Brainspiritus

Funkenflug aus flammenden Synapsen.

Labyrinth – The War On Terror

So, I managed to finish my first game of L-TWOT today. (To be clear, I did not play the solo/robot rules, I played both sides. Since I don't know all the cards yet and have a poor memory, I felt that was kind of fair.)
So, to take the tension off: the game came down to the last roll of the die, and the Jihadists won by default. (I ran out the deck, at which point the US need to control twice as many resources than the jihadists to win, and both had 0, since I had not aimed for that victory condition. The last two rolls were trying to improve Indonesia's stance from neutral/fair to ally/good, and only one of them succeeded.)
As the jihadist player, I think I had a somewhat good chance to win: for the last third or so of the game, I sat at 15 poor-governance countries, so all I needed was to run down the US to 0 prestige, and they were sitting at 2 prestige for a turn or two, but I blew two roll-prestige events, one of which netted the US +4 prestige and the other one +1. I never got the WMDs, I never got any cells into Schengen (I did the "make two recruitment rolls for US" event, but failed both of them). I hardly ever made any jihad attempts (maybe two or three), so mostly I was playing events and setting plots, combined with a bit of travel to test as many islam countries as possible. For all but the last turn, my funding was in the top bracket, and I had a turn or two of unopposed plots.
As the US player, I failed to get any dominance on the game at all. I played the first scenario, where you are already deployed to Afghanistan, and I failed to get the country into good order again (until the jihadist player played something which removed the Besieged Regime status). I hardly moved any other troops anywhere, because i would have put me into overstretch, until I gave up towards the end and went after the jihadist who moved from A. to Pakistan in search of WMDs. Mid-game elections turned me into a soft stance, which was nice, because I figured at some point that I could war-of-idea in Europe to gain prestige with my low-ops cards. Seriously, I never felt like I could make a change in the middle east, because countries test as poor 2/3rds of the time, so they need 3ops to have war-of-ideas, and even then, that fails fairly often, so it might not be a good idea, but it's the only way to remove the poor governance status the jihadist was going for.
All in all, of course I did a fair bit of back-and-forth and the usual rules misremembering ("oh, can't deploy to neutrals", improving governance instead of alignment by mistake, disrupting without having +5 surplus troops, forgot US player can discard the final card instead of taking it to the next round), but that got better over time. And of course, this being my first or second game (I aborted the first one simply because I needed the table space back), the analysis paralysis is brutal. It's very very tempting to try and play everything for the event.
ETA: It occurs to me I didn't factor in the WoI penalty for soft world stance and hard US stance in those final rolls.
ETA2: BGG discussions suggest that Afghanistan is indeed a bit of a poisoned chalice (OTOH, if you don't get in there right quick, it's a source of jihadist cells that takes massive amount of troops to keep in check.)


Are we feeling gamy yet?

I seem to have struck a nerve with some people… we did a controlled switch-over to a new administrative file server this week, and thanks to having new blood with job experience here, there was a pre-announcement that went to the detail of "9:45 we switch over, 9:50 we will try to add a new user that will trigger all the automatisms, 9:55 please everybody check your automatisms have been triggered", the way it's supposed to be done.
So I took the opportunity to "award" the two colleagues in question the first "Throw away and Redo From Scratch" RZ commemorative coins (OK, cheap poker chips with stickers on them, hey, I'm doing this out of my pocket as a joke.). Only it was Torsten's day off, so I gave Tom his and said I'd be back. And the next day, Tom came in and said "Torsten's here! Torsten's here!", he really seems to enjoy the concept. Gamification at its best.


I see what you mean...

from a dating profile: "I´m a bee keeper I´m allergic to bee venom I think life should sometimes be a challenge"
Yeah, no shit.


Thinking outside the box

I like a good deal as much as the next person. But I didn't twig when one of those too-many food box companies had a 5€ trial box, and I didn't twig when they had an entirely free trial box this week. (Don't mistake me -- this isn't a produce box you get from your local farmer every week with whatever is in season right now, something I totally approve of, this is a "you get a recipe and the groceries for it (short of pepper and salt)".
Maybe this has appeal for some people? I have no idea why, though. Is this "I'm supposed to be adult and able to cook and I'm not and I'm trying to fake my way through"? Is this for people who are scared of cooking? (People, it might be easy to cook something that's not brilliant, but if you stay away from a few things, like raw egg, it's fairly difficult to poison somebody by accident. Are you that easily scared? Why am I the timid person here when you are scared by food?) To me, these boxes take everything that's exciting about cooking away and reduce it to what I used to call the assembly stage. Many years back, when I would meet with P and E for dinner once or twice a week, making dinner meant carrying it a mile across town and re-heating/baking it at their place, so it had a very clearly separated split of prep and assembly. And even after a year and a half, I couldn't make rice pudding that would be right after setting for an hour.
But I digress. What's left with these boxes when you don't get to feel inside yourself for what you're hungry for, you don't get to have that sudden whiff of rotting apple that triggers memories and ideas, you don't get to think about how to replace raspberry vinegar because you don't have it, all you're doing is following a recipe. Don't get me wrong, I like recipes, but to me, I'm getting two things out of recipes: techniques and flavour combinations. I spend my whole working life writing specs and working to specs, and when I get home (and am in a relationship) there's even more managing other people's expectations, and then I'm supposed to listen to a four-color glossy sheet from a box that may have contained fresh vegetables three days ago when somebody handed it to DHL? No thank you. I'll make Himmel un Ääd, and the onions may not be quite right and mash could need a pinch of salt, a knob of butter and a hint of nutmeg, and yes, blutwurst is a very acquired taste, but the thing doesn't fall apart because something's off by a percent or five.
Sorry, rant over.


