Finding Me Online

Just figured I’d compile a list of places I can be found online:

Goodreads profile

Amazon Author Page

Google Scholar

Dissertation

LinkedIn Profile

Advertisements

And Now For Something Completely Different

A couple weeks ago, just before my anniversary, a younger co-worker asked a few relationship related questions.  In effect, she was asking for relationship advice, in a broad, non-specific context.  The incident got me thinking about relationships and relationship advice in general.  Thus, this post.

I don’t like giving relationship advice.  I’m not comfortable being asked for relationship advice.  And I’m not going to give any here.

I’ll explain why.

Ultimately, almost all relationship advice—particularly that found in magazines, advice columns, and relationship sites—is generally useless.

I say this with some caveats, notably the “If you see these signs, then you’re probably in an abusive relationship and should run very fast” advice.

But, I think most relationship advice is useless because all romantic relationships are different.  Regardless of the issue, we like to believe there is one “fix-it” solution, whether we’re talking about romantic relationships, writing papers, or economics.  But, there is no single, perfect solution to any issue, just like there is no one perfect formula for writing an A paper in university.  Every romantic relationship is different, what works for me and my spouse probably won’t work for another couple, or the third couple across the way.  There are so many variables in play in any couple—from personal history to philosophies, education levels to family relations—that affect a romantic relationship that it’s impossible to generalize with any given couple.

In the end, though, I think romantic relationships are built on three things: friendship, attraction, and shared interests.  And the first two of those are great examples of the differences that mark romantic relationships.

Most of us have a variety of friends.  And we don’t interact the same way with all of them.  For instance, I have a couple friends with whom I went to primary school (and later secondary school), who know me in different ways than the friends I first met in secondary school or university (ex. they’ve known me since I was 6 or 7 years old).  I also have friends whom I first met in graduate school (at 24 years old), and we have a different relationship than I do with my friends from secondary school.  Then there are the friends I’ve made in the last ten years, mostly through aikido training.  Because we know each other from a martial arts practice, and generally see each other a couple times a week, often less depending on schedules, we have a rather different relationship.  There are things that we talk about that we wouldn’t, necessarily, with friends we’ve known through other venues, or people who are mutual friends with our spouses.

In the case of attraction, we all find ourselves attracted to a variety of individuals.  And the reasons for attraction are often not the same.  For instance, a person may find Chris Evans, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman attractive, or Julia Roberts, Alyssa Milano, and Jennifer Lawrence.  Different things draw the person to each of those individuals (and, yes, I know I’ve “dated” myself a bit with my choices there, I’m cool with that).  What attracts the individual is not the same in each case, just like no two romantic relationships are the same.

For me, this sense of differences, uniqueness even, is why being asked for relationship advice is a tricky situation.  I find myself thinking: what kind of personality types are involved, what shared interests are there, what attracts these two to each other . . . there are too many factors that differentiate the questioner’s experience and relationship from my own.

In a way,  I suppose this is something for writers and readers to consider as well, for character development, as every character is going to be, or has been, involved in family, friendship, professional, and romantic relationships.

Origins Game Fair 2018 (Day Three)

Third day wrapped up my Origins experience well, a lot more mellow than the previous days.  Even so, I did all the things I’d intended to do.  Ran into some old friends from college, whom I hadn’t seen (offline) in a year to a couple decades, as well as one of my former Scout leaders and his son, whom I hadn’t seen since I was 18.

IMG_0833

Hung out in the authors area with some folks and ended up chatting with Timothy Zahn and the friend who was helping to man his table.  She was interesting, discussing some family history things while Zahn signed books.  He and I talked over the place of the Thrawn trilogy in the greater Star Wars overview—I mentioned my hope that they’d be episodes 7 to 9, he said he’d always thought of them as 6.1 to 6.3, then added “Not my circus, not my monkeys” about their current state.  A friend of mine also asked about Thrawn, whom it turns out Zahn completely invented, rather than being handed by the publishers.

