Everything in Fluxx

Most of my Fluxx Games

Let me tell you about one of my favorite games, a little card game called Fluxx.

Example Fluxx Rule: Talk like a pirate.

New Rule: Talk like a pirate.

It starts very simple.  There is a deck of cards.  Each person is dealt four cards.  The rules are simple.  On your turn, you draw one card, and you play one card.  As soon as the game starts, though, it gets more complicated.  Every card tell you how it’s supposed to be played.  Some of the cards change the rules of the game, for example to say you have to draw two cards instead of one).  Other cards will help you win, while their opposites will actually prevent you from winning.  Some cards contains surprises that you can spring on your fellow players.

In other words, the game is always “in flux.”

There are lots of different flavors to this game, and I’ve enjoyed every one that I’ve tried.  It starts with basic Fluxx.  After that is Star Fluxx, a sci-fi themed game that adds in two new ideas, surprises and creepers, which prevent you from winning.  Pirate Fluxx is completely pirate themed and very similar to Star Fluxx.  Eco Fluxx is ecology themed and has new concepts like player interdependent goals and removing cards from the game all together.  My friends and I were not sure about it before we played, but it is indeed fun.

The most complicated in Cthulhu Fluxx.  It has everything all the other games has, but with a few other new mechanics as well.  It’s possible for everyone to lose in Cthulhu Fluxx.  One of the best games of Fluxx I had was with a friend where a card was played and we knew someone won, but we had to unwrap four layers of rules in order to figure it out.

There is little that is predictable about a game of Fluxx, including how long a game could take.  It could be over within a few minutes, or it could take more than an hour.

The next step, and the one I’ve not taken yet, is to try Fluxx the board game. It goes even crazier, and to give you an idea, check out the introduction video below. Have fun playing!

Seal it with Wax

My Wax Seal - An Atom

I write a lot of letters. For a while I was writing one nearly every day, though with the events of this summer, I ended up missing some days, and missed more in the fall. But now I’m back in the swing of things for the most part.

My letter writing has evolved over time. Years and years ago, it was pretty uncreative. Words written on lined notebook paper. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. Letters are awesome, no matter what form they take. I’ve been experimenting with quite a few different things.

Pens

A year ago, I was pretty much a sucker for the Pilot G2’s. I thought they were pretty much the best pens ever.  This culminated with a purchase of the Render K, a pen that is machined out of a single block of aluminum and takes the Pilot G2 refills.  This is an amazing pen, and remains one of my favorites.  For Christmas, my friend T got me some colored G2’s, and they’re quite awesome as well.  I’ve found that I really like letters written in different colors of ink, and multiple colors of ink as well.

Last spring, I made my first Fountain Pen purchase. I bought a Lamy Safari with blue ink cartridges.  Using a fountain pen is a different experience, and I’ve grown to really like it. On certain surfaces, they don’t work that well, including card stock, though.  I recently added my second fountain pen, a Pilot Metropolitan with a Medium Nib.  I think I like this one even better, and I think I’m going to get another one, with a Fine Nib.

My Pens

My Pens. The bottom two pens are my fountain pens.

Paper

I am such a sucker for paper.  I started out this year by getting some heavy Linen paper, only to be really disappointed when I noticed the watermark.  I don’t like having a watermark on my paper, especially if it’s for personal letters.  I guess other people see it as a status symbol?  I think those people are ridiculous.

The next paper I tried was parchment paper, and while I like it, I wish the color was more solid.  That’s not a big issue, and so I tend to use it quite a bit in writing letters.

When it comes to colors, I received a large package of neon colored paper, and I’ve used it a couple times now for letter writing.  I actually prefer to use that paper for typed letters, with each page a separate color.  I really like how those turn out.

A few times, for something different, I’ve used graph paper.  I drew a map of my adventures that day with a little commentary, and I really like how it turned out.

My most recent paper addition is something called Tamoe River Paper from the very creatively name paperforfountainpens.com.  I actually haven’t written any letters with it yet, but I have experimented quite a bit with it and different pens.  Unsurprisingly, fountain pens work really well on it.  The paper is very thin, but it soaks up the ink really well.  I created some line guides to put behind it, so my letters might even end up being pretty straight.

Most of my letter writing has actually been on card stock.  I purchased some prints and handmade a bunch of cards that I’ve been sending out.  I think I’ll save that for another post, though.

Handwriting

The one thing that paper can’t fix is handwriting, and mine is horrible.  I recently asked my friend if it had gotten any better this year, and they simply said, ‘sorry, but no.’  I think I’m improving a little bit, though, and moving forward, I’m really going to focus on improving this.  I really want to be able to craft truly beautiful letters.

Packaging

The final part of creating a letter is sealing it up.  For a long time, I really overlooked the envelope, and I rarely kept them on from the letters I did receive.  I regret that now, and I keep everything.

The first thing I recommend doing is use up the stamps you purchased at the bank or wherever, and head over to USPS.com  Check out the much larger variety of stamps that they have for you to use.  This year, I’ve built up a pretty good collection.  I like having a variety to choose from that I can match to the person receiving it.

