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November 30, 2005

Carcassonne

Filed under: Games,Work — Bob @ 11:03 pm

I was recently introduced to the tile game Carcassonne at work; we’ve now started playing over lunch once a week or so. If you aren’t familiar with Carcassonne, you might want to peek at the site for the French city by the same name that served to inspire the medieval city-building theme. Then immediately visit Board Game Geek to read up on this wonderful little game.

Generally we play the Inns and Cathedrals expansion but last week we played with the Traders and Builders expansion for the first time. Its ok, but I believe I enjoy the game without that new expansion as the complexity of the rules; I was first drawn to Carcassonne because its simple to learn but complex to play but this new expansion introduces a few complex and bizarre rules that appear to be out of place. But the new tiles with Traders and Builders are really excellent.

We are going to play again today over lunch. Should be a lot of fun.

[cross fade, time passes, its now much later the same day that I started this post]

Eileen and I just got home from tonight’s Canucks hockey game; 5 – 2 win against Colorado and a very respectable showing. The team worked hard for the full 60 minutes – sort of a new thing for them. Tomorrow they travel to Edmonton for another game. If they keep it together for another good game this might just be a turning point for the team. Not a moment too soon.

Anways, yes we played Carcassonne today at lunch. I won by about 20 points or so: a very respectable win considering the competition. We played with the Traders and Builders expansion again (as well as Inns and Cathedrals) except we played with modified rules: three resource chips can be used to take another turn rather than simply being accumulated as points at the end of the game. This is sort of the same as the builder meeple, except you turn in your chips for a one-time opportunity. The pig was used to negate the effect of other player’s farmers unless they also played their pig in the same zone. The resource chip modifiication was really good; the pig modification didn’t really work for me. The person who proposed this new method of using the pig really hates “farm warfare” so he tried to invent a cheap and easy way to defeat it. I don’t think its wrong to have players pouring meeples into farm warfare, its just a different strategy.

Another game I can recommend is called Ticket to Ride. Check it out on Board Game Geek. I prefer the European version vs. the North American version but both are really good.

November 27, 2005

WordPress 1, Mambo 0

Filed under: Site Stuff,World Wide Web — Bob @ 2:17 pm

I started a few weeks ago to install and configure Mambo here at bobandeileen.com. Before long I realized that Mambo (or Joomla, if you prefer) does way more than I’m interested in doing here. Ditto for Drupal and many other “portals”. As a result of doing more, those sorts of tools require more time for setup and more energy for long-term maintenance. So a new search began for something lightweight, secure and yet useful for a “personal portal”. I stumbled into WordPress after looking at least three other weblog tools that seemed promising (thanks Google). I was immediately drawn to WordPress because of its sense of style. The details are polished, and while those other packages were functional, this one looks and really feels great.

So now I’m in the process of setting up WordPress and I also have to reconfigure Gallery2 as it looks like I might have deleted too much stuff on the webserver. :^)

More later as I get set up here. By the way, I also installed WordPress for Eileen over at her site although she hasn’t quite got things configured beyond some simple things (I helped tweak a theme that she liked).

From the Earth to the Moon

Filed under: Movies,Space Exploration — Bob @ 11:58 am

I recently watched the five disks in HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon series. I purchased the DVD set even though I’ve previously seen most episodes on broadcast TV as well as rented the video tapes. There is something incredibly emotional about the stories presented in this series. I absolutely love this stuff. Tom Hanks did an excellent job with this series and I really appreciate HBO for supporting it.

I also own the Apollo 13 DVD and watch it occasionally as well. One of my favorite parts is when the engineers are presented with a box of seemingly random gear and a challenge: make an air purification filter to fit into the Lunar module’s panel using only these things in the box. Cool. That has to be the sort of Right, Time To Save The Day situation that engineers (like me) dream about. Watch the special content for both DVD sets, its really interesting to learn additional backstory for the series as well as the making of Apollo 13.

The DVD package includes a coupon to see the IMAX 3D film “Walking on the Moon” so Eileen and I went. Unfortunately our local IMAX theatre wouldn’t honor the coupon; they had some annoying excuse that went something like “we are IMAX/CN, not IMAX” which is totally stupid since they are benefiting from the brand name. But we paid full price anyways and its really worth it. I didn’t know what to expect but found it quite interesting and also educational. I’d recommend seeing it if you can.

Robothon 2005

Filed under: Robots — Bob @ 11:42 am

The annual Robothon was held on October 7th through the 9th in Seattle. Eileen and I went again this year and had lots of fun.

We left Vancouver about mid-day on Friday and stopped at the outlet mall on I-5 on the way. Shopped for a bunch of clothes, bought some, and so did Eileen. This is quite unusual for me as I tend to not “shop” as much as “buy”. Outlets are different from normal malls, though. Not sure why.

I took four robots with me this year to Robothon: my microsumo AL (just for fun and to show off, they don’t run an event for this class at Robothon like they do at PDXBOT), my minisumo Velox, my new six-legged walker named the Metal Insect (yeah, I think I need a better name), and my maze solver Hyperion. This is the second year for running Hyperion and the third year for running Velox, although both had extensive modifications since last time.

Saw lots of friends from Vancouver who also made the journey, and caught up with other great guys including Nathan and Ben from Spark Fun Electronics. They were doing another display of cool stuff (including the now famous rotary cell phone) and Ben entered his new minisumo into competition. Nathan didn’t finish his line follower in time but it looks promising for next year.

The contests were excellent, as usual. My own personal results were so-so. My new walker failed miserably. It walked out of the course about half-way down, although it did so very fast. Sigh.

Hyperion came in 5th out of 6 entries, so although it doesn’t sound very good I was still quite happy because the new code is working very nicely; some bug or another stopped it cold at a particular intersection but this problem was very repeatable and probably not fatal to the software design. Still, it was a personal best – two years ago my first attempt at building a maze solving robot was too erratic, and last year Hyperion version 1 couldn’t run more than 10 inches without losing the line.

The best showing was Velox with second place in Advanced Minisumo. Got beat by Dave Hylands, again. Dave’s robots are typically very good, although a hilarious event happened where his robot Stinger (fast minisumo wedge) got beat by Pete Mile’s six legged walking minisumo! Dave forgot to change batteries for the event so Stinger ran so slowly that it simply couldn’t push anything so it eventually got ran out. The crowd loved it! I lent Dave a new battery and of course he returns the favor by beating me!

Looking forward to another great event next year. By that time I hope to have a serious start on a RoboMagellan entry although I am not sure I’ll have it ready in time. Back to working on the robots!

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