Playtime Archives

February 20, 2006

Bajada Joe ???

Does anyone who reads this remember Bajada Joe from the old Sunsword forums?

One of my co-workers needs a paleontologist, and I was wondering if anyone has Bajada Joe's contact information.

Email - I still have not yet made time to fix the (@(*&$$^ comments

Posted by Red Ted at 11:17 PM | TrackBack

September 19, 2005

A fun holiday.

I am choosing to celebrate today by writing my email, or at least the emails to J., twice, the first time in normal prose and the second time as a pirate.

Arr, this be a fine day fer writin. I be a writin' me ransom notes twicet, one time fer th' gentry and the second time fer Jack.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

June 09, 2005

Amusing Webcomics

I stumbled across Partially Clips last night while talking to my insomnia. Several things that made me laugh are below the fold.

French Waiter
Cowboy Letter
50s Mother
On Holiday
Wizard and Dragon
Cowboy Eulogy

Based on this sample, it appears that I find sex, surrealism, and literary references funny.

Just don't combine them in the same evening without first checking with your partner.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:58 AM | TrackBack

June 01, 2005

Caption Contest

I was digging through the digital pictures from May and came across this one of the littler man reaching for my copy of Brad DeLong's Macro textbook.

I decided that this one deserved a caption contest - so go to it. If Brad's undergraduates find this, they are welcome to join in.

Picture of a baby reaching for a book.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:07 PM | TrackBack

April 12, 2005


By the way,
I was very confused by the name of the website in the post below this.

I could not figure out what America West And A Sone had to do with anything.

It is funny how we parse a stream of letters, looking for words. I saw the "west" very strongly, and never imagined that it might be "we stand".

Posted by Red Ted at 08:55 PM | TrackBack

February 27, 2005

Better seen than described.

This is a mighty impressive flash video.

Safe for work, unless your supervisor gets upset when your eyes bug out of their sockets in amazement.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:16 PM | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

South Park Ted

Via and their South Park Character Generator I give you Red Ted in the classroom.

(below the fold sillies)

Red Ted as a Southpark Character

Posted by Red Ted at 03:58 PM | TrackBack

November 21, 2004

Yiddish with Dick and Jane

Yiddish with Dick and Jane - highly amusing bit of flash advertising the book of the same name.

And yes, I am blogging at 3:00am. This is what happens when you go to bed at midnight, the toddler decides to scream for an hour and a half and wake the infant, the infant decides to play for an hour before falling asleep, and the niaspan keeps you awake because you were not asleep before the pill dissolved.

Oy Gevalt

Posted by Red Ted at 03:08 AM | TrackBack

November 16, 2004

Thanksgiving Shopping

I was looking for the missing item for our Thanksgiving table, but I can't find one for sale.

The traditional Thanksgiving story, the one celebrated in school plays and popular culture, involves pilgrims in big hats with buckles and indians in feather hats getting together to eat a feast of squash, venison, game, and corn, with the turkey standing in for the venison and game.

That story leaves out the crucial third participant in the Pilgrims' settlement, their starving time, and their rapid turn from starvation to prosperity - the smallpox virus that had wiped out the New England Indian tribes shortly before the Pilgrims landed. Prospective European colonists knew of this virus, and both the Pilgrims and the Puritans who followed them a few years later took the epidemic as a signal sign of God's Providence, a signal that God wanted them to settle on this land for He had thoughtfully cleared its inhabitants and left their farms and sometimes houses for the new migrants to take over.

Anyhow, I want to get a plush smallpox to put on the table as part of the ritual - it has as much right to be there as the silly hats.

But alas, both ThinkGeek and Giant Microbes have no smallpox plushies. They have other goodies - including ebola, sleeping sickness, bookworms, and ulcers - but no smallpox. I had really wanted a smallpox.

Perhaps I can find someone artistic and commission a smallpox and perhaps also a cholera and some typhoid or polio?

Posted by Red Ted at 01:36 AM | TrackBack

October 28, 2004

Congrats to the Sox

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox.

And a happy happy joy joy to their fans.

