Games and next Lego construction

Friday was face-to-face board games night at a friend’s place. I took Scully with me and there were six of us altogether for games. We played No Thanks, then Heat: Pedal to the Metal, and then a new game for me, Dungeon Academy.

In this game there is a dungeon map made of sixteen dice which are dumped at random into a 4×4 square tray, like in Boggle. Each player has a character card with different amounts of health (red) and mana (blue). Each player needs to plot a path through the dungeon grid on their own sheet of paper, at the same time, entering from any side, traversing adjoining squares (maximum once each), and then exiting from any side. Each die in the grid shows either a monster (red or blue, small or large) or a potion (red or blue). A small monster drain one health/mana (matching the colour), large ones drain two. As long as your health/mana don’t go negative you kill the monster and gain 1 gold. Potions add to the corresponding health/mana. Your character also has a special ability (mine was gain 1 extra gold per large blue monster slain).

It’s a race to see who can plot their course fastest, without messing up. If you mess up and drop below 0 health or mana you score zero gold for that round, but heal back to full in both for the next round. When finished, you grab a numbered card from a pile in the middle, first player finished gets 1, last gets the largest number (6 for our six-player game). Then you draw a treasure card for each player and choose in order, from 1 to the last player, excluding anyone who died in that round. So being faster gets you a better choice of treasure. Treasures can do things like give you extra gold, or give you abilities such as a helmet which can be discarded to avoid a monster hitting you, or invisibility cloak which means you can ignore a monster. Some are curses, which are negative, so you don’t want to be picking last!

You play over 4 rounds. In round 2 and 4 one of the regular dice is swapped out for a special die that has different faces that do other things. The last die is the “boss die” which has, for example, a dragon that drains 3 health and 3 mana, but is worth 3 gold.

I scored a final total of 30 gold, which was equalled by one other player, but we lost to someone who managed 31.

During the day I had 4 ethics classes. One of the parents contacted me early on and said that her daughter had been sent home from school with a fever, and might not join the class. But she really liked it and might want to join anyway even though she was feeling sick. It turned out she did indeed show up. Such dedication!

Friday was also warmish, reaching 23.7°C, in fact the warmest day of May so far. But Saturday dawned cold and didn’t heat up much at all. We only reached a maximum of 14.6°C at 10am, and then it just got colder again. A strong cold southerly wind has been blowing drifting showers across the city and it really feels like winter now. But I dragged myself out for a 5k run, and actually did a decent time. Probably because I was cold and wanting to get back inside as quickly as possible!

Today I finally got back into the construction of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. Stage 11 adds details to the exterior part of the castle/dungeon. There are spiders and plants and trees. If you look closely you can see a third spider lurking in the shadows behind the top of the left tree:

Lego D&D stage 11

The door has also been covered with a removable rock face, making it a secret door!

Lego D&D stage 11

And there’s a secret cache of gold and a key:

Lego D&D stage 11

And part of the dungeon wall is removable too!

Lego D&D stage 11

Inside this part, seen from the other side, has been added a skeletal torso guardian and a spellbook (behind the shield):

Lego D&D stage 11

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Working on mysterious beasts

Lego D&D set, stage 10 of construction today, which adds castley bits to the top:

Lego D&D stage 10

Today I wrote the lesson for this week’s new ethics/critical thinking class topic on “Mysterious Beasts”. Stuff like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Yeti, chupacabras, and so on. Much more a critical thinking type class, although there are some ethical questions along the lines of “If such creatures were proven to exist, what should we do about it?” and “Should we take into account potential undiscovered creatures when doing environmental studies for proposed developments?” and “If Bigfoot is intelligent, should we leave them alone?”

I took Scully for a drive today to the Allambie pie shop, and to fill up on petrol on the way there. The cheapest petrol station by far in this area is on the way there, so it’s a good doubling up of reasons to go that way.

And I started work on marking the first student reports for the Data Engineering course. This is the experiment planning report, with the final report and video presentation due in two more weeks.

