Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Slightly-Late Camp Nerdly Zero Writeup

Had a blast at Camp Nerdly. Here's the quick gaming journal:

Friday: Got Joe McDonald from the airport, then went food shopping and headed down to camp in Prince William Forest NP in Triangle, VA, right next to the FBI Academy and Marine Corps Base. Jason Morningstar and Remi Treuer were just arriving too, so first we played Memoir '44, a WWII board game while we waited for others to arrive (Jason and I beat those Nazis at Pegasus Bridge). It was still just us four, so we made Joe demo his game, Perfect, for us. It's sort of Uber-Victorian meets a Clockwork Orange - you play criminals who for whatever reason are rebelling against the constraints of this society and who have a pretty good chance of getting caught at it by the vicious Inspectors on every corner. I played Gerard Bongo-Shaftsbury, a bulky former opera singer whose goal was to preserve (especially musical) works of art from being destroyed under the new regime. That was fun, and I bought a copy, but I don't think I know anyone here who'll play that with me.

People arrived and I got in on a game of Agon, where I was Praxis, son of Ajax the Smaller, who, with my companions Stentor and Kallias, took on the island of Ithaca, including a nasty encounter with a now-mad Odysseus. Remi did a gread job running the game, and despite the fact that it was quite cold in the cabin we were in (someone, maybe Jason, called it "the Valley Forge of gaming"). By the time that was over I was more than ready for the warmth of my sleeping bag.

Saturday: rose to chile and oatmeal from crockpots, and while I wouldn't normally eat either for breakfast (or at all, in the case of oatmeal), they were warm, and that was all that mattered. Later that morning I played a game in development, Misery Bubblegum, run by its creator, Tony. It's meant to be a quick-play high-school story game, so we decided to set ours during the 1950s Red Scare at Joseph McCarthy School for American Correctness. I was Jack Chaucer: spoiled rich kid and charming bastard (based more than a little on Logan from Veronica Mars). Tony was Mr. Weston the Civics teacher, and Joe was Mickey, the new kid. My traits: "I don't deserve happiness" and "Why am I so irresponsible." Joe and I were in competition over Betty, the bookish girl Jack has secretly liked and Mickey lives next door to. It played fast and memorable - very much looking forward to some more Misery Bubblegum either when it comes out, or while its still in playtest (Tony lives in Alexandria).

Saturday Afternoon: Jason ran an amazing Aztec version of The Shadow of Yesterday where I was Lord Bird, the Sacred Drunk. Me and the other 5 players were commanded by an Aztec goddess to kill the three gods who had ever been with her. Lord Bird is a total coward, so while the others did most of the fighting I did my part by hiding under the table throwing slippery overripe tropical fruit for the baddies to slip on.

Saturday Evening: I prepped the game I was going to run Sunday (see below), while some of the others played a zombie invasion game nearby. Turned in early.

Sunday Morn: Ran a version of Dogs in the Vineyard for Jason, Frank, and Kevin. Dogs is inspired by Deseret-era Utah, and characters go from town to town rooting out sin among the faithful. In the game, its a sort-of fantasy/supernatural setting, but for this game I drifted it fully back into historical Utah, 1857. Set during the events of the Utah War, the players were now members of the Nauvoo Legion sent North to Fort Bridger, WY, in advance of the arrival of the Federal troops. I gave them all historical figures from the era and explained a little about Mormon theology at the time, and they all surprised me with how quickly and effectively they took to emulating Latter-Day Saints of that particular time and place. Eventually there's supposed to be an Actual Play thread (Kevin, I'm looking at you!), which I'll link to here. But I had a great time running it even if I did screw up the final conflict. I might refine it a little and have it ready for me or others to run at gaming conventions in the future, if I think there's interest.

Sunday Afternoon people were headed out, so we cleaned up the campsite and I had a couple of really good talks with Jason, Andy, Mark, and others about what we might do the same and differently the next time around. First off, we instituted a policy that nobody can be the same organizer twice in a row, so Jason's taking the next one (tentatively in May '07) and is already hard at work putting it together.

