Archive for December, 2010

Yarraman Road 2000 Semillon

Friday, 31 December, 2010

Yarraman Road 2000 SemillonYesterday I went for an overnight trip into the country with the wife. We stayed overnight at Kangaroo Valley, about 2.5 hours drive from Sydney. It’s doable in a day trip, but we figured we have some time off over the Christmas/New Year period so why not stay overnight and give ourselves time to explore at leisure, rather than rush. We drove down via Bowral and the Southern Highlands wine region, though we didn’t stop in at any wineries along the way. The weather was hot and we spent most of our activity time wandering around Bowral itself, then taking a walk through the bush at Fitzroy Falls to see this 82 metre waterfall plunging off the sandstone escarpment into the rainforest valley below.

At Kangaroo Valley, we had dinner at Jing Jo Thai Restaurant – one of the few options open on the day. We ordered a garlic and ginger squid dish, and spicy stir-fried battered fish pieces. To go with this we chose this Yarraman Road 2000 Semillon. A young waiter poured glasses for us, then a minutes later the owner came out and asked if we’d tried the wine yet. He said that this was a particularly unusual Semillon, being extremely dry in style, and he’d had several diners return bottles of it, thinking it had been corked. So he wanted to check to see if we were happy with it, or if we didn’t like it he offered to replace it with something else for us. We tried sips, and thought it was okay, so we stuck with it.

I can see what he meant though, as it was very dry, with a gooseberry tartness that reminded me of Sauvignon blanc, and also a hint of something earthy, slightly truffly or musty. It wasn’t unpleasant or very strong though, and the cork itself seemed perfectly fine, so we were happy to keep it. The aroma was strongly citrusy, with lime dominating over lemon, and the flavour likewise, with that gooseberry tartness on the finish. It was actually very nice with the spicy food. The earthiness was very much a background note – not something that dominated the flavour at all. Overall I’d say it was decent, and matched the excellent food well.

We finished our trip by driving back a different route, taking the coastal highway via Berry and Kiama, getting home in time for New Year’s Eve!

Glass flows

Wednesday, 22 December, 2010

We’ve all heard the story that glass is a supercooled liquid that flows slowly. The “evidence” often cited is that centuries-old cathedral window panes are thicker at the bottom, so obviously the glass must have flowed downwards under gravity. But the real explanation is that panes of glass weren’t actually made uniformly thick in those bygone days, and was almost always mounted thick side down. Wikipedia says so, and there are plenty of other pages on physics blogs and sites giving the same debunking of this pervasive urban myth.

It’s a myth, right? Right?

Maurizio Vannoni, Andrea Sordini, and Giuseppe Molesini of the CNR-Istituto Nazionale do Ottica in Florence have published an article in Optics Express: Long-term deformation at room temperature observed in fused silica. You need to pay to see the full article, but in summary, they have interferometrically measured the flatness of fused silica optical flats over a period of 10 years, as a routine part of their optical calibration work. (Fused silica is essentially an ultra-pure optical glass.)

The flats are circular, and stored in a clean room under controlled temperature (19-21°C) and humidity (40-50%). They are stored horizontally, supported by circular mounts. And, over 10 years, they have sagged measurably in the middle. The sagging is of the order of a nanometre, is greatest in the centre, and is least at the three points of the mount where the silica is clamped with elastomer pads, which supports the hypothesis that the sagging has been caused by gravity.

Now, a nanometre is not much. You’d have to let the silica sag for roughly 10 million years before the deformation was the order of a millimetre and therefore easily detectable with an unaided eye. It’s certainly not enough to account for the medieval windows, by a factor of hundreds of thousands or more. And the researchers are slightly hesitant to declare that this is a case of the silica “flowing” under gravity – they propose other possible explanations, but admit the gravity flow one seems most likely. They conclude that the calculated viscosity of the silica – assuming it has flowed under gravity – is some 23 orders of magnitude less viscous (i.e. more flowy) than previously quoted and assumed by the optical community.

This is not even enough of an effect to materially affect, say, the working life of a space telescope mirror or something like that. For all non-ultra-ultra-ultra-high-precision-optical purposes, it’s still safe to say glass doesn’t flow. But, as is often the case in the real world, things are never perfect!

Star Trek 2.2: Who Mourns For Adonais?

