Posts Tagged social

Philosophy of Mixology

Tonight I’m co-hosting a party with the amazing Paul Barclay and Erin Alexander, whereby they will make delicious tapas-style food and I will recommend and mix drink pairings for guests. It’s super exciting, and I am woefully underprepared! Just now I am sitting down to take a look at the menu (this stuff looks frickin’ delicious) and wondering about:

  • whether I’ll have access to the appropriate mixers
  • whether I should be pre-determining components rather than full drinks, to better suggest a pairing for the individual
  • what sort of drinkers will be at the party (I’m best at hard liquor mixing, pretty bad at recommending beers and wines)

My general philosophy with mixing drinks for friends is to ask simple questions that help determine taste. For example, do you like drinks on the fruitier side? Or more “fresh”/”clean” tasting (like a martini)? Using a series of these questions (usually no more than three), I can find a tasty drink for the person. Doing pairings will be trickier, since I want to recommend a good drink to go with the dish but I don’t want to be giving tequila-based stuff to a rum drinker. Haven’t quite cracked that chestnut yet.

One thing I know for sure – after about two drinks, everyone’s going to love the third, so that takes the pressure off. :) Also, I’ll probably be taste-testing my creations, so I’m sure I’ll de-stress pretty quickly too! 😮

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Year in Review: Resolutions 4

Mike and I were just having a conversation about my blog for the year (and how he has been a loyal reader!) when I told him my post about him on 9/1 was the most popular this year.  That of course led him to promote it on FB and Twitter. :)  In the meantime, time to get this series on my prior resolutions finished so we can move on to (specific) resolutions for next year!

7. Go out (as in, social activity outside my normal friend circles) at least three times a month.

I didn’t plan it exactly, but I ended up going out about three times on average to karaoke once the year got rolling, and about once a week on average over the weekend to… something new.  Of the social activities I participated in this year, my favorites were my friend Amy’s performance in Belltown, The Stranger’s Hump (amateur porn film festival) and Event & Adventures’ outing to Comedy Underground with Dhuse and Emily.  Overall, I’m going to give myself a minor success, because although I didn’t exactly go “outside my normal friend circles,” I did strengthen and build quite a few friendships anyway!

8. Study some physics books and take two GRE Physics practice tests – receiving a better score on the latter!

Oof.  I totally bailed on this one.  Physics does still really interest me, and it really bugs me when conversations come up at work that I should be able to contribute to in a scientifically-minded way but can’t because all of my previous knowledge has leaked out.  This goal was probably too ambitious anyway – I should start with a refresher course if I start back into Physics, because the ordered, structured and most importantly *scheduled* activity will be a good starting point.  Overall, major failure! 😛

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#15: Game On

I wrote previously about the creation of game systems, but I haven’t talked more about the running of game sessions – your classic GM role for role-playing games, although I could imagine other ways to do this, like Mafia Narrator (the classic game of finger-pointing and betrayal), or some sort of Hero Quest-esque run where I set up playthroughs that “basically” play themselves with the group.  In some senses this is like setting up a game day with friends, but I do enjoy putting together stories and worlds in the “shared storytelling” way and I haven’t done it in a while, specifically not from the angle of GM/Narrator.

I think the best way to do this, for people with very busy lives (like me!) is to plan a series of sessions (like three) in what many of us have called a “manyshot” (as opposed to “oneshot” for a single session).  In a 3-4 session game, you can do quite a bit of story development, and play a significant amount of “game” too, for RPGs.  It also ends up feeling episodic if people like it enough – you can always bring back a world/story again later.  This is kind of convincing me to consider what an episodic strategy board game might look like.

15. I resolve to run at least one “manyshot” game campaign of my own design (probably RPG), with an eye toward doing it episodically (so like three-four manyshots over the course of a year).

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Review: Vintage Rotisserie

First of all, this is not something the majority of folks are likely to just pick up: vintage rotisserie draft, as I have discussed previously, is only for the most highly enfranchised of Magic players, and even then it’s not for everybody.  However, I have done it now three times (!) and thought it would be a good time to talk about it.

Overall, I have not done well in the play-the-games portion.  But I have had lots of exciting moments during the draft proper – times when I realized exactly the card I needed and was able to pick it up, or times when I made someone yell in agony as I swiped their card before they got to it.  And I have also had some very fun games despite losing a lot.  I would not have thought, when told about a format where you needed to know all 12,000 Magic cards, and where simple missteps in draft could be a big problem for your deck, that the entire event would be so fun.

Things I have learned, that I would share with others!

