Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hangin' In Austin With The Smart People

I've been known to sneak out of town from time to time.  Not out of the state very often, because Texas is a big state and it's pretty expensive to go anywhere (thank  you, American Airlines), but there are some places in Texas that are pretty  darn nifty  and  not very expensive.  One of those places is Austin. Seat of  government. Source of the political oil that runs the good ol' boy network. And named after six million dollar man Steve Austin (okay, not really).  Seriously, Austin is out favorite Texas city. If we could find jobs there we'd move here in a heartbeat.

Last weekend, another bunch of smart people gathered for an event called the LoneStaRG. (RG means Regional Gathering, in case you did not know that.)  So for three days we ran around around to presentations on astrophysics and genetic testing and logarithmic equations.    Okay, I'm kidding. The last presentation I  went to was about an interactive haunted house right outside of Georgetown that raises money for charity.  And which also sounds totally cool and I'm trying to figure out how to get back there in late October to check it out (though I've been turned off by haunted houses the last few years.  I was going through one, and something particularly bloody and disgusting came along, and I suddenly asked myself, "Why am I doing this, anyway?" which is often a kind of fatal question for whatever it is you're doing.  But I'll make an exception here.  It's for charity.) We also dove into a movie trivia game, and first prize was a giant thingy of Jelly Bellys. Actually, the Jelly Bellys were somehow involved in the movie trivia. Did I win? No.  but who cares.  Anyway, movies and jelly beans. What could be better? Maybe a bottomless reserve of M and Ms. Oh hey, they had those too. Awesome.

One of the big draws for me at these events is always the game room.  I love puzzles and games.  This particular gathering had an evil puzzle.  Truly, this thing had a demon or something.  It was a thousand-piece puzzle of an oil painting of Canadian geese, and all the pieces looked like they were roughly the same muddy brown.  Of course there were different shades of ruddy brown, but try sorting shades of muddy brown into groups sometime and you'll see how tricky this is.  About ten of us worked on this puzzle on and off most of the weekend and only finished it late Sunday evening.  Somebody suggested that for our next trick we should set it on fire.  But no, that'd only make the demon mad.

You guys who love games, check this one out:  The Duke, by Catalyst Games.  If you like chess you will love The Duke.  Imagine chess where you're playing along and suddenly instead of moving only up, down or sideways, a rook can go spinning across the board diagonally.  Or a knight, instead of jumping up two squares and over one, can take out another piece from two squares away without moving at all.  And the Duke, himself, instead of being restricted to a single square like the king in chess games, is one of the most powerful pieces on the board.  Don't worry, all the pieces are preprinted with their permissible moves, so you don't have to memorize them.  But it helps.  And if the standard rules aren't complex enough, there are additional optional rules and expansion packs.  I mean, two people could play this game a million times and never have it come out the same way twice.  At our last gathering this game won the Mensa Select sticker.  It's also a Kickstarter success story.

So that's the sort of thing I get up to when I sneak out of town.  Games, puzzles and M and Ms.  You can tell what an exciting life I lead.  But hey, it's clean living and I don't have any wrinkles yet.  Cheers, all!

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