Monday, 20 December, 2010

Who Mourns For Adonais?And so to episode 2 of the second season, “Who Mourns For Adonais?” No, despite the fact that this episode deals with Greek gods, that’s not a typo for “Adonis“, it’s a reference to the poem Adonaïs, by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

It begins with the Enterprise surveying the Beta Geminorum system, belonging to the star otherwise known as Pollux, in a piece of well-placed real-world stellar cartography. Approaching Pollux IV, a huge disembodied hand made of some sort of energy field grabs the Enterprise and stops it dead in space. Then a disembodied head appears and cryptically invites Kirk and selected crew to beam down to his planet. Kirk declines and tries to get the ship away, but the hand squeezes the hull, causing Scotty to complain that the hull cannae take the pressure. Apparently putting pressure on the hull – but not enough to actually buckle it – also causes a painful increase in air pressure inside the ship, as everyone clutches their ears in pain while it occurs. The head specifically doesn’t invite Spock, who it says reminds him of Pan, with the pointed ears.

Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, and Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas beam down. Palamas is the Archaeology and Anthropology officer. It seems they have specialists in everything on the Enterprise. Earlier we saw that Scotty has a soft spot for Carolyn, but McCoy doesn’t think it’ll go anywhere because currently Carolyn is dedicated to Starfleet. She may find a man outside Starfleet and leave the service, but won’t fall for a fellow officer.

They beam down to an idyllic area which has a small Greek temple in it. The owner of the disembodied head greets them, and introduces himself as Apollo, the god of the sun. He claims to have been on Earth 5000 years before, and has now been waiting for humanity to find him again.

In a strong echo of “The Squire of Gothos“, Apollo takes a shine to the girl of the week, Carolyn, and uses his nigh-omnipotent powers to put her into an alluringly flimsy dress and begin flirting with her, while keeping the men of the landing party at bay and preventing them from contacting the Enterprise. In another echo of that episode, Kirk deduces that Apollo has a power source somewhere and that perhaps they can trick Apollo into a moment of weakness and destroy it.

Meanwhile on the Enterprise, Spock is ordering people around, including instructing Uhura to rig a subspace bypass of the jammed radio circuits to contact Kirk. We see Uhura head deep in a console, soldering circuits, showing she is a practical, hands-on crew member. Which is good, except that her elaborate hairdo is getting in the way and is in serious danger of catching fire from the soldering iron.

Apollo displays some weakness when Scotty, protective of Carolyn, incurs Apollo’s wrath and Apollo unleashes lightning bolts on him. This weakens Apollo and he vanishes for a while. Chekov likens the disappearing act to that of the cat with the smile from a Russian fairy tale. When Kirk amusedly points out that it’s an English tale, with a Cheshire Cat, Chekov sincerely responds, “Cheshire? No, it was Minsk.”

There’s a bunch of padding to make up the 50 minutes of screen time, followed by the Enterprise breaking through the giant space hand and contacting Kirk. He orders phasers fired on the temple, which destroys it, to the impotent horror of Apollo. Kirk gives a Picard speech about humanity not needing gods any more – and goes on to say they get on fine with “just the one”. Apollo sheds tears and then vanishes, following the other Greek gods who have long since given up and spread themselves to the winds of the Universe.

The episode ends without resolving the romantic tension between Carolyn and Scotty, and of course we never see Carolyn again. A rather lame episode, with recycled plot elements and unsatisfactory loose ends, although there are a few moments of drama and interest to keep it from being appalling. Chalk up yet another semi-omnipotent being in the growing catalogue of beings encountered by the Enterprise, and bring on the next episode.

Tropes: Literary Allusion Title, Shown Their Work, You Are A Credit To Your Race, Girl Of The Week, Career Versus Man, Physics Goof, Classical Mythology, Cargo Cult, Physical God, Theiss Titillation Theory, Bolt Of Divine Retribution, The Original Klingon, Padding, Patrick Stewart Speech, Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions, Death Of The Old Gods, Sufficiently Advanced Alien.
Body Count: Apollo, scattered to the Cosmos.

Walking home

Thursday, 16 December, 2010

I walked home from work today. All the way. I normally catch a train, and it takes about half an hour. The train does take a rather roundabout route, though, so it’s not beyond reason to try walking it. I thought it would probably take a bit over an hour. It turned out to take a bit over 1.5 hours.

The route is shown on this Google Map.

I decided to try it today because it was a coolish afternoon, rather than a hot summer one, with a lot of cloud around, so I wouldn’t be walking all the way in the sun. Unfortunately it decided to rain on me. It was 26°C and basically 100% humidity. And the route is fairly hilly, so I was rather drenched in sweat by the time I got home. Still, it was a good exercise and I feel good for having done it!

