15 July 2008

CSA starts to fly

Two weeks ago I noted what our haul from our local CSA was. I just got back with the next box -- last week was a week off for the harvest. It's a nice, but small, assortment. I got maybe a cup of raspberries (that won't last twelve hours), a few radishes, one nice kolrabi, a humongous zucchini (which is not very flavorful, but will provide bulk to stew or omelette or something), a nice bunch of onions, a small amount of chard -- also a nice amount on a week when Cathy and Kivi are out of town, a bag (maybe six ounces) of spinach and another of mixed greens and two big bags of kale. Apparently the box was supposed to have just one but they had an extra and knew from previous conversations that I like kale, so they gave it to me. Booyah!

10 July 2008

Party game design

1:30 - Using Brenda Brathwaite's article, Easiest Game Design Exercise Ever I decided to make a silly little game quickly. Also, I need text-heavy stuff to do in order to practice working with my new keyboard.

Right off the bat I'm aiming for a somewhat risque party-game since I don't have any experience inventing such a thing.

1:39 - Step 1 - So let's say there are twenty spaces on our track.

1:40 - Step 2 - Must...choose...narrative... OK, so I really prefer an abstract, but I want to follow this exercise. I want to have some social play elements ( so I want it to be social like running for class president or something but kind of more grown up. Um...like a successful party host(es) or something. Yeah, that'll do -- Party Time.

2:10 - Step 3 - My first impulse was to violate the rules here, but I've gone back and decided to *really* follow this as closely as possible and see what I get. I'm going to just "go with dice" but I want there to be three or four sources of movement in step 4 and I want them to be relatively more powerful than the random movement of the dice. I want the dice to result in a distribution with a low kurtosis. What I'd really like is 3d2 or something but I think that's impractical -- flipping coins sucks compared to rolling dice. After goofing around for a bit I think I'll go with Roll three dice (d6) and take the lowest roll as the mechanic. It gives a slight chance of extraordinary movement (six spaces) but you're about 70% likely to move only one or two spaces. This also allows future developments to alter the die-mechanic.

2:49 - Step 4 - Conflict. I'm not sure about calling this conflict but I want a few position-modifying mini-games. Maybe once they're fleshed out the board will just have one of them on each space or maybe they're the result of a card-draw. The trick now is to figure out what they are. I'd like to have at least four mini-games and ideally, more. I'd like them to extensible -- fitting expansions and player-generated content in seamlessly and allowing certain Challenges (I think that's what I'm calling them) to be removed to fit the tastes of the play-group. I'd also like for the Challenges to result in a net movement of <2 spaces -- so some player(s) might advance or fall back up to two spots or maybe some of each would happen but only up to one space in each direction -- and if this were occasionally violated, no biggie.

Challenge 1: Who here has (never) done...? The way this works is that the Focus player (she who triggers the Challenge) selects a question about past deeds for which her truthful answer is "me" (indicated with a raised hand) and presents it to the crowd. (E.g. "Who here has driven over 100 MPH?" or "Who here has drawn a lover's blood with your teeth?" or "Who here has never skied?") Every other player either raises their hand, indicating that the statement is true for them too, or does nothing indicating that it is not. If no hands are raised, the focus player advances two spaces. If fewer than half the hands are raised then the focus player advances one space.

Challenge 2: Color-Match When using this Challenge, a pile of colored cards or tokens or something must be available. (For testing, I'd like to get a pile of color chips from the paint department at Home Depot or something.) The focus player select a color randomly, drawing it and revealing it to all the players. If that player is wearing a garment that is pretty close in color to drawn color (as determined by a consensus of fellow players) then the focus player has two options. If not, skip the first option below and execute the second.

2a: If the focus player is wearing a garment of close color she may opt to apply the color test rules to herself rather than seeking out the closest match as per the paragraph below. If she happens to wear the closest match in the game, then the option is moot.

2b: The player wearing a garment that is closest in color to the selected color must go back two spaces. If that player would rather, he may remove the garment and instead go forward one space.