Stamps waiting to be used!

Stamps waiting to be used!

I also started putting seal of some kind on every letter.  I have several different seals to choose from.  The first are just regular stickers.  These can also be matched to the person receiving the letter, and I think it’s a nice touch.  I’ve added both gold and silver seals if you want to go a little more fancy.

But the fanciest has got to be the wax seal.  I splurged and purchased a nice aluminium seal a few months ago.  I had decided that I wanted something scientific and represented hope, so I chose an atom.  Instead of going with red sealing wax, which is admittedly more traditional, I’m going with blue, which is more representative of me.

Today I added the last little bit of fancy to it.  I bought some metallic silver ink and dipped my seal in that before making the wax impression.  It really emphasizes the shape of the seal, and I really like it.

I think that’s pretty much the end of the road for traditional letter writing.  The last thing I really need to add is improving my handwriting, but I think that’s a more long term project.  Any future craziness from this will surely transition into being Mail Art, and not longer be a simple letter.

A Roll of the Dice

My Set of Dice

Last night I had my bi-weekly table top RPG session with a number of peeps online. Does it still count as a table top if it’s all on a website instead? I’m going to say so. We started about 9 months ago playing a short campaign in Pathfinder, and then we moved to a Fate campaign, which just changed into a modified Numenera game. Really, though, the system doesn’t matter.

You see, Table top RPG’s are not about winning or losing. They’re about creating a narrative. Over the course of hours, weeks, months, and even years, you and your group of friends create an epic story that you build collaboratively using random and non-random events.

It starts with character creation. You create a character that has certain attributes. You create their history. You decide what their motivations are. The others create their characters too, and then you bring them together, and let your imagination run wild. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s really an embodiment of the adage: “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”

It doesn’t even need to be a lot of work. A really simple game of this type is called “Everyone is John” (free PDF). To play, you need at least three people with great imaginations. One of them is the GM (stands for Game Master). He controls and describes the world. The other two take turns playing the different personalities of the player character, a guy named John. You decide ahead of time what you’re skilled at and what you want to accomplish. When the game starts, the gm places the character somewhere and then the player takes over.

When I played it the first time, I decided my skills would be ironing, writing letters, and playing darts. Based on those skills, I decided I wanted to iron a shirt, write a letter to my mother, and win a game of darts. The GM started the game by saying “You’re wake up in an alley, covered in trash.” Then I got to play by saying things like:

  • “Stand up and brush my clothes off.”
  • “Go to the end of the alley.”
  • “Ask someone where nearest post office was

Then I would roll a regular dice. If it was a one or two, I would fail, and control of John would pass on to another character who would find themselves in my position. If it was a three or four, I would succeed with failure. For example, maybe I would stand up and brush my clothes off, but then fall back down. If it was five or six, I would succeed. It’s pretty simple.

The key to playing, though, is imagination. There is no game board. There are no complex rules. The game can only be as fun as you make it. If you really buy in and go for it, the results are absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend it!

Sources for Positiveness

Sometimes I just need some positiveness in my life. Sometimes it’s for affirmation and motivation. Sometimes it’s for inspiration. Here are three that I like:

  • NEDA Feeding Hope (tumblr). I’ve been supporting NEDA for several years now, but only discovered this blog in the last year or so. I don’t know when it was launched. Since it is focused on helping people with Eating Disorders, those issues are prevalent there, but there is more general positiveness as well.
  • Daily Pep Talk from a Best Friend. I heard about this on the Stuff You Should Know podcast. Every day something to get you going
  • /r/GetMotivated. One must be careful with Reddit. You’re going to see both the best and worse humanity has to offer there. /r/GetMotivated is one of the good places on reddit (for the most part)

And here is a piece of positiveness from me to you:

This is Sahalie Falls.  It has been cutting through hardened rock for thousands of years to create something beautiful.  It is a force of nature. You are also a force of nature.

Mary’s Peak

Sunset from Mary's Peak

One of my favorite spots in Oregon is Mary’s Peak. It’s the highest point in the Oregon Coast mountain range, topping out at 4096 feet elevation. The Willamette valley rests nearly thirty eight hundred feet below that, making it really dominate the surrounding area.

Mary's Peak from the Distance

Mary’s Peak from the Distance

Even though it’s very tall, it is also very accessible. There is a paved road that climbs from Oregon Highway 34 for a little more than eight miles. Along the road are great views of various plants and trees, some of the surrounding vistas, a few small waterfalls, and all sorts of lovely logging clear cuts. After parking at the end of the road, the summit is just a short hike for the final four hundred and fifty feet elevation gain.

Bench on Mary's Peak

Bench on Mary’s Peak

At the top, there is a communications hub, but walk around it, and you’re going to be greeted with magnificent views. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see from Mount Hood down to Mount Thielson, including every mountain in Oregon taller than ten thousand feet. In the image above, you can see Mount Jefferson in the background. If you turn around and face west, on a clear day, you’re going to be able to see to the ocean.