IMG_0831

Also met Steve Jackson, chatted with him about my experience demo-ing the Munchkin CCG on Thursday.  He had some feedback related questions and seemed to enjoy my answers.  When he held a signing, I got my copy of GURPS Fantasy (3rd ed. GURPS), the first ever GURPS book I bought (and first thing I’d gotten from SJGames) signed.

IMG_0837

I only did two demos, but also sort of watched a demo of Axis & Allies & Zombies.

IMG_0836

Magic Maze (Dude Games)

Difficult game in that players are not allowed to talk to each other.  They have to communicate with looks or by tapping a particular piece in front of a player.  Action occurs in real time, with no turns.  Essentially, the players are bad adventurers who aren’t good at their jobs.  They need gear, but have no money.  So, they plan to steal gear.  Each player has a role and power, and can move pieces in one direction (N, S, E, W).  In 3.5 minutes, the players must explore the area, get to their assigned places, and escape . . . without talking.  I’m probably not explaining it entirely well, but it was fun.

IMG_0834

Obligatory Catan sheep

Dungeon Rush (Stronghold Games)

This was an interesting slap game.  Each player gets two adventurers, who have two special items (sword, arrow, mask, wand).  Each player turns up two monster cards, then slaps (right and left, which correspond to an adventurer) one or two monsters for their adventurers to fight.  There are three rounds per level, three levels total.  Some cards provide victory points, some provide experience (XP), some provide both.  It’s a fast, kind of fun mechanic.

IMG_0835

Origins Game Fair 2018 (Day Two)

Because of the kid, we spent almost the entire day at Calliope Games.  They are running a thing where people who do 15 demos (unique games, each with its own button) with them get a Calliope pin.  He took this as a challenge and gleefully accepted.  The staff there were awesome about it and loved him, even when we had to do three demos in a hour to make the cut (because it was his last day going and we had to get home).  They rushed us through the last two so he could get his buttons and pin.

Also got to, briefly, see Steve “Evil Stevie” Jackson before he began a massive, 12 player, Ogre game.

IMG_0826

Evil Stevie himself

 

Tsuro (Calliope)

Excellent, relatively simple, tile laying game.  We’ve had a copy for years and play it often.  Basically, players are dragons flying around.  The goal is to stay alive (e.g. on the board) without running into other dragons . . . and, if possible, forcing them to run into each other or off the board.  The last one standing wins.

IMG_0823

With the Tsuro fez.  Fezes are cool!

Hive Mind (Calliope)

Fun little social game, sort of a clean version of Cards Against Humanity, in some ways.  Players are bees in the hive.  The Queen says the hive is too big and some bees need to leave.  So, she moves to a different space each turn to determine how many people move down (or up) the hive’s levels.  Players draw cards, choose one of six questions, and write down their answers.  Answers are scored based on how many people respond the same, and the lowest total points move down the hive, until someone is booted out.  Quick fun, “party” game.

 

Roll for It (Calliope)

Nice little dice game.  Simple and a lot of fun.  Three cards are drawn face up.  Each player rolls six dice.  They can then bid on the card (ex. if a card shows 1, 2, & 4 and the player rolls a 2 & 4, they can place those dice on the card, until they get a 1 or another player takes it).  Each card has a point value determined by the difficulty of acquiring the dice shown on the card (2 to 15 points each).  The first player to reach 40 points wins.

 

King of Tokyo (Iello)

The precursor to King of New York.  Also much simpler as there are no buildings to smash, no military units attacking you, and no real movement at such.  Still, it’s a lot of fun.  Son played as Cyber Kitty and I took Space Pengwing (in honor of Bartram Cumberland).  It was a quick and fun match for two players, obviously longer with more involved.

 

Menu Masters (Calliope)

We played this last year, but did it again for the buttons.  Players are chefs who send their minions out to purchase ingredients, take over stores (to get money), or to the bank (small money).  The goal is to complete three menus, with scoring based on the star value of each ingredient involved (ex. salad could be 2, 3, or 4, stars/points).  It’s so fun we’ve played it multiple years and enjoyed it.

