It's been a while, so I've listened to quite a bit and read a few books.
Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. A good book with a good thesis to organize things around. Early in the book it seemed like he was trying too hard to hook everything into power, but it all fit by the end. A good overview. I learned a lot about Jefferson's early life.
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. A nice fantasy novel, with magic that's costly. The setting achieves its goal; it doesn't feel 'exotic', instead, everything just makes sense with a middle eastern flair.
Currently Reading: Are you my Mother? by Alison Bechdel.
Dice Tower 301 and 302--Fine as always; though the top 10 list of 302 was blah... in part due to the wide divergence in what counts as a "political game".
Play on Target
Episode 8, Table Management Strategies-- Wandering, but a good group of guys (yeah, all guys). Their solutions stay in the center and seem pitched towards traditional GM/player splits. Their positions are completely reasonable, if not broad.
Special 1-- Great interview; Rite Publishing re: Lords of Gossamer & Shadow. It also had a good segment where Steve Russell admitted that kickstarter really does cut retailers out of the loop, threatening them.
Roleplay DNA Episode 21-- Lots of filler to start the show. The topic was "Balancing Act", balancing gaming and life. Unfortunately, over-gaming's not an issue at the moment. The solutions discussed seemed tangential to the problem as my friends and I experience them.
This American Life
493: "Picture Show". On "Mapping" as an intimidation strategy in the occupied West Bank and Painter Schandra Singh on fame and the world of wealthy artists. Interesting views; mapping's intimidating force seems real and chilling.
104: "Music Lessons." Okay, but forgettable.
Thomas Jefferson Hour
1020: Archaic and Evil. A discussion about Jefferson's "tear up the constitution every 19 years" comment. Interestingly, that was tied to the length of 50% of the population changing over--it's much slower now. I wonder if he'd stick to ~20 years, or still go with "half the population is new"?
1021: Military industrial complex. A threat foreshadowed by Jefferson's fear of standing armies as a threat to free republics. The show wandered widely, but interestingly.
I'm currently reading Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I'm currently up to his time in Paris, which is coming to a close. He'll soon be returning to America.
The Dice Tower, episodes 297-300.
297: A solid episode, Fantastiqa sounds like a game I should play.
298: A great science fiction games list, with a guest who didn't detract much from the standard "Tom and Eric talk about stuff" formula.
299: The talk was about GTS, the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas. It was detailed enough for nostalgia, but even with their lighter schedules, they were also exhausted by the show's end. Unfortunately, their interviews were focused on designers, publishers, and distributors, so I didn't hear much about our peers. And it sounds like the big presentation this year, on Kickstarter, was hopelessly one-sided instead of a decent debate. As they commented at the end, it's unlikely that retailers' fears were quelled.
300: The culmination of several weeks of lead up, the Coup was fun for the first few spots, and amusing for a few more. I had just about given up on the whole episode and was going to skip the whole week when they finally broke character and ended the bit. [I very much understand how once the contributors started pouring in spots, it became difficult not to feature their hard work. I'm glad they had the restraint not to give the whole episode over to their "April Fools Coup".
I liked the rundown of Worker Placement games; it's a category that's more distinct than I had originally thought. I haven't waded deeply into these waters, though Lords of Waterdeep did get held up as a great intro to the genre. Agricola is fun in the light two player variant that Jennifer and I have been tackling, and Keyflower also features a lot of worker placement elements.
Recent Video Games: I've been enjoying Starcraft [Wings of Liberty]; it's taken up a couple of evenings a week for the last few weeks. I like the update; it feels like a faithful continuation. The single player campaign is a good storyline, and I like the illusion of choice that the branching structure provides. I just completed my first mission on Char... whew!
Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A great experience; I picked it up Friday night and read through it from an early bedtime straight through to completion. It's been a very long time since I got a chance to just read that way...
The book is fun and light. It's quite heavy on 80s nostalgia, which is a bit over the top (to me), but it's there with reason. Benign dictators for the win.
