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Last night, I played Alhambra for the first time. Seriously, I had never actually played it. I won.

(Of course, I had played Stimmt So! before.)
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This quiz is fun because the questions are dynamic. Take it a few different times!

My first runthrough got me the NYC Subway.


Not sure if this is really a mandate post, oh well.
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Alternate titles:

-Amtrak FAIL
-Train Karma is a b****

Yes, I lost the Amtrak lottery - big. Got a ticket that looked like it was for a normal train, but it turned out to be a "holiday extra" . . . using borrowed NJT rolling stock. NOT OKAY, AMTRAK. So I paid Amtrak prices and did not get Amtrak level service. NOT OKAY. Calling customer relations first thing tomorrow to make a stink.

Other than that, I had a lovely holiday. The remake of King's Bounty absolutely rocks. As does The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I recommend both.

I made a new tag. Should be amusing.
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Fun exercise.


50 largest cities, travel times with high speed trains at a measly 150 mph.

(Edit: As some comments point out, not all numbers are accurate. Still entertaining though.)
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'nuff said.

In other news, I rode MARC for the first time today. I was in Baltimore with over an hour to kill, and I could spend 7 extra dollars to trade my Amtrak ticket for a much earlier one, or save five and get a less earlier but still earlier MARC.

We were in single-level cars, worn but well maintained, with comfy seats. I slept most of the way.
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Train 2171. A window seat in the quiet car with the lights down. Listening to my Sansa, watching Maryland roll past in the night.
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Fantastic archive of photos, linked by Josh G. Even if you don't necessarily love trains, these are some fabulously beautiful photographs. Enjoy!


P.S. There's a rocket too!!!
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The Phillies certainly felt welcome on a very cold night, blasting the Nats for a 12-0 lead behind Jamie Moyer, after which Clay Condrey was told to pitch the last three, giving up just two runs (fairly impressive for him). All the people I was with were wimps and left at various points from the bottom of the 6th to the top of the 8th, so I spent the last few minutes of the game wandering around the park. I can't say I was impressed.

My very first impression of the place was that it felt unwelcoming: huge expanses of white/gray concrete punctuated by bland silver metal fixtures. Yes, the seats were blue, but especially as many were folded up empty they didn't really break up the monotony. The super spiffy scoreboards seemed like a good idea at first glance - the mammoth main board and a good sized out of town board are both huge LCD screens. But it soon developed that while they are shinier than the older electric looking displays in Philadelphia, and combine all the data you could want in one really easy to find spot, they are also a lot easier to flip to ads every half inning, which was pretty irritating.

Next complaint (oh the list goes on): The basic layout of the seating is annoying. The park in Philadelphia is known mostly for being small, almost to the point of silliness. But partially because of that and partially by separate design it's also cozy. The seating goes straight up, which is noticeable, but you really notice it in the main concourse, with the field very close and the ceiling very high. DC is very much the opposite, with a vast bowl on the 100 level. It's almost laid out like Shea, except that the upper levels don't have the same elegant lines, rather being made up of several small levels stacked on each other, many consisting of boxes. The main concourse is very wide and low, which feels unwelcoming and really emphasizes the concrete material used in the place. And behind home plate, they have a massive structure holding luxury boxes on every level, which blocks views of the field from all concourses and is very fan unfriendly.

Citizens Bank Park is not well known for its creativity. In fact many people pan it for its lack of creativity and boring red brick and green metal look. They have a point, but I think the park is comfy and some things, like Ashburn Alley and the stacked bullpens, as least show flashes of inspiration. Nationals Park is not just uncreative but also cold, uninviting, and totally uninspired. Although it does have a Five Guys in it.

And the Presidents' Race is great. I think the Nationals are trying, as a ballclub, to be fan friendly and creative. They have to be to build their fan base. But I think fans are going to be gagging on the ballpark for a very long time. (This is, of course, a first impression.) On the other hand, it's not RFK (I kind of liked RFK, honestly - must go to a DC United game there), and maybe it will be good enough for fans who know nothing better.

In happier news, I leave you with this:
Me: The Lionhead kitten looks like it belongs in an anime.
Marie: I think it looks like an alien.
Me: These aren't mutually exclusive.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, the wave of the future: Adorable Anime Bunnies FROM SPACE!

(Yes Mark, we know.)
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The earliest the Flyers can be eliminated is now May 18th.

National Police Week: No shenanigans today, but as I walked along in an orange and black t-shirt, a white van passed in front of me, turning onto 3rd St. It contained a half dozen police officers in full dress uniform (they looked more like high ranking Air Force officials), roaring 'Go Flyers' in my general direction. Awesome.

Then I sat at Chipotle reading Air & Space (check out these "teapots") before going to Game Night. Guillotine, Quo Vadis?, and way too much Apple to Apples, now with even more filthiness. Met some new people, and came home to catch the end of the game. Nice evening, overall.
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For several months now, [livejournal.com profile] jennisis and [livejournal.com profile] sirgarrett have been doing a weekly podcast, The Elf and Dwarf. It used to be a WoW podcast, but they have now branched out into all things sci-fi, fantasy, and geek. In their words the podcast is about "things that a geek couple finds interesting."