Challenge 3: Kiss Your Neighbor When playing with this Challenge module, there is a play aid -- a card with five strata each listing one of, in order: hand, arm, lips, neck and tongue, upon which a pawn rests and moves. The pawn begins the game on the lowest (hand) space. When the focus player lands on a KYN space, he must consult the play aid and kiss one of the players adjacent to him -- the one he has kissed the fewest times if applicable, otherwise his choice. If he will not, he loses two spaces. If he kisses the neighbor in a place and manner appropriate to what is indicated in the space with the pawn, he advances one space. The focus player also has the option of kissing his neighbor as per the space below or above the pawn's current location, subtracting or adding one to the number of spaces gained. Further the pawn is moved up a space on the play aid each time a kiss is conducted earning one or two spaces gained on the victory track. The point of the kiss-location track is to escalate the passion and intimacy of the kiss. To play this appropriately, the meaning of each space should be apprehended with this in mind.

Challenge 4: A Round of Greetings The focus player is to address each other player starting with the player to her left and continuing in clockwise order as if she were the host of a party and were greeting guests as they arrive. Each greeting should include physical contact where practicable (maybe only with adjacent players if your game space doesn't permit freedom of movement), direct eye-contact and a compliment. The focus player receives two space-advances minus one for every fellow-player who thought the act implausible.

Challenge 5: Art Contest The focus player names a subject for the other players to draw. Each other player is given a small piece of paper and a pen or pencil and attempts to draw the named subject. This should take just a few minutes. The focus player then collects the drawings and judges them -- selecting a winner. The drawer of the winning picture advances one space. Then, the focus player's judgment is judged. If every player agrees with the judgment, the focus player advances two spaces. If not, but every player agrees that it was a reasonable or plausible judgment, the focus player advances one space. If not, and every player suspect the focus player of gaming the judgment then the focus player loses a space.


I'm now thinking that the way to do the board is to just assemble a small deck of cards/spaces based on the modules you're playing with and the relative frequencies desired and then shuffle them up and lay them out making a dynamic board.

5:07 - Step 5 - Oh, I'm done. There you go!


I recently purchased two new pieces of hardware to improve the ergonomics of my workstations. This decision arises out of the fact that my wrists have been aching more or less constantly for a couple of years. As a programmer, I keyboard for a living and while I keep thinking of career changes that I might undertake, I don't really want to and I don't see how I could continue to provide the same standard of living for my family. Also, I've been holding the degeneration of my wrists back by wearing braces for like ten or twelve hours each day, my fingers have recently started to hurt too.

So, the first of these new devices is the Kinesis Advantage keyboard. Golly, but it's strange. This is the first document that I'm typing on it and some things are interesting. I'll let you read all the specific features and claims made by the manufacturer, but I'll note that the seemingly awkward depression in which the keys lie really does lessen the reach and flex of each finger. I am also starting to believe in the value of this device because in the (painfully long) time that it has taken me to type this short note, my unbraced wrists have been markedly pain-free. So, while it is really hard to get used to the new key-layout, I think I will and I am currently thinking that it's a good thing.

Something unexpected about this experience is that I have identified a bunch of poor typing habits that are deep-rooted in me. Apparently, I hit the Y key with my left pointer habitually. Same with the C! Like, what am I thinking? I took mandatory typing class in 5-7th grades and another semester in high school. And I type nearly as fast as I can compose my thoughts. I should know how to do this all right. And yet, I see that I also use only the left shift key under normal circumstances and I also routinely glance at the keyboard as I type. Bad me! Anyway, neat stuff to observe.

The other new piece of hardware is the Evoluent Vertical Mouse 3. The main idea is that it keeps your mouse-arm more naturally aligned. It seems to make perfect sense that that would be desirable, but it's hard to use comfortably. It is much more like a normal mouse than the new keyboard is normal, but in some ways it feels subtly more awkward. There is a slight ledge on the bottom right of the mouse's body that feels like it must be where to rest your pinky-finger. But when I do, it seems that my fingers don't line up naturally with the buttons. My pointer is on the top button (left-click) and my middle finger is lined up with the second button (I have this set up to switch between open apps) and then my ring and pinky fingers both rest on the bottom button (right-click). The two problems I'm currently experiencing with this is that using the scroll-wheel (between the pointer and middle fingers) is awkward with either finger and then the bottom button feels awkward -- maybe like it's too small for my two fingers or something. Also, these are my impressions after using it for less than an hour -- maybe I'll just get used to it and it will be second nature. Hopefully.