If I haven't already bored you to tears, you can read more feedback here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

29

Aaannd, Happy Birthday to Me

For all you new-englanders

Ended up reading a clambake recipe (if you can call it that) today from Slaid Cleaves, a musician I know a song or two by. It made me want to live in Maine, if only for a summer or two.

Slaid Cleaves | clam bake

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Play it Out: Design Chat 1

So, I recently got it into my thick skull that I should try to take some of the ideas floating around in my mind and write a game. People were very supportive of the idea, because I hang out with people who are supportive like that. So after much hand-wringing, I think the first (HA! listen to me! like I'm gonna write all these and more!) game I try my hand at will be Play it Out. So, I volunteered my friend Jeff to help me. Since he is a professional actor who does a LOT of improv experience, I'm clearly the weak link in this conversation. But, here it is. Raw. Unspellchecked. I'm excited about the idea. this is mostly here for my reference, but maybe you're having a slow day and want to drop a comment or suggestion.

me:So, your first task in helping me (attempt to) design the improv-play game is to list fortune mechanisms that can happen in scene for the players to know how the scene is supposed to go.
-coin toss
-dice roll
-playing card shown
- one player hides an object, another tries to guess the hand
- the audience provides an object that indicates the direction
- darts
- guessing the fingers on a hand ( or not)

Jeff: Huh. Thus making it more a game and less an improvised scene?
Or, less a free-form improvisation?

me: yes, the latter
you map the scenes ahead of time : scene 1: what's at stake is... who wins in the initial conflict, the capulets or the montagues...

Jeff: Hrm. My first thought is that it's best to make the mechanic suit the world of the game, such as the playing cards in Deadlands. My second thought is that something ...right, right, I remember the tree...

me: scene 5: does she climb out the window to meet him?
so the determination happens on stage, near the beginning (or as late as the climax) of a scene

Jeff: Clarify this: Do theye discuss the possible scene-results (1 or 2) at each juncture, or is it all coursed out befopre play? If the latter...could perhaps the final scene be undecided, no options, just what plays in the moment?

me: my instinct is to have it go
|
// \ /\ \/ /
\/\/
\/

Jeff: And back to the machanic, it also would appeal to ahve either something inherently on-hand and human (like the fingers guessing) or something VERY interruptive and theatrical, like stopping everything to ask an audience member whetehr they prefered rock or rap.

me: but thats probably way lesss satisfying than what you're saying

Jeff: Hrm. Lemme think. That's more abunch of bananas than a per se tree...

me: true. or a pear, really
Jeff: In that scheme, it goes from one choice to many, but back to one or two? Is that because the possibilities narrow back down, or because the story is ultimately about this one thing? It seems a bit inevitable, which I would think would be a bit dull compared to 37 possible resolutions. Or infinite as an imagination.
But I may not be grasping the right part of the elephant here.

me: youre right. at least 2 possible endings.
because, particularly if it isn't necessarily comedy and you're approaching a characters issue or a "which is more important, duty or honor" type sitch, you want to resolve binarily on that in the end, no?

Jeff: You know what this reminds me of? Somewhat tangential, sorry. I recently found out that DC comics completely revised their character histories, almost across the boards, back in the late sixties. In retrospect, to justify this in terms of mythology, they said that at some point Superman got tranferred to an alterante Earth, Earth 2, and that that was what the early sixties were about. Then we got back to Earth 1. Now they're spinning wild plots off of this, essentially metaphysical, superglu plot device, in stories like Infinite Crisis. I love it. Fiction utterly unbounded.
But your points: I agree. Binary is what works best for high stakes, at least in terms of individual characters. But how much of this game works that way? Does each character have their own tree, or do they serve a kind of plot tree?
When I suggested no predetrmined "branches" for the top of the tree (or "roots" for the bottom, whatever metaphor) I was thinking of it as a plot tree. And you never answered when they determine the options: in the scene before, or before the whole game?
Type faster. ;)

me: initially i envisioned one or two reall protagonists, whose tree it is. players beyond the two will be taking on multiple supporting roles to make that premise tree work. I think in order for the perfomance to flow, you have to determine all ahead of time

Jeff: Okay.

me: and use a big easel with the page you r'e on to keep track during perofrmance
see what happens when i type fast?

