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Phil's Rambling Rants Below are the 25 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Phil Parker" journal:

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February 4th, 2017
08:14 pm

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Armored Gopher
Armored Gopher Games, my friendly local game store where I've been spending my Friday nights playing magic for the last 5 years or so, is closed. Dave the owner was burned out. Things were supposed to be arranged to sell to the original owners, but the wheels came off the deal at the last minute. Right now we don't know if it can be salvaged, and I don't really know the details but it doesn't look very good.

I went to FNM at the other game store in town, Titan Games, for the first time yesterday. Titan's not a bad place but it didn't feel like home. I don't know if it can become that for me, or if I'm going to drop out of magic again. Playing magic helped me get through some tough times, but I haven't felt as much into it the past few months as I used to. But not having it in my life feels scary.

Thanks for all the good times, Dave. I hope things work out for you. I hope things work out for me.

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December 13th, 2016
12:21 pm

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My haiku for today
Yes it's beautiful
Belongs in a picture book
Not on my damn roads

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November 30th, 2016
12:14 am

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Chambanacon
So, given that I was Fan Guest of Honor, I guess I owe the world a con report.

Chamabanacon was this past weekend, sent into exile by high school football. The Marriott in Normal is a very nice hotel. The only thing wrong with it is that it's not in Champaign. I remembered enough from getting lost last year to find the hotel without trouble this year, and got checked in and settled in without incident. Attendance was down this year because it's been a rough year for a lot of folks, but the people who were there were happy and welcoming. After Opening Ceremonies, headed a couple blocks down to Maggie Miley's, the local Irish pub. Just a little expensive but the food is quite good. Returned in good time for my Guest of Honor concert, which went well enough despite my not having prepared as well as I should have for it. Filking Friday night went well, though we didn't last much past midnight.

Saturday I got to a panel with toastmaster Adam Seltzer, who's an amazingly interesting person (as well as an amazingly warped songwriter). I spent some time in the dealer's room with my display of tiger stuff and memorabilia from my trip to Ecuador in 2005. At the Never Ending Filk Panel we determined that the filk record producers are becoming less record labels and more independent producers. Survived an hour in the Wolfe's Lair with Golden Guest of honor Gene Wolfe, and then got to hear some of GoH Alex Bledsoe's reading before running off to change and scribble a few lines of notes for my Guest of Honor speech. The food at the banquet was pretty good, and I guess my speech was OK, at least no one threw any tomatoes at me. I managed to play a couple of games of Dominion and then heard most of Adam's concert. Open filking went well for a couple of hours, but we were done before 1. We're all so old.

Sunday was conversations and goodbyes. I stayed for the dead dog, but it was very low key, with only a few folks staying.

There will be a Chambanacon next year. Our good friend P.J. Ralph succumbed to cancer this year, and he left his art, games, and books to the con, which raised a nice amount of money. Next year we have Seanan McGuire as our guest of honor and lots of wonderful stuff, so I'm sure all you people who couldn't make it this year will be there next year.

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November 13th, 2016
09:35 pm

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Home from Windy
I'm home in one piece from Windycon. Sorry I couldn't stay for more of the dead dog but as tired as I am now, I would not want to still be on the road for sure!

If I try to tell myself I'm supposed to write a con report now then I'll never post anything. The one thing I do want to make a permanent record of was dinner on Saturday night. Place in Glen Ellyn, so like a 10 minute drive from the Windycon hotel, called Hokkai. All you can eat sushi, including simple and fancy maki and a good selection of nigiri, plus appetizers. Very tasty and quite reasonably priced at $21.49 a head.

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October 23rd, 2016
10:07 pm

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Dominion Empires
So I've just looked through the cards for the new Dominion set, Empires, and they look great. But I don't think another big expansion will fit in the 3 long boxes I carry my Dominion in, and I don't want to add yet another box. It already weighs a ton and takes up a lot of volume.

*grumble*

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July 22nd, 2016
04:23 pm

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Literally LOL
at a commercial for Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, with the line

"As Melania Trump might say, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon."

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April 6th, 2016
11:23 pm

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FNM: goodbye to Hardened Scales
The week before last was the last time out for Hardened Scales in Standard for me (because last Friday I was at Kittencon). I finally made a few tweaks, and I want to record the final version of the deck. I got second place, and half the field was playing some version of the deck.