Star Trek 2.1: Amok Time

Monday, 13 December, 2010

Amok TimeAmok Time” is the first episode in airing sequence of season 2 of Star Trek. And, after the teaser, the first thing you notice is that the opening credit sequence has changed, with a modified version of the theme song, new graphics, and the addition of DeForest Kelley to the names of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I was excited to watch this episode again, because it’s one of the true classics of the series – in fact I’d say it rivals “The City on the Edge of Forever“. It gives us our first truly deep look at Spock’s background and his home planet and culture, which turns out to be fascinating and surprising.

The teaser begins with a shot of Kirk climbing up a ladder out of a random tube and then out on to a deck, where he meets McCoy. Presumably the lift wasn’t working or something. McCoy is worried about Spock not eating, and Nurse Chapel then passes them with a bowl of Vulcan soup in an effort to get Spock to eat and notice her feminine charms. Spock tosses the soup and yells at Chapel, who leaves in tears. Spock then requests shore leave on his home planet, saying they could drop him off before the Enterprise‘s scheduled rendezvous at Altair VI “with a loss of only 2.8 light days”. I wonder how many light days it takes to do the Kessel run.

With such a reasonable delay, Kirk orders the ship on course for Vulcan. We see new crewman Ensign Chekov for the first time, in the role of navigator next to Sulu’s helm station. Throughout this episode they play a comical duet off one another which almost approaches a Greek chorus, commenting on the greater workings of the plot around them. Starfleet orders the Enterprise to make haste to Altair, where the ship is needed for a grand political display, so Kirk changes course again. Kirk then decides whatever is bugging Spock is clearly important, and orders Chekov to change course again and go to maximum speed, which puzzles Chekov because he says Spock has already ordered the course change.

Kirk confronts Spock about this; Spock does not deny it, but says he was not aware of having given such an order and says it’s possible. Kirk orders the ship back to Altair and Spock to sickbay for a medical. McCoy concludes that Spock is dying and needs to get to Vulcan within a week. Kirk confronts Spock and demands he tell him what’s going on. Spock reluctantly says it’s a matter of “biology” and, as embarrassed as a Vulcan can be, explains that Vulcans must return periodically to mate, as a biological imperative. Kirk treats this in strict confidence and tries to argue with Starfleet that he be excused from Altair to go to Vulcan – but the admiral won’t hear it and orders him directly to Altair. Kirk, naturally, ignores this order and tells Chekov to set course for Vulcan.

This conversation takes place in an interesting set, in part of sickbay, with McCoy present – perhaps his office. The good doctor seems to have an interesting collection of anthropoid skulls decorating several shelves of the room. Nurse Chapel overhears the conversation and goes to tell Spock the good news, by breaking into his private quarters while he’s asleep – apparently they don’t have security of any sort of crew quarters (or Chapel is a good lock-picker). There is a romantic tension moment as Spock thanks Nurse “my name is Christine” Chapel, and asks for a bowl of that soup.

Poor Christine is about to get her heart handed back to her, however, as they approach Vulcan and receive a message from a beautiful woman, who says she will meet Spock at the arranged place. Chapel asks who she is, Spock replies, “She is T’Pring, my wife.” For anyone who has watched the series to now, this is an eye-opening moment of shock, and the first indication that Spock has any sort of family connections at all. Spock explains there is a small ceremony and he would like Kirk and McCoy, as his friends, to stand with him. McCoy is genuinely flattered in a rare moment of camaraderie in what is usually a jokingly antagonistic relationship between him and Spock.

The three beam down and we get our first look at Vulcan. It looks hot. The sky is red – not pink like Mars, but red. The rocks are red, the sand is red (and also sparkly). Kirk and McCoy start sweating and McCoy quips that now he finally understand what is meant by the cliché “hot as Vulcan”. It’s good to see a planet that is so starkly different from the Earth-like planets they normally visit. They enter a ceremonial arena and Spock strikes a small gong, which summons a ceremonial party. T’Pring is there, with various escorts, and carried in on a sedan chair is T’Pau, a stately old woman who Kirk recognises as the only person ever to turn down a seat on the Federation Council.