Jeff: Ah, very McNally.
I can take it.

me: that means nothing to me, but i take it as support

Jeff: As it was meant.
Continue?

me: right. so there's a funly-set-up brainstorming session where all the possible scenes are mapped out with awesome "I can't decide if its cooler to win or lose" stakes are set down, and then you make a page on your big pad for each decision point (scene)

Jeff: Gotcha. http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc72.html

me: and the director (or players if you don't have enough to have a set director/prop hand keeps track of what is happening and changes the page to where it should be for the next scene

Jeff: This is great tehatre, even without the actors.

me: ... not seeing how this relates to mcnally , so it must be something he does not mentioned there
and so maybe for each scene in the beginning you do:
-stakes
-scene pointers (outcomes that point to new scenes)
- fortune mechanism (how will we know when the time comes)
i'd like it to vary somewhat from scene to scene so its not a distraction to the audience all the time (some of the time is fine)

Jeff: See, I think part of the fun of this is the exposure of the machanics. The audience will get so wrapped up in a scene, and then chance eneters, and it's REALLY CHANCE. Not prefabricated outcome, or well-rehearsed vaudeville schtick. In that case, each time it happens, it will mean more and more to them, and you'll have them
1. On the edge of their seats about how the die rolls
2. THEN even more absorbed in how the scene they know is coming will play out.
For example:
me: you think so?
do you show them the easel?

Jeff: Si!
Jonah and Ryan have a scene about who's going to go into the next room to kill Dorah, the lunatic who knows too much. They both want to, and can;t understand why they have to fight each otehr to do it. During the scene it is revealed they both have reasons for wanting to be the one: Jonah knows Dorah wants to expose him as her rapist, and Ryan loves Dorah, and can;t trust Jonah to do it with kindness. At the height of their positioning and arguing, it comes down to who gets the gun when it falls out of one of their bags.

The action STOPS.

Flip the coin. Choose an audience member to pick a closed fist. Whatever.

The next scene happens, and builds to a similar moment, except this time maybe it's whetehr opr not Dorah is killed.

YES! SHOW THE EASAL!
Ilove this, but maybe I'm turning it more tehatre than game. Not sure of your intentions and hopes.

me: no, you're precisely on target and delivering the goods
because taht method wouldnt hve come to me naturally and it totally rocks nine ways to Babylon

Jeff: Nine ways? Wow.

me: because at that point in the game its supposed to be completley the ater
yes YES !YESS!!
GM/Moderator/Narrator as ncecessary/ prop hand/ page turner
who hands one of these http://paizo.com/store/toys/plushes/dice to an audience member in some scenes.

Jeff: Curious to think about what the actors should do at these moments. I'm inclined to think they should be involved, not just shut down or silent, maybe even championing their character. In character? Not sure.
NICE. I like the "dangler." Doubles as a bolo.

me: but then, the variation of fortune mechanisms is lost. Your way is definitely cooler, but I still have this vision of one character being like "is THIS your card?" and then they both realize OH CRAP now we have to make the scene do THIS. but its a vaudeville routine, you're right. but maybe, counterpoint,that's easier for those of us without advanced improv training
I like the "frozen while diving for the gun but watching the audience"
like "Hey, you're in this too, buddy"

Jeff: The beauty of the oversized dice is the embrace of one of the traditions we're borrowing from. It's a good gimmick to keep in mind for when we tour with this form of improv. ;)

me: we meaning you and yours i hope. i'll roll the die from the audience

Jeff: Yeah, maybe it should be determined by scene, or the GM (whistle for freeze, call for active characters, clap for actors arguing FOR their characters).
NO ONE IS SAFE FROM THE STAGE!

me: hrm. TBD later i think. that seems like a minor decision

Jeff: True.

me: So now i just need crackling fun mechanics for the brainstorm session, and to be able to teach improv when i'm terrible at it myself.
but this seems like a natural stopping point for picking your brain for now. much to think about

Friday, September 15, 2006

 
Just a few of the tomatoes I brought in to work a while back. Posted by Picasa

Back?

