Next week I'm taking a few days to look for apartments in the city I'll be moving to in October. In preparation, I was making a map of prospective location to do a travelling salesman analysis and optimize my routes.
That, plus this week's events have made me think about the path that led me here. To start with, here is the path I've followed for the first 35 years of my life.
From this set of locations, you could take a good guess at the kind of life I've lived and probably hit the mark. You can guess my values and where I'm likely to be in five years. At least, until my plans changed early this year.
The close friends I've spoken to about this are as surprised by my plans as I was when I conceived them half a year ago. Leaving the NYC area was as foreign an idea to me as anything. I pictured myself always being here. It's where life feels... "natural" to me, if you'll forgive the phrase. Whenever I've chosen to travel, I've always felt strange and alienated from my temporary surroundings. I'm never more comfortable than when I'm walking the streets of New York.
So, it is no minor thing for me to say I've been apprehensive about this plan from the moment I decided on it. And this week's events have me scared. Of course, I'm a privileged person and don't have to face the dangers that are a fact of life for too many people. But those people are why I'm doing this in the first place.
I don't imagine I'll make a massive difference. I just hope I can make some, or at least help others make a difference. It would be more than I've done over my entire 35 years so far combined. That's reason enough to go. It's time to get off the bench.
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Today I traded in my car. It wasn't my first car, but I got it as a graduation present from my mother 10 years ago. In that time, I put about 20,000 miles on it in that time. I didn't drive it much, but was great for trips to regional conventions. Over time, things broke, but they broke in a way I came to understand exactly how the car handled and how to get it to do what I need. I say this as someone who is absolutely not a car guy at all. I don't enjoy driving, but sometimes its the easiest way to get things done.
While living in NYC for the past 10 years, I rarely drove. Last November, I moved to Connecticut and started having to drive about once a week instead of once every couple of months. In the process, I had to spend way too much money to keep the now-15-year-old car going. With convention season coming up, I decided it was time to get a new car which I wouldn't have to worry about breaking down hours from home. An actual brand-new car, something I've never had.
Not being a car guy and not knowing what to even look for in a car, I turned to Car and Driver and Consumer Reports, looked at their best-of lists, and picked four models. One Saturday of test drives later and I'd settled on my new car, which arrived today. Despite taking a very methodical process during the selection process, I've been a nervous wreck about whether I'd regret my choice as soon as I got it.
I don't know why, but as soon as I saw "my car", I smiled. To me, it's nothing but a tool chosen for its practicality and reliability. But I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy sitting down inside for the first time.
Of course, it would be silly to buy a car to drive to a couple of conventions. The real reason I decided to buy a new car is because I'm preparing to start a new phase of my life. One as far away from my NYC-born-and-bred, subway-riding, pavement-pounding lifestyle as I could imagine. I'm moving to Texas.
It's a pretty terrifying thought for someone who has never lived more than two hours from NYC. But there's some things I want to do down in Texas and they're more important than my comfort. For awhile now I've been wondering what my next life goal would be. I now have one and it's time to act on it.
Fortunately, my current company has an office in Austin. Last week, I received approval from my manager to transfer down there. So I won't have to worry about both moving and finding a job, which is a privilege not everyone has.
The scariest part of this is, without a doubt, the inevitability of losing my friends. I have been fortunate to meet and befriend an amazing group of people in my post-college life. This includes people within the boardgame community and without. Sure, there will be conventions and maybe a trip back to NYC once a year. But, day-to-day, month-to-month, I'll be at square one.
Come October, I'll be driving halfway across the country in my new car. It's the scariest thing I've ever done. But if I can make a difference down there, it'll be the best thing I ever do.
This was a fairly standard Ruy Lopez opening, though he did fianchetto his dark-squared bishop onto g7. I thought this was a bad move. (Note: I have not run this game through an analysis engine, since I did not actually write down the move list, so my analysis might be complete horse hockey.) In addition to weakening his king's position, it trapped his bishop forever behind the e5 pawn, which was not going to go anywhere. My move at this picture was Bishop c1-g5, pinning his knight to his queen and clearing out my back rank so I could move my rooks freely.
At this point I had begun to prepare for a kingside attack. My b3 Bishop is targeted right at f7, my Queen was moved to d2 to both connect my rooks as well as possibly set up Queen d2-h6. I had already traded my dark squared bishop for the knight on f6 as soon as his Queen moved to e8 (unpinning that knight), removing its protection from the highly vulnerable h7 pawn (a consequence of his early move of the pawn from g7-g6). The move I just made before this picture was Knight c3-d5. In addition to attacking his Bishop on f6, it threatens d5-c7, which will dual threaten Queen and Rook, letting me win the exchange of Knight for Rook. His only move hwere is Bishop f6-d1, which protects c7. However, that's not only deactivates his Bishop (when he already weakened his kingside pawns to activate it), that bishop is then blocking his back rank, immobilizing the rook on a8. That would mean he would have only one active piece (knight on c6), whereas both my knights, my bishop, and my queen are all active, with my rooks having a clear path on the back rank to move where they please.