Let me apologize for being a mite negative to you, for while it was great fun to tease you it was also mean of me.

Posted by Red Ted at 06:45 AM | TrackBack

October 27, 2004

New Homework Question

I thought of this one today - it is not on the syllabus but it might well go on for next semester.

The historical drama network has put out a call for new proposals for telemovies about American history. Write me two paragraphs presenting your proposal. The first is the precis of a true historical event, as you would tell it on the screen. The second is your explanation of why this particular story would provide compelling television while conveying useful historical information.
My (skeleton) answer below the fold.

I would tell the tale of Benedict Arnold, starting from the invasion of Canada in 1775 and ending with his life in London and career as a Brigadier in the British Army. We would open with Arnold's heroics at the gates of Quebec, then set up his position amid the honor-obsessed officers in the continental army. The first half of the show would end with his role at Saratoga, both disobeying orders and winning the battle. The second half of the movie would show his quarrels about honor and precedence, his decision to surrender his garrison to the British, the random chance that led to Major Andre's arrest, and the events that followed from that arrest - Arnold's flight, Andre's execution, and the cult of Major Andre that developped in the Continental Army. We would end with a brief review of the later lives of the major players.

This would be compelling television for several reasons. I would present it as an Aristotelian tragedy, with Arnold destroyed by the same character traits that made him great. It would be compelling as anti-history, for how dare we show a heroic side to a person whose name is still an insult. Finally, it would show the audience the importance of honor in the early 18th century; given the popularity of Michael Shaara's work on Gettysburg, New Gingrich's Civil War histories, or the recent success of movies like Gladiator and Master and Commander, American audiences want to see tales of honor-obsessed military figures. The lasting historical impact that people would take away would be twofold. On the obvious level, they would be reminded of the near-run aspect of the American Revolution, of the divided loyalties of many Americans, especially people in the middle colonies, and of the importance contingent moments in shaping larger events.

Posted by Red Ted at 02:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

One musical instrument?

Fuz asks if you could suddenly learn one musical instrument what would it be?

I said bagpipes! because that was what jumped out of my mouth when I read the question. Why? I guess that bagpipes are cool - whenever a band is playing and the pipes kick in, everyone cheers. It was the instant answer, and the instant answer is usually a good guide to what you really want.

As a practical matter, if I wanted to have skill on an instrument so that I could play tunes for myself, I would probably call for flatpicked acoustic guitar. I have a guitar down in the music closet, and I used to bash around on it, but I never got past basic chording. I also have a hammered dulcimer and a bodran in there. None of them get played - time and energy.

The toddler has his own answer: "dhum! dhum!". We are doing something a little scary, and buying him a drum for his 2nd birthday. We may regret this decision.

What would you pick? I think this is a great meme.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:11 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

Another quiz

Eden Gardener took this variation on a personality quiz and decided that she came out pretty accurately. I think I came out fairly accurately - although I wonder what result I would get if I channeled memory and took the test with the personality I remember having at 23.

In any case, I "The Slow Dancer" - a deliberate, gentle, love dreamer.

That is not such a bad thing to be - although it reminds me that much as I might enjoy flirting with Eden, I must be careful not to go too far. Unless, of course, J also wants to play ...

Posted by Red Ted at 08:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 21, 2004

What Food Network Chef?

J was curious about this meme: What Food Network Chef Are You?.

Depending on how I answer, I alternate between being Alton Brown and Mario Vitalli. Oddly enough, those are the two guys J and I like to watch on that network.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:48 AM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004


Via Sgt Stryker

Icon's Story

I was amused

Posted by Red Ted at 11:09 AM | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

Things you won't do

I play computer games. I play, or played as I have not had time or a gaming group lately, board games and pencil & paper roleplaying games. Part of the fun of the roleplaying games, computer or p&p, is creating a new character or a new personality. When creating a new person, especially in the more restricted realm of the computer games like Everquest or Earth & Beyond, I find it very useful to make a list of things the character likes to do and, more importantly, a list of the things the character will not do or prefers not to do.

So, my Everquest ranger did not drink; my Everquest cleric drank like a fish; J's Everquest shaman refused to hunt elephants as they were her totem animal, and so on.