 
Okay, so I haven't been here for a while. Here's some steaks I grilled for little E's birthday in July, with roasted peppers (not from garden) and herbs (from garden). Tomato pics forthcoming... Posted by Picasa

Camp Nerdly

So, it's not like I've just been sitting around totally avoiding the internet. On the contrary. I kind of fell into organizing a 3-day cabin camp for story-games roleplayers. So, 20 people, 2 cabins, 3 days of trying new story games these people wrote, and I get to transport the food. It's going to be a blast, if it doesn't kill me.

Official Site

Everybody's home - time for dinner!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Abulafia

So, I had this crazy idea a while back that I wanted to make a site that was both a wiki and a random-generation machine. I play RPGs, and it's often handy to have, for example, a list of random names you can use in-game, or a detailed list of books a wizard might have on his bookshelf. I've always used Tablesmith for this stuff offline, but I wanted an online place where lots of users could all upload their own source material for random generation and mash-up with each other's tables.

Thus, Abulafia was born. On most pages, the content will change when you refresh.

How does it work? Well, I built it using MediaWiki, the same package used for Wikipedia. On top of that, I wrote a parser extension in php to parse through the possible results people put on their tables, and come up with a way to spit it back out in new and cool combinations. I'm adding content all the time (mostly by converting old Tablesmith tables), but so far I'm most proud of:

Fantasy Menu
Alchemical Recipes
Fantasy Books
Swords

Go Play


,

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sucked into the box

haven't been blogging for so many reasons:

  • laziness

  • family in town (sometimes)

  • been playing World of Warcraft (Gunmistress can be found here)

  • and, uh, more laziness

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You thought I wouldn't finish my trip report, didn't you?

Uh. Right. So it's been a little longer than anticipated, but here I am, ready to finish the report... if only I could still remember the trip. When last you saw our daring hero, we had just escaped the fearsome clutches of the Bushkill Falls Special Weapons and Tactics Unit.

So we went home & I made Cuban Sandwiches for everyone (ham + roasted pork + cheese + pickle slices + stoneground mustard, pressed like a panini), then we put the kids to bed, then decided Sunday night was Game Night. It should be said in advance, I like new games. I play lots of games, and would love to have the time to play more. Nothing too out there, but not a lot made by Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley. So, I had brought Carcassone (+Inns & Taverns, for you Board Game Geeks out there keeping score) and Once Upon a Time. We've had Carcassone for a while and enjoy it a lot, and I gave a copy of it to a nephew for Christmas - we played one round of that, and I won due to superior farm strategy, and the lucky fact that my wife didn't draw the 'cathedral' tile to tack onto my out-of-control metropolis.

The real attraction for me was Once Upon a Time. I had also given this game at Christmas, to a younger neice, but I had never played it myself until I bought it a couple weeks ago. For those of you too disinterested to visit the link above, I offer the following synopsis: You make up a fairy tale with the cards you are dealt, but sometimes other players can take over the story and make it their fairy tale, and the winner is the person who makes the story end the way they want it too. It's different than other card and board games in that there's not much strategy or analytical skill involved. Instead, it's all about creatively telling your story. It appeals to me on a couple of levels - as an [avid] player of Roleplaying Games, I've had a lot of experience making up stories, particularly those in the fairy tale/fantasy genre. I've gotten to be pretty good at it, and this is a quick outlet for that interest. Furtheremore, playing the game serves in a way to generate a psuedorandom story, and that's a lot of fun for me. I could probably amuse myself for hours just playing with the cards by myself, playing with combinations and permutations and making up quick little stories. So, that game's a hit with me. We played a couple rounds of it while in PA, and I think everyone liked it. It's certainly better than Nanofictionary, which we took on our last weekend away and which was only mildly entertaining.

Monday I finally went fishing. I'm basically new to fly fishing, and I'll never be hardcore about it, but I have enjoyed the times I've done it (which would be this trip and one other time in 2003). My grandfather recently gave me one of his good fly rods - a custom made Russ Peak fiberglass rod, which is apparently a big deal) and I was anxious to try it out. My brother in law had done a little intel gathering at the local fly shop on Saturday, and we decided to go to Hidden Lake (luckily, you can just follow the signs). We fished around a bit at the dam end without much luck - I did land my only fish of the day - a stunning 4" crappy. Not exactly the enormous trout we were hoping for. Fishing at the other end of the lake after lunch wasn't much better, although my Bro-in-law caught some stunners like the one in the picture - look by his knee and you'll see it. I made him let me take that photo so he can post it on the fly-fishing forums he frequents to show them the 'hot action'.