Unfortunately, he didn't see my threat of Knight d5-c7 (or decided that was less bad than deactivating the bishop) and put his Bishop on e7. I took his pawn and then his rook on a8 in exchange for the Knight. Not only was I ahead in material, I still had three active pieces to his two. More importantly, my pieces were all aimed at the kingside and his had no good way to swing over.
After that, I put my Queen on h6, launching the attack. He moved his knight to d4, attacking both my knight and bishop which were supporting my Queen's attack. After some calculation, I traded Knights. I figured I could quickly mobilize my f1 Rook to support the attack (faster than he could bring his pieces over to defend, anyway. Part of his problem was that his b7 bishop could not counterattack because of my e4 pawn.
Because I traded knights, I was then able to push my pawn to f4, giving my rook room to go to f3 (preparing for rook to h3, supporting the queen). He tried to dislodge my bishop by pushing his pawn to a5, but it was too late for that. His king was trapped by his rook, his queen and light-squared bishop were on the wrong side of the board, and his weak kingside pawn structure (remember that bad fianchetto?) finally was his undoing. I only needed Rook to h3 and Queen takes h7 to win, and it would take him too many moves to give his king an escape path. My b3 Bishop also pinned his pawn to f7, preventing the possible defense of pawn f7-f6, rook f8-f7 (guarding the h7 space my queen was about to take).
He moved Rook f8-g8, I put my rook on h3, and he resigned.
It was a decent game, and we were about evenly matched in skill, which is a super-rare thing to happen for two strangers deciding to play outside of a tournament. Most of all, it felt great to reactivate the chess muscles in my brain. It's been too long. I'd love to do tournaments again, but I can't spend a whole weekend playing chess anymore. Too many other things I want to do.
After that, I played a few games of Star Realms and then tried to learn Kana Gawa with someone else. The rulebook is very bad, and by the time we understood how the game was supposed to flow, we had lost interest. I retreated to relax for a bit.
In the evening, I played 2-player and 3-player sessions of "The Game", followed by a 4-player Letter Tycoon (I think that was the name.)
It's fine. The patent bonuses felt like easily-missed bookkeeping (especially if you're thinking about your own next turn when others play cards). The first player has a distinct advantage. Even though all players get the same number of turns, the first player can earn points from a patent bought on the last turn. The last player cannot. It ended up making the difference between first and second place players in our game.
Finally, we did a 4-player game of Wizard. I was doing very well early, including making a bid of 6 on round 10. But in the later rounds I kept missing by one in either direction and got overtaken right at the end. Great game. Haven't played it in 9 months, which is a shame.
Simon Pegg being the writer was the lone ray of hope. He is a uniquely talented and funny writer who is a genuine fan of Star Trek and was in a position to nudge it back towards its roots and away from the hollow action spectacle Abrams had morphed it into with the awful take on Khan.
But then I saw Pegg's interview at the Star Wars premiere. The look on his face when he said "Hang in there, be patient" is excruciating. It made me certain that the studio had overpowered him and made "Furious Space".
However, the Red Letter Media review convinced me to give it a chance. In addition to being film critics whose opinions often align with my own, one of the duo (Mike) is also a Star Trek fan. His analysis of Abrams' reboot helped me understand why I found it fun but never felt a strong need to rewatch it. His partner (Jay) is not a Trekkie at all. So, when they both recommended it, I swallowed my concerns.
So, here are my thoughts on the film:
Finally, it's hard not to be struck by the politics of Star Trek. The villain's goal is to disrupt the Federation because he does not feel humans should be working together with aliens. Uhura claims that we gain strength by uniting with others. The villain (a human who has been disfigured over the years by surviving through killing non-humans) retorts "Unity is not your strength, it’s your weakness."
At first I thought it was a funny coincidence how a Star Trek movie coming out right after the political conventions in the United States had a message that so well aligned with the arguments between the nominees. But then, of course it would, and should. Star Trek was birthed in the idea of people coming together to build something greater than themselves. It was no accident that the original crew had a Russian man, a Japanese man, and an African-American woman. World War II was still firmly in the everyday consciousness, the Soviets were putting missiles in Cuba, and the civil rights movement was in full swing.
Star Trek established a future where we didn't survive through conquering our rivals. It wasn't about winner and losers (ahem), but about partners. This film returns to that ethos. The villain is revealed to be a human who has come to believe that the only way to be strong is by attacking others. He is defeated not just by a lone action hero punching him in the face. The crew works together, coordinates their actions, and sacrifices themselves for each other.
Star Trek: Beyond is about people who pick each other up instead of stepping on the weak. Who lend a hand to outsiders even after they've been betrayed in the past. Who don't see others as nothing but marks to be exploited for personal gain. Who see success not in terms of what happens to oneself, but how everyone comes out together.
Kirk begins the movie wondering why he's out there in space when there's nothing in it for him and wanting a way out. He ends it turning down a personal promotion; committed to being part of a team whose mission is to serve others.
What's surprising isn't the politics of this Star Trek movie. What's surprising is that even after 50 years our country is still having the same fight. With just a new coat of paint on the villain's face.
archive by Andres Gleixner from the Noun Project