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02:00 pm

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Brown Thrasher Day
It's rainy and squishy and I feel like I just want to go back to bed and try again tomorrow. But I went out for my walk, and my brown thrasher is back singing his lovely song.

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March 19th, 2016
05:23 pm

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FNM
After spending the week fiddling with my EDH decks, I took the same standard deck to FNM. We had 10 people. I came in 3rd, after losing in the first round to the winner.

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After FNM we actually had a chaos draft. Eddie (whose last name I don't know) had 28 unique packs. We got to first draft the packs and then draft the cards. It was fun, but I was up way too late.

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March 12th, 2016
12:51 am

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FNM: Almost
I played my Hardened Scales deck at FNM again. We had 12 people. I lost in the first round to the eventual winner (it was a close game), and then won the next three, getting second place on tiebreaks.

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There's a net deck that's trying to do the same things that's slightly different. It runs 4 Nissas (of which I own 0) and 4 Endless Ones (which I own 1). I haven't tried playing with either of those cards. A couple of copies of Nissa might be worth running, but I'm fairly certain that 4 is too many. I haven't tried Endless One, but it doesn't seem very good. It also runs more fetches, which is probably a good idea. (I keep drawing hands with only white mana, despite having only 7 Plains in the deck.) I'm really happy to see my deck talked about and played at big tournaments, but I'm afraid it may not do as well when it starts to be something that people are actually expecting.

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March 5th, 2016
12:32 am

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FNM: Win again!
Standard didn't fire last week, and it looked like it would fail again this week, but 8 people were there when rush of people who showed up at 6:30 finished. I went 3-0, with the same Hardened Scales list as two weeks ago.

It's time for me to go to bed, so I won't put in the details now. If I find myself motivated, I'll add them tomorrow.

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February 20th, 2016
01:35 pm

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FNM: Hardened Scales a Winner!
I made a couple of tweaks to my deck, then I played four hard matches and won all of them, winning FNM for something like the third time ever.

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February 15th, 2016
08:22 pm

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Capricon report
WTF? I wrote this last night, but it didn't post, and I only noticed now.

I have returned from Capricon, where in spite of my initial feelings when I looked at the schedule, I was never without enjoyable ways to occupy my time.

Friday we arrived a little late and missed the beginning of billroper's Cafe set, but I got to hear several good songs. I realized while I was hearing those that 4:00 on Friday was a badly over scheduled chunk of time. I wanted to see beamjockey's presentation on Pluto, because pretty much all I know from the New Horizons mission is what made it onto the radio, which doesn't include actually seeing the pictures. After that ended, I walked through the dealer's room, where I found a few paperbacks I wanted to buy, and noticed that there were quite a few tables of authors hawking their apparently self-published books, which I think is a good trend in general, although between my slow reading speed and my limited budget, I generally keep my book habit satisfied with mass market paperbacks. I also got a quick run through the art show. At least there still is an art show. And there was some nice art in it. Hopefully the people who have money found some they liked. Then we went to dinner at Spear's which is just across the parking lot from the hotel, but that was quite far enough to go through the gale. Spear's is a gourmet $15 hamburger place, though they have a few things that aren't served on a bun. The food is good and the portions are reasonable; it's a bit expensive but everything is in Chicago. Friday open filk went pretty well, despite the fact that we never got the lights turned all the way on.

