Star Wars Monopoly: yes, grown-ups play it!

I have just returned from a meeting of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, (the oldest science fiction club in the Southern Hemisphere) where the club had a “board games” night. I ended up on a table playing – you guessed it – Star Wars Monopoly.

Princess Leia

Star Wars Monopoly is much like real Monopoly. Instead of Park Lane and various locations around London, you buy properties from the Star Wars films. You can have Tatooine, Endor, or the Imperial Palace. Instead of houses, you buy little replicas of the Millennium Falcon to put on your properties and collect more rent. And yes, these were adults I was playing with.  The characters you move around the board can include Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and R2D2. I just had a crummy old Imperial Storm Trooper. I haven’t played Monopoly for 40 years, but soon remembered you have to keep a balance between buying properties and having enough cash on hand to pay the rent when you land on someone else’s properties. You can be asset rich but cash poor, and that’s not a good position to be in. I noticed that it’s “go to jail”, not “go to gaol”, and I wondered: did the original Monopoly have British or American spellings?

On another table, people were playing chess with Star Wars figures. The King was the Emperor, and Darth Vader was the Queen. That took some figuring out. Why wouldn’t Leia be the queen? I also noticed that one of my fellow players had a “Lord of the Rings” wedding ring. He had the elvish inscription about “one ring to bind them all” engraved on his band.

It was an odd night, and bought back childhood memories of playing with another family in my neighbourhood. My friend’s little brother got very upset  when he discovered  that someone had given him three tens for a fifty because he was too young to read the numbers and do the arithmetic. When he complained to his mother, she ordered the game closed down and everyone was sent home.

So what about you? Have you  ever played  a grown-up kids game? What was it ? What memories did it bring back?.

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Losing someone

I just read a very moving post on the blog by Debra Kristi http://debrakristi.wordpress.com/ about this being the 15th anniversary of the last day she saw her sister alive. There is a photo of the two of them together. She has used her sister’s name (Kristi) as part of her blog name in memory of her. It made me think of how lucky we are to have people in our lives we love, and how important it is to tell them so.

Two and a half years ago, my mother died after 3 years of being in a nursing home because of  Alzheimer’s. I lost her in little stages. The first Christmas after she moved into the low care section, she tapped the bunch of Christmas cards in her hand and said “Now, you’re, Richard, aren’t you?” By late the next year, she was introducing me to people  as her husband, or her brother, or who knows who. She gradually lost the ability to dress herself, eat unaided, and had no idea who her family were, except that we were someone she knew. She was moved into high care.

She died of heart failure as she was sitting down to dinner one night. She had a faint pulse. The nurse in charge rang me to check what the terminal care instructions were.  I was driving and pulled the car over to take the call. The instructions  had been put in writing, but i guess in the middle of an emergency they couldn’t put their hand right on the right bit of the file. I said “if there’s no pulse, don’t resuscitate.” By this time an ambulance crew had arrived and they found no pulse. I was still pulled over on the side of the road. The nurse told me over the phone “She’s gone.” later that night I had the chance to sit with her body and talk to her. That may sound strange to some people, but it helped me.

Fortunately I had told her when she was still alive that I thought she had been a good mother, and that I loved her.

Tonight’s blog by Debra made me want to remember to tell my kids regularly that I love them. They know it, but  especially my son: for some reasons males don’t say that kind of thing to other males, even sons, I think, as much as they do to daughters. He engages in a couple of high risk sports. It would be a tragedy to lose him, and a double tragedy not to have told him how much I care.

What experiences have you had of losing someone, and did you have the chance to “say goodbye” properly? What advice would you give others?

The world is getting stranger – marijuana from a vending machine.

Well, according to news items, a club in New Zealand  has a vending machine that dispenses 1 gram bags of marijuana for NZ$20 (about US$15) for “medicinal” purposes. The club is owned by the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Normal).

Cannabis Skunk Plant

Photo from http://www.cannabis-pictures.com

This no doubt poses the police with a dilemma. Who could they charge with selling the drug? To know this, I’d guess they have to know who stocked the machine, and who collected the cash. If these activities are done when the club is closed, and the police can’t see, who do they charge? Police in the town  of Waitemata are said to be “monitoring the situation.” (New Zealand, town names are often hard for non-Kiwis to pronounce, but I’m guessing this is pronounced Why tay-mah-ta). The club founder, Dakta Green, wants to open “Daktories” in every town in the country. (Think about that for a second. His name is  Dakta??? What the hell were his parents thinking??

