so long wolf subaru

so long wolf-u-boat

So I haven’t been around much because I’ve been guest-blogging over at BoingBoing this week. I’m going to Florida tomorrow to give a talk and have a little beachside R&R. Looking forward to that and it’s been fun blogging on a big site, however briefly. But this is a story that is a pretty straight forward personal blog story. I’m sort of half looking for a new car. I love my car. What I really would like is a car exactly like my car but maybe a few years newer (less rust) and with a few extra features: working AC, power windows, a real cup holder and a power jack. I found the car of my dreams for sale up the street. Or I thought I did.

I have this terrible problem shopping. I have predictable buyer’s remorse. I get over it usually, but I always spend a few days hating whatever my most recent purchase was. So, I treat big purchases carefully. I am like The Kid in this Gahan Wilson cartoon which has become a metaphor for eveything I have ever bought. So, there was this car for sale. I took it for a test drive. It was lovely. I work at a school with an auto shop and they will look over a potential car for free. Nice deal.

I brought the car over today and dropped it off. Thirty minutes later I stopped by as the students were taking the car down from the jack. The shop teacher said “Hey… let me show you a few things.” And it turned out that the car had a Check Engine light that was supposed to be on, but was actually missing. And a muffler repair that even I could see was sketchy. And a few things that were supposed to be connected that weren’t. He said that when he called [someone?] to ask about the Check Engine light, they said that he was supposed to call the DMV and report the seller. He left it to me to let the guy know that — even in a world of plausible deniability where he didn’t know the Check Engine bulb was gone — he’d be liable if someone figured it all out. The shop teacher thanked me for being such a good example of “Why you need to get a car checked out before you buy it.” The students got to feel all smart and helpful.

I dropped the car off at the seller’s house (he just let me take it to the mechanic and he went to work) and went back to work myself. I’m pretty sure I need to call him back. Still looking for a car with power windows, but my car’s looking pretty good right now.

I used to be funnier, cooler too possibly

pets in room please

I have a guest! My delightful friend Dawn is visiting and I’m showing her the town. For those of you who have yet to visit here, this means the post office, coffee shop, library, gym, pizza place, hospital cafeteria, cutiepoo downtown and The Wayside restaurant. So far so good. We also went snowshoeing. We talked about the world of libraries. Dawn is an old friend from Seattle times back when I lived in a city and … did things a lot. She was entranced by our adorable country life here and has been making noise about moving here. I assured her she could never find a decent paying job, and she would eventually be bored. Maybe she’ll surprise us.

Meanwhile, I answered a random email from someone asking about the Blank White Cards game and I went back looking through my old cards that have been on a “card server” on the internet since 2002-ish. I barely remember the cards at all, but more importantly, I don’t even remember being that funny, or that good of a drawer [you may disagree with my estimations]. Next week I’ll be guest blogging for boingboing [I KNOW!] and I’m lamenting the fact that I think I may have nothing to share with the adoring bb public that isn’t old news. I live in slow motion now! I’m sure this is late January talking, and I’m not sure I’m really that concerned, but for some reason leaving the cozy world of MetaFilter (well not leaving, but maybe branching out a little, for a week) seems like a big deal.

In any case, while I sit and think about that (send links you think might be of interest!), here’s the information I sent my correspondent about wtf exactly Blank White Cards is. She was concerned that she couldn’t figure out how to play it. I assured her that she would be okay. My copy/paste, for the curious.

The BWC thing is confusing because there’s really no real way to do it. That said, there’s a way I’ve mostly always played. I think for some people the “hey you just *play*…” explanation is preferred, but I find this sometimes irritating since it imples that there is some sort of secret knowledge being passed around. So here’s my quick summary….