Saturday, after I got up and had a combined breakfast/lunch in the room, I went down to the game room for a bit. I sat at an empty table, stood my Splendor box up, and read my book, and just about the time I decided to go head to the cafe, a couple of people joined me for a game. It was a good game, but it ran longer than I expected and by the time it was done it was halfway through Sassafras' set in the cafe. So I decided to play the game that one of my Splendor players was there demoing, which has gone through a successful kickstarter and is apparently now in production. In a marketing failure, in spite of the fact that after playing a couple of games and geeking about game design, I walked away not actually remembering the name of the game. I think it's Legends of somethingorother. It seemed like a fairly well designed little game, there are several different strategies/ways to get points and they can all be valid. The theme is thin. The card art is decent. If I see it in the game store and I recognize it I might get it. Then I got to the last half of Mike Nixon's set in the cafe, which I have to confess I wasn't really paying attention to, and then Three Fifths' set, which was the high point of the weekend. Three Fifths are just getting better all the time, and they had sweetmusic_27 with them, doing her magic stuff which she claims she hasn't rehearsed, but she was sounding as wonderful as the others. Then we decided we didn't want to brave the elements so we went to dinner at Saranello's with filkart and ithiriel. Saranello's is a serious restaurant that people with expensive cars who aren't staying at the hotel frequent, and by those standards its prices aren't that high. (Pastas are about $15, fancier entrees like $25.) The food is quite good, and it's really convenient to be in the hotel. Note to self: next year, get Saturday's dinner organized on Friday and get a reservation. This might even allow closing down the cafe, getting dinner, and then getting to Space Time Theater, which we missed. After dinner, I dropped by the game room, and got another game of Splendor, which was a pretty good game. I was the last player, and I managed to sneak in with 15 points, with both of the other players ready to go to 18 if they had one more turn. Then open filk, where I was very tired but managed to enjoy the music for 3 hours or so before giving in to fatigue, where of course once I staggered into bed, I couldn't get to sleep for hours.

Sunday, we got our stuff to the car and went to Toast and Jam, which was pretty nice, and then we headed out into the growing storm, since tcgtrf had skipped out on his reading due to the weather forecast. There was a little snow on the roads, but it wasn't really a problem, except that birder2's windshield washer was not working, which made seeing the road a little iffy.

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January 30th, 2016
10:07 pm

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Winter War
Winter War was this weekend (well, it's still going on, but I won't be there tomorrow because I'll be at EFRC). I never got around to either submitting events or preregistering, but I played in 3 events. Dominion, which I should have been running (the person running it did not know the game well and arbitrarily said that he would be doing some things different from the rules). He was running with only Adventures cards, which isn't a good idea -- Adventures cards are a little broken, especially when they're all together. I won the first game despite my luck making the cards I had underperform. The second game had Port as the only path to extra actions, and my bad luck meant that I only got to buy one pair before they sold out. We played a third game which was remarkable because all of the actions game extra actions, so Port (which was there again) was only good, not great, and Coin of the Realm, which is huge in games where extra actions matter, was a dud.

The next event was a double, Suburbia and Castles of Mad King Ludwig. I hadn't actually played Suburbia before, and I was struggling a bit, because despite trying as hard as I could to boost my income, I didn't have any money for a long time. Turns out that even though they don't give income every turn, lakes are a better plan than they seemed, and Homeowner's Association (which I didn't get) is kinda broken. I finally got something rolling when I got a Stadium and started racking up my reputation, but I still didn't win. Then we played Castles, which I'd played once before, but we ran out of time, when they closed the room we had probably another half hour to go. I did all right but not awesome. I'd play either of these games again but I don't feel the urge to run out and buy them.

This afternoon, I played a game I had not heard of before, although I guess it's a couple of years old, called Keyflower. The name turns out to be a mashup of "key", because it's part of a series of Key games, and "Mayflower". The theme is that we're building settlements in the new world. It's a worker placement, resource management game, so familiar themes but a bit different from anything I'd seen before, and it definitely seems to have replay value, but I don't recall ever seeing it on my local game stores' shelves. I concentrated on having a lot of meeples, upgrading my tiles, and taking other points as they came along, and won the game, but I don't know if I actually played well.

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January 29th, 2016
12:53 pm

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That could have been worse.
So I got up this morning, and it was really cold in the house. The furnace was flashing an error code.

I called the furnace guy, and he found my house a bit more than an hour later, and saw that there was a visible hole in the igniter. (Once he pointed it out I could see it.) He tested it to be sure, and it was bad; he installed a new one; and now I have heat again. Cost a little more than I would like but not enough to really be a problem

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January 16th, 2016
08:41 pm

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Magic update
I'm also going to update on Magic. I didn't touch a Magic deck for the first two weeks of 2016. Friday at FNM, I played my Hardened Scales deck in standard, the last time before the new set becomes legal. I did awful, 1-3. It's a marginal deck that has to get lucky to do well against serious decks, and I just didn't.