The Dice Tower: 295 & 296 (Live at Total Con)-- Fun episodes that felt gimmicky due to the live audience. It was fun and mostly formula; nothing particularly stood out.
Roleplay DNA Ep 20: A lot on gamer ettiquette; an expansion of their earlier Social Contract episode. It paralleled my Gaming Charters and Social Contracts in Detail article in noticing that there's a lot that goes on that may be technically social contract... but is treated differently at the table.
The rest of the episode was a good look at "dream games"--stretching and trying something new and exotic, getting out of ruts.
Ask Me Another (w/ Jad Abumrad, host of WNYC's Radiolab)-- Fun, good puzzles, no thought required after the episode's end.
This American Life Ep 490: The Disability Show. Though provoking, this was an excellent beginning of a discussion. Hopefully the discussion will continue; Kevin Drum's post today was an excellent continuation of the discussion. [He illustrated that the disability trend matches 15 year old projections, which makes it unlikely that 'gaming the system' or recalculation of qualifications is that big an explanation.
The Thomas Jefferson Hour:
Show 1017 Lesser Known (3-24-13): This week host Steven Jager speaks with President Thomas Jefferson about some of the lesser known individuals of the American Revolution.
I was already interested in Abigail Adams, and this did a great job of reminding me to follow up with more about her and Thomas Paine. It also introduced me to a female author [Wolcott?] who wrote a history of the revolution during Jeffersons' presidencies. Google isn't helping me find her; it would be interesting to see what the American Revolution looked like less than a generation later.
Show 1016 Up the Missouri (3-17-13): This week host David Borlaug speaks with President Jefferson about Lewis and Clark.
Less big picture; this episode was two people enjoying a discussion about topics that interest them.
Show 1015 Interview (3-10-13): This week host Steven Jager interviews Clay Jenkinson and asks about his about his career as a writer.
This was a very interesting article, about writing versus being a writer, and introduced me to a man the both appreciate as a writer: though, again, google fails me.
Currently Reading: The Roman Forum by David Watkin. He's opinionated, but that makes less inherently interesting topics (architecture and archaeology) engaging, encouraging you to form your own opinion even if only in opposition to his hobby-horse.
Dice Tower 294: A decent episode. I was amazed at how many of the games I like were from 1998--including Jennifer's old favorite, Cities and Knights. (I think Suburbia may have passed it recently...)
Ken and Robin talk about stuff 25-28: All solid, all interesting... but not a lot stuck. I do remember realizing how erudite they seem... their vocabularies are extensive in a way I haven't experienced publicly in a long while.
Roleplay DNA #19: Only two podcasters this episode, which worked well as a natural format. The topic was a straightforward one, Bank Heists--specifically, how little you can prep, how to prep flexibly, etc. A good topic mix.
Ask Me Another, Special Pundits Unit: Fun, as always.
This American Life 487 & 488. A big two part episode about Harper High School. The interviewers probably had several more episodes of material on the cutting room floor--there was a lot of interesting discussion, and some clearly sculpted storylines that could have gone very different directions with different viewpoint characters. The idea was simple--go to Harper High for a semester, which had 29 current and recent students shot last year, and see what life is like. The details, particularly the "auto-signup" nature of local gangs, and the chilling history of Terrance Green. It's an amazing world--horrific on the edges, but understandable and empathy inducing. It's crazy that the surrounding neighborhood situation exists, is understood, acknowledged... and insolvable.
TAL 489- Coincidences. A very light episode, particularly in contrast to the last two.
Wait Wait 03/02-- A guilty pleasure, and much like Daily Show, about as close as I get to politics most weeks.
This last week I've read Fate Core (the PDF), in preparation for my The Tower of the Serpents game at this weekend's upcoming Bookwyrm Con. It's still a solid system, mostly familiar; the new iteration strips out some of the less commonly used terminology (like tagging for effect) and generally reflects another few years of experience with the system. I look forward to my game--though Sunday, 8 am, is pretty cruel.