Monday night was 'girls night out' for my sister and my wife (who used to room together at college, which is how my wife and I met). So, like, the minute we got back from fishing they were out the door and we had all three kids, which should have been fine, but we were tired from fishing and we both were on the verge of nodding off. Luckily, at least one of us stayed awake enough to order some greasy Pizza Hut pizzas! After the kids went to bed, we played some Playstation but were both tired enough to hit the sack before the girls got back.

The fish just weren't biting on Monday - they weren't eating bugs off the surface, and I guess because the weather had turned a little chillier, no bugs were hatching, which meant trout didn't believe our flys were real. Or at least, so goes the theory. Nevertheless, we got up at 5AM Tuesday to hit Bushkill Creek at dawn with the hope of doing better in a stream than we had done on the lake. It was gorgeous to be there fly fishing as the sun came up, but we didn't get a single nibble that morning (tried the lake again for a little while too - again, nothing). So, we went back to the condo, where I made really yummy breakfast burritos with potatoes, eggs, cheese, and a little red enchilada sauce, plus Penzey's Southwest Seasoning (Because, uh, I'm a nerd about my spices too). So at least those were good. We putzed around and got packed up, then headed out around 3 (and forgot a bunch of stuff, most of which my sister was sharp enough to find). Got home around 9 totally exhausted. So now you know.

Hopefully my next fly fishing experience will be a little more... productive than this one turned out to be. I had fun though, and I think it could be the kind of thing I could occasionally enjoy for years to come.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Exhausted

Thursday night we started driving at 8pm to get up to Bushkill, PA to see my sister, her husband, and their little girl (and ideally, do some fly-fishing). Drive up went pretty smooth (unless you count the nastiness that is Baltimore Travel Center - never again!), except that by about 11:30 I was having serious trouble keeping awake. This is not usual for me. I am generally just fine until at least 1AM. But I was starting to worry about my ability to drive & so we switched places for the last hour and a half through Eastern PA. I was nearly dead when we got there at 1 - just wanted to find the bed.

Well, I caught something because I barely moved from that bed for the next 36 hours. I had a minor temperature, sore throat, and constant headaches, and threw up a tiny bit maybe twice, but the main symptoms were just sheer fatigue and loss of appetite. All I wanted was a dark room and our down comforter (which, luckily, we decided last minute to bring). I would get up to go to the bathroom and nearly fall asleep on the toilet - one time I paused to sit down in the big whirlpool tub and very nearly spent the rest of the night there. I don't think I've ever been so tired. My wife (God bless her) was getting pretty tired of taking care of both kids the whole time, and it was starting to show by Saturday morning, so I took the little guy down for his morning nap with me while my wife & sister took the other kids to a 'zoo'. Well, we got the good end of that deal, because he slept down there with me for hours while they wandered through, in their words, a "malaria swamp."

I was determined to feel better by Saturday evening for Jeff's show. The original plan was for me to drive up to Scranton alone and spend far into the night hanging out with Jeff and talking roleplaying theory v. improv theory, a topic we've been exploring a little in our recent correspondance. However, I knew I wouldn't be up for that, so my wife ended up coming along to the show since we'd be coming back soon afterward. My sister & brother-in-law took all three kids (and put them all to bed without a hitch - amazing) and we drove the hour or so up to Scranton.

The show was lots of fun - it's the same storyline each night, but the players have a lot of leeway (I'm given to understand) in the dialogue and so forth. The story was about Morty Scrod (Jeff) and his wife Gretchen (Heather) who own a beat up old hotel in upstate PA (thus, lots of local rib-poking) that used to house opera stars such as Gretchen's aunt Aida. A wealthy Frenchman (Dave), the Marquis de Bernais-Moutard actually, shows up and, uh, you know, hijinks & pratfalls ensue. It was a little under-attended (apparently Scranton doesn't know what it's got) but a good time.