This weekend was the prerelease for Oath of the Gatewatch. I went to the event today. My pool was lousy -- I didn't get much value and I didn't get cards that seemed to make much of a deck. I had far too little removal. Really, the only thing I had was bombs, so I ran what ramp I had and a bunch of high cost spells. After losing the first 2 rounds, I won the next 3, so I got one prize pack. My streak of winning the door prize lottery is also done -- I got sleeves.

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08:18 pm

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What I've been doing
I haven't posted in a while because I've been a bit busy with stuff, but since I use this journal as a record of my own life I want to note some of it.

For New Year's I went to nbowa's. Hung out, played poker once (wasn't the first one out, was actually ahead at the break, but as the stakes went up I quickly ran out of chips), played some other games, had some alcohol but didn't get drunk, generally got to hang out with a bunch of cool people. I did bring my guitar and played a few things.

Last weekend, birder2 and I went to GAFilk. The drive was long but the weather was not bad. The music and company were fine. I was really tired most of the weekend. It did not help that I forgot the filter for my humidifier, so I didn't have that relief from the dry hotel air, but I seemed to be sleeping as well as normal, just not feeling rested. I was particularly having trouble Saturday night, where I was mangling songs I should be able to play relatively well.

I started to have symptoms of a cold Tuesday, and skipped my regular activities in favor of bed rest until Friday.

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December 19th, 2015
12:10 am

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FNM
I played my Hardened Scales deck again at FNM. Came in 3rd out of 8 players.

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December 12th, 2015
07:12 pm

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FNM: Scales again
Played Standard at FNM, for apparently the first time in over a month. (3 of the missing weeks were cons, and I think the one other Standard didn't go off.) I hadn't looked at my deck in weeks, and at first it was in a huff and gave me some bad hands, but I ended up in second place for the night.

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December 6th, 2015
10:36 pm

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MFF
So I am safely home from MFF. It was a fun weekend, but a lot less fun than it could have been for me. The convention has just gotten too big. It started sometime last Spring when I learned that the Hyatt was already sold out, before I'd learned that the room block was open. So it was the first year that I've been in someone else's room, and because they didn't want to stay over Sunday night, I didn't either. We ended up in the Hyatt Thursday night and then at the Hilton Friday and Saturday, which meant (a) having to move hotels, (b) having to figure out where to park for Friday and Saturday, and (c) having the room very inconveniently far from the con.

We left town on Thursday at 4, picking up the fourth passenger at Parkland on the way out of town. The trip to the hotel was uneventful. I went to make myself a sandwich and discovered that I'd forgotten my mustard, which made my dinner much less appealing. I picked up my badge and signed up as a gopher. I went to the Art Show, thinking I would be helping to set up, to find that they were packing up for the evening. So I went back to ops and asked where I could help set up, and they sent me to Con Suite, where I did things for 15 minutes, and then spent most of the rest of an hour waiting for someone in charge to tell me what I needed to do, and then they said they were done for the evening. I decided I was through volunteering for the evening and went to the game room, where I played a couple of games of magic before they closed the room at midnight.

Friday, we managed to check in early at the Hilton, so we were able to move our stuff directly from one room to the other. We went to the Fashion Mall food court for lunch, and I snagged a handful of mustard packets from the pretzel stand (I bought some cinnamon pretzel bits, so I wasn't just mooching) so I could make edible sandwiches. I moved the car into the convention center parking across the driveway from the Hyatt parking. I hit the dealer's and got a couple of books and a couple of shirts. Went to the concert, which was headlined by Amadhia, backed up by Fox Amoore and Pepper Coyote. I liked the music, despite the make-your-ears-bleed volume which was not appropriate to their music. Other than that, I hung around in the game room a lot.

Saturday, I watched the fursuit parade, checked out the art show, which is shrinking in size and awesomeness even as the rest of the con grows -- it seems like art shows are just not working as ways for artists to reach their audience, even in the furry fandom where art is huge. I texted a few people about dinner but couldn't find any takers. Was planning to hit the Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind show, when Sci texted me that he was planning to see the Pepper Coyote and Fox Amoore concert at the same time which I'd missed on the schedule. I'm glad I went, because Pepper hadn't impressed me in the Friday concert, but Saturday he got to show off some beatboxing and looping skills. I wandered around the convention area a lot, wondering why I found so few people I knew, and spent some more hours in the game room. Ended the night by stopping by the dance to see what it was like -- the light show was impressive and and the big ballroom was moderately full of furs, mostly at least kind of dancing, but I was weighed down by my backpack and not much in the mood to do what dancing I do.