I was reminded of this last night as I was going through flag catalogs figuring out what flags I will want to purchase over the rest of the year. I ordered a Continental (red flag, white field, green tree in the field), decided the next couple of Revolutionary war flags will be a Gadston (solid yellow flag, large coiled rattlesnake) and a Green Mountain boys (Green flag, blue field, 13 oddly positioned stars in the field). I will hold off on a Serapis (13 red white and blue stripes, blue field, 13 seven-pointed stars in the field) until I decide if I want to spend $40 on a printed flag or $100 on a sewn flag. Sewn flags look better but I give myself a flag budet of about $20/month and I don't know if I will want to wait 5 months between new toys.

The "things you don't do" aspect came as I looked at the rest of the catalog. I already know that I will not fly any Confederate flag because I have a gut aversion to splitting the union. I discovered that I will not fly an armed forces flag like the Marine red with globe and anchor, and that I refuse to do this for the same reason that I refuse to wear a British regimental tie - I was not there and it would be rude for me to display the credential; doing so is closer to posing than it is to respect. (In Britain, regimental ties are generally only worn by former members of the regiment. The ties are spiffy and Americans don't care, so it is not improper to wear a random regiment in New York even though doing so in London will lead to embarassment.)

Similarly, I won't get one of those blue baseball caps with the name and number of a US navy ship on it, at least not of any ship that was in service during the 20th century.

On the other hand, I am always looking for a good Christmas present for Dad, and he does like flags - let me look again at the Navy flag for him. If he wore baseball caps I would get him a Stribling DD cap.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

Planet Watching

Via Rocket Jones, I see that all five visible planets will be in the sky at the same time later this month.

Here is hoping for clear weather in late March.

ps, Ted Jones has been a funny man lately: check things out. Just don't let his daughter wear the big ring when she serves dinner.

Posted by Red Ted at 11:34 AM | TrackBack

March 05, 2004

Roses and Bulbs

I pruned the roses today.

I also raked leaves away from the budding bulbs. Spring has come to this corner of New Jersey: the crocus are peeking up, the early tulips are showing their first foliage, the spring irises are peeking out, and the roses were beginning to bud.

So, the roses got cut down to knee height, then fertilized so that they will grow back stronger. I think that Nietzsche must have been a rose gardener, for the plants are alternately cosseted and brutalized in order to stimulate their growth.

I like playing in the dirt. It relaxes me and it helps me think about things without directly thinking about them. Even raking leaves relaxes me, although it is much cooler to play in the dirt and see live green things appear as a result of your efforts.

And so to write - I think that today I will be writing up the changes to chapter four.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:04 AM | TrackBack

Name your inner hobbit

At dinner tonight the toddler and I were "filling in around the corners" - having a little bite of this and a little bite of that as we properly pack our bellies for the long haul - hours at least - until the next meal.

I realized that what we were doing was filling our inner hobbit, the little man in your belly (or woman in your belly - everyone has one) who wants to know what happened to second breakfast? what are we having for tea? did you hear about what happened to my cousin's wife's great aunt's daughter? and what do you mean the beer comes in Pints!

I don't know what the toddler has named his inner hobbit, but mine has a name - Mortimer Stoutbuttons. I have long had a name for my tummy (some people name their sexual organs, but I know where MY priorities are) and called it Mortimer. Stoutbuttons is a fine hobbitish name and the usual surname for halflings and hobbits that I play in games. So, Mortimer Stoutbuttons it is.

What is the name of your inner hobbit?

Posted by Red Ted at 08:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Carnival 76

Carnival of the Vanities 76 is up at Dodgeblogium who stepped in as emergency fill-ins for this week.

I sent them the piece on The very opposite of pandering that I wrote in response to something John Holbo wrote at Crooked Timber.

All sorts of linky goodness, but as today is a day for errands and writing, I won't be reading the Carnival until later on.

And so to read in chapter 4.

Posted by Red Ted at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

Deep in the Heart of ...

I like to sing little snatches of song to myself, a trait that has gotten worse now that I have small children to sing them to.