New content today:

A beautiful evening run

I didn’t do a 5k run yesterday because of the foul weather. Although rain was forecast today, and there were a few showers around, it was mostly pleasant and sunny. My wife came home from work a bit earlier than usual, and I took the opportunity to go for a run before sunset. At the halfway mark the view was so nice I had to pull out my phone and take a photo.

The city from halfway

I now have 6 ethics classes on Mondays, and that takes up a lot of the day. After the first four I had a break for lunch and took Scully for a walk to the post office. There’s usually not much of a wait, but today there was a queue of ten other people there before me, so I had to wait a bit. One guy had a whole hand-trolley with multiple boxes containing packages he wanted sent off. He just kept pulling them out one after the other and was still getting through them by the time I left.

During the afternoon I took a break to assemble part 9 of the Lego D&D set.

Lego D&D set stage 9

This adds a castle tower construction on one end, with a door accessed by the ladder. It’s a prison cell. And inside…

Lego D&D set stage 9

And from the other side we can see a mushroom patch in what looks like it might be an outdoor area.

Lego D&D set stage 9

In other news, I’ve burnt through all of my gems in Duolingo. When they converted to this gem reward system a while back, I had something like 40,000 of them, and I thought it would last me ages. But you need to use them up to keep practising when you make too many mistakes, or to access the mastery review exercises, so I’ve been slowly spending them faster than gaining them. And now they’ve run out. I can’t do any of those things any more without spending money. So it might be time to find an alternative to using Duolingo to keep up with my Italian practice.

New content today:

The last perfect day of autumn…

Some 5 billion years from now, there will be a last perfect day on Earth… then the sun will begin to die, life will be extinguished, the oceans will boil and evaporate away.

Carl Sagan said this in his TV series “Cosmos”. I’m reminded of it on a day like today, when it’s absolutely gorgeous autumn weather – warm, with a light breeze, and just a pleasure to be outside. Not too hot like summer, and not yet descending into the chill of winter. And with the forecast for tomorrow being rainy and much colder, it will probably feel like the start of winter.

So today felt like the last perfect day of autumn. I had four ethics classes before lunch, but then took the chance to take Scully on a nice long walk in the sunshine, filtered through high cirrus clouds so it wasn’t stinging. We stopped at The Grumpy Baker and I got a spicy vegetable roll for lunch – like a sausage roll but filled with a kind of Moroccan spiced vegetable mix. It’s really good.

Then Scully got to run around and chase a ball on the grass by the harbour for a bit before we walked back home. She rolled in the grass a bit, enjoying the scents, but it was okay because we had planned to give her a bath this evening. We meant to do it on the weekend but time got away from us.

Scully after rolling in the grass

I spent some time making stage 8 of the Lego D&D set. This adds a door and arches around the dungeon level, and adds a roof which looks like a floor of the storey above.

Lego D&D set, stage 8

I made pizza for dinner, but didn’t realise until the dough was ready that we’d run out of pizza cheese (a blend of mostly mozzarella with a little cheddar and parmesan for flavour)! So I had to make it with just cheddar and feta cheese. Cheddar’s not the best by itself as it gets oily when it melts, but spreading it sparely on the pizza works okay.

Then two more classes tonight to finish off the week’s topic on “Why don’t we?” questions. Tomorrow I write up the lesson plan for the next week, which will be on “Mysterious Beasts” – like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and so on. That should be fun!

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Friday games and Saturday comics

No update yesterday because it was online board games night with my friends. My Friday began with getting up and heading to the supermarket for the week’s grocery shopping. Because Thursday was a public holiday and we went out, I forgot to make an online order for pickup, so I had to do it the old fashioned way and actually walk through the aisles and grab items off the shelves.

One weird thing I noticed, and this has sort of been a thing recently whenever I go into a grocery store, there was no skim milk whatsoever. There were hundreds of bottles and cartons of regular milk and some specialty varieties like lactose-free and stuff, but no skim milk at all. The past few times I’ve gone looking for milk there’s been hardly any – the previous time I tried to buy milk I got the very last 2-litre bottle of skim milk in the whole supermarket. I don’t normally buy 2-litre bottles, but there were no 1-litre cartons at all. I don’t know what’s going on, but it sure feels like there’s a severe shortage of skim milk for the past couple of months for some reason.