As the sun sets, you’ll see it reflected off of the water. In the evenings, as moisture moves in from the ocean, it gets pushed up over the mountains, forming wonderful looking clouds like this:

Marys Peak Clouds

Marys Peak Clouds

I’ve been to the summit several times now, and I always end up spending quite a bit of time just soaking in the environment. The last time I was there at sunset, and I could see a fox or coyote off in the distance in the meadow below frolicking around. It was too far away to get a good look (or take a good photo), but it looked like it was having a grand time.

I definitely recommend checking it out if you have the chance. It’s about a two hour drive from Eugene, or thirty minutes to an hour outside Corvallis, off of Oregon Highway 34. If you can be up there at sunset, that’s a really good time. IF you’re there earlier in the day, continue on out the the coast. You’ll follow the Alsea river and come out at Waldport. It’s a beautiful road.

Documentary: Making Mail

I don’t jump on twitter that often, and when I do it’s kind of like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. But today I hopped on while waiting for something, and I happened to see a tweet from the USPS:

I LOVE the USPS. I really think it’s one of the greatest institutions in the history of the world. For literally cents, I can put something in a box next to my home and have it delivered to someone else’s home with in a few days. If I want it to go to another country, it’s just a little more. This tweet caught my eye, because I thought it would be a documentary on the USPS (side note: if anyone knows of such a documentary, please let me know).

So I eagerly opened up the link and started watching. It’s not about the USPS at all, although it does show just how awesome they are. This documentary is more about people who turn sending mail into an art form. Their letters are crafted constructions, and they’re wonderful. You can see many samples of mail art on the making mail tumblr.

I send a lot of mail, and I kind of feel like I’ve been heading in this direction. I started simply by getting different stamps and including seals on my envelopes. But now I’ve added a wax seal some times, and my letters are usually on simple hand made photo cards. This documentary was inspiring though, especially as I start the project of making holiday cards to send out this year. I feel my creative juices flowing.

Take an hour and enjoy this free documentary.

Started Playing Again

Euphonium

It’s Thursday, and that means tonight is a rehearsal for the Oregon Tuba Associations’ Ensemble, which I recently joined.  For the first time in several years, I’m playing the euphonium again on a consistent basis.  And I’m having a blast.

I started out by playing with a community wind band, which was fun, but the skill level was quite low.  The Tuba/Euph group is very different; their skill level is much higher. I’ve really been challenged and have put in some time practicing.  I’ve also pulled out many of my old euphonium solos and have been playing through those.  One of these days I’ll finally master Arban’s Carnival of Venice.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I feel like I’m a much better musician now than I was when I was actually studying euphonium as a student in college.  I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of the music.  I feel like I have a better understanding of the euphonium as an instrument.  I just feel much more comfortable playing.  Maybe it’s just a matter of being a more mature person now.  Many things that my instructor taught make a lot more sense than they did back then.

Playing with the group has been a very positive experience so far, and I can’t wait for Tuba Christmas.  I’ve actually never participated in it, and this year I’ll be able to, though they call it something different out here.  I’m really looking forward to it!

.NET Open Sourced!

So the big news in the tech world today is that the .NET framework has been open sourced. I was hoping this was going to happen at some point, and it’s great to finally see that realized. Microsoft has been headed in this direction for quite some time. I think the first projects to be developed out in the open was really IronPython and IronRuby, which haven’t seen a lot of love recently. But more recently, ASP.NET vNext has been out on Github, as well as other core technologies like Entity Framework. Very recently, the new .NET compilers were open sourced. You could kind of see that this was in the works, but you couldn’t be sure. It’s just really great news to see today.

The other big announcement is Visual Studio Community Edition. VS had been available for free in the express editions, but they were limited. You couldn’t do multiple projects in your solution, and you couldn’t add extensions like Resharper.

The Community Edition removes these restrictions. As far as I can tell, this is basically the Professional Edition of Visual Studio, but now available for teams less than 10, including individual developers of course.

This is great news for hobbyists, or even just programmers who want to hone their skills outside of their job. You can have complex projects and have the entire VS experience without shelling out several hundred dollars (well, additional dollars after buying Resharper).

It’s a great day to be a .NET Developer!

Meetings

It’s Tuesday morning, and I have a two hour meeting.  This is a horrible meeting, but it’s not because of the length. It’s because of the people in it.  Two hour meetings can be productive.  If you’re in sync with the other people, and things are happening, two hours can fly by.

This meeting is never like that.  People show up unprepared.  They talk about irrelevant things.  They show up late and have people go back over what’s already been discussed. The same decisions are rehashed and remade every time. People go over their task list in detail.  In short, nearly every rule you’ve read about “how to have a good meeting” is broken.  The only thing we really do right, as far as I can tell, is end the meeting on time (mostly).

I don’t run this meeting. I don’t really have any power in this meeting other than sharing the information that’s needed.  The only thing I can do is set an example.  I’m there a few minutes early.  I have an information sheet handout for all the participants that contains only the information that they need to know.  When it’s my turn to speak, I don’t wander off on tangents or bring in unrelated things. My parts of the meeting tend to go very smoothly and quickly.

So off I go, to waste two hours of my life in a meeting that could be conducted in half an hour because people can’t be bothered to care.