I also like to come up with doggerel - sometime when I get it more polished I will post the cook's version of "Mockingbird."

But for now I just want to share the snatch of song that came to me as I was driving the toddler, listening to The Two Towers on audiobook, and admiring the day.

The stars at night
Have a fell light
[clap clap clap clap]
Deep in the heart, of Mordor

The orcs have teeth
that snatch and bite
[clap clap clap clap]
Deep in the heart, of Mordor

Posted by Red Ted at 09:59 AM | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

Chicken Soup

J's cooking is nothing like this.

But she does make a good chicken soup, and so I found the comic funny. In a perverse sort of way.

Why yes, I do get strange when I grade. Why do you ask?

Posted by Red Ted at 09:50 AM | TrackBack

February 27, 2004

Cat Blogging

Now that I have my own site, I can post pictures - which means that Isis can join Kevin Drum and the hosts of catbloggers just in time for Kevin's last catblogging post.

This is Isis the cat. She is about 15 years old and relatively healthy all things considered (don't ask me about cat poop and megacolon, just don't.)

Here she has found a spot just out of foot traffic, next to a heat vent and J's breakfront. She looks rather cozy here.

Isis the cat lying on the floor

Posted by Red Ted at 03:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

Mad Cow

Via Bob Mould, I find a very mad cow.

Caution, extensive potty language

Link may not work in I.E., if so then cut and paste.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

January 29, 2004

Minor Details

The little man likes Badger Badger. He got bored with Cows With Guns.

While watching Cows with Guns I noticed something very disconcerting. The lead character was a partially transgendered cow.

What do I mean?

Cow is a generic term for neat cattle, it is also a technical term for a fertile female just as a bull is a fertile male. Milk cows spend their working lives pregnant so they will lactate. Sterilized females (and young females) are called heifers, sterilized males are steers.

The hero, Cow Tse Tung, is referred to as "he" throughout the song. The animation for the hero shows udders - female secondary sexual characteristics: cow boobs.

Our hero is either a male with cow-boobs or a female with gender issues. Once I noticed that, I had to choose between reading the song as transgendered subversion or a total loss of my willing suspension of disbelief; it was no longer just general silliness.

And no, I do not know why it bothers my suspension of disbelief that "he" has udders but it does not bother my suspension of belief that "he" reads Che Guevara, packs an Uzi, and leads a cattle revolution.

I think it has something to do with genre conventions.

Posted by Red Ted at 10:05 AM | TrackBack

January 25, 2004

Travel Map

I have been to these red states. Looks like I need to tour the Mississippi river valley next.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Light blogging - baby was sick today and I was either reading or taking my turn at the tag team.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:44 AM | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

Relationship Tuesday

Whereas, Several of my favorite bloggers have been writing about relationships and

Whereas, People like to read about dating and relationships and

Whereas, anything that happens three times is an instant tradition

Therefore, by the power invested in me by my own ego, I do declare this to be

Relationship Tuesday

And I call upon all bloggers to say a few words about finding, caring for, and managing their relationship with their sweet baboo, snugaboo, significant other, or poor captured fool.

I already did my part.

Posted by Red Ted at 03:06 AM | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Football Day

Michelle needs to learn to be more careful with her Voodoo. Sorry Michelle - your Packers looked better than my Iggles for most of the game, that has to hurt.

J and I watched the game - she watched more than I did as I was assembling pizza during the first quarter - and we got caught up in it. A close game can be exciting, nervous-making, and tense. She would rather have been watching the figure skating that was counter-programmed against the football playoffs, but just as figure skating trumps most football, Iggles games trump figure skating. (She taped it to watch later.)

Dring the game J was downplaying the birds, who looked terrible for much of the game, spectacular for parts of the game. She makes a nice contrast with Bill Lyon of the Philly Inquirer whose Iggles coverage has come to annoy me. Lyon beats the drum loudly if the team is looking well, hyping up excitement and claiming that it is the fans who are driving the buzz. Some fans might think that way, but most of his columns are steam-heated puffery. They are a waste of space in the paper and an insult to the intelligence of his readers. Well, except that I do tend to at least start them. His worst examples are not in the last few days - these links will fall behind the cashwall soon.