The ceremony begins, with Spock walking up to strike the gong again, but T’Pring interrupts and shouts, “Kal-if-fee!” Spock lapses into a trance-like state. Kirk and McCoy are confused, but soon learn that T’Pring has invoked an ancient right, whereby she chooses a champion to fight for her hand against Spock. There is an obvious candidate in the wedding party with his eyes on T’Pring, one Stonn, but T’Pring passes him by and chooses Kirk, causing much uproar. (Her choice though is later explained and is flawlessly logical.) Kirk and McCoy confer, and Kirk explains that Spock looks weakened and would probably lose badly to Stonn, so Kirk will fight and try to knock him out without hurting him, or if Spock gets the upper hand he can resign and Spock can retain his honour. Kirk accepts the challenge.

T’Pau instructs that lirpa be brought forth. Spock and Kirk are handed incredibly vicious looking weapons, with huge curved blades at the end of a staff-like pole, weighted at the other end by a heavy metal cudgel. T’Pau then utters the best line of the episode: “If both survive the lirpa, combat will continue with the ahn-woon.” Kirk and McCoy aghast. The fight is to the death!

I’ll stop there so as not to spoil the ending, just go find a copy and watch it if you haven’t seen it before. It’s a terrific episode. There are disturbing messages about women as property, if you ignore the contexts both of when this was made and the fact that it’s depicting an alien society which is meant to be strangely different to human society – but in the context of the episode it makes sense. That can be forgiven on those grounds. And once over that hurdle, there’s nothing not to love about this episode. A strong character-driven plot, revealed character back-story, high drama, and beautiful comic relief from the new regular character who we will grow to love over the next two seasons. Man, why couldn’t there have been more like this, and fewer like… well, some of the lousy ones they made.

Tropes: Forgets To Eat, Not So Stoic, Those Two Guys, Greek Chorus, A Friend In Need, The Talk, Mate Or Die, Conflicting Loyalty, Screw The Rules, I’m Doing What’s Right, Unresolved Sexual Tension, Wham Line, Apron Matron, Grande Dame, Emotionless Girl, Double Weapon, Involuntary Battle To The Death (this episode provides the TV Tropes page image for this trope), Dutch Angle, Wanting Is Better Than Having, Fake Gunshot, Faking The Dead.
Body count: None.
(Image © 1967 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

Cloudy Bay 2005 Gewürztraminer

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

Cloudy Bay 2005 GewürztraminerI haven’t done a wine post for a while, mostly because I’ve been a bit lazy. But I had to get my act together for this one. Having had so much fun with the Stonecroft Gewürztraminer from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, I thought I’d try this one from the famous Cloudy Bay winery in NZ’s Marlborough region.

We took this bottle to our favourite Thai restaurant, knowing that the spiciness of the wine would suit the food. I had a spicy duck stir fry, which was dressed with a touch of Thai red curry and coconut cream, and M. had a vege stir fry with cashew nuts (her favourite). The food was excellent as usual, and complemented the wine nicely.

Firstly, this is a very different beast to the Stonecroft. It has that lemon-lime citrusy aroma, with a hint of jasmine, and maybe orange blossom this time. The taste is immediately sharper, with the spice hitting up front, over layers of honeydew melon and lychees. There’s some slightly chalky minerality mixed in, and a merest hint of fermentation fizz. And there’s a hint of sweetness, and an orange marmalade bitterness at the back end, mixed with black pepper spiciness. Again, there’s heaps going on, and it makes for an incredibly complex range of sensations.

Interestingly, M. didn’t like this one much, despite really enjoying the Stonecroft version. I could tell they were very different, and I have to agree the Stonecroft is more to my liking, but I enjoyed the complexity and flavours in this one too. I guess I’ll stick with Cloudy Bay for top-notch Sauvignon blanc, but go further afield for Gewürz.

Star Trek 1.29: Operation: Annihilate!

Wednesday, 8 December, 2010

Operation: Annihilate!Operation: Annihilate!” is the last episode of season 1 of Star Trek. It took me a while to get to this one, as I knew it would be a bit of a let-down after “The City on the Edge of Forever“. Especially since this is the episode I’ve known ever since I was a kid as “the rubber vomit episode”. But here we go!

The episode opens with Spock tracing a route through space of a mysterious plague of madness, which has been making a straight line through several solar systems over the past few hundred years (including archaeological evidence of the plague on a planet 500 years ago, before humans went into space). The next planet on the path is Deneva, where Kirk’s brother and his family live. Approaching Deneva, the Enterprise detects a Denevan ship headed straight for the sun. They are unable to use tractor beams to save the ship, as Scotty determines they are out of range by consulting… nothing other than his own psychic engineer abilities. (Really. Kirk asks Scotty if they can use tractor beams, and Scotty turns his head slightly, thinks for a second, then says, “Out of range, captain.” No need to look at a screen or gauge or anything!) They fail to rescue the ship’s lone occupant, but do hear him over the radio babbling incoherently about being “free”.