After shopping I had 4 ethics classes during the day. In between I used the time to sell some more of my Magic cards. I walked Scully up to the post office to send off two more packages to new owners.

For dinner we drove over to Lane Cove and Four Frogs crêperie to have galettes. I tried one of the weekly specials, a galette with lamb sausage and Moroccan spices, which was pretty good. Normally for dessert I have a sweet crêpe, with chocolate or berries or ice cream of whatever, but I felt like more savoury instead, so had a second galette, with prosciutto and goat cheese, and a drizzle of honey so there was a touch of sweetness there.

After dinner was online games with my friends. We played a new game called Bang! I didn’t like it much – it seemed pretty random and lacking any way to make reasonable decisions about what to do. I don’t think the others liked it much either. We moved on to some of our regular games: Just One, 7 Wonders, 6 Nimmt, and Sketchful. The last one is always hilarious and a great way to finish the night when we’re all feeling a bit silly.

Today I went for my first 5k run in three weeks, since I hurt my back. The back is much better now, and I managed a reasonable time even though I didn’t push myself too hard The cooler weather definitely helps. It was only 16°C when I went out this morning.

My wife went out with Scully to visit her mother, and I used the time to make a new Darths & Droids comic, and write more Irregular Webcomic! strips, in preparation for hopefully photographing the remainder of this current batch tomorrow.

I also did stage 7 of the Lego D&D set. This adds part of the walls to the stage 6 base, which seem to be separating it into an outdoor area and a dungeon-like underground area.

Lego D&D set, stage 6

And here’s the rear side, showing the dungeon area, with a bunch of abandoned weapons, coins, bones of adventurers who met their untimely ends here, and a gelatinous cube complete with a skull inside it!!

Lego D&D set, stage 6

And finally, I disabled my Facebook account today. I’ve wanted to do this for years, but it was the only way I kept in contact with a lot of people. But I decided that it was getting annoying enough that I had to cut the link. It feels good never to have to look at Facebook again!

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Story of a Magic card

I’ve mentioned that I’m in the process of selling off some of my old Magic: the Gathering cards. I started playing the game in 1994, too late to buy any of the Arabian Nights expansion cards myself. But I traded for some of them early on, in a vain attempt to assemble a complete collection of that expansion set. I never managed this, because already by the time I started playing, some of those Arabian Nights cards were considered valuable (like $20 or so!) and it was difficult to find anyone willing to part with them.

I did manage to trade for a City in a Bottle. Here it is, a photo I took a few days ago of my personal copy of this card:

City in a Bottle

This was one of the difficult rare cards to get, but I was determined to get one because I admired the work of the artist, Drew Tucker. Unlike all the other card artists at the time, he worked in watercolour, and his images were always slightly impressionistic, different to the regular sort of fantasy art of the time. I eventually assembled a complete collection of all of the cards with Tucker’s artwork, as far as the Mirage expansion. But this City in a Bottle was the pride of my collection, as it was so rare.

The reason I took a photo of it the other day is because someone on the Discord where I am selling my cards was in search of a copy to buy. I figured I’m selling my collection, I should let this card go if someone wants it. The current value of this card in good condition, according to recent online sales, is about US$340, or AU$530. I offered a bit of a discount—because the listed selling price is never what you actually get after fees, or the middle-man taking a cut; if you sell direct to a buyer rather than through an online selling site then the accepted practice is to price the card around 15% lower.

The buyer PayPal-ed me some money, and I’ve now sent the card off. I messaged to say it was in the mail, and I hope he treated the card well, because it meant a lot to me because it was the pinnacle of my artist collection of Drew Tucker cards. I didn’t really expect too much of a response, because I know a lot of people don’t really appreciate Tucker’s artwork, preferring more traditional painting media for fantasy art. But the buyer said:

Will do. Drew Tucker is my favorite magic artist by far. I had him do a painting on the back of an artist proof when I was at eternal weekend and it’s one of my favorite cards. This is my first City – very excited to finally get one!

Wow! Now that’s cool. I’m sad to see one of my favourite cards in my collection go, but if it has to go to anyone, I’m glad it’s this guy.