Lyon contrasts oddly to Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post. Kornheiser has also been known to beat the drums of enthusiasm for his team. But, and this makes a big difference to a post-modern structuralist like myself, Kornheiser is visibly aware that he is engaging in hype. Kornheiser has a running joke about "the bandwagon:" team looks good, time to gas up the bandwagon, see if the tires need air, get it in fine running shape; team looks bad, time to put the bandwagon back in the garage. It is boosterism, but it is boosterism with a wink.

Quite frankly, after reading the pre-game hype in the Inkwire I often find myself disgusted with the team and ready to root for the other guys. I can see why Michelle let it rankle her.

How 'bout that Dawkins!

Posted by Red Ted at 08:50 AM | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

Now that's a band

Via, [whoops closed the window], I find createbands.

I fear that I could spend a great deal of time playing with that.

ps, The Iridescent Potatoes rock !

Posted by Red Ted at 08:02 AM | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Thoughts on gaming.

I have been playing a little bit of Shadowbane on a 10-day free trial. For those who have not heard of it, Shadowbane is a massively multiplayer game devoted to getting together with other players, building a city, then going to war with other players and their cities. The game has extensive pvp (player versus player), boring pve (player versus environment), and moderately interesting world-building aspects.

My characters are still in their early development stages - not yet big enough to start playing pvp. But, I have been reading about the game and thinking about what makes it compelling for some. In turn, this has gotten me thinking again about what makes computer games, or games in general, compelling to their players. This thought was inspired, in part, by last weekends NYT article about computer gaming, but it is also some thoughts that I have been mulling over for a while.

My current thought is that games have four crucial aspects: mechanics, competition, cooperation, and narrative. Different games have different mixes of the four, and the most compelling games have high scores on at least two of the four aspects.

Mechanics refers to the process of optimizing results within the rules of the game while using the resources available to you. Some games are entirely about maximizing results: blackjack, solitare, Pac Man, solo chess problems, etc. The fun of playing a purely mechanics game is the fun of solving the puzzle. Mechanics can appeal by providing logic puzzles, or geometric puzzles, or even asking you to "solve" a spreadsheet.

Competition is the heart of gaming. A game provides a structured situation with known rules in which you can compete with other people. Competition is fun; it can be compelling. Any game that is not purely solo or purely rpg has some aspects of competition in it. Chess would be a classic example of a competitive game. Competition can be head to head or multiplayer - Quake deathmatch or poker and quake lanparty for example.

Cooperation is the less noticed but more crucial aspect of gaming. Some games are almost entirely about the cooperative aspect - you win by getting a group of people to work together for a common goal. Other games mix competition and cooperation. There is a saying that every poker game has a patsy, and if you don't know who it is then it must be you. Cooperation is most obvious in games like Diplomacy or Everquest. In Diplomacy, 7 players compete to win. You succeed by making a series of short term alliances "lets you and me go crush him" and then betraying your ally after you have achieved your joint goal and before your ally betrays you. In Everquest, a massively multiplayer computer game, the mechanics are not all that hard despite a steep learning curve; the challenge comes from getting six, or twelve, or fifty people to work together on a common goal within the game mechanics.

Narrative is a newer aspect to gaming. I am not aware of narrative-based games - where players play a game by taking part in a story - before the 1970s, unless you consider charades, or drama as a game. "Hey kids, lets put on a show." I suspect that a storytelling contest would also qualify as a narrative game. In more traditional gaming terms, we find narrative gaming in pen and paper role playing - a group of people take on the personas of wizards and elves and such and attempt to achieve an in-game goal - and in computer gaming. Once Upon a Time is the only game I am aware of that uses competitive storytelling as a game mechanic. The advantage that computer games have is that they can provide a branched narrative that changes based on the player's actions. This is more easily done in a solo game, but some persistent worlds are letting players make lasting changes, others are changing their world every month or so to provide a background narrative for the players' actions.

