Thursday, June 30, 2005

So I was reading...

..."'Repent, Harlequin,' said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison which is a really good story which I would recommend to anyone since it is about being a slave to time and I thought while I read, "The ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun and we look down on them for being primitives but we worship our schedule books and isn't the calendar based on the sun so aren't we sun worshippers as well?" but then I had to hurry up and leave because I was running late.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Been too tired to write...

...not that this is really an excuse. I guess. But still, every time I think about sitting down to write, I think about how I could spend a little time with my wife or how I could try out Doom III (which is a very creepy game, I might add), or how I could play a duel of Blue Moon or read a book or watch another episode of Babylon 5 or...well, pretty much anything other than writing. As it is, I'm waiting for Brettspielwelt's server to reboot so I can play another game of Ingenious (yet another game by Reiner Knizia) which I just learned tonight. Writing seems like too much work. I guess that life just seems dry recently. Not that there's nothing to write about, but there's just no desire to push. Too much effort. Now, I'll admit that getting more sleep could help, but that's not all there is to it. I feel like I'm being stretched in too many directions. There are children to care for, fellow Christians who need attention, work to be done, a wife to support while she struggles in her third trimester. And then, there are the simple efforts to be around other adults. Don't get me wrong, I love my children, and I wouldn't give them up for anything. But still, so often it feels like our get-togethers consist of the children running around and enjoying being with their friends, while the adults struggle to have a simple conversation in between keeping the peace and cleaning up after the children. Crystal has been feeling this as well. At least I get adult conversation when I go to work. She doesn't even get that. And, of course, being that she is pregnant, she is often too tired in the evening to get out. Sigh. I'm going to go to bed now.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Overheard in a pastor's study

A little pastoral sacramental theology to brighten your day. Simple, but helpful. And no, I have no idea why Peter Leithart's blog can't seem to display single quotes and apostrophes correctly.

Gipf game #5 prototype

It's coming! For those of you who don't know why this is nifty...I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Last night, I sat down with my wife and sister to watch the next couple of installments of Babylon 5, which we are borrowing from Ralph Mazza, who is a friend of ours. I had heard good things about this television series, and so far, they are all being borne out. The second episode that we watched last night was called “Believers”. (For the Trekkies out there, this episode was written by David Gerrold, who wrote the classic Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles”.) Oh. My. What a powerful episode. The premise is quite simple, actually. A child of an alien couple is dying. The doctor on the Babylon 5 station says that a simple surgery will save him. However, the religious beliefs of this couple say that performing surgery will release the soul of the child, destroying him. So they refuse to allow the surgery to be performed. So, Dr. Franklin is trying to figure out a way to change their minds so that he can save this child’s life. It was powerful. But, at the end of the episode, I was sad. The different characters wanted to condemn the parents for the stand that they were taking. Don’t misunderstand; they loved their child greatly. They would sit with him and hold him while his breathing failed. They would cry over him and comfort him. But there are more important things than life. Principles worth dying for. What’s wrong with that? And try as they might, the different characters could not. Dr. Franklin merely asserted the validity of his beliefs over the parents, even to the point of disobeying Commander Sinclair, who decided that he would not overrule the parents’ decision. Commander Sinclair wanted to overrule them, but on what moral authority could he make that decision? And that’s the rub, isn’t it? If you believe in moral relativism, how can you condemn these parents? What makes your belief any better than theirs? The answer is simple: nothing. And I was sad, because I thought about all the people who are morally adrift, wanting to reach out, help others, and change the world…but they can’t, because they don’t have a firm moral position on which to stand. How very sad.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My father's sermons

My father reads this blog from time to time, so this is for him. Hi, Dad! Guess what? I found that website with your sermons on it. My, is that a hyperlink that I see? I believe that it is....

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How very odd

When I wrote my little ditty about Polarity the other day, I wasn't expecting this. Now I'm curious how they found out. I registered at their site; perhaps they are keeping me under surveillance... Um, I need to go sweep my house for listening devices now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tigris & Euphrates: a brief description