  • Having a fixed set of cards, like 1000 or so of the “top contenders” based on consensus, out for people to see and interact with is an excellent way to do this kind of draft.  Having everyone do tons of homework and agonize over weeks in an asynchronous, not-in-person draft is kind of poopy.
  • Drafting a fun deck is probably better than a boring, skill-intensive deck (and some of the fun decks are skill-intensive too!)  It’s just way better to be enjoying playing, you can devote mental energy elsewhere, and the decks are close to each other in power level anyway.
  • For anyone who has played forever and is still into Magic, has or knows someone with a big collection, and/or likes to hang out with friends for a long Magic-related activity, this is the thing to try!  Kind of the pinnacle of draft experiences.

Overall: B+
“Game Pieces” per Game: A+++ (12,000 cards to choose from!)
Skill Required: More than I have, but fun nonetheless!
Wide Appeal: D

p.s. For those who are familiar with Magic, I have drafted a blue-black Time Vault combo deck, a blue-black-red Storm combo deck, and today I drafted a black-blue aggro-control deck.  I was very close to drafting an Elves deck which Aaron ended up drafting, too.

Thanks to Kyle Boddy to introducing me to it, and Brian David-Marshall and Randy Buehler for making in-person drafts possible with WotC folk!

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Review: Plants vs. Zombies

So, here’s a dirty secret: I had not played Plants vs. Zombies until very recently, when Bill couldn’t stop talking my ear off about it.  But, surprise surprise, it is in fact a PopCap game and extremely good!  I just completed Adventure Mode plus a few of the “survival” levels (which let you use some of the stuff you acquire late in the game to good effect), and I wanted to talk about my impressions.  For reference, I love love love Peggle, I enjoy Bejeweled but not overmuch, and I haven’t played other PopCap games.  I also have historically not enjoyed Tower Defense games, probably because they tend to (a) lack polish, and (b) take a bit to get into.

PvZ immediately solves both of these problems because it is amazingly polished (like any PopCap game) and it doesn’t waste anytime getting you into the meat of the game.  PvZ has two major components that I want to talk about – its sunflower system and its progression of content.  The sunflower is the game’s mana system, in that your ability to construct “towers” is limited by your sun currency, and that currency is generated by sunflowers.  I think this is both a beautiful design feature, and also a minor design flaw.  Because the space you build in (your lawn) is limited, the arrangement and number of sunflowers has strategic value, and I like that.  In addition, because sunflowers produce sun at an approximate rate, that means you build as you play, which is an excellent way to keep the game moving and energetic, and I love that about it.  On the other hand, it’s a flaw because I have found every one of my games starts the same way – I make a bunch of sunflowers while defending with temporary defensive structures.  This repetitiveness wore me down and is a major contributor to why I am not planning on playing much more past the “campaign track.”  (It also has another effect which I’ll talk about below.)  Sunflowers are also super adorable, so major plus there too.

The progression of content in PvZ is great – you receive new plants as you progress (they are not “money-limited,” although a few “post-game content” items are).  I found this kept me interested, and the inclusion of levels that leverage the strengths of the new plant immediately after you receive them as kind of a running tutorial is an excellent system for teaching.  I did find, however, that due to the build order constraints sunflowers place on me, I ended up using a lot of the same plants over and over again.  Once again, the repetitiveness is frustrating and I didn’t feel the variation in level makeup (pool vs. fog vs. roof etc.) was sufficient to make me feel like I was diversifying.

So, overall, it’s clearly an excellent game, and I should have played it sooner!  PopCap never fails to deliver an excellent package, and the very fact that I have this much to say about it is a testament to the game’s subtle depth and overall fun factor.  I recommend it, probably over other Tower Defense games (unless that’s your cup of tea specifically), but not over other casual games generally.

Overall: A-
Polish, Flavor, etc.: A
Strategy: B-
Strategy for a Casual Game: A-

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Todd Schuman

Todd and I got to know each other during my freshman year of college, since we both lived in Blacker and frosh are pretty tightly-knit at Tech. I remember him saying he was awesome at Starcraft, and I challenged him, and I tried to cheese him with cannons (which, for those who don’t know Starcraft, is kind of like trying to sneak up behind someone and scare them hard enough they wet themselves). It didn’t work, of course, but I laughed my head off, and everyone had a good time. Todd and I went on to be class officers together, play various strategy games, enjoy yearly Vegas trips, get back into Magic (he is the one who got me back into it via Magic Online), even start an online business and eventually have regular game and TV nights.

Todd is one of my closest friends, and it’s no surprise why: he cares deeply about his friends, is both jovial and social, enjoys gaming immensely. We think alike, chat a ton, and try to visit each other (along with our associated nearby friends) frequently. Todd even asked me to be one of his groomsmen for his wedding, which was totally awesome, and his wife Tory is one of my closest friends in her own right – the two of them are amazing and it’s wonderful they are together.