Very few games are purely within one form; most games mix two or more. To use a couple more examples:
Chess - high level of mechanics, high level of competition; no social no narrative (outside of Alice in Wonderland.)
Poker - very high level of competition, some mechanics, some cooperation; no narrative.
Everquest - moderate mechanics, high cooperation, a little narrative, no ingame mechanism for competition.
Shadowbane - low mechanics, high cooperation, high competition, some in-game narrative.

Less successful games tend not to have an enoughness of enough of the elements.
Earth and Beyond, for example, had an imposed narrative placed on the game through monthly patches, fairly simple mechanics, and moderate cooperation. I found it entertaining for a while, but never compelling.

Gaming is challenging music and movies as the next form of popular entertainment. We will be seeing more and more about it over the next few years. As we do so we might want to think about how these aspects affect our understanding of our entertainment.

Let me close by using these analytical tools to look at spectator sports and at gambling - both of which are also forms of gaming.

Consider a football game. We will use a pro football game, both on the field and as a social experience.

110 players and a couple of dozen coaches are competing on a field. Of those players, the starters will be on the field for some 70 plays, others will be in less often. The social aspect of the game comes in coordinating the actions of 11 people on the field, the entire team off the field. There are a lot of very smart very talented people working in pro football who are kick-ass coordinators or position coaches and mediocre head coaches. Why? Because the head coach's primary duty is social. If he can create a climate for cooperation and effort, and if he can get the right people into the right jobs, then the team should do well. The competitive aspect of the game comes in many forms: coach v coach, quarterback v safety, flanker v cornerback, and so on. Lets look at the classic matchup: defensive end v offensive tackle. Some 70 times per game the two men will slam into one another, try to push the other out of the way, and make a play. On most of these plays, they will draw. However, on play after play, they are both using the mechanics of the game - what stance to take, how to execute a rip move, where to put your hands on the defender's torso - and using the competitive aspects. Defensive players will set up an outside move by faking inside, or will come up with a sequence of moves designed to get the offensive player off balance. Line play is endlessly fascinating in its variations.

Now lets shift to the audience perspective.
Here we are watching competition, we are watching cooperation. What the audience gets out of the game is sociability and narrative. We watch the game, we feel some level of emotional attachment to a team, we cheer. This is all social and, in some cases, the cheering of an audience can affect the outcome of the game - audience members get to feel that they have participated. We also tell ourselves stories about the game: "the team came back, they did not quit" or "they got ahead and stayed ahead" or "so and so redeemed himself through his play" or what have you. The sports section of your newspaper and the endless tv shows are all creating and spreading these narratives. Sports is not just the ultimate reality program, it is also a surprisingly strong source of narrative.

The other reason people watch sports is very like the reason people play poker or go to casinos: gambling.

When someone talks about the "gaming" industry, it takes a moment to figure out if they are referring to computer games, board games, or legalized gambling. The first and last in that list are where the big money is. Lets look at gambling through the four-pronged analysis.

Games change when there is money involved. People play differently for cash than they do for pride. This is one reason why, although I play gaming tournaments that do give prizes, I do not choose to play in situations where the cash prize is more important than the prestige of having won. Chris Martin and David Hood got a few dollars when they became world Diplomacy champions a few years back. But, having gamed against both of them, I know that their real reward comes from the prestige of being the force that everyone else around the table has to respond to. Respect from their peers outweighs any prize, heck the costs of competing are greater than the prize money. In contrast, I will play poker for chips or for penny ante but I just drop out when the cash players come. I do not care for the change in tone.

But, what is at stake when we gamble for cash that is not at stake when we play games for fun? Money, material rewards, changes the nature of the competition in several ways. The two that I want to talk about are "something for nothing" and "deep play." There are other ways that money changes gaming conduct in competitive games like poker, including personal dominance, but two is enough.