I have a lot of serious writing that I should be doing. I want to write something for Father’s Day, and Crystal would like me to write a story or something for her as a present for our anniversary. But the words aren’t there yet, and I don’t have any good story ideas yet, so I’m just going to write and hope that it shakes something loose. So, instead, I’m going to write about one of my favorite games: Tigris & Euphrates. If you were to examine the contents of my game shelf, you would find that a disproportionate number of the games there have been designed by one man: Dr. Reiner Knizia. I love his work, because he manages to develop elegant games which always require difficult choices. He has stated that his life philosophy is “So many choices; so few moves”, and this philosophy is expressed in many of his games. However, of all the games that he has designed, my favorite is the game considered to be his best work: Tigris & Euphrates. Tigris & Euphrates takes you back to the cradle of civilization, placing you in charge of a dynasty trying to establish itself as the greatest of the Fertile Crescent. You do this by building settlements, temples, farms, and markets to support the various aspects of a healthy civilization (military, religion, food, and commerce), allowing your leaders to take advantage of these developments, gathering victory points in each area. If you check out this picture, you will see a game in progress. The round wooden pieces are the leaders (each player plays a symbol, not a color), and the tiles are the different buildings that are played. Red tiles are temples, blue are farms, green are markets, and black are settlements. Each player has a hand of six tiles kept secret (like in Scrabble). Each turn, he may do only two things, which sometimes feels like not quite enough time. So, the civilizations begin to grow and spread. Of course, eventually kingdoms connect, in which case there is a war, with tiles being destroyed in the process and the victor earning even more victory points. Eventually, the draw bag for tiles runs empty, and the game comes to an end. At this point, the winner is determined. Remember how you are collecting four different kinds of victory points? Well, whichever category has the least victory points is used as your final score. So it’s not enough to do well in one or two areas. In order to win, you need to build a well-rounded civilization. There are other aspects to this game that I won’t get into. However, I find this game to be involving and tense. The conflicts are particularly tense, as there is always some uncertainty about who will win. I have seen some games where the obvious underdog in a conflict has turned the tables on his attacker, causing a massive upset. This game is a modern classic and one that I greatly enjoy.

Half-Life 2: A brief review

I beat Half-Life 2 last night. I was a little disappointed, actually. The final level was somewhat anticlimactic, and the ending was a bit of a downer. I enjoyed playing it, and it is beautifully made, but I felt like something was missing. Maybe it’s because there’s almost no replay value. I’ve overcome all the various challenges and seen the story line spin itself out, and…pretty much, that’s it. There’s no way to compare success rates; I can’t start from the beginning and compare my efforts this time with the last time. Nor do I have any real desire to do so. Half-Life 2 felt more like an action movie that was unfolding in front of me, except that I pulled the trigger. My sister actually watched a stretch of the game for exactly this reason. Now, don’t get me wrong; it was a really good action movie. But now it’s done, and I don’t have any desire to return to the Half-Life 2 environment and experience it further. And I know that it’s not because Half-Life 2 is a computer game. There are computer games that I’d play again; Thief and X-Com both spring to mind. But that is because I enjoy the game environment and the unique challenges therein. Half-Life 2 was a very pretty first-person shooter, but, in the final analysis, that’s all it was.

Monday, June 13, 2005


I've been wanting to write about some of the games that I play, and the opportunity seems to have presented itself. Polarity is one of the new games that I purchased with the money from my eBay sales. The playing pieces are magnets, and you take turns balancing them on the magnetic fields of the pieces that you already have on the board. But be careful! Disrupt the board, and you'll be giving your opponent points. There can be some massive chain reactions, as one magnet tips another one, which collides into a third one.... Snap snap snap. This website is the brand new site for the game, and I must say that I am impressed with the support that it is getting. In particular, I'd suggest checking out the pictures here and here. The only possible issue with the game is that it is technically a two-player game. Of course, you can play teams, which mitigates that problem somewhat. One of my better gaming purchases.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Thoughts on the Holy Spirit and Technology

From that Other Room: Folding A Map: The Introduction.

Folding A Map: The Girl Of Your Dreams

It's another room on the Internet! This post is already a favorite of several other bloggers that I read, but I'll add my link to it as well. The Girl Of Your Dreams (I edited this to follow the article when it moved.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

On Nitroglycerin Tea Ceremonies

Combining my love of things Japanese and things explosive.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A gem from R.C. Sproul, Jr.

"Evil should be expected, but never, because it is expected, accepted. When we see it, wherever we see it, shock is inappropriate. Outrage, however, is always in style." And I'll just toss in a cross-reference to this post on shock. In my opinion, this is something that the American Christian evangelical subculture needs to wrestle with.

Friday, June 03, 2005

While Seated Photolog: Full Moon on Transamerica Pyramid

While Seated Photolog: Full Moon on Transamerica Pyramid Also, check out Unphotographable by the same artist. I like artists like this, because they make you pay attention to the glimmers of wonder that surround us which we ignore.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tim Gallant on guitar!

A Eucharistic Hymn (Shockwave file) The mp3 can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On Being Indie: Who’s Your Audience?