I also read a book I was gifted for Christmas this week, Brenda Cooper's The Creative Fire. I really like the setting, which is a well worn generation ship, several generations in. My lack of deep-seated emotional understanding of music led Ruby, the book's heroine, to not quite resonate correctly to me. I got that she was popular.... but it's hard for me to imagine folk singing having such power. Anyway, I enjoyed her characterization, along with Onor, the other predominant POV. The system that developed on the ship makes sense, and the diagnosis (that comes late in the book) seems reasonable too. It's clearly the beginning of a series--that, despite enjoying the characters, I hope is short.
This week's listens were fewer; I listened to a pair of TJ hours and enjoyed RoleplayDNA Episode 18. The episode was middling and wandered quite a bit, but was still interesting to listen to. The central question was about handling vampires and creatures of the night as central players--either PC or NPC.
The Jefferson Hour shows were both interesting. Episode 1012 - War in Virginia, was a very interesting discussion about the challenges of being a wartime governor in Virginia during the revolutionary war, when the war finally came south. It was interesting to hear Jefferson defend his skills as an administrator, while disavowing himself as a leader of men. The strangely crippled executive branch of this era was something I'd never heard about before. All in all, a fascinating hour.
Show 1013 - Boundaries of Authority was familiar, since it covered topics that the other guest hosts were also interested by, especially the Louisiana Purchase and how it comported with Jefferson's limited government stance. What made it work was the strong line of questioning from the guest host; since we talked about the purchase only two episodes ago (in 1011), the difference in questions and, particularly, Jefferson's contrast of his actions to Hamilton's made the episode distinct. But I can see the purchase coming up very frequently if each guest host indulges their curiosity about Jefferson's justification every two episodes.
It's been a while since I last updated, so here's what I've listened to over the last 3 weeks--about 18 hours of travel.
The Dice Tower: 291, 292, and 293
Ask Me Another: Fifty Shades Of Dr. Ruth and Once A Jersey Girl..., 1/18 and 1/25
This American Life: 188 [kid logic], 486
Wait Wait: 2/2/13, 2/9/13
TJ Hour: 1009 Quotable, about misattributions to TJ
1010 Church and State, about Virginia Statute of religious freedom, state of State churches in 1700s, etc.
1011 Of Historical Significance, about TJ reconciling himself to slavery and bending the rules for the Louisiana Purchase
I've also read a few books, in between bouts of being sick:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making [by Catherynne M. Valente] was very interesting, told in an unusual style harkening back to omniscient narrators. I really enjoyed the struggles of our heroine, the curious logic of the faeries, and the nicely stitched together view of the world. The final reveals about the villainess are dramatic and worth the quest.
Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson. It turned out to be a good novel, set in an interesting time; I haven't read a lot of revolutionary era historical fiction. The magic system is interesting, but I do wonder about the lack of limitations... as the final battle revealed. Still, it was good, and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Thieves' Quarry, due in July.
Directive 51 by John Barnes. I'm about halfway through. It's very interesting so far; sympathetic to all sides. I do wonder about a department of the future and why it had to be introduced... though it sounds gimmicky enough that I can buy it. I like the idea of the mutually incompatible passions getting tied together into Daybreak.
The Dice Tower Episode 290: A solid episode.
TJ Hour: Episode 1007 - The Art of Power, part 2. I'm very much looking forward to reading the matching book; it sounds like a good generalist book with an interesting skew.
TJ Hour: Episode 1008 - Commonwealth: Mostly listener mail, with the first in a series of guest hosts. The first three minutes were rough adjusting to the new voice, but it went along fine.
Wait Wait: 1/12 and 1/19. They were fine, but didn't really stand out for good or bad. It's good to be past the repeats.
Nathan Lowell's Talking on My Morning Walk 1-20: Vaguely interesting, but I don't know him, so his offhanded references to his books are mostly lost on me. I won't be downloading more.
This American Life #173: Three Kinds of Deception. Interesting stories, but not revelatory. It felt like a filler episode.