 

Capital City (Calliope)

Interesting card building game in which players take on the role of a random family of settlers represented by animal cards.  The players build the town over the course of a set number of rounds, and place workers (from their family and others) in the town buildings to get money (to build other buildings) and votes.  Placing workers in the buildings activate them, generating money or votes (but not both).  The end goal is getting the most votes to become mayor of the town.

 

Ancestree (Calliope)

Kind of strange, but fun, game of family trees.  The goal is to build the best family, following five lineages (Asian, African, European, American, Middle East).  Mixing lineages is necessary as the number of generations you have from each line determines base victory points.  And some members (descent or marriage) carry wealth, with gold being a one to one point ratio.  The final element is counting the number of marriages formed, for additional points.  There are a number of interesting strategic elements involved, and the game seems like one that will change a lot through play.  It’s definitely one I’d like to look in to further and try again sometime.

 

Hounded (Atlas Games)

Two player game in which payers take the role of fox or hunting party.  The fox moves fastest (up to three spaces, any direction) with the dog pack and hunt master having more limited movement, but a 6:1 advantage in numbers.  Face down tiles get flipped by the fox or a specific dog (terrier) landing on them, with different effects from nothing to dens (allow teleports).  If the three day phase tiles flip, the fox wins.  If the fox ends its turn next to the hunt master, the hunting party wins.

IMG_0824

Thieves (Calliope)

Another that we played simply for the button, as we’ve had a copy for years.  Fun little resource building and balance game that, after 21 games in 11 hours over 2 days, I’m not going to say more on.

 

Shutterbug (Calliope)

Players are photographers looking to get the best photos of cryptids for their newspapers.  They travel the country trying to get the photos one of their two newspapers want within 8 rounds of play.  It’s kind of fun, requires some strategy, changes almost every turn, and does require some resource management to get the necessary cards to ensure the needed photos and quality.

IMG_0827

Promo cards (second set)!

Tsuro of the Seas (Calliope)

Variation of classic Tsuro.  In this one, players are ships trying to navigate the sea, avoid colliding with each other, and evade the dragons.  The dragons are independent beasts controlled solely by dice rolls.  If dragons collide, one is removed.  If dragons go off the board, they’re removed.  If they meet a ship, the ship is eaten.  If they cross an empty tile (a ship’s wake), the tile is removed.  It’s a cool modification of the base game.

Origins 2018 Day One

Day one (really day two, but my day one) was a little bit of a mixed bag, but largely good.  Registration has been pretty well streamlined and quick, especially on a Thursday when there aren’t that many people there.  Took my seven year old son again this year.  We got over to the Steve Jackson Games room early, technically before they opened, but they waved us along with a couple other parent-kid pairs) in to play around beforehand.

Always fun to walk around a bit, but we didn’t spend much time sightseeing today.  Instead, we focused on game demos.  And we tried out the Origins Arena—boffer sword fighting.  Kid did pretty well for his first time at sword & board fighting.

IMG_0809

Simon’s Cat (SJGames)

A fun game that we’ve had at home for years.  The mechanics are basically Uno, with artwork from the Simon’s Cat YouTube videos.  The tricky part is that there are several suits (cat, kitten, dog, garden gnome), but they don’t all have the same number of cards (ex. cat has 10 cards, gnomes only have 2) and they aren’t numbered the same (ex. cat has 3-12, gnome has 1-2).  So, while it is Uno based, it has its own strategy.  It’s a family favorite around here, is quick to play, and has simple rules.

IMG_0810

Munchkin CCG (SJGames)

Translating Munchkin to a CCG is interesting.  In some respects, the mechanics are similar to Magic: The Gathering, with card tapping and such.  On the other hand, the rules allow for cheating, er, bluffing.  And attacks from monsters are not simultaneous, so you can attack with a weak monster to trigger your opponent’s defenses, then send the big monster in to take them out.  All in all, it was a fun experience, and would be high on my list if I ever wanted to get into CCGs again (which I really, really don’t).

