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    • CommentTimeOct 18th 2011
    Greetings all! If, that is, anyone still checks this board. But I'll stop saying stuff like that because I say it every time I post here, so I'll just move on.

    Anywho, I went up the mountains this past weekend, and on Saturday, I played Pinochle with my dad, brother, and friend of the family. It's been a long time since I've played, and boy did I get some shitty cards dealt to me. And I even had two runs! (A run is when you get an Ace, ten, King, Queen, and Jack in the same suit in one hand. 9s also count, but aren't required. In general, because that's at least 5 cards in a trump suit, you've got a pretty powerful hand, in addition to scoring some pre-play points.) But apparently those runs weren't nearly powerful enough. In one case we only barely made the bid. On several hands, I didn't even get a single Ace. I generally didn't have any meld (aside from the runs, I had lots of 9s and a few marriages, but that's it). So yeah, we lost, 2 games to 1 (surprised we did that well, given the crap in my hand most of the time).

    Anywho, I really like Pinochle, but I don't really know anyone who plays it (aside from my family). Of course, it's a really weird game. The deck only has 48 cards, nothing lower than a 9, but two of each of the remaining cards (i.e. two aces of clubs, etc...) and somehow the 10s are more powerful than Kings and Queens and Jacks. Also, you can only really play with 4 people (two teams of two). On the other hand, my familiarity with it has allowed me to pick up other, less weird card games really quickly. I remember shocking some people with my understanding of Konasta and Spades, simply because I was familiar with the concepts of bidding, trump suits, and taking tricks. I'm pretty sure there are other games that have similar rules. I haven't looked into it, but it's probably a well known category of card games or something. But I still really enjoy Pinochle more than most other card games. Perhaps because I don't play it that often? Not sure what the deal is there.

    Anywho, did you notice that I've started the last three paragraphs with "Anywho"?

    Anywho, I've got to go cut my hair now. Got a busy week coming up. Beer club tomorrow, Fort Mifflin ghost tour (http://fortmifflin.us/index.html) on Thursday, and some sort of happy hour thing on Friday. And I'd really like to buy one the new iPhones soon too, though I don't know about availability. Fleh.

    They've also opened a "Movie Tavern" near me (er, somewhat), which, near as I can tell, is just like the Alamo Drafthouse (but probably worse). I need to check this out soon, though their site oddly doesn't list anything on weekends. Strange.

    I'm also reading Reamde, which I'm sure you'll be surprised to know I think is super amazingly awesome so far. I'm only halfway through, but I think it might just be Stephenson's tightest and most accessible novel since... Zodiac? Or maybe his Stephen Bury books? But this is better than those. At least so far.

    Ok, that's enough rambling for now. Check you later.

    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2011
    Although I've never learned to play, my mom (probably) still knows how, and my grandmother was a hug fan of pinochle. Funny enough, we were talking about it not all that long ago, and I was saying I should learn to play. It's at least somewhat similar to setback, euchre, or spades, right? Trumps and bidding and stuff like that?

    I haven't even purchased Reamde yet. =( I haven't really had the time to read much or $30 to shell out on a hardcover, though I frequently think how much I'd like to read that and the latest George R.R. Martin.

    I should check in here more often, but then, I always say that too. Hmm.

    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2011
    I don't know setback or euchre, but it is similar to spades - trumps and bidding. There's an additional step referred to as "Meld" that happens after the bidding but before play starts, where you get points for various combos in your hand. I'm sure there's a formal name for these trick taking games, but whatever.

    There's no rush to read books in hardcover, and this one is indeed massive (1044 pages). I almost wish I had invested in an ereader or something, as that might have made it a little less cumbersome (and it's probably cheaper too). I don't really love reading hardback books, but I can't really wait for Stephenson. It was bad enough that I went on my Austin trip right when it came out (and I didn't bring it with me for fear of bringing down my plane due to the excessive weight caused by the book).

    Anyway, I literally just finished reading it after a nice 200 page all night reading marathon (with a break in the middle to exercise and eat something). It's really an awesome book. I don't know that I would term it science fiction, but you can definitely tell that a SF author wrote it. Or maybe an engineer. Someone with attention to detail and a keen interest in the idiosyncrasies of various fields of study. But for all intents and purposes, it's a thriller. More detailed thoughts will no doubt be posted on the blog in the next couple weeks.

    I skipped out on writing a beer blog entry tonight so that I could finish the book. This weekend is shaping up to be a pretty busy one too. Happy hour tomorrow, hopefully a nice brew day on Saturday (I'm hoping to make some sort of Christmas ale, if I have time to head over to the homebrew shop and work out a recipe with the guy there), followed by a haunted hayride/barbecue (weather permitting) on Saturday. Sunday will be a rest, then Halloween on Monday. A local bar sent me an email saying that Dogfishhead 120 minute will be on tap there, and I've never had that before, so I might check it out as my Halloween gift.

