Late Friday: Magic event

Writing Friday night’s post on Saturday morning, because last night was the huge Magic: the Gathering games night event that I’ve been organising for weeks. So, now that my friends have been surprised, I can finally reveal some details!

I put together a cube draft tournament, selecting 360 Magic cards from various different sets, and randomly distributing them to produce 24 faux boosters, for the booster draft format. I even printed cover pictures for the faux boosters and sealed the cards inside. Here’s a picture of the 24 faux boosters – There’s a theme, which you might be able to recognise. Be quick, I’m going to spoil it in the next paragraph:

The theme is that all these things were released in 1993-1995. Not coincidentally, Magic: the Gathering was released in 1993. The gimmick with this cube draft was that many of the cards I selected were from some of the very early released sets of Magic. Now, some of those cards were very powerful and have never been reprinted, so they are scarce, and thus have become insanely valuable over time. The best known are the so-called “Power Nine” cards, which now change hands for prices of the order of several thousand US dollars each. I started playing Magic after these cards had stopped being printed, so I don’t own any of them. But I have a friend who started playing Magic before me, and he has a full set of all these early sets, including not only the Power Nine, but also dozens of other rare and very valuable cards. (If you know Magic, he has complete sets of Unlimited, Antiquities, Legends, The Dark, and an almost complete set of Arabian Nights.)

He hasn’t played with those cards for some time, and wondered if I would like to use them in games with my Magic playing group. Needless to say I leapt at the opportunity to borrow them! I selected 360 of the most powerful cards I could get my hands on, including some cards from more recent sets from my own collection (I kept track of ownership in a spreadsheet). I double-sleeved the cards to protect them, then created the faux boosters ready for playing.

My friends had no idea what I had prepared; I’d only told them that I was organising a draft tournament and would provide all the cards. To get into the spirit of “old timey” stuff, I suggested we get dressed up in jackets and ties, and I brought several bottles over to make cocktails. While we waited for the last players to arrive, they speculated on what was in store. Someone suggested I had made an entire self-designed Magic set based on a James Bond theme.

Old Timey Magic draft

When everyone had arrived, I handed out the first booster packs. Everyone was intrigued by the cover design but nobody picked up on the theme. Then when they opened the packs and saw the cards within… It was great. Many expressions of shock and disbelief as most of them saw for the first time with their own eyes renowned cards they’d only ever heard about in hushed tones before, and realised they were going to get to play games with them.

We went through the rounds of drafting, with many expressions of incredulity at the cards they were seeing. And then built our decks and played the games, which led to several epic and hilarious plays throughout the evening.

For those savvy with the game, one memorable incident from a game I played: I mana-accelerated into Eureka, thinking my hand stacked with huge creatures would prevail over whatever my opponent had. He put out Nicol Bolas, which bemused me because he didn’t have the necessary lands to pay for the upkeep. But then he put out Tawnos’s Coffin, which I thought would neutralise one of my big creatures, but then he activated it to exile his own Nicol Bolas, and I realised his cunning plan. On his next turn he played the last land he needed to pay Bolas’s upkeep, and unleashed him from the Coffin…. and it was all over red rover for me, as Nicol Bolas proceeded to pound me for huge damage until I was dead.

By the end of the night, much fun had been had by all, and everyone agreed it had been one of our most memorable Magic tournaments ever!

(The other thing I did on Friday before going to games night was finish a new entry for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe…)

New content today:

Some cooking

This morning I finished off that new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe that I mentioned yesterday. I’m very pleased with this one, as it’s so surprising how the shape of the Earth becomes important to a topic where it initially seems completely irrelevant.

Around lunch time I went for a walk, since the rain finally decided to stop late this morning. We had almost twice the average September rainfall in three days, but nobody’s complaining because it’s the only significant rainfall we’ve had since May and we really need it. The one thing it did was really increase the humidity, and although it wasn’t hot it was a bit sticky after walking a few kilometres.

Besides taking Scully out to enjoy the weather and get some exercise too, I spent much of the afternoon cooking. I boiled up some chick peas I had soaking since the morning, and then fried them up with some chopped potato, carrot, broccoli, onion, garlic, and a bit of tikka masala paste. This became a stuffing to go into some puff pastry, which I then baked in the oven for dinner. I also made some sweet treats for dessert. Mashed up a carrot cake loaf (bought from the supermarket), mixed with cocoa powder, apricot jam, and rum, then rolled it into balls and coated them in chocolate sprinkles – et voila! Home made rum balls. Last time I made them I used a banana cake and they turned out really nice, so I thought I’d try carrot cake as the base this time. Recipes I’ve seen all say to use a plain vanilla butter cake, but I like the extra flavour.

Another small thing I did today was that I found an interesting photo while trawling through my old photo folders looking for photos to illustrate my Globe proof. It’s not a great photo, but it is a photo of some very interesting birds:

Little penguins

These are little penguins, which I photographed back in 2006 while on a trip along the south coast of Australia. They are the only penguin species to nest on mainland Australia – in fact there’s a colony in Sydney Harbour, not far from where I live. The reason I was excited to find this old photo, despite the long distance and somewhat blurred image, was that I hadn’t counted this species among my list of bird species that I’ve photographed. I keep a list, and try to add to it whenever I get the chance, and I’m now up to 276 species.

I maintain a manual list here, and a while ago I started work on a version with a database of all my photos behind it. The new version isn’t fully populated yet, so most of the links lead to empty pages, and the page design needs to be made a bit more fancy, but you can see where it’s going if you click on some of these species: Bell miner, Crimson rosella, Little wattlebird, New Holland honeyeater, Pied oystercatcher. It’s going to be a bit of work adding in all of my photos…

New content today:

One quarter of the way

Today I wrote another one of the 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe, number 25 out of the planned 100. A nice milestone! In fact, I have more than 100 planned… but it’s a quarter of the way to the nominal target.