Settlers of Catan (Mayfair, now Asmodee)

The classic, but the kid’s only played Catan Junior, so we tried out the full version to see how he did.  Much ink has already been spilled on this game, I won’t say any more.

Dicey Peaks (Calliope)

A new game from Calliope, it’s an interesting dice and resource management game.  The goal is to ascend the world’s tallest mountain without running out of oxygen or being caught by the yetis, before the other players.  Sets of dice are optimized for climbing, resting, or balance (or can cause avalanches or yeti attacks).  Tiles get flipped when landed on and can push the player along, reduce their oxygen supply, or send them backwards.  Fun, quick, and fairly simple game.

IMG_0813

Ugh! (Calliope)

Played this last year on my own, but had to have my son try this year.  He loved it.  John Kovalic’s art brings out humorous cavemen, pets, and living spaces.  Each card has a number value and the goal is to collect sets of three (caveman, pet, house).  Each card value in the set is multiplied, then sets are added together at the end.  Then there are the Ugh! Cards, that do bad stuff.  Fun, simple, and fast game.  We picked up a copy this year to join Thieves and Tsuro.

Running with the Bulls (Calliope)

Played for the third year running, because the kid wanted to again.  It’s definitely growing on me the more we play it.

Super Kitty Bug Slap (SJGames)

Basically a variation on Egyptian Rat Slap (or other, less PG, names).  Each player gets a card with a cat and a bug on it.  The goal is to be the first to slap any card that matches the color (orange, green, purple) or shape (round, square, triangle) of your cat, or your bug (ladybug, fly).  The person with the most cards at the end wins, but misslaps dock points from your score (ex. if you have a green, square cat with a ladybug, and are first to slap a card that has none of those things, you lose a point).

King of New York (Iello)

Variation on the famous King of Tokyo.  Good game, a little disjointed in the demonstrator’s explanation, but still played fairly well.  We’ll have to try it again sometime to get a better feel for it.

IMG_0818

Dungeon Raiders (Devir Games)

Fun card game.  Each player is a member of an adventuring party delving into a five layer dungeon.  Each level has two visible challenges and three face down challenges.  The players have to work together to defeat the challenges, while also ensuring that they have more gold and fewer wounds than anyone else.  Every players gets five cards (numbered 1-5) that they can only use once per level to get past challenges as a team (or to screw other players, as the case may be).  And each character class has its own special item that gives a different effect or power (one time only).

Rabbit Island (Infinite Heart Games)

Apparently, this is a recently Kickstartered game that will be out in August.  The rabbits sail to an island where they explore and set up both the island and initial settlements.  Play then continues to see who can acquire the most victory points by building burrows and towns.  The player with the largest harvest and the player with the most carrots also get bonus points.  Movement cards let rabbits move around the board, action cards help them or hinder opponents.  It was interesting and fun, and the movement cards can be arranged in order (a number on the bottom) to tell the story of the rabbits.  And it includes rabbit meeples.  But, at around US$50, it’s a bit expensive for my taste.

Aikido: An Academic’s Perspective

When I started aikido classes in December of 2008, one thing that I was initially drawn to was the philosophy explained in the introductory class—neutralizing without causing harm to the attacker or attacked.  I was also drawn to the idea of getting out of my comfort zone—previously, I’d only done armed, mostly sword, arts—but not too far (since the school I saw and stuck with does a fair bit of sword and short staff work).

I stayed because I enjoyed the people and the practice.  And I saw, over time, changes in my awareness and in other areas.

The longer I’ve been with the art, training and sometimes lightly instructing, the more I think another key reason that I like aikido, and the school I’m with in particular, is that it has many parallels to my academic and professional training.  Some, but not all, of the principles that I see as being key to good aikido are adaptability, movement options, and awareness of the little things.