It opens up all sorts of other possibilities. New Zealand has recently had some devastating earthquakes and a tornado. Imagine some residents of country towns  sitting through the next cyclone, staring into space and giggling, as the sheet metal and glass shards fly around their heads. Earthquakes and tornadoes are terrifying things. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Why not introduce them onto Australian beaches? “Shark alert? What Shark? No worries mate. She’ll be right.” Instead of “Throw another shrimp on the barby,” it would  be “have another joint, cobber.” Or up in Northern Australia where fresh water crocodiles have a habit of eating tourists who ignore the “don’t swim here” signs, it might produce some even greater effects. Does a crock who ingests a stoned tourist get any of the relaxation benefits of the dope from the tourist? After all, you are what you eat.

Or what about American schools where guards use metal detectors  and search students for guns as they go into schools. Trade in your gun for some dope. Get another gram before Math class.

Maybe they should have tried this before those republican nomination debates that began last year. Michelle Bachman and Mitt Rommney with a couple of grams each in them?

“Yeah, No worries. You’d make a great president , Michelle.”

“You too Mitt.”

“Newt, wanna be my Vice President?”

“No sweat, as long as we get one of those vending machines into the White House. Foreign Policy is a real drag. It would be a lot nicer of we could have a real drag as we decide it.”

The world could be a more relaxed place if every country had a “Daktory” in every town and suburb.

“You want me to stop building nuclear missiles?” says Kim Jong-Un. “Hey dude, like, give me a thousand of those pot machines and I’ll do anything you like.”

For Novel Writers, how to make a believable male a woman would want to fall in love with.

Over at Writers in the Storm Blog Charlotte Carter has written a simply supurb piece on how to write a male that your female character would be willing to fall in love with.

I’m not going  to reproduce the whole thing (there are 13 points) , but a couple of items jumped out at me:

(Now quoting Charlotte:)

1. The hero is great with kids; we’d all want him to be the father of our children

5. The hero has the ability to have fun, or enhances the heroine’s sense of fun.

9, The hero talks to the heroine, revealing more of himself than he ever has before. That makes him vulnerable. (end quote) 

and you can read the other 10 points here.

This post has seriously made me think I need to go back and fill in a little more background on a novel I have in final edits at the moment.

I look forward to more of Charlotte Carter next time she’s on that excellent blog.

Members of “Pussy Riot” rock group jailed in Russia for 7 years over protest song.

I In Moscow  three members of an all-female rock group called “Pussy Riot” are under arrest for performing an impromptu performance in a Russian church. The group usually perform in skimpy dresses and  balaclavas. Their membership seems to fluctuate between 7 and 11.

Russian feminist collective Pussy Riot stages a protest in Moscow's Red Square against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Members were arrested and detained briefly after their mid-January protest.

Their chief offence seems to be that they were singing anti –Putin songs. Putin, as you probably know, has served two  term as president of Russia, and one term  now Prime Minister. Now he’s President again. Russia has turned into one of those states where election results seem predictable and the winner always seems to win by a big margin. Just like other states loved and knew so well in the past: The Philippines under Marcos, Malaysia for the last 30 years, Iran with Ahmadinejad today.

Pussy Riot also have a history of performing in public without a permit. Well why do you need a permit to per in public? I guess that might apply in many cities: it might depend on the amount of electrical gear you are carting around.

The act that got them into trouble recently was singing in a Russian orthodox church. The lyrics of the song called on the virgin Mary   to “chase Putin out.” The three members  of the group who did that have been charged with “hooliganism” which carries a seven  sentence. Seven years???   Seven years???      No that wasn’t a typo.

And even if they were  disrupting a religious service, why can’t they be released on bail? Amnesty International has taken up their case.

Many readers of this blog will have religious backgrounds. They may not approve of violating a religious service. On the other hand, many of those same people will believe in democracy, where oppositions have a fair chance of winning elections, ballot counts are honest, and there is freedom of the press. Russia seems a little deficient on these front.