Most of the “play” is really sort of messing about making cards. Cards have one or more of three parts

– illustration
– point value
– description/action

So most of the time I’ve played, you get together with a bunch of people and cards and markers and whatever and then make a bunch of cards…. the play itself is often some sort of discard sort of thing. Like hold a bunch of cards in your hand and put them down on top of each other in the middle, often finding juxtapositions that are amusing between what was laid down before. So for example you could put down a Magic Hedgehog card and someone could follow up with a “protection from spiny mammals” card if there was one. Basically there’s no real scorekeeping, despite the scores, and it’s mostly about having a good time and making up funny stories. Some games have a feature where you can make cards on the fly, some don’t. Some games are more rule-governed [i.e. they actually try to follow the rules set up on the cards and keep track of them] and some aren’t.

My favorite story involves a game where there was one friend of mine clearly “losing” like he just got a lot of “lose 10000 points” cards or whatever. And he got a card that said “draw a new card” and it was towards the end of the game [i.e. not many cards left] and he made a card that just said PLAY THIS CARD AND WIN… and he played it, and I guess he won.

I understand that it’s a Nomic-type game, but even Nomic has an initial ruleset and codified steps…Is 1KBWC ONLY about drawing interesting cards and being silly; i.e., there are no rules, no steps, no strategy or luck, no way to win or lose?

So yeah, nomic is similar but in nomic part of the game is keeping track of all the rules. In BWC the rules are sort of tangential and it’s basically an excuse for nerds to get together and have a good time. This can be problematic because for many nerds [and I count myself in this group] playing a game with no rules is the antithesis of a good time. And for other people the whole “hey there are NO RULES, just PLAY” thing, and hassling other people on that point is part of the good time.

So, it’s fair to say that it’s a pretty openly structured game. But it’s also fair to say that almost every time I’ve played it, it happens about the same way [i.e. make a lot of cards, discard them in the middle, keep only very loose track of scores and rules]. Strategy is mostly about helping people have a good time, making amusing cards, not getting too hung up in the whole competitive aspect of it [some people are clearly better at drawing but that shouldn’t matter terribly] and enjoying being together. I guess everyone sees it as sort of a reflection on how they like to interact with other people, so you may get a lot of answers that are all conflicting.

Is 1KBWC ONLY about drawing interesting cards and being silly; i.e., there are no rules, no steps, no strategy or luck, no way to win or lose?

Pretty much yes. I don’t think anyone really wins or loses, unless they’re being a total pill about things. There are no real rules or steps, just making cards and not getting too hung up about things.

down/up with this sort of thing!

So as a result of the post-holiday morass, I haven’t done other wrap-ups or much else. I had a week of good sleep and getting ready for work and then I woke up with the sniffles and was like “Oh THIS again” but it seems to be mostly at bay. Works going fine. I quit my job at the library. You can read about that decision over at I still feel pretty weird about it. I’m sort of at a point where if I make a big decision in my life, I’m likely to have a bunch of people being supportive (see comments). This is lucky for me, I’m fortunate to have a large peer group of people who mostly like me, and yet it’s hard when I’m doing something that feels wrong. I wonder if they’d tell me if I was screwing it all up? Maybe I can’t screw it all up.

Unlike in the past where I’ve had a chart about swimming, last year I switched to a more maintenance approach to exercise. That is, I do it for mood balancing and if I feel I have been slacking in the fitness department, but not in the same auto-competitive way as years past. I also started running. I know, weird right? I had always assumed I couldn’t really run, both because of my mild asthma and also my “loose ankles” which means I was always spraining them. Some combination of years of swimming and better footwear seems to have mostly fixed this. I now trod along on the treadmill sometimes instead of swimming. I like this because I can listen to music and the time commitment is less and my pulse races higher. I can do a mile in 13:22. I am aiming for 12:00, for starters. Kelly’s been good at setting me up with some good habits and now I’m sort of motoring along on my own.

As a result of this, I had to buy sneakers. Since I’m paid something like adult-level wages now — and we got healthcare and assorted benefits with my job at MetaFilter this year — I figured I should invest in some decent clothes. So I now have a new winter vest, new sneakers, new “snow clogs” and a few sharp-looking pairs of second-hand pants. I agonize over spending money like this, but less than I worry about becoming some crazed Hetty Green type person, so sometimes I shop.