Sunday, got up in time to shower and leave the room at noon, then watched the dance competition, and we headed home.

The combination of my room being a half-mile walk from the con and my having packed much more than I should in the backpack I wanted to carry with me really weighed me down. I definitely shouldn't have brought Dominion with me -- it's just too much of an anchor. Of course, even if I'd been in the main hotel, if I'd been stuck on a high floor, my room would have been almost as inaccessible, because they were running elevator control -- MFF attendees could only get on the elevator on the main floor, which meant that the traffic jam around the escalators was even more phenomenal than last year -- and you had to line up and wait to get on. If I go next year -- which, for the first time ever I'm not completely sure I will -- I will really want to have a room in the Hyatt on a walkable floor. And I want to tell myself now that having a good con experience will depend on having some things planned in advance, because the con has gotten too big to just bump into people I know and tag along with them.

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November 29th, 2015
05:16 pm

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Thanksgiving and Chambanacon
So, my Thanksgiving festivities are over a little early this year.

Thursday, I was at Holly's Thanksgiving Dinner for Wayward Souls. I believe there were 29 at dinner. Dinner was good, and there was some gaming. We stopped by again Friday briefly for Peter's Risotto, and some more conversation and hugs, until we headed out around 3:30.

Google's directions failed to make it fully clear where we were supposed to turn, so we spent more time driving in Normal than we should have, but we found the hotel and checked in. The Marriott in Normal is a pretty nice hotel with facilities for much larger gatherings than ours, but there's nothing else going on in town this weekend. (Ironically, we're in normal because there's usually football in Champaign on Thanksgiving, and by the time all the football had officially cleared out and the hotels in Champaign were calling back and saying please come stay with us,we already had a signed 2-year contract in Normal.) Eventually, we found ourselves in a very nice hotel in a pretty nice downtown with a fair number of nice people. There's a fairly nice (at least by my American standards) Irish pub called Molly Miley's, where a somewhat awkwardly large group of us went to dinner. I had shepherd's pie which was wonderful, and a an order of wings which were OK. Since I'd had the Risotto just a few hours before, I didn't try to tackle the Irish stew in a bread bowl or the boxty, but they looed good, and several people had fish and chips which they pronounced good. (Not being all that much of a fish and chips guy, I tried something else.) Back to the hotel, had a mug of cider, gamed a bit, and started filking. Not very many filkers but enough to have a good circle, and a good time was had. I had trouble sleeping the night before, so I wasn't pushing to stay up ultra late Friday, but still didn't get as much rest as I had in mind. Got up a bit past noon, caught some of Gene Wolfe's talk, played some more games, missing the beginning of the Never-Ending Filk Panel because I was deeply absorbed in Dominion. And about then I started having some digestive trouble. Went to the banquet, where I ate somewhat cautiously, but started feeling worse. The high point of the banquet was Michael Kube-McDowell returning to public life. He told us the story of how he'd been sent down a hole of depression and anxiety by his father's death 15 years ago, and was beginning to find his way out now. I decided that I needed to get some anti-diarrhea medicine and some gatorade (since I was craving it, which generally means I need it). Fortuitously there's a CVS across the street from the hotel, where I had to pay an annoying amount for the Gatorade -- it was on sale for only twice what I'd pay in the grocery store, but it turned out the sale price was only good if you had a customer card, so I had to pay closer to 3 times what it should have cost. And I made the fascinating discovery that if you wash down a dose of Immodium with Gatorade, you end up with an astonishingly foul taste in your mouth. But after a few minutes I felt well enough to head down to Bill Rintz' fan guest of honor concert, accompanied by Bill Furry. In case anyone is reading this who doesn't know who Bill Rintz is -- he was a fantastic old-time fiddler who had a major stroke a long time back. With a lot of hard work, he's managed to get back eoungh of his fiddle playing to be worth hearing, and this weekend with Bill, be was singing quite decently. We were glad to have him back. After that we had another good filk circle, but it broke up a bit after 2.