In the afternoon I did more preparation for the Magic: the Gathering event I’m planning for my friends. I still have several hours worth of work to do, but I should have plenty of time before the date, which is still over 2 weeks away.

That’s kind of all I’ve done today – those two things together took up over 12 hours of work. Well, I also took Scully for a walk and cooked dinner (curried vegetables in pastry parcels) and other normal daily stuff. I’m a bit tired now…

New content today:

The gravity of the situation

Most of today was spent writing a new article for 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe. It’s about the variation in the strength of gravity over the Earth’s surface. It was hard finding a map of the actual value of the acceleration due to gravity across the Earth, rather than maps showing the local anomalies compared to a smoothly varying reference value. There are hundreds of the latter, but I only found one of the former, copied on a few different blogs, and it wasn’t clear where the original came from. I finally tracked it down to the Western Australian Geodesy Group at Curtin University, but the link I found led to a 404 page. So I emailed the professor of the research group there to ask if the diagram was really made by them, and if not, if he knew where it came from. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’ll update the article if and when I do.

For lunch I went on a longish walk over to a bakery called The Grumpy Baker, near the dog park where I take Scully a couple of times a week. With Scully we always drive because it’s a bit far to walk with her, but I did the trip on foot today, almost 5 km there and back. The weather was glorious – it really felt like summer already, even though we’re barely a few days out of winter. I walked there on an inland route, and then walked back by the shore of the harbour to make it a loop. This is Oyster Cove:

Fence and boat

And then this afternoon the temperature got even warmer. Between 4pm and 4:30pm the temperature rose by 6.2 degrees Celsius (11.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Yes, in half an hour! A strong westerly wind was bringing in hot air from central Australia. The wind was really strong too, gusting up to 100 km/hr across Sydney, and causing some significant structural damage and bringing down several trees. A few cars got crushed and people hospitalised, and there were blackouts from power lines being downed. Nothing severe near me, but there were some small tree branches littered about the road. And when my wife and I walked up the street for dinner, the fire brigade was dealing with a damaged tree as we walked past.

And then later it rained, very heavily, while we were eating dinner. That brought a steep drop in temperature, back down 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) between 6 and 7pm. Fortunately the rain stopped before we walked back home, but the walk was uncomfortably cold.

Today I also raided the garage to find tools to install the new kitchen shelves I bought from the hardware store on Tuesday. I found an electric drill, but no bits. I’ll probably have to go buy the bit I need.

New content today:

Stranger Things!

Here are some photos as promised yesterday of the Stranger Things Lego set that I finished building.

Stranger Things: Where's Will?

Stranger Things: The Upside Down

Stranger Things: Byers House

Stranger Things: Christmas lights

It’s incredibly cool. The whole set can be turned upside down, to display either the real word or the Upside Down more prominently. And there’s a light that projects onto the Christmas Lights. There’s a whole lot of other wonderful detail that you probably can’t see very well in the photos. This is the definitely biggest and possibly the coolest Lego set that I’ve ever owned.

Today I spent most of the day writing another one of the 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe, this time about walking around the world in a straight line. And a bit of time doing more prep for my Very Special Magic Draft. Oh, and I decided to remove the “latest posts” thing in the sidebar of this blog and replace it with a tag cloud, now that I have an interesting number of tags that I use for posts.

New content today:

Geology

Today was dedicated to writing a new article for my science blog, 100 Proofs that the Earth is a Globe. I started working on something about earthquakes, but after getting a couple of paragraphs in I decided that it would be better to discuss plate tectonics first. So I switched tracks and worked on that. I started around 9am, and with various interruptions during the day, I just finished and posted the article now at 8:30pm. Phew! It’s about 2000 words, and writing that much researched material in one day is pretty good – writers often aim for a steady 1000 words a day, so it’s well above that.

One interruption was walking up the street to get some lunch, and also pick up a package that failed to be delivered yesterday. To spoil myself a bit, I ordered myself a new LEGO set: the Stranger Things set. The box is huge! It should be awesome. Maybe to be featured in a future Irregular Webcomic?

And that was my whole day really, apart from taking Scully to the dog park this afternoon. While there I chatted with another dog owner, Trevor, who has a golden coloured cavoodle named Ruffy. He’s a retired geologist, so I mentioned that I’d been working on an article about plate tectonics all day, and we had a bit of a discussion about that.

New content today:

And we’re live!

Hi everyone! I’ve been thinking for quite a while about making a new portal page for people interested in following my creative work and other stuff. Yesterday I decided to knuckle down and make it, and I previewed it early to my Patreon patrons to get some feedback while I was fiddling with the graphic design.

(Techy details: I had to dig pretty deep into WordPress custom CSS to get the design working how I wanted, removing a lot of excessive negative space in the sidebar. And then it turned out I’d stupidly installed the code into a sub-subdirectory rather than a subdirectory of my web root, so I spent another couple of hours moving directories, editing config files, and trawling through the WordPress database to edit all mentions of the sub-subdirectory. And then hack the .htaccess file to change the default landing page for the web domain. Thankfully it all seems to be working, but it’s possible there’ll be a glitch somewhere.)

TL;DR: It took more work than I’d expected, but we’re up and running!

The other thing I did today was write a new Proof that the Earth is a Globe: #21. Zodiacal light. I started about 9am and worked on that to about 2pm, so that was most of the day. But I’m pleased with this one. How often do you get to cite Brian May’s Ph.D. thesis in a piece of scientific writing?

Then I took Scully (my dog) out for a bit of walk, and spent the rest of the afternoon getting this new home page up and running. Here’s a photo of Scully (taken a couple of days ago):

Scully on a bushwalk

Isn’t she cute?