Something for nothing, or the hope of getting something for nothing, is compelling. It is the impulse that keeps all the con games in the world going. Consider a lottery. One the one hand, a lottery is a tax on people who can not do math. Lotteries offer terrible odds of winning, even in an illegal numbers game with its higher payouts. What they do offer, however, is the hope of winning. As a friend pointed out to me once, when you buy a lottery ticket you have just bought a license to daydream about what you will do when you win. For a couple of dollars you get up to a week of pleasant thoughts. That is a pretty good deal, and you should buy your lottery tickets early to get more value for your money. If you buy a lot of lottery tickets, you still have a minuscule chance to win, you have the same dreams of what to do with the money, but that same emotional pleasure costs you more. If you buy one lottery ticket, you are buying a pleasure. If you buy multiple tickets, or buy obsessively, then there is something else going on.

There is a thrill that comes with winning, or more specifically with that moment where the uncertainty resolves itself and you discover if you have won or lost. Flip a coin - it will come up heads or tails. So what. Flip it a hundred times, write down the results, and you will see fifty-odd of one side and fourty-odd of the other. The odds are against getting exactly 50 out of 100 flips. Now tell yourself that if the coin comes up heads, I will give you $100 cash. Now flip it again - was there a flutter of excitement? You won? Good. Double or nothing. Flip it again. Was the flutter bigger? Now again, $400 at stake this time. (Yes, I will make you keep flipping until we are back to even. Sorry.)

That little thought experiment should have induced some level of gut flutter. It should also have pointed out that the whole gambling process generally involves a relatively boring game where the interest comes not from the game mechanics but from the stakes. Face it, flipping a coin is boring. The only interesting decision in that particular game is deciding when to cash in and when to keep flipping the coin. If you buy into the game, get into its headspace, a simple coin flipping game like that could be compelling for hours. If you do not, then you will walk away quickly enough.

The flutter can be simple excitement, or it can evolve into what anthropologist Clifford Geertz calls deep play. This is gambling, wild out of control gambling, in which a person will place all their assets on a single throw, or a single cockfight. People do that, especially in some cultures and subcultures, and do it repeatedly. Geertz asked why, and decided that it was because they came to identify themselves with the fighting bird, or with the rolling die, and by gambling so heavily that they were risking themselves, they gained a sort of affirmation.

You don't have to gamble outrageously to experience that sort of identification with the game, but gambling does help. Consider the sports gaming addicts who are caught up in the outcome of every game, seeing their bets as an extension of themselves and rooting for their players to pull it out, to beat the spread, to make that one basket. Gambling on sports adds a level of interest to the spectator phenomenon. Gambling in casinos adds a level of interest to things that, like pulling a slot machine lever, are worth only a couple of minutes of interest on their own. Every pull, every roulette ball, is its own micro-hit of self-identified deep play.

To turn full circle, deep play or identification with the gaming device, is what a computer game offers, what pencil and paper roleplaying offers, and what gambling or sports observation offers. If we want to create a compelling game it should offer a mix of mechanics, competition, cooperation, narrative, and deep play or identification. If we want to select a game for ourselves, we need to decide how we value each of these aspects of the gaming experience, and how much of our lives and free time we want the game to claim.

I will not be picking up a Shadowbane subscription because, although it offers great competition and cooperation, I find the mechanics clunky, and the narratives boring. I am not sure how easily I could identify with my characters: I find myself wanting to fire up the game to see how Kaladriel my dimwitted giant holy warrior will respond to new challenges. Besides, I don't have time for a new game. I just have time to write too many words about gaming.

EDIT - the folks at Sunsword remind me that Everquest is chock full of competition. It shows itself in racing for player access to the rare spawns and rare drops. Severilious the dragon appears in game once a week, give or take a day. It takes 30 people to kill the dragon. The dragon sometimes has a wonderful treasure that all warriors want. People would have characters camping out in the jungle where the dragon appears waiting for him to arrive, and once he is spotted they would race to be the first to get their group of 30 into place to kill the dragon. It got very competitive.

The above is a rough draft - I fear that I don't polish my blog posts. Heck, I barely stitched the two parts of that essay together.

Posted by Red Ted at 01:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Friday Five

Good one this week. I added linky goodness. I am psyched, for while making links for this post I found some new things about some old favorites. Hoorah!