Scans of Deneva indicate the expected human population, but displaying unusually low levels of activity. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and a random yeoman and security guy beam down into a city that looks like a funky technology park campus (which it is). A small group of apparently mad citizens attacks them. After stunning these, the landing party finds Kirk’s brother Sam dead, and his wife Aurelan raving mad and son Peter unconscious. Back on board, Aurelan tells Kirk that the planet was attacked by “things”. Kirk beams back down and the party finds a group of strange creatures lurking in the shadows of a building. Spock declares them “not life as we know or understand it”. They appear to be flying rubber novelty vomits. (In fact Wikipedia says the props are slightly modified rubber vomits.) One attacks Spock.

McCoy discovers the creature has injected strands of tissue that have quickly grown into Spock’s nervous system. McCoy can do nothing to remove it, and Spock is left squirming in pain. Spock expresses a desire to be released from bed restraints in sickbay, but Kirk disallows this, having seen how the maddened humans behave. He and McCoy promptly leave, not bothering to post a guard, which allows Spock to escape and attack the transporter chief in a bid to beam down to the planet. Scotty captures him just in time. Spock says he has mastered the pain through mental fortitude and Kirk lets him go down to collect a creature for study – since he can’t risk sending an uninfected person. McCoy discovers the creature is indestructible – nothing will kill it. They speculate, with no apparent evidence, that these creatures originate from outside the Galaxy. They don’t offer an opinion, or even wonder why, they are moving in a perfectly straight line from solar system to solar system. Kirk wrestles with the moral dilemma of either killing the million people on Deneva to stop the spread of the plague, or letting it spread to further planets. He says neither is acceptable and demands a third option.

Kirk himself makes the logical leap that sunlight killed the parasite in the Denevan who declared himself free at the top of the episode. A brief experiment confirms that bright light kills the captured specimen. They then expose Spock to light equivalent to proximity to the sun, which kills his parasite, but blinds him. McCoy had raised the option of Spock wearing protective goggles, but Kirk dismissed this, saying that the people on the planet won’t have any. This seems like a weak argument against protecting Spock‘s eyes! Tragically, Nurse Chapel then appears from the lab and says that it was only the ultraviolet component that was needed, not the visible light – Spock was blinded for nothing.

Kirk orders a set of satellites launched to bathe the planet in high intensity ultraviolet light – so bright that it will “even affect things in the dark in closed rooms”. I guess they didn’t realise when they made this episode that intense UV light is rather dangerous to humans – or maybe they figured giving a million people melanomas over the next 10 years was worth it. In the denouement, Spock reveals he has regained his sight, thanks to a third eyelid in his Vulcan anatomy that shielded his eyes from the worst. Kirk then tells Spock to lay in a course for Starbase 10 – which is weird, since normally it’d be the helmsman who lays in the course.

Tropes: Operation Blank, Excited Episode Title, Apologetic Attacker, Special Effect Failure, Puppeteer Parasite, Idiot Ball, Cardboard Prison, Heroic Willpower, Moral Dilemma, Take A Third Option, Weaksauce Weakness, Kryptonite Factor, Tragic Mistake, Temporary Blindness, Organ Dodge.
Body count: George “Sam” Kirk (off-screen), Aurelan Kirk.
(Image © 1966 Paramount Studios, used under Fair Use.)

Flickr blogged

Wednesday, 8 December, 2010

Mountain AshOne of my photos made today’s Flickr blog post! It’s a photo of mountain ash trees in Tasmania’s Mount Field National Park. This is the first time any of my work has been featured on the blog. :-)

Loki’s Awesome Draft

Wednesday, 1 December, 2010

I play Magic: The Gathering a lot with friends at work during our lunchtimes. Mostly we tend to play draft format tournaments, in which each player opens three new packs of cards (15 cards per pack) one at a time, picks one card, then passes the pack around the table. You continue picking one card per pack and passing the remainder, until you have 45 cards of your choice, with which you build a deck. We then play a round-robin of 3-game matches, played to completion (i.e. if you win a match 2-0, you still play the third game). Your tournament score is the total number of games you win, with ties broken by countback. A tournament like this takes us about 3 or 4 weeks to finish off, playing at lunchtime.