In which I am not an artist (help!)

… but really, with the influx of new, young and ambitious colleagues, we have a lot of corners we're trying to clean up, and I've joked about stickers labeled "Wegschmeißen, Neu machen!" (Scrap it, Re-do from scratch!) to be put on many of our servers and non-existing documentation of our procedures.
So, well, once you've coined a phrase (pun intended), you might as well go along with it. I've done some research and can tell you, if you ever want to get custom poker chips, double-sided print or not, you really can't get fewer than 300, and they'll be around 200+ EUR at that point. On the other hand, white empty poker chips can be ordered at around 5-7€/50 from the worlds tat factories in the PRC. I also looked at those shopping trolley chips which are conveniently simultaneously the size of a Deutschmark, a Euro coin, and a US quarter, and those are cheaper, even when made in Germany, but have an inconveniently small size for putting on a sticker. Oh, and 40mm circular is a size you can get printable stickers for, because poker chips have a fairly standard size.
So, after this much ado, here's my current thinking for the motif:
Wegschmeißen (Scrap) side: trash icon.

Neu machen (Rebuild from scratch) side: old reverse of German 50 Pfennig coin. (Needs work to be turned into line art.)


I feel there's too much of a clash of styles there, but I have my heart set on the Trümmerfrau imagery. So, in what must be the weirdest question on LJ today: anybody have a mental image of the "trash, throw away, abandon" theme that would be more in style with the other side?


Nostalgia

I found out today, by accident (ok, it was the lure of the red "this week's offer" sticker) that Mövenpick still do their maple walnut ice cream. Sigh.
Why should you care about maple walnut ice cream, you ask? Maybe you needn't, but thirty years ago, when my parents planted the seeds that would have me coming to seaside resorts (albeit in the UK), we'd spend summer vacations on Norderney, one of the (fx: rolls dice) eight? islands in the North Sea. And while I do remember the classical concerts that may have come free with the mandatory tourist tax (not with any amount of affection, though, because, well, I was six, sitting in silence for hours on end isn't fun when you're six), and remember fragments like Smitty's news agent, the weekly test run of the air raid sirens (this is the mid-eighties, we're still prepared to be a bump in the road so the US can defend the Rhine and then we get turned into a big glazed parking lot that glows in the dark), trash bag zeppelins, shards of memories like the bag of broken waffle cones one of the stores would sell (so I guess you can call me waffle-brained), one of the things that somehow sticks with me was the occasional treat of splitting a tiny (80ml?) single serving plastic container, tiny spoon glued under the label, of Mövenpick maple walnut ice cream between the four of us (though I have a feeling my dad might have often given up his share for us), deliciously sweet ice cream with the occasional quarter-walnut glazed in maple syrup, the quarters drawn into the rectangular box like tiny lines of demarkation, and lucky person who'd guess best where most of the walnuts were, huddled up in a strandkorb (they don't only exist for G8 summit photo ops), sometimes watching a seagull walking on top of it (strategically placed bread would help with that), sometimes sitting in there sheltering from the rain, kept quiet with crosswords and connect-the-dots games, and this has gone far far away from ever being a grammatically sound sentence, hasn't it.
Ah yes, things that were. So when you see Mövenpick's maple walnut ice cream in your local grocery, treat yourself, share it with your loved ones, but be careful, some parts have more nuts than others. ;)


And this weekend's moment of pity...

... goes to the young lady in her 20s who was crouching in front of the lube section, having a bit of decision paralysis. (I hear that consensual ethical enjoyable sexual acts involving more than one person exist, but I think that's just a rumour.)


It's all about mi, mi, mi!