1. List your five favorite beverages.

Coffee (I get mine from Coffeeworks these days.)
milk (skim these days, alas)
root beer

Hot Cocoa
I no drink no booze no more (single malt, one ice cube)

2. List your five favorite websites.
Volokh Conspiracy
Sunsword forums
County library on-line catalog

3. List your five favorite snack foods.
Sweetzel's Spiced Wafers
Toast with hummus
an orange
toast with honey
english muffin with marmalade

Roly Poly, Daddy's little fatty
Bread and jam near twenty times a day (hoo boy!)

Darn that Bob Wills and those Texas Playboys, now I have my theme song stuck in my head again.

4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.

Diplomacy - link to the pbem version
Dungeons and Dragons (we play a variant of the 1980s ADD ruleset.)
Settlers of Cataan great beer & pretzels
Silent Death - even J blows up space ships

History of the World - risk for adults
Ambush - solo squad level

5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.

Everquest - MMORG
Space Empires III - expand and conquer
Earth and Beyond - MMORG

Steel Panthers (I played the original, link is to the newest)
Decision in the Desert - just plain fun

Posted by Red Ted at 11:05 AM | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

The hours of a day

We were up early this morning, and as I was walking the hound through the pre-dawn glow I was thinking about the rhythm of a good day. Is this a perfect day, as in the old joke where a guy's perfect day involves hourly blowjobs and lots of red meat and a woman's perfect day involves lots of shopping and a single romantic encounter? No. This was a thought about how I like, or would like, to spend the hours of a normal good day - my ideal 90% day if you will.

Wake before dawn
Run an easy 10 miles over rolling hills on dirt roads, perhaps with the baby.
Big breakfast

Spend the morning working, snack at 10:30,
Big lunch at 1:00. I really do prefer hot food at lunch - I guess I take after my dad that way.

Afternoon spent reading and having a nap. Teaching is enough fun that I would add it to my afternoon.

Lift before dinner, on a 4/day split focusin on the major power lifts. Lift heavy.

Big dinner.

Evening playing with the baby, spending time with J, reading for fun, playing computer games.

Go to bed between midnight and 2:00 am

Sleep 10 hours.

Wake before dawn and do it again.

You might note that there is not enough time for sleep in that day.

I do like to wake up early, I do like to stay up late, and I do like my sleep. I can somewhat get the three to match by having an afternoon nap, but naps are not always something to count on.

Oh, and for the record, I stopped running that many miles a couple of years ago when I ran harder than my body could handle and wracked up both knees. I stopped lifting that hard about a year ago when I decided that I was not competing powerlifting, I was getting middle aged, and the exercise was getting in the way of my sleep and my work.

I need to get back to the gym - perhaps a morning workout?

What are the hours of your day?

Posted by Red Ted at 07:40 AM | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Moving Memories

J completely denies that she is anything at all like this Jennie Breeden cartoon. Me, I wonder sometimes.

Posted by Red Ted at 07:37 AM | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Carnival time !

The new Carnival is up at Peaktalk. This one looks particularly good.

Highly recommended are: The Iraqi Fork at Earthly Passions; Angelweave's review of Fast Food Nation - looks like I need to read the book and bookmark the blog; Bogieblog's story about what happens when Chickens go Wild

Many of the others were also good, but these stood out from the pack. I rank my bit about Reagan and Jackson in the middle of the pack: I pick up someone else's idea, but I add value to it rather than just rewriting it. I also wrote too many words for the idea, but I often do that.

Next week is at Setting the World to Rights

And so to work.

Posted by Red Ted at 08:49 AM | TrackBack

November 18, 2003


Pieter at Peaktalk is hosting this week.

I just sent him my snark about Reagan's legacy. I wanted to send something political this week to test a theory, and that was the least badly written political rant this week.

My discussion about people and distance and weather could have been excellent, but it stops rather than concluding. I suspect that I will return to those themes and try to do a better job sometime in the future.

Am I unusual for critiquing my own blog? Or am I just unusual for posting my critiques of my blog, well, on my blog?

And so to teach. I have a class plan, it is too long, but we will manage.

Posted by Red Ted at 09:32 AM | TrackBack