(The previous installment can be found here.) A question that is often asked by creative types is “Who’s your audience?” Who do you expect will enjoy or benefit from this work? This is usually asked during the creative process, as the artist is wrestling with various creative options. How can I communicate to these people? There are so many possible ways to answer this question. However, much as we artistic types hate to admit it, there is a very simple answer. Your audience is whoever pays you. Money talks, and that is as true in the arts as in every other endeavor of life. The creation of arts, especially the fine arts, takes time, and often the artist requires monetary support of some time to justify the time cost that he incurs while creating. This is not a new issue; one has only to think of the patronage by the Medici family of the artist Michelangelo to realize that money and the arts have been entwined for some time. Once money enters the picture, the question quickly becomes an economic one. A general rule of business is that you want to keep your customer happy. This makes sense if you want to maintain a positive cash flow. So, as an artist, who is your customer? Who is paying the bill for your work? In most cases, the answer is not who you think it is. In my initial post on this topic (found here), I referenced a speech by Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. In this speech, Mr. Watterson talks about the syndicates. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know a lot about the market for newspaper comics, but my guess is that the syndicate is similar to a wholesaler of comics. A syndicate buys a comic strip from the comic artist. The syndicate then turns around and sells the comic to the newspaper, which prints it so that it can be purchased by a reader. The distribution chain looks something like this:
The distribution system in hobby games is similar. The publisher of a game sells the game to a distributor, who then sells to the retail stores, who then sell to the customer. The distribution chain looks like this:
publisher-->distributor-->retailer-->end user
Of course, the reality is a little more complex. The publisher doesn’t usually originate the game. This is often done by freelancers, who then sell to the publisher. So, the actual distribution chain looks like this:
designer--> publisher--> distributor -->retailer-->end user
The book and movie industries works in similar ways. Each of those arrows represents a transaction. Thus, the general laws of economics come into play. Each buyer will be acting in his perceived best interest. As a result, each link in the chain acts as a filter. Ideally, good product passes down the chain, while bad product is weeded out by the market. However, the best interests of each group are not the same. What the end user of a product wants, for instance, is very different from what a distributor wants. So, the criteria used to judge the utility of a product change along the supply chain, and movement of the product can be interrupted at any time. All the end user sees are products that have leaped the hurdles of the publisher, distributor, and retailer. Moreover, each link in the distribution chain is really only interested in the links that connect to it. So, for example, the publisher is concerned about buying low from its freelance designers and selling high to the distributors. The end user barely enters the equation, and then only as a factor that might affect the distributors’ decision to buy or not. The end user is not the publisher’s customer; the distributor is the publisher’s customer. (There are other factors that could be discussed here, like the relative economic clout of publishers vs. distributors or the return policies of different links in the supply chain, but these factors vary in different markets and are not immediately germane to the topic at hand.) So, in this scenario, who is the artist’s customer? The publisher. Not the end user. Not even the retailer. It is the publisher who will decide if the product is shipped along the distribution chain. Therefore, who does the artist need to please? The publisher. Now, let’s imagine that we have a young, starry-eyed writer. Like, say, me. Let’s say that I were to be working on writing a novel. (This is purely hypothetical, you understand.) And let’s say that I were to be dealing with some emotional issues (like child abuse) and using some controversial techniques (like cussin’) to “fulfill my artistic vision”. (All this is hypothetical, of course.) My desire to maintain my artistic vision may be all well and good until it runs full tilt into these harsh economic realities. If I were to pursue a normal approach to being an author, upon finishing the manuscript, I would begin to shop it around to publishers. In other words, I would be marketing my product to my customers. They would evaluate the manuscript primarily on their opinion of its marketability (assuming it even gets read), especially its marketability to the next link on the distribution chain, which is either a distributor or a retailer, if the publisher is large enough to do its own distribution. So, a publisher might look over the manuscript and decide that certain content (including the cussin’) would reduce the saleability of the manuscript. Therefore, it either rejects the manuscript or returns it for further “edits”, if the manuscript might be otherwise worth the effort. At this point, protesting that my “artistic vision” is being stepped on will help me not a bit. The publisher is operating a business, and he needs to keep his customers happy. He doesn’t want to buy “artistic vision”; he wants to buy marketability. So, what’s the solution? This is where being independent is a strength. As an independent artist, the distribution chain looks something like this:
artist-->end user
So, who’s the customer now? The end user. The person who was supposed to be the audience of my work in the first place. The person who I wanted to impress when I set out to create my masterpiece. The end user wants me to be true to my “artistic vision”, because, unlike the other links in the distribution chain, that’s what he actually wants to pay for. He doesn’t need to resell my work; all he wants is to enjoy the product of my labor. In return, I will be paid by people who are evaluating my work with the same sort of criteria as I am. In other words, I’ll know who my audience is.

On Being Indie: A Definition

(The previous installment can be found here.) So, as promised, I am returning to the topic of creator ownership of intellectual property. This is an issue that has gradually become more important to me over the last several years, especially as a result of my involvement in hobby game publishing. The reasons for my concerns should become apparent as I go through this discussion. So, first, a definition. The word “independent” can have a variety of meanings, from “low budget” to “we really stink”. When I use the word “independent”, though, I have a precise meaning in mind: creator ownership of the intellectual property being developed. In other words, the copyright and creative control are maintained by the creator throughout the publication process. This does not necessarily mean the same thing as self-publication, where the creator pays for the production of the work, although being independent often requires self-publication. With this definition in mind, let’s hop into our discussion. (The next installment can be found here.)