I cannot, cannot, CANNOT recommend the program too highly. I've just listened to the last two episodes, and they covered topics that include online RPGs, tabletop RPGs, the evolution of both, current sci-fi/fantasy TV shows, books, movies, conventions, vampires, legal issues surrounding entertainment...the list goes on. I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone on my friends list who wouldn't appreciate something in the show, and their banter is excellent. They're also really good about responding to comments, both on and off the podcast. Click on the link above and give them a listen!

Also, yay, Google Maps now has Street View for Philadelphia! This gives me something to do when homesick!

Finally, yay, my copy of Quo Vadis? arrived!
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Not homework it seems.

Anyway, just back from the first playing of my new copy of The Bridges of Shangri-La, which was excellent. Basically, there are 13 interconnected villages, each with 7 spaces for "masters." On your turn you can either place a new master on a blank space in a village you have a presence in, place two students on any two of your masters, or send all the students in a village (all players) across a bridge to a new village. (Any two villages have only one bridge between them.) That bridge is destroyed and the students from the old village become the masters in the new village, unless a given student's dedicated tile is occupied and the new village had a greater total population than the old village. When all bridges to a village are destroyed, no one may play into it in any way. The winner is the one with the most masters total. The only tiebreaker is who has a presence in the largest number of villages. A screen shot of the board might be helpful.

I ended up winning 24-21-21-17, but it was closer than that because on the third to last turn I had 20 masters in closed villages and 1 outside, and it was vulnerable, and the player to my left could have killed it and eliminated me from further play, but he did not and I turned that 1 into 4. Interestingly, the guy with only 17 had tiles in way more villages than anyone else, which leads me to theorize that he spread himself out and often gained a little and lost a little when someone sent the students from a village he was in. But he would have owned the tiebreaker if he had been able to force it.

In general the game is fantastic. No luck, no secret information. Just laying down tiles strategically and trying to control the flow of the game. There are a few strategies we figured out as we played, but I'm sure many more are out there. For example, strategically suiciding a single student to remove a bridge before a huge force can come the other way. Sending a student to a village where you already control its discipline (it then remains a student) in order to either be positioned to suicide or to have greater numbers and thus a stronger village. Placing students rather than masters when possible, because you get two instead of one on your turn, but placing masters in villages that could close before you could send students there. Etc. Oh, and we learned that it's easy to run out of tiles of a given type, since you only get six of each.

At any rate, it's a huge keeper, and as we get better at it I think it will achieve what the box claims, which is that it is a 1 hour long 3-4 player game. BoardGameGeek claims to have a 2 player variant, which I must look into.

Also, it has great flavor-text. Why do the bridges collapse? Well, the reason the game exists is that the spirits of Shangri-la have died off, and we're trying to send new spiritual leaders from outside to make our cultures dominate the region. As Aaron (Aaron R. He, Jan, Richard, and I were playing. Since the four of us and Adam are starting a gaming club here, these names will probably recur) put it, it is a game of spiritual warfare. But! One of the old spirits survived. It is known, in the rules, as the Invisible Bridge Blaster. I shit you not. As a further illustration, one of the master/student disciples in the Yeti-Whisperer. It has a t-shirt, and for good reason.
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I'm just back from a [livejournal.com profile] dcgamenight meeting in Clarendon. It was fun - the group is more into party games than strategy games, but it was great to hang out with *my kind of people.* (I identified a lost looking couple when one of them said "braaaains.") We played Apples to Apples and Lunch/Beer Money before I left after only about two hours. They were still going strong with about a dozen people at that point.

Relatedly, my name is apparently "Guard Dog." Who knows?

I should also mention that I am starting to feel like I live on the platform at Metro Center. Of course, my transfer wait times today were four minutes going and two coming back, so I have nothing to complain about. <3 Metro!

In unrelated news, Law School is hard, and I appear to be broke. Whee!
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Nothing else to say.

Other than thanks to Jay Bibby.
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I often drive my mother's 1992 Ford Taurus (180,000 miles), and one of the problems with it is that the seals on the doors are going. So they leak, and they also let in a lot of road noise. Normally it's an annoyance, but driving home tonight on the Northeast Extension it was more of a blessing. The road is very straight, and I drove down it at about 70 with only a few cars visible in the distance. Flying down the dark road the steady roar seemed to become an integral part of the driving experience, speaking to me in an inescapable voice of passing miles and passing time.

I had been up at Emma's new place for the Philadelphia Area Gamers' monthly gathering. It was, of course, lovely. Many thanks to her for hosting it. Lately I am bored with long posts about board games, so I will only say that Oasis with five is indeed a good game, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first game of Keythedral. Also, Christian brought his Wii, and I can only say that my first Wiiperience was awesome. The system is all that it was supposed to me, although some of the sensors in the Wiimote are infuriating.

Finally, of course, there was madness. As directed by Chris W., who gave me the directive "Internet! Stat!" I present a few photographs of the Master Squisher, Mark. )
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Yes my friends, it finally happened. I was dealt P-A-I-T-E-R-S, and when my turn came around I dumped them around an N, playing all seven tiles for the first time ever! Not a very impressive 8 letter word, I know, and I ended up third of four in that game, but I am very, very pleased.
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My favorite WoW podcast mentioned Munchkin, so I wrote in about it, and this caused them to spend time in a later episode (the current one) talking about Illuminati.
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