A few more things you should know:

– As a result of rejiggering my morning routine, I have now created a slot for brushing my teeth and do it every day. I’m dumbly proud of this, as well as embarassed that it took me this long to figure out how to do this.
– I have decided that if I’m going to eat soup every night [I love soup!] like some rooming house hotplate owner, I could at least make it myself. So there’s been some cooking going on. Man… soup!
– I’ve got a caretaker in Topsham who is paying (a little bit of) rent and that seems to be working nicely for both of us.
– The plan for this year is much less travelling-for-work. We’ll see how that goes. More to the point, I feel that there was some aspect of me that enjoyed scooting around and overprogramming myself because I was concerned about having downtime, maybe being bored? I have decided that I am never bored (even in the absence of the internet) and have set out to prove that with more opportunities for doing what my Dad calls “the nothing” We shall see.

missing my friend Brad.

goodbye brad

Sorry for the total radio silence. My year is going fine. Well, my year is going well except for the things that are not going well. The New Year was wonderful. Party with friends. Downtime with Jim after a busy couple of months. Lovely weather. Tasty food. Good movies. Came back to work at MetaFilter to find that a moderately well-known user had died. This is a difficult thing in Internet communities, in a different way than real-life communities. Many people hadn’t known Andrew’s real name and knew very little about him other than what he had shared on the site. He had made a not-funny-in-hindsight comment about faking his own death a month earlier. Strange times. I spent a chunk of New Years’ Day swapping facebook messages with his 26 year old widow and talking to other members of the community. It was slow going, but we worked through it. We have a procedure on MetaFilter for what to do when people die. It works okay. I hate having to use it.

Then, three days later I got the staggering news that my internet-and-real-life friend Brad Graham had died. In his sleep. Of natural causes. He was my age. Another internet-and-real-life friend sent me an email when he found out and saved me from having to learn the bad news on Twitter. And it’s a different sort of difficult. Brad was one of those people who everyone loved, everyone wanted to spend more time with, everyone could pass on a joke he’d told them but say “but I can’t really tell it like Brad could.” He had “Break Bread with Brad” events at a lot of occasions when he’d travel — in San Francisco for Fray Day, in Austin for SXSW — and it was the best opportunity to get to know other people, nerds like us. I was luckier than a lot of internet people in that I’d actually gotten to spend some real-life time with Brad, at his house when I was driving x-country and at a very small wedding of dear friends. Brad was so popular and fun to be around that even though he made you feel like the center of his universe, it was tough to get much alone-time with him and I think I’d had more than most. The MetaTalk rememberance thread filled up with people who haven’t been on MetaFilter in any real way for years. People who barely blog anymore wrote moving pieces about him on their website.

Like most people, I went digging through my old emails just to read some of the things he’d said. I read about my contribution to the Bradlands Underpants Drive to contribute to Katrina victims in a Bradlike way. I read about the time I’d put his cell phone number in my calendar and then uploaded it to the internet and he’d found it by Googling his own cell phone number. I went so far back in my emails, I actually found a time (that I had forgotten) when I had a separate email folder for “internet friends” and email from Brad was in that folder, from 2002. He fixed a typo for me, I don’t even remember what for, but he called me “darling” when he told me he fixed it.

I haven’t been writing anything else because I’ve been missing Brad, someone I’d realistically see in person once a year at most usually less, and it seemed wrong to write about it and wrong to not write about it. A bunch of us are collecting donations for a memorial for him for the theater where he worked. If he was someone you knew, please consider a donation. I know I’ll remember him for many different things: good hugs, good advice, good stories, a wicked sense of humor that was always edgily appropriate (I think? for me?) and a magnetic personality wrapped up in a funny sweater. Oh and I guess he invented the word “blogosphere” I had no idea.