Afterwards we ended up going with the whole cast (except of course local boy Billie, whose non-enthusiasm was palpable onstage) plus director down to 130 Brixx Tavern for a bite to eat. In my case, it really was about one bite, since my appetite had yet to return and Pennsylvanians would seem to like their chicken quite dry. But it was nice to be there with basically everyone who was involved with the show & talk to them about it. Then we very nearly ran out of gas on the way home, but we found an open gas station at last, and made it back to Bushkill.

Sunday morning I was beginning to feel more alive again. My sister and her family went off to church in the morning (I don't particularly like the actual going to church, less so when it's people I don't know, and so I don't usually go to church on vacation - which is why I can expect to see my sister in a nicer neighborhood of heaven than me). In the afternoon we went up to Bushkill Falls "The Niagara of Pennsylvania!" which was fine, maybe not $9 worth for the part we did, but it was, y'know, pretty waterfalls. Back at the snack stand (my daughter NEEDED a soft pretzel) we amused ourselves cracking jokes about the jackbooted security guard who was looking at everyone suspiciously and wandering around in his high combat boots and tight leather gloves with his big old Mag-lite. At one point a piece of debris blew across the parking lot and he strode out there very quickly and seriously to show that debris who was boss. Then he had to go inside the souvenir shop to ask where it should go since it wouldn't fit in the trash can. All to my amusement. Well, I'm informed that it's time for bed, no matter that you're only half way through blogging the trip. More later, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Having it both wa ys

Media Blog on National Review Online

I think this screenshot of Google News sums up pretty well the whole eavesdropping 'scandal'. Furor now that it was being done, furor later that it wasn't being done more.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Zuppa del Giorno.

Mainstage Season: Modern Opera

Going to my friend Jeff's show this weekend - very exciting. Then we get to talk gaming/improv theory! Hooray!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Enders Game, anyone?

Australia To Train Whiz Kids For Future Cyber Warfare

My favorite part: "Deeble believes that he and the other baby-boomers in the RAAF will have to make way for the X and Y generations simply to avoid becoming an obstacle to a force of airmen whose brains have been hardwired as youngsters for creative and aggressive use of computers."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Nice Man

Me, and my 2 year old daughter, last night:

"The Nice Man is going to come and bring us Chinese food tonight!"
"Can I play with him, Daddy?"
"uh, no, don't play with him. The Nice Man just comes and brings us Chinese food, and we pay him, because he's nice, but not that nice..."
"Can I say Hi to him?
"Sure, baby, you can say Hi to the Nice Man when he comes"

And he did come, and she did say hi to him, and he brought me Pineapple Chicken.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Apparently I'd need a British explorer just to help me find such a thing...

I chickened out on the whole topsoil thing. It was pouring rain here this morning, so although I went to Home Depot, I did not feel like going out into the pouring rain with my daughter, loading wet (ergo heavier & slipprier) bags of topsoil into my orange cart, then loading them again into the car, then unloading them back at the house. Not in that rain. So, I'll either do it at the beginning of the week, or it won't happen, and that'll be fine too. I did, however, get some painting supplies and turf builder and japanese beetle killer and grass seed at the big HD. I looked at light fixtures since there are a couple I want to replace, but didn't buy any of those.
Then, since I was in an errand-running mood (which I rarely am - a fault I acknowledge), and since my daughter was having fun & totally behaving herself, we decided to go to a few more stores. I stopped by Mens Wearhouse, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap (all near eachother) to inquire about a linen suit (or at least a blazer) but no luck. I have a linen suit, which is awesome and I love being the only guy I know who actually has one, but its probably 10 years old now. I actually got it at Old Navy back in the day, and it has served me well, but it is time to replace it. So, a fruitless search on that front. Gap.com has one online only, but I'd rather try one on before buying, and I'd like pants that are precisely the same shade, which (stupidly) gap.com fails to offer.
Why a linen suit? I guess there's just something about the sort of Victorian era british explorer mythos that I really dig. (You should know, for purposes of this conversation, that I also own my own pith helmet.) Weird, yeah maybe. I also like morning coats and would be totally fine with it if they came back into men's fashion. More on that another time. My linen suit is what we're talking about here. Seriously, every time I wear it a different guy comes up to me and tells me he wishes he had a linen suit too. Its possible I suppose that some of these guys are mocking me to my face, but that's not the impression I get. But, it is surprisingly hard to get a linen suit, at least affordably. The guy in Men's Wearhouse was like "No, sorry, I don't have one, but I know Neiman Marcus and Saks both have them." uh, yeah, thanks but no thanks. Do I look like I want to spend $1000 on my linen suit? Furthermore, both of theirs are full-on white, and that's not what I'm going for. Natural linen. Is that so hard? A number of places (notably Banana Republic) have khaki-colored twill suits or blazers this year, and while that's probably just as functional (plus can be worn as a suit with any khakis I suppose) that just doesn't quite get there for me. Ah well. probably I'll just order the gap one and then look around independently for the matching pants. Then I'll be ready for my trip to find the headwaters of the Nile...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Tomatoey Goodness, Part the Second