So, one of the things that has kept me amused since I got back Thursday evening is that I had ordered a Xiaomi Mi band, one of those cheap fitness tracker things, and it had arrived by the time I got back. Luckily for me, the parcel was small enough for the postman to stuff it into my mailbox and they skimped on transport insurance … I've had cases where I needed to go to the main post office downtown to sign for, well, my color-changing toilet bowl light, for example.
Aaaaanyway. The installation process, in bullet points. The thing arrived uncharged, so it needed putting into its tiny USB cradle for a couple hours, fair enough. It even uses the three LEDs it has to give an approximation of charged it is.
I make sure the band fits around my wrist. I ascertain the band does not fit around my ankle by about an inch and a half. (I had heard about people's trouble with step counting by arm movement, and I didn't really buy it for the heart rate measurement, so I figured I might as well look like somebody out on parole, but maybe not, if the strap is too short. There's a third option (note: third option not available to all sexes), which will probably make the daily goal celebration vibration very interesting.)
Anyway, wrist it is. I have no idea how it wants to measure my heart rate on the top side of my wrist when the veins are more on the bottom, so let's put it on the bottom.
There's no clients for desktop systems, just Android, iOS, and unofficial clients for WinPho. OK, I have this Android-based media player thing hooked up to my TV, which is how I wanted to use it anyway. (No, this does not mean I'll only be jogging around my TV, tempting as that is, given that Homeland box set, the wristband can do some stuff on its own without having its hand held by its mother(ship)/phone, and you can sync it later. Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the whole thing would be pointless otherwise because sufficiently smart phones have accelerometers, which measure how close you are to the next green stalk of the parsley family can be used to count steps.)
So, official app in the play store says "I'm not compatible with this device", no further explanantion. My tablet is too old to have the requisite low-calorie wireless required to talk to the wristband. (I found out my neighbour seems to have a bluetooth-enabled TV, though. Which seems to mean I can pop up a "your PIN to enter is XXXX" window on his TV at will? Oris that my TV only that's not unlocked?) My windows laptop sees it, though.
Go look at alternative software, and try to find one that doesn't scream "7eet haxx0r.ru, please enter your credit card n0mber h3r3!". Not available through app store. Download, copy to thumbdrive, put thumbdrive into media thingy, install, start. Searching for wristband… failed. Take a walk, just in case. Come back, try to manually pair wristband with media thingy first. (IT is full of pairing and mounting and male and female plugs. Make of that what you will.) Seems to have found... something. Start app again. Wave arm around, see if steps are recorded. Nope. Find a debug menu. (Did I mention that the media thingy, of course, is not touch, but only has cursor keys on a remote, with optional mouse emulation mode? More on that below.) OK, Debug mode can make the band vibrate. Debug mode has a live step mode, and if I now wave my arm, after a couple seconds, a curve goes up. Debug mode has a "measure heart rate now", and if I do that, I see the green light come on on the wristband, and after a few seconds it tells me I'm dead. Fair enough, it's not what I bought it for, maybe it collides with the toasty tan. A smarter device would probably automatically call an ambulance, aren't I lucky I'm cheap?
Somewhere in here, I un-paired the thing again, because I tought maybe it would help with accessing counts and all that, and then couldn't get it to re-pair. I looked around the web in panic and was almost resigned to putting it in the fridge for a week to try and kill the charge on it (this thing is supposed to last a month between rechargings in usual conditions), but the next morning, it worked better again.
Abort experiments (at this point, it's sometime Saturday evening-ish), but wear wristband during jogging on Sunday morning, just in case. Funnily enough, it seems to be counting steps OK, because at some point after about probably 8k or so, I get a buzz signal, which I take to mean it thinks I've done 10k steps today. (Beat that, AA!)
Return home, sync with software, no steps. Think more about installing official app (that appstore says is incompatible, but what can possibly go wrong?)
I think it is at this point I also try to run Android on VirtualBox, which technically works, but for me only got as far as "please choose your WiFi network" and seemed to do nothing after I said "no thanks" (the virtual machine should already see the host network, but I can forgive a mobile device operating system for not being good about "I already have a wired network connection")
Google around, find a downloadable copy on apkmirror. Download to thumbdrive, thumbdrive into media thingy, install, hooray. "Please create an account." OK, whatevs. I read that not all mail domains work for this, chinese firewall and all that, so I don't even try my usual spamfodder address (or maybe I do?), and then I try gmail, which people said should work, and it doesn't. Funnily enough, what did work was a spamgourmet address :D :D :D.
So now I have an account, and I can sign in in the app (which is a bitch if your username is now blabla.6.blablablabla@spamgourmet.com and you need to type it twice with an on-screen keyboard you navigate with cursor keys). And now I'm in the app, and I can pair the wristband again, I swear my wrist has never seen that much pairing action in a day, and I can try stuff out in the official app. Only not really, because they have a bunch of custom UI widgets, like "we now make the thing vibrate as part of setup. Tap the icon if it does vibrate", only that didn't work with the mouse emulation for the first three tries or so. And then it wants useful data like height and age, and the pickers don't work. (As it turned out later, the pickers only work through dragging, you can't tap anywhere to change the setting, and I physically can't keep the tap button pressed on the remote and use the cursor keys around it at the same time.)
I cave in and hook up a mouse and keyboard to the media player thingy, which makes everything much less of a drag (ba-dum-tish! Thank you, I'll be here all week unless the chemicals in the wristband kill me).
I set a demo alarm on the band, and it goes off. I think I'm ever out of bluetooth range at that point, so I'm fairly confident there's enough of a clock mechanism in the band to do that autonomously. For fun, I've turned on all the bells and whistles (like, improved measurements during my sleep? Warn me if my heart rate goes over 170? Warn me if my jogging pace goes below whatever was the default, though I guess that won't work without GPS? Whatevs, all I want is a rough estimate of how much jogging I do, to hopefully make me do more. I hear this is called gamification, which is somewhat appropriate given the smell of my jogging gear.)
And so, ladies and gentlemen, that's my getting a Mi Band 1S into a vaguely working state.