In other news, I’ve scheduled an extra ethics class on Mondays, after requests from parents for more suitable timeslots for their kids. I’m now up to 6 classes on Mondays! I could probably schedule something close to a 40-hour week working on these and get plenty of enrolments, but I still need some time off in between to breathe and get other things done.

I used a bit of spare time today to do stage 4 of the Lego Dungeons & Dragons set. This adds the roof and exterior of the bedroom from stage 3. The roof bits are really nice, with clever angles and construction.

Lego D&D set: stage 4

There’s also more details inside. And this new figure of an orcish fighter. Who appears to have bested the bed-mimic from stage 3, and is now interested in this treasure chest that might be full of loot.

Lego D&D set: stage 4

But oh no! It’s another mimic!!

Lego D&D set: stage 4

This set is so much fun to build.

I also made new IWC comics today, ready for a new update tonight to replace last week’s hiatus of reruns.

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Lazy weekend Saturday

After the past two weekends of running market stalls, this weekend my wife and I have relatively little we have to do. She went to yoga this morning, with Scully. Scully enjoys the yoga class, and lies down quietly next to my wife while she does the exercises. Apparently when my wife does the bits where you lie down flat on the floor, Scully gets up and lies on top of her! The other people in the class like Scully being there, and afterwards they all go for a coffee in a nearby cafe.

This gives me time to work on a few things. Today it was more of the secret project I’ve been working on all week. I’m so close to finishing this stage of it I can almost smell it. I really want to see if I can get it completed in the next couple of days. Then it’ll be handing over it to a friend to go over and give feedback.

I built some more of the Lego set I’ve been working on for a few weeks now, the Medieval Blacksmith. It’s a huge set and the pieces come in 14 bags separated by building sequence. I’m now 8 bags into the sequence, doing roughly two per week. I’m really stretching it out to enjoy the building experience.

For dinner tonight we went out to a French crepe place. We go there a few times a year, and it’s really nice. They have savoury galettes for meals, and sweet crepes for dessert, washed down by imported French cider, as is the traditional liquid accompaniment.

New content today:

Comic batching

I still had three or four strips to write in the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic!, so I started on those first thing this morning. I powered through writing them in about an hour or so, and it was still early enough to get to work on photographing, so I did. I had to run down to the garage to retrieve my Lego Jabba the Hutt for one new comic. It would have been ideal to have the Lego Boushh figure as well, but I don’t have that so I had to improvise:

... holding a thermal detonator!

Now that I look at it, I realise this scene shouldn’t have Leia in the slave outfit next to Jabba… but, oh well. Anyway, building sets and taking photos for the comics took several hours, and I didn’t finish until a late lunch time.

After lunch I took Scully for a walk and dropped in at the small nearby supermarket to pick up some fruit. And this afternoon I starting putting the finishing touches on the Magic: the Gathering thing I’m preparing for Friday night. It’s nearly finished – hopefully I’ll be able to finish it off tomorrow so I can work on some other things later in the week.

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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.

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Magpie attack!

Monday! I spent much of today finishing off the build of the Lego Stranger Things set. It’s a big set and took several hours of building over the past couple of days to finish. I’ve only just finished it late this evening. I was planning to take a photo to show it off, but honestly I’m mentally exhausted and want to head to bed soon, so I’ll do it tomorrow.

I took a break at lunch time to walk up the street to get some fish & chips. I took them to my usual fish & chips eating spot, on a hill overlooking the harbour. It’s lovely eating outdoors with a view. But today a couple of magpies decided that they also liked the looks of my lunch, and came threateningly close – within striking distance to steal a chip or a chunk of fish if I wasn’t careful. At one point one tried to land right on my meal, and I barely managed to fend it off without letting it touch any of the food. And within a minute or so another two magpies arrived, looming ominously from the tree branches not far above me like something out of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

I didn’t fancy the sharp beaks on the birds and the fact that they looked keen to strike, so I packed up my lunch and walked to a different location to eat in peace. It’s a shame. I’ve had birds hover around me at that spot before, but never so aggressively or dangerously close. I fear that spot may be lost for good, because magpies are highly territorial and maintain their behaviour over several years.

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