Burpee says they shipped today! Which means I need to put topsoil & organic fertilizer (read: manure) in the garden this weekend so it will be all ready for them come Tuesday.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tomatoey Goodness & the Pepper Conundrum


Last year, in my 3 foot by 16 foot garden plot, I grew 10 kinds of tomatoes (Big Boy, Big Mama, Fourth of July early hybrid, Brandy Boy, Burpee's Burger, Health Kick, Sweet Tangerine, Sweet Baby Girl, Sun gold, plus some Yellow Pear plants that came up volunteer from the year before), plus 6 pepper plants (hot lemon & poblano), basil, a single watermelon, arugula in the spring, and a failed attempt at beans. Apparently, 10 varieties of tomatoes is too much in such a small space. So, after much deliberation, a little hemming and hawing, and more than a few subtle suggestions from my wife, I have agreed to cut down on the number of tomatoes I try to fit into such a small space. This year there will be... only 5 types of tomatoes (but 7 plants!): the Burpee's Sampler (Big Mama, Fourth of July, Burpee's Burger, and Health Kick), plus 3 plants of the Burpee's Supersteak GIANT hybrid. Oh, and we'll probably have yellow pears again, but I'm debating whether to let them grow this year. So - maybe not quite the tomato overload, but still a lot of tomatoes. I can't help it - they send out the catalog in winter with pictures of scarlet tomatoey goodness on the cover. So that's the tomatoes.
Why so many different tomatoes, you may ask? Because I can. Because the tomato that's perfect for burgers is not at all the tomato you want to chop up for salsa, and neither of them is the tomato you want to put in your salad. And because I love the color of them on a bright green bush, and the smell of the tomato plants that gets on your hands, and being able to bring in basketfuls at a time that make it look like I just hit the jackpot at the farmer's market.
Then there's the whole pepper thing. Last year I did the hot lemons, which had a very clean hotness to them - I liked it a lot but they were hotter than I'd usually be able to eat without consequences, and there were way more of them than I could ever use. I ended up making hot pepper relish with all the leftover peppers (which filled the house with a spicy vinegary aroma that I loved and my wife did not). But then I never really used the pepper relish either. Hmf. So I needed something not quite as hot, that I could use in salsas and such without killing everybody. Jalapenos and Serranos are good, but I've done them both before, and I wanted something colorful and new. Thus: the Mariachi hybrid (3 plants). Plus, because I wanted some colorful sweet peppers too, I'm getting 3 plants of the Blushing Beauty. which, again, will probably be too many peppers, but at least I'll be making a milder (read: more usable) and extremely colorful batch of pepper relish to use them all up come September.
Plus, basil so good I can eat it straight, spicy arugula better than any lettuce in a salad, a new batch of herbs to cook with, hopefully newfound success in beans, and the return of the extremely productive zucchini. I can't wait for August, when this stuff'll be in full production mode. For that matter, I can't wait till I get my plants in a couple of weeks and dig them in.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't get your hopes up

Seriously. I fully expect this space will be neglected, filled with the virtual cobwebs left by passing spiders. Occasionally, very occasionally, there may be updates. Or rants. Or what-have-you.