Monday, August 30, 2004


I've been a Linux user for over a decade now. Before that, I
used the C64, GEOS, MacOS (before it was called that), but I've never
really used Windows for any period of time by choice. On several
occasions over the past decade I decided to give Windows a try again,
usually in a dual boot configuration. Each time it didn't last long
and I was promptly back to using Linux exclusively. Windows simply
lacked the customizability, the transparency, the power, and the
convenience of a Linux system. More recently, href=>Cygwin and less crash-inclined releases
of Windows have made my required occasional use of Windows tolerable,
but no reason to use it by choice. When it comes down to it, I
decided I was just set on Linux and to some extent it wouldn't matter
how good an alternative was, I was set in my ways.

Then, because we were having a baby, we decided to get a video camera
and come up with a solution for doing video editing. I had seen
iMovie and been impressed with the apparent power and simplicity.
That, combined with having heard some good things about OS X and being
comfortable with its unix foundation, made us decide to get a Mac. I
know there's some good video editing stuff for Linux, but I'm not yet
comfortable with the maturity of that subsection of the linux
application base. So, a few months ago, we bought a 17" PowerBook.

Initially, I was reasonably happy with the PowerBook and MacOS.
Click-to-focus still annoyed me and it took me a while to learn to
like Expose, but it was ok. For the purpose we bought it for, video
editing, it excelled. Both iMovie and iDVD are outstanding pieces of
software for doing what I want to do. I'm sure if I got more
interested in doing really elaborate productions, I might prefer a
more sophisticated system like Final Cut, but I'm pretty happy with
iMovie for now.

So, I've continued to use the Mac for almost 4 months, and I've got to
admit, I'm a convert. It manages to pretty cleanly integrate the
convenience of a casual use GUI with the transparency, accessibility
and power of unix. It's not just that if you drag a file into a
terminal window, it expands to the fully escaped pathname. It's not
just that it ships with perl. Those are nice, but what really does it
that most of the apps seem to store things in open or obvious ways.
iTunes puts a bunch of mp3s in a transparent directory hierarchy. iCal
uses vCalendar. Mail uses a bunch of mboxes. Address Book, well, it
lets you export to vCards.

That said, the included apps are all of sufficiently high quality that
I haven't felt as great a need, as I often do, to fiddle with them.
Mail's junk filtering is great, and it's filtering rules setup is
cleaner than most. iMovie continues to please, as does iTunes.
iPhoto is even pretty cool although it doesn't handle large libraries
gracefully at all. In fact what really has me converted is the DWIM
factor. (DWIM == Do What I Mean) Linux and Windows both have had the
problem for me that they wouldn't do what I meant. With Linux, I have
sufficient access and transparency that I can force it to DWIM. OS X
comes pretty close to DWIM most of the time, and I can force it on the
rare occasion that it misbehaves (for example, creating several
smaller iPhoto libraries).

I still rely on my Linux server, so I'm not a complete convert, but
the PowerBook is pretty sweet.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

A Good Sign

Genevieve and the interesting shirt

Some time ago, Angela Gaalema gave us a sleeveless Plenary Games
shirt. The shirt is lovely, but at XXL, rather excessively large on
either me or my wife. Recently, my wife happened to throw it on and
discover that by virtue of it being sleeveless and very large, the
sides open up conveniently, making it a reasonably effective nursing
top for feeding Genevieve.

But, the good news doesn't end there. On various occasions,
especially when being changed, Genevieve will stare rather intently
(and calmly) at the Plenary Games logo. They say infants like high
contrast black and white and the Plenary Game logo has that, but I
instead take it as a sign of interest and we'll see if I can get her
to play a game of Fresh Fish before she's out of diapers.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


(my photo from BGG<>

Recently, I've had several occasions to play "Mississippi", a
game from the late 1980's published by Mattel. It's not the greatest
game in the world, but it is a very good race/puzzle game. Given that
it was published in 1987, before the deluge of quality games from the
past decade, it is especially remarkable and worthy of a bit more

The basic mechanics are simple: pay logs to move forward or receive
logs for moving backward. If your boat ends up adjacent to another,
you may end up getting a push forward, or they may, depending on the
orientation of your pieces. This bumping is the core mechanic of the
game and some involved chain reactions may be produced.