Todd’s also an inspiration to me because although we share a lot of the same thought pathways (he and I would get into philosophical/political/etc. discussions over game night in Los Angeles quite a bit along with our other friends attending), he is much more responsible and dedicated to self-improvement in ways I wish I could be. He runs marathons (something I could never do but which I greatly admire!), plans many many trips to visit friends and learns valuable life skills in his free time. Basically, I’m super happy we’re friends because he is so awesome, and it barely matters than I am so thoroughly upstaged. 😉

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Marcella Kallmann

Marcy and I actually met a number of times in the hallway on the fourth floor before we started chatting and becoming friends. Over time, especially over the course of many work events in far and away places, we got spend more time getting to know each other. Marcy’s got a busy busy job in office, but luckily while we are at events, she has time to chill – kind of silly that the most time we hang out is when we are thousands of miles from the workplace. Just like me, Marcy takes on a little too much to do and gets stressed, but she is usually cheery and wonderful with people while on the job, despite how stressed/tired she is – a skill I wish I had myself!

Marcy seems to be the kind of person I wish I could be with respect to friends – focused and devoted to a small number of them, with really strong friendships. When we were in San Juan, she graciously joined me and a crew of other friends to go out for dinner on my birthday. This was great because not only is she wonderful with new people (despite her complaints to the contrary, Marcy is *amazing* at making friends in my experience!) but she also kept me cheerful and laughing because she’s a goofball and a excellent socializer. Marcy’s also super cute and happens to be shorter than me, which is a big positive in my book because I so rarely get to be (comparatively) tall! :)

Marcy is a wonderful friend and I love hanging out with her. She’s got the perfect mix of sass, kindness, devotion to others and sense of responsibility, and really the only strike against her is she stays too busy for me to corner any of her time. 😛

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Rachel Bjornson

Rachel’s the smart, witty, pretty, hilarious and excellent project manager with Magic Online – okay, well, those descriptors apply to more than one project manager I work with, but still, they apply quite well to Rachel! She’s probably is the most in-tune with social media of my friends, with the exception of those whose job actually *is* social media, and a significant part of that seems to be making friends and acquaintances aware of awesome stuff happening here in Seattle (just as other friend Keridwyn does – and they are like an uber-combo together!) I really enjoy knowing that if I have the urge to find someplace new, Rachel will be happy to provide recommendations.

Rachel’s also a fine food nut, and connoisseur of simple, beautiful things in life – a stark contrast with her get-it-done work-work-work attitude I see on the job! I have few friends who are as into “work hard, play hard” as Rachel is, and it’s inspiring. Because of this, she and I don’t have too much time outside of work to hang out, but the occasional social outing, party or even just minutes at work chatting have delivered unto me a bonanza of recommendations for restaurants, books and movies. I’ve tried to repay the favor by teaching her to crush at Magic, but the jaws of no-free-time snapped down tight and we haven’t had a training session in a while.

Rachel is definitely one of my friends who loves life the most, and it’s really great to see that and be motivated to do the same, because I often get bogged down in details and need to see it from a different perspective. If she didn’t work so hard all the time, maybe we could hang out more! (Yes, Rachel, I’m talking to you! ;))

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Lee Sharpe

Lee and I work together at Wizards; we actually started working for the company basically around the same time. We’ve collaborated on some projects, we have been on teams together, and most importantly we have had a lot of sweet discussions about morality, philosophy, economics and people. Lee’s a sharp guy (heh) and like me, loves to apply his logic and wit to various topics.

Also like me, Lee is extremely principled. There aren’t many people I know who are strong enough in their convinctions to both say and do something according to their moral/ethic code in the face of tons of peer pressure / monetary or social incentives /etc. Lee is one of those people. The even more amazing thing, however, is that though we share this principledness, we are so different in our perception and incorporation of economics that we have quite the lively discussion about how the world might be better! I have a grand time thinking up ways to convince Lee that he’s wrong about “the fundamentals” of philosophy that I believe – free will, the goodness of humans, better futures than the free market, etc. – and then trying my hardest to hold the line against his equally well constructed and reasoned positions.

Lee is also a great guy to just go out and hang out with. He and I have been attending karaoke pretty regularly, which has become a totally awesome “thing,” but even before that, Lee is always up for a friendly dinner or a night out at a bar or club. I would not have guessed how social Lee is, but I am super happy that we are friends in a way that lets me see and appreciate his suaveness! Lee is the best kind of friend: the one who holds deep convictions, enjoys talking about them, doesn’t overly judge you for yours, and (despite differences) is just fun to chill with.

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Paige Coulam

Paige and I go waaaay back to roughly junior high. She and I shared classes, studied together, cursed our inept Physics teacher, hung out, and basically were very good friends. She’s one of the few friends from high school I kept in contact with after college life took over, and later, when I moved back to L.A. and she was at UCLA, we re-upped our friendship.

Paige is as easy to hang out with and just relax as she is to have long conversations with. She’s fun, passionate about life (she’s over touring Europe right now, in fact!), and generally a joy to be around.

It is possible that my enjoyment of coffee today is in part to sitting and sipping with Paige in coffeeshops. If so, I regret nothing! :)

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