butcher needs the syringe to dope up the meat so it has a taste, etc. and so forth.

Then I mowed the lawns (actually, these days it's more like chopping the dandelions off short, as the grass has stopped growing until the fall) and we set up the new used tent in the backyard. I am planning on taking that one to Burning Man and wanted to test it out for leaks and tears and how quickly one could set it up in a wind. It's a fine little bit of shelter, but it's definitely not for two adults unless they are Siamese twins. New sleeping bag and sleeping pad are fine too.

Sunday I hacked around weeding the garden, picking cherries off the tree (they are good this year, and the birds didn't get near as many as they usually do), going for a long bike ride in search of a stamp, and watching an anime I had found last week: "Wings of Honneamise". There is so much imagination in this movie: the people who made the story of the beginnings of space flight on another world stocked this alternate Earth with believable alternate technologies, religions, styles of dress, etc.. Really must have been a labour of love.

And this morning woke up late for work already - SOMEONE had reset the alarms we use to get up at 7:15. One was set for 6:00 am and one for 7:20 pm. I love having twelve whole minutes to do all the bathroom business, shave, dress, grab food, pack bag and rocket out the house with my boots on the wrong feet (OK, so that last bit was exaggeration but you get the idea). So now here I am, updating this journal!


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