    Anyway, I should go to bed now or something.
    • CommentTimeNov 6th 2011 edited

    I've never played pinochle. In fact, I don't think I actually knew it was a card game before. Sounds interesting though.

    I need to decide on a new book. I recently finished the three books in Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I really enjoyed the first two. The third kinda fell flat. There's a lot going on in the first two that kept me reading, whereas the third felt like there should have been a lot going on but there really wasn't that much. Too many frequent scene changes and new characters and not enough actual movement. But anyway, the first two are very good if you're into mystery type stuff. Actually, I shouldn't say that, because I'm traditionally not a big mystery reader but I quite enjoyed these. I guess maybe because I went into them just hearing they were interesting and not a lot about the plots that I didn't even quite realise I was reading a mystery at first.

    Anyway, I thought the first was the best. It's self-contained. I feel like I'm a little apt to like the introductory portion of any kind of series though because I do really enjoy well-done character development. Not in the absence of plot, mind you, but I have a hefty appreciation for being able to keep a story moving while simultaneously making the characters in it feel more and more real. The title character could very easily have been developed as a nerd fantasy kind of superwoman, but there's enough concentration on her weaknesses that she feels real as well.

    Hmm, what else? I went wine tasting for the first time a couple weeks ago. My girlfriend and I drove up to Paso Robles (mid-California, about four hours away) and went to a few wineries. It was fun. I've had an amateur appreciation for wine for a while. Nothing snobby, just enough to know I prefer drier-tasting chardonnay to buttery-tasting chardonnay, or cabernet to merlot. So it was fun to go to these places and have the pourers explain the differences in the wine samples. A while back I had a cabernet/merlot blend that was pretty bland, so I never really thought much of blends, but we tried this one blend of three different red grapes that was really good. One of the wineries did a cheese pairing with the tasting. It was interesting to see how which cheese complimented which wine.

    Then I put my monocle on and went to a castle.

    Well, we did go to Hearst Castle while we were up there. William Randolph Hearst built it back when he was alive and rich and stuff. It's ridiculous. There's tapestries and marble sculptures and wooden sculptures in the ceilings and gigantic pools with gold-embedded tiles and zebras roaming the countryside. It's kinda like if a kid thought what kind of house he would have if he was rich but then this guy actually did it. It's a state park now, so people can take tours and such.

    Anyway, I shall be going now, but I shall make a point of stopping in more often.
    • CommentTimeNov 6th 2011
    I've never read the Stieg Larsson books, but I saw all the movies, and I had generally the same reaction. First movie was great, second was less so, and the third was kinda a retread of the second (and thus was the worst of the three). I loved the interactions between the two main characters in the first movie, and part of the reason I didn't enjoy the others was that they were basically separated for 99% of the movies. I also hated that it became all about Lisibet's past and whatnot. She was a really interesting character when that stuff was vague and gave depth to the other (independent) mystery she was helping investigate. In the second and third movie, it became all about her, and less about the mystery. And, like, it was her father! And stuff! I hate it when that sort of thing happens in a series. Fleh.

    Mmmm, wine. I know less than you, but it's something I wouldn't mind delving into at some point. But who am I kidding? I'm obsessed with beer.

    Monocles are the coolest. I did seriously stop reading and consider whether or not you actually had a monocle. You seem like the type that would buy one just for the sheer comedic value of being able to use/reference it.

    • CommentTimeNov 13th 2011
    Sitting in a dark corner of a gate at Denver International Airport. The wifi's pretty slow here but it's free. Visited some friends for the weekend. Was fun. Also checked out the Denver Art Museum, which has some good western America pieces. I bought a miniature of the giant blue bear statue that looks into the Denver convention centre then did some strategic placement, which I'll illustrate when I have a stronger Internet connection.

    RE: Larsson - I thought it was interesting that the two main characters didn't meet up until more than halfway through the first book. In the second book it's kinda annoying but the story remains compelling enough that it gets by even though they don't physically encounter each other until the very end. In the third story, it's just annoying. I think a huge part of it is that in the second book, you might think, OK, the two main characters are hardly in the same room, that's different. By the third, it's been done throughout the second, and even though the story is all about Lisbeth's past, what actually happens in the story really only happens to Mikael and those around him. Lisbeth is hanging out in the hospital most of the time. She's not even really doing anything in there until she gets her PDA and Internet access and then the most exciting moments are transcripts of her IRC chats with the other hackers helping her. Which is not to say nothing in Mikael's part of the story is interesting but it's a bit procedural at that point.

    And yeah, it's her father, and that's lame.

    I'm sure if I ever stumbled into a monocle shoppe, I'd leave with a monocle, but I have yet to procure one at this juncture.