It turned out that birder2 wanted to be back in town for the Messiah sing along at 4, so we left by 2 and I missed the dead dog. Next year I'll just drive my own car.

Do come to Chambanacon next year. I'm the Fan Guest of Honor.

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November 24th, 2015
12:40 am

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Epic Dominion win
I just played a game of Dominion which featured the most complete drubbing I've ever seen in a game of Dominion, so I'm going to record it for posterity. Since I recently got the Adventures expansion, we were playing with events. Specifically, Expedition, which allows you to pay 3 and get two extra cards for your next hand, and Inheritance, which allows you to pay 7 to turn all of your Estates into an action card (costing no more than 4). Also relevant in the mix were Worker's Village, Bridge, Bridge Troll, and Rabble. On the first two turns, I bought a Silver and Bridge. Then on turn 3, I drew 3 Copper and 2 Estates. I thought about it for a moment, and spent the 3 copper for Expedition. I drew my other 7 cards for my next turn, which were Silver, 5 Copper, and an Estate, for a total of 7, which I used to buy Inheritance, turning my Estates into Worker's Villages. A couple of turns later, I bought 3 Estates. A couple of turns after that, I had two Bridge effects in play, and bought all of the remaining Estates. I had won at this point, but we kept playing. I bought a couple more Rabbles, a couple of Cities, a Province, and a couple of Great Halls. I put together a turn where I played all 15 Estates, 3 Rabbles, 4 Bridges, a Bridge Troll, and a bunch of treasures. I had 20 extra buys and a discount of 5, so I proceeded to buy all 12 Duchies (emptying the second pile), and then just bought the three remaining Cities to end the game. I could have scored more points on my final turn, but why bother? I had 59 points, Yoshi had 3, and Ricardo had 1, because he'd Expanded away two of his Estates.

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November 18th, 2015
01:00 am

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Saying goodbye to Sasha
Apparently it's been 4 years since I posted a picture to LJ and I can't remember how to do it. Hope this works.

Thursday before the con, Jennifer texted me that the vet thought it was time for Sasha. Sasha is a sweet tiger who almost always seems happy to see me, but he's not well. I didn't realize he was quite that not well. Since they're expecting to put him down tomorrow (well, today now, since it's past midnight as I write this), I decided to go over to the center to say goodbye. It was raining, so I left my camera in the car; I snapped a pic with my phone.

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November 15th, 2015
10:08 pm

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Windycon
Safely home from Windycon. There was a lot of music. Wall to wall concerts from Friday at 8 until Sunday at 2, the only gap being Saturday evening. They need the stage for the masquerade. Enough of the concerts were ones I wanted to hear that I didn't get to any other programming (even though there was a fair bit of programming I would have attended if I'd been idle, and a few things I really didn't want to miss). I did manage a turn through the art show. It was cool to see the Eisenstein collection, and there were some good pieces, but certainly not the amount of stuff that we used to see in the Windycon art show a few years ago. (One of the panels I didn't make it to discussed this trend and the future of art shows.) I made it to open filk Friday, with very few other people, and ran out of steam early. Went to dinner at a place called Dao Sushi and Thai, where I had a decent red curry. My table mates let me have a bite of one of their super fancy maki rolls; I can't recall what was in it but it was amazing. Expensive, though. We got back to the hotel a bit before 9 and the music was getting started, so I skipped the parties completely. The filk was good until I packed it in around 1:30 because I had to get up at 10 to get stuff out of the room before the concerts began at 11. This is about where the bad part of the con started for me, because I just couldn't get to sleep. It was around 5 when I broke out the occasional-use extra sleeping medication (I was tired enough that I didn't remember it before then, but didn't sleep). My poor sleep had me enjoying Sunday less than I would have, but there was some good music. I got a couple of songs in in the dead dog circle, but I realized that if I stayed very long, I would probably not be able to make it home.

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November 7th, 2015
12:31 am

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FNM: Hardened scales
A couple of tweaks to the deck, and I did well until the last round when my deck pooped out, so I had a second place finish.

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