So what do you think?  Is singing protests sings in a church an offence that should carry a seven year jail sentence? Leave a comment below

Here are some links to Pussy riot.

France 24 news article,  Wikipedia,  National Public radio

Please leave a comment.

Richard Snow

Have you ever tried to lose weight, and what worked for you?

Have you ever tried to lose weight? Well, for two months now, I’ve been trying.  I started by trying to follow the Atkins diet. Atkins is low carb high protein. It’s not about counting calorie.s I stopped buying bread, and got rid of the rice and pasta in my cupboard. I stopped buying sugary drinks. I ate lots of egg and bacon. (Protein.)

I also bought more vegetables, berries, and some protein grains (barley, chickpeas.) However after a couple of bouts of abdominal pains which took me to hospital, I found I had to up the fibre in what I was eating and reduce the meat and eggs in favour of more vegetables and berries: I won’t go into the unpleasant medical details here.

My weight went down from 96 kg to 90 kg. (211 lbs to 198.) That’s not terrible good for a 6 foot guy in his late 50s, but it’s more than I should be.  But then 2 or 3 weeks ago it seemed to plateau.

Part of the problem in my weight plateauing  is eating things when it‘s not meal time. Snacking, in other words, even if the “snack” is a bit more bacon and egg, which according to Atkins should be Ok, because it’s not carbohydrate.

Part of the problem is exercise. For me, exercise sucks. I’ve never found a sport I really enjoyed, and I’ve been told I’m just showing the first signs of arthritis in my knees, so jogging would be insane. Walking the dog looks like the best option, plus using some weights I have at home.

I wonder: have any readers found diets that work? Are there any simple rules apart from just “eat less, and stay away from the sugars?” what worked for you?

How do you speak to a human at Hotmail??

A couple of days ago my computer got a virus that sent bogus emails out to everyone I knew. It was one of those “click on this blue  link for some amazing photos” things. I was dumb. Trouble is when I clicked on the link, it went through my address book and emailed the same email to everyone in my adress  book. Some of them probably clicked on the link too. I have a few email addresses, but this happened in my main account, which i use for 95 per cent of my stuff.

Hotmail then decided I had “exceeded my daily email limit” on my main account, so it wouldn’t let me send anything out from that account. What was I to do? How was I to warn people not to click on this link?  I needed to let people know what had happened.  I had a cunning plan!

Realising my main account had been hacked, I copied all the addresses I could from there into the  address bar in the main account. (It let me do that, even though it wasn’t going to let me send the email.) Then I  cut and pasted that list  to another (secondary) email accout I have, and used that account to send out a mass email telling people “don’t click on that blue link.”  I also have a 3rd and 4th account. Couldn’t log in to them.

But Hotmail had an even more cunning plan. They decided they would lock my main account because it looked like it was being used for spam. They were right. Trouble was before they unlocked it, they wanted me to prove I was me! This involved filling in a big form with my phone number, my secret question, the email addresses of several people I had recently emailed, the headings in the emails, and the names of the email folders I had created in my main account. Since I haven’t been using those  folders for over a year, I had trouble remembering those folder names. I took some guesses.

I also got on the phone to my friends. “What was the last email I sent you? What was the heading. What’s your email address? (I can’t remember them: that’s why we have address books!)

In the meantime, I asked hotmail to send me a reset link to another account linked to the first one. Guess what. I couldn’t get into that account.  And I asked for several temporary log codes in to be sent to my phone by SMS. The hotmail login page rejected them all.

Now hotmail had blocked my account, and my alternate accounts: I couldn’t  get into any of them, and there seems no way to contact a human at hotmail. (I tried phoning them, but since I wasn’t paying for some service I’d never heard of, I didn’t get to speak to a person. I got redirected around a series of web pages that took me back to the start of the circle and on again.

Eventually one of the telephone reset numbers worked on one account. Then I got them to send a SMS log-in number for  my first account to account number three. I got my account back, apparently none the worse for being hacked.

But here’s two words of warning. If you use hotmail, keep a list of the folders you’ve created for incoming mail. One day you may have to prove that you are you. And if you can’t remember your own folder names, you could be in trouble.

Anybody out there had similar experiences with an email provider?