Anyway, most of the tournaments we do use the brand new card sets that Wizards of the Coast print a few times a year. These are fun and exciting because they involve newly designed cards from the ever-expanding imaginations of the experienced and clever professional game designers.

Another thing we’ve done a few times is to design our own sets of original cards, print up copies, shuffle them into “packs” of 15 random cards each, and draft with those. Our first effort, which we dubbed Inventica, was a joint one, in which we all contributed an equal number of our own card designs. Let me tell you, experience playing Magic does not make you a good card designer. Many of the cards from that set were either just lame and dull, or severely broken in ways that destabilised the game balance. It’s gone down in our joint gaming experience as one of the most severely broken events ever, though it was amusing in hindsight and somewhat fun at the time. We learnt a lot about designing good cards form that experience.

The next invented set was Asgard, which was the product of one of us (Loki) working in secret. This is a daunting task, designing enough cards for 7 players, making them interesting, and trying to make them balanced. Again, it was fun, but the design was perhaps too ambitious, with many new mechanics that didn’t have enough breathing space to really gel. It was nowhere near as brokenly overpowered as Inventica, and in fact probably went the other way.

We began design on another two other joint efforts: Horrifica, for which we decided on a unified theme (which Inventica didn’t have), namely a horror theme. The plan was to design the cards communally, with people submitting ideas and letting everyone comment and tweak until we had a finely tuned set. Alas it never really got off the ground, though we still have the early notes somewhere. The other effort was Thriceborn, which had a theme of three-colour “guilds”. This built on the concept of the two-colour guilds introduced in the official Ravnica block. We came up with this idea before the official Alara block was released, which did three-colour “shards”, and were only partway through the design when it appeared. Thriceborn has been on hold for a while, but it’s about 50% designed and we hope to finish it off some day.

The next creative effort was Draftikar, designed by me. This set used mechanics that actually interacted with the fact that we were using the cards in a draft tournament format. For example, there were cards that, when you drafted them – before any games were even played – did things, like letting you draft an extra card, or pass packs to different players. And when we draft we put the cards into card sleeves that are numbered A1 to A15 for the first pack, B1 to B15 for the second, and C1 to C15 for the third, so we can later record the drafting order and do statistics on it and so on. This means each card has a visible number on it (on the front, not the back) – so I created mechanics that used that number. For example, a spell that does D damage, where D is the draft number of that card. These were somewhat self-balancing, because people didn’t pick them at numbers that were underpowered, and then drafted them at numbers before they became too powerful, lest later players grab them – though in practice the decisions were complex enough that some rather overpowered cards got through. It was fun, but some of the cards were truly broken. More lessons learnt.

Another two players are now working on entire set designs of their own, and we hope to play them some time soon.

But then another thing we are now doing is creating “cubes” of cards, which are simply sets of the necessary numbers of cards gathered from our various card collections, shuffled, and made into “packs”, which are then drafted normally. A cube can have some theme uniting the cards selected. The first one we did was a Dross Cube, made of the weakest and most over-costed cards from one guy’s collection. These are cards that serious players reject and never use, because there are simply better cards in existence. It was amusing to have to build decks comprised of cards that we’d never normally use, and generated some very fun interactions and effects that we never would have seen otherwise. And because it was made entirely from real cards, it was balanced in its own way, and nobody really had an overpowering advantage like in our invented sets.

Now, we’ve just begun another cube – the polar opposite of the Dross Cube. This is the Awesome Cube, made of a collection of some of the most overpowered and insane cards that Wizards have ever printed. Loki went to the effort of buying several cards online to put into this cube, and we are all in awe of what he has assembled. It doesn’t have any of the Power Nine – cards so overpowered that they command prices well over $100 each – but it does have plenty of cards from the next tier of legendarily broken cards. There are cards so powerful they have been banned from official tournaments. But there are dozens of them – in fact pretty much every single card in this cube would be an automatic inclusion in a deck in any other limited format tournament. It was staggering to see packs being handed around during the draft with the best ten cards already taken, and seeing the remaining cards still presenting the dilemma that you wanted to keep 3 or 4 of them because they are just that good.

I’ll talk more about this cube later. I don’t want to say much more now because we’ve just started the tournament and I don’t want the other guys to read what astounding things I have in my deck. My deck is, frankly, awesome and completely and utterly broken. My fear is that everyone else’s deck is at least just as overpowering. :-)