Adaptability

For me, and this is not necessarily true for all aikidoka, I find that an important element of aikido is adaptability.  This comes in a couple forms.  First, if a technique is not working, the nage (thrower) may need to alter their technique, from little detail parts to major positioning or movement elements.  Likewise, the technique may not be working because uke (the thrown) moves or responds in a different way, or doesn’t respond, in which case flowing into a different technique may be called for.  Second, every aikidoka needs to adapt to ukes with different heights, sizes, ranges of flexibility, in short different body types.  And degrees of energy—fast, slow, hard, soft—in attacks.

I find this emphasis on adaptation, or at least a need for adaptation, in my professional life.  In teaching and, even more, tutoring, the educator needs to adapt to different students.  Each student grasps certain concepts faster or better than others.  One example or analogy may click with four students, but not with three others.  Seven students may come to a tutor with the same assignment, but one needs help with organization, while another needs to work on grammar, and the third has written an “argumentative research” paper that has no thesis (the most important element).  Adaptation is of particular importance, for me, in tutoring.  In any given eight hour day (sixteen sessions), I have had days where I saw sixteen students, with twelve different assignments, from eight different fields (ex. composition, biology, nursing, psychology, philosophy, business, history).  Needless to say, thinking on the fly and changing (styles, formats, citation formats, etc.) rapidly is of utmost importance.

Movement Options

In aikido, many of my instructors from new shodan all the way up to the top leaders of our national organization have emphasized the importance of not focusing on the point of contact.  They stress the need to remain aware of what else can move.  For example, if the wrist is trapped in a strong grab, it may not be mobile; however, the elbow, hips, and legs, for instance, can still move.  Each of those creates different options for changing the line of strength, escape, techniques, or otherwise resolving the problem.  But, focusing on the point of contact (the grabbed wrist) limits motion and can make the situation more difficult or impossible to resolve.

This, in many ways, reminds me of my academic training.  In particular, cross-disciplinary studies come to mind.  For example, my literature dissertation involved literature, history, theology, psychoanalysis, and a bit of law.  If any one of those was missing, the whole piece would not work as well or in the same way.  Likewise, in teaching writing, we often encourage our students to consider, understand, and present counter-arguments.  There are many reasons for this, but a key one is to show the reader that the writer has considered many options and chosen their particular view as the best (rather than being blindered).  This availability of options is also the philosophy underlying the liberal arts education system as a whole.  We argue that having a broad range of knowledge, including at least introductory familiarity in a number of fields, is helpful to the individual, thus the required coursework outside an individual’s field of study.  Why is this important?  Because training in each academic field is really training in a particular style of thinking and approaches to problem solving, ex. a biologist, a psychologist, and a sociologist are all going to approach the same situation or question differently.  Being aware of different options, of how different fields think, can help the individual look at problems in their own field differently.

Awareness of Details

Over the last decade in aikido, I’ve often told new students, “If it looks easy, it’s not.  If it looks hard, it is.”  Part of this difficulty of the art is that, often, changing a minor detail in a tiny way can make a huge difference in technique.  Sometimes this means nage turning their hand over, or opening their hand, or breathing, or pointing a finger.  These, hundreds of, tiny changes can individually have an enormous impact on the ease, power, and energy use of a given technique.

Similarly, over two decades of writing, studying language, and teaching/tutoring writing have shown me that the little details in writing—spelling, syntax, punctuation, grammar—can make a huge and significant difference in the written word.  These seemingly tiny things can greatly affect meaning (ex. “my parents, Bob and John” vs. “my parents, Bob, and John”), effect on the audience (ex. use of the word team vs. gang vs. class), effectiveness of the piece, quality of the piece, and engagement of the audience.

All of this is simply from my perspective, my experience, and my understanding of both aikido and my academic background.  This is not necessarily true for all aikidoka, or academics, or academic aikidoka.  Everyone’s academic experience is different.  Everyone’s aikido experience, and technique, is different (what works for me won’t necessarily work exactly the same for someone smaller or bigger).  Everyone’s reason for studying both is widely different.