The game play can feel a little dry, but not overly so, especially
given the kind of game it is. The components are nice, but nothing
remarkable, with the one flaw that some of the pieces are hard to
distinguish colors, occasionally leading to confusion. The whole
thing plays in 45 minutes, which feels about right.

Overall, it's fun and stands up well to today's more demanding
standards. Recommended, particularly if you like abstract,
puzzle-like race games.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Hush little baby

Genevieve is usally pretty good about being consolable.
That is, she'll be upset at times and need something, but we can
usually pretty rapidly figure it out. This evening, however, this
didn't seem to be the case. We fed her, changed her, swaddled her,
rocked her, talked to her and held her in various ways, with only very
limited success.

I had read that babies like white noise, particularly loud white
noise. So, as an experiment, I opened up
Audacity, told it to generate some
whitenoise, set the volume on the laptop to maximum and hit play.
Within 10 seconds, she was entranced. Still wide awake, but entranced
and quiet. Despite having read about babies' penchant for loud white
noise, I was rather surprised. Try it sometime for yourself. Really
loud white noise is quite annoying. However, half an hour later,
she's now asleep in my lap as I type this, with rather irritating
white noise blasting out of the laptop.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


A couple of weeks ago, we finally got around to going to
Antonia's in Davis Square. It's a teeny Italian place which has
apparently recently changed hands. They were unusually busy for a
Sunday night (or so they implied) and it took them longer than
expected to seat us. The ambiance and decor were nice, and the air
conditioning mostly managed to keep up.

We started out with a couple of appetizers, an eggplant dish and the
jalapeno raviolis. Both dishes were good, though I wished the
jalapeno raviolis had been a bit spicier. There was the hint of
jalapeno flavor and a good garlic flavor, but not anything I'd call
spicy. The eggplant appetizer was quite good as well.

For dinner, I had the Gnocchi Carbonara which was outstanding.
Wonderful gnocchi with an exceptionally done carbonara sauce. They
managed to strike an impressive balance; cream based sauces so often
seem to be too heavy or too mild and this amnaged to find a delicious
savory "sweet spot". The Fettucini Alfredo, on the other hand, fell
solidly on the too mild side of things. It was entirely pasable, just
a bit on the bland side. Next time I think we'll be getting two
gnocchi dishes.

The prices were quite reasonable and the service was polite and
helpful, if a bit slow and occasionally seeming to have difficulty
understanding English. The view into Davis Square adds to the
ambiance and let's you stop at JP Licks for ice cream afterwards.
Overall, definitely recommended, if you get the gnocchi and avoid the

Thursday, August 5, 2004

Monday, August 2, 2004

July 2004 Games

It's been a busy summer with less time for games, but even still I
played more games for a July than I have since July 2001.

31 games played, 25 titles (2 new to me) over 8 sessions with 26 different people.

Hot Games for July, 2004

A great abstract that seems to have a very reasonable learnin gcurve with a lot of tactics to learn.

Power Grid
I'm not so good at this, and I always end up sputtering out in the endgame, but it's a load of fun.

San Juan
I must say I'm surprised, but this keeps getting better.

Lord of the Rings
I finally got around to playing with the "dark tiles". Nice twist. Definitely harder. Sauron (Sean) got us in Shelob's Lair.

St. Petersburg
It's different, but it even plays well two player.

I like this game because it seems to lend itself to some surprising tactics.

I should play this more.

I used to think I finally had a handle on this one, and now I'm beginning to doubt it.

One of the all time greats, still.