Friday, December 21, 2007


I like Christmas - it's a good oppurtunity to catch up with family, take a break and laze around doing very little, and generaly annoy the garden's birds by trying to photograph them (which is proving difficult this year since the trees have leaves).

Unfortunately, Christmas is paired with Christmas shopping. In addition to the usual perils of shopping at this time of year (although fortunately fleeing the coast does mean I'm facing less crowded malls than those in the Cape), it also involves selecting some sort of appropriate gift.

Given that everyone I'm shopping for has a reasonable level of disposable income, this means finding something that they want (and isn't ludicrously expensive), but won't buy for themselves, since otherwise they'd have it already. This turns out to be really hard. I suspect it's time to seriously consider falling back on the default gift of a box of biscuits.

Fortuantely, the Christmas season does feature extended shopping hours, so, despite still needing o acquire several gifts, I should be OK.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


So, I spent a lot of the last two days caught up in Starcamp. All in all, it was pretty cool. As a result, I'm currently short of sleep, and work tomorrow is really going to suck, but so be it.

Some overall, not yet well thought out comments:
  • Not setting up the computers on day 1 was a collective 'WTF were we thinking' moment
  • Watching people play on the wii is really quite entertaining in its own right
  • The 1st day was much more traditional conference than I expected, and probably required some pushing to get away from that mould. Having the lab up would probably have helped here, as there wasn't anything happening away from the main venue. The talks were quite interesting though, so there was no dead time.
  • Free food + T-shirt was a major, major plus
  • trying to get gtkboard to compile at around midnight with not nearly enough sleep was perhaps not the best way to prepare for the Sunday
  • Getting the pentago hacking session going to took time, but we did get fairly far (for a generous definition of far)
  • gtkboard is quirky, and it took some time getting my head somewhat around it. We are probably doing horrible things to it, but we may be able to find some nice generalisations that we can try feeding back to whatever's left of the upstream project.
  • I really didn't get enough sleep.
  • (did I mention the free food?)
  • I need a new laptop badly
  • That there was an active IRC channel during a couple of the talks mainly occupied by members of the audience says something about the community. I don't know what, but it definitely says it.
  • My internal physics model is both vague and inaccurate. At some point, I should rectify this.
  • I've forgotten pretty much everything I learnt in my 3rd year AI course, which is somewhat sad, since the course was fun.
  • There are a lot of web companies in CT.
  • There are a number of cool people in CT.
  • (did I mention the free food?)
  • 9am on a Saturday is early - not that we ever got going anywhere close to the scheduled time
  • Being able to stay at the venue later would have been good
  • I still maintain nobody warned us that they were about to unplug the power point my laptop was using. Since I don't have battery that works, I feel rather aggrieved about this.
  • Talking and listening over loud music (the pub, the brass bell), sucks quite badly as a method of interaction
  • I took surprisingly few photographs. Dying batteries played a part, but still. Fortunately, other people didn't hold back, so there will be a good photographic record.
  • It's surprisingly easy to buy a toothbrush at around 10pm.
  • The R310 remains an if'ish road at night.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On criticism

I write short notes on every movie a see on the big screen. This is mainly to keep track of what I've seen, and to remind myself about the movies later.

Looking at the collection of comments, however, reveals a trend that I find rather interesting. The movies I like tend to get quite short entries (see the 2005's entry for the Incredibles for example), while the longest entries tend to be for movies I did not enjoy (see 2003's comments on the Reign of Fire, for example). While there are numerous short entries for movies I didn't enjoy, there are very few long entries about movies I did enjoy.

I'm not quite sure what this reveals about me, but it does suggest that I find it easier to analyze where something didn't work than what aspects did work.

While my behaviour is unlikely to change, it is an interesting observation.

Monday, December 3, 2007

LotN Starters

So, with the order of LotN Starters having arrived, we had a session to try them out. Overall, the afternoon was quite fun.

In the first game, I played the Assamites, and starting, bleeding Simon, playing the Followers of Set, bleeding Adrianna, playing the Giovanni, bleeding Kevin with the Ravnos. Simon swept the table there, although I was able to burn two minions of his.

This game was rather frustrating for me - Simon got out both Tutu the mummy, and Nakhtorheb, giving him two minions who could untap a turn. I was eventually able to burn both Tutu and another small minion, but in each case, it took a couple of actions to setup. Also, given the Settites S:CE options, the Assamites struggled to be effective. I weirdly only drew 1 Master card, and no untap at all. Adrianna had a couple of good combat combos, but suffered from drawing too much equipment, and wasn't really able to get the Giovanni deck going forward too well. Facing multiple acting minions also didn't help at all. Kevin wasn't able to get the Ravnos deck going, and generally struggled for useful actions throughout.

In the second game, I played the Ravnos (starting again), bleeding Simon with the Giovanni, bleeding Adrianna with the Assamites, bleeding Kevin with the Settites. Kevin and I each gained 2 VPs, with Kevin ousting me after I ousted Simon and Adrianne.

Kevin managed to pull both Tutu and Nakhtorheb for the Settites again. Fortunately, I was able to pull Durga Syn, whose "do not tap for blocking allies and younger vampires, and also had some good luck with drawing untap, but spent much of the game struggling to generate forward momentum due to needing to defend against Kevin. Adrianna struggled with her crypt draw, and ended up bring out 2 ten-caps, while struggling to really impact on Kevin's vampires. Simon was able to pressurise Adrianna quite successfully (striking for 7 in one combat), and, had he ousted her, was probably quite well placed to sweep the table. However, I was able to prevent Simon's lunge succeeding with a Ignis Fatuus, and, thanks to a round of several blocks of Kevin's minions, was able to draw week of Nightmares. The additional bleed allowed me to oust Simon and Adrianna in quick succession, but, despite the 12 pool gained, I then ran out of untap. Kevin, despite being down to only 4 pool (IIRC) was able to bleed through me at an alarming rate (I lost more than 10 in a single turn), and I was unable to generate the stealth needed to get the critical bleeds through.

Overall, the results were not that surprising. All the starters are hurt by having only 6 distinct vampires in the crypt. The Settite starter is the best balanced of the lot, and can generate some quite scary amounts of bleed. The untapping 10-cap is horrible, and is probably the best vampire in the expansion. The Giovanni deck has promise, although is a little light in Dominate (both in the crypt and cards in the deck), and is probably equipment heavy. It also seems an odd choice of deck to have the most votes (3), given the single titled vampire in the crypt. The Ravnos crypt is weird, having only 1 vampire with superior Animalism, although Durga Syn's non-tappiness is very useful (although having a 9 blood reserved as a blocker does suck). The deck struggles with the rather diverse scattering of Chimestry options, and I found the deck really struggled until I got "Week of Nightmares" out. Also, not seeing the Path hurt me, since I spent a lot of blood on Chimestry cards without ever recovering it. The Assasamites needs the most work, undoubtedly. The crypt is a little unbalanced cost wise (2 of the 6 vampires are 10 caps), and the deck needs a clearer focus than it currently has.

Still, I'm happy to have copies of the decks, and the investment looks to be well worth it. The extra potence cards from the Giovanni decks will be very useful, even if I don't put together a good Giovanni deck.