Sunday, December 23, 2012

Getting Together to Game

The days have gotten long. Our lives our busy. Our friends and family are spread across this small planet of ours. Yet, we can still get together for a good game.

For some of us, during the Holiday season we think of joining round the table to play a board or card game. There are so many to choose from. Yet, how to do so when your gaming group is distributed across three time zones or more. Thankfully we live in "THE FUTURE" where all this can be achieved through asynchronous online play.

It is becoming more and more common for board games to have an electronic game equivalent. If you look through the iTunes* store you can probably find hundreds. While this is all well and good, only a portion of those were designed with online asynchronous play.

For any who may not understand what I mean by online asynchronous,  let me clarify a bit. The online should be self evident if you are reading this on the Internet. As for asynchronous, I don't want a game that all the players have to be online at the same time or on the same network. We are looking for games where I take my turn on my phone, then the next player in Portland gets a notification that it is her turn. She may be asleep at the time. So the game will sit in a holding pattern until she takes her turn. Once the gamer in Portland is done, play moves to the next up in North Carolina.

In order to better compile a list of games that meet these criteria, and run on iOS*, I have compiled a GeekList on Board Game Geek. Check out the list. Thumb it if you are a BGG member and find it useful. Know of a game that is missing? Either add it yourself if you are a BGG member, or let me know about the game and I can add it.

I'm "Moon Ranger" on Apple's Game Center if anyone wants to look me up.

*Sorry for those folks who use non-iOS devices. I have an iPhone and iPad, and many of my gaming group use iOS devices as well. Those implementations are the ones I am most familiar with.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taking a Stand - National Coming Out Day

Be Yourself
Photo by Laura Burns

October 11 is National Coming Day. I am a straight cis-female, yet I still want to come out. I want to come out on the side of the GBLT community. I want to come out on the side of equal civil rights. Clearly and plainly, I want to make my views known.

Two friends of mine have a very happy marriage. The are a great couple and appear hetro-normative. The thing that is not obvious on the surface is that JR and Jared are queer. They come out regularly online so that their queerness isn't masked by their current life, since it will forever be a part of them. Both JR and Jared have put up posts about National Coming Out Day which are linked.

Yet, if JR and Jared had made different decisions, they may be happy, but they could not be married.

Earlier this year (2012), I was devastated to hear of the loss of astronaut Dr. Sally Ride. Sally was the first American woman in space. She was dedicated to educating and inspiring young people. She was also gay.

From everything I have heard about Sally Ride, she was a very private person, so nothing in her private life was well known. Her pancreatic cancer was obscured, as was her personal relationships. That said, I can't help but feel that if she was publicly out, her message of science education for the young would have been inhibited. Many would have considered that her sexual orientation somehow changed her ability to talk about science.

Her relationship of 27 years is longer than most marriages I know, yet it is not acknowledged legally. Her partner has no right to any of her government death benefits. I have no insight into how Dr. Ride's medical care was handled, but regularly homosexual couples are blocked from making medical decisions for their partners.

These are examples of loving committed relationships by people who were created differently.

We are all different in some way or another. Some of us in small ways. Some of us in big ways. I don't know of anyone who hasn't been bullied or teased at some point. So stop here for a second and think about yourself. Think about something that makes you, you. Yet you were criticized, or bullied, or even just told to repress that aspect of yourself. How did that make you feel? Were you made to feel bad about your glasses? Going bald? That you like baseball?  Now think about how much worse it is when you are asked to supress your fundamental nature.

"There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts." - Neil Gaiman

What are we losing when we ask people to suppress themselves? What has been broken forever? What discoveries are not made? What art not created? What lives lost?

The United States is a country with a separation of religions and state, there is no reason why civil marriage should not be legal. When we separated from Britian in 1776, we declared that "all men are created equal". It is time we start acting that way.

Over the years, the United States has taken a group and not allowed them to be equal. Unfortunately, the Bible has been used to justify the sub-humanization of women, people with dark skin, and homosexuals among others. As with other aspects of the Bible, this needs to be taken in context and re-evaluated when the context changes. The context has changed. The World has changed since the Bible was written. Society has changed. Science has broadened our understanding of biology and phsyiology (yet there is still a lot to understand).  This is discussed well in the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So", which is available on Netflix. It seeks to bring better understanding to the issue by following five families. The Trailer is here.

You can't convince me that by allowing my friends and family to join in loving committed relationships is going to ruin society. You can't convince me that allowing them to raise children in a loving home will ruin society.

I hope I can convince you that hatred of others will. Perhaps hatred is a strong word for some, but denying someone their civil rights based on factors out of their control is well down that slippery slope.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stone and Shadow

Photo by Laura Burns
As I mentioned in my last post, in April of 2011 I had a photo exhibition at Constellation Books. The photos from that exhibition can be seen here. Well, this October, we doing it again. Appropriate to October, this exhibition, Stone and Shadow, features cemetery photos I've taken in Graz, Germany; New Orleans, LA; and Ashtabula, OH.

The photographs will be in Constellation Books throughout October, but we will have a special reception on October 26 from 6:00-9:00 PM ET. It will be a lovely eventing of books, beer and wine tasting, and munchies. One of the photos is above. After the exhibition is over, I'll post all of the photos on Flickr, but for now, if you want to see all of them you have to go to Constellation Books.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Travel Assignment

Photo by Laura Burns
I have many hobbies, occupations, things I do outside of my daily job. Photography is one of them. For me to call myself a Photographer sounds to me odd and strange and perhaps self aggrandizing. I mean if you ask me about f-stop, my eyes start to glaze and I go, “uh”. If you then ask me the details of my lenses, I will say “um” and look at my camera looking kinda dumb. It isn’t that I can’t figure all that out, it just I just haven’t had time to sit down to learn and apply the terminology. I’d probably take better pictures if I did. What I can do is play with the buttons on my camera and frame it and make it look pretty.

But then, if you ask my husband, I need to add something in front of that “Photographer” moniker. You see, awhile back I did a photo show at the awesome independent bookstore, Constellation Books. You can see some of the photographs I used in the show on my Flickr Page. My good friend, Lauretta Nagle, the store owner, sold several of my pictures. In addition, NASA has used one of my pictures for a poster to promote their social media sites and another picture has been used on’s Cosmic Log. For the latter items, I got photo credit, but no compensation.

If you add all this together, my husband feels I should call myself a “Professional Photographer”. I prefer to call myself someone who likes to take pictures, is pretty decent at it, and sometimes people like to buy those photos or use them in high publicity things. Does that work?

In an effort to ever improve my photography skills, I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending the National Geographic Traveler Photography Seminar: The Travel Assignment at the National Geographic Headquarters in DC.

Our excellent seminar hosts were Dan Westergren and Jim Richardson. They set out telling us that “photography is the language of travel” and to help us to create photographs that better tell a story showing us many fantastic examples.

What amazed me about the seminar, is how much planning and time goes into planning for  the pictures. Some of the photographers have researched over a year before going on location to find that perfect shot. Then, when they get there, they find a great location, then wait. Wait for something interesting to happen. Wait for the light. Wait for just the right shot.

Now they may take hundreds of pictures to get that one shot, but there is still a lot of planning going on. This is not the average tourist’s view of travel. Which is why there are so many snapshots, and fewer photographs.

Going along with this, you need to build a relationship with those you are trying to photograph. You aren’t going to have as much luck if you get a big lens and hang out in the corner and try an photograph people. Get to know the people, try to understand them and what they are going through. Try the food. Get a haircut. Experience the culture. Then once you know something about them, fade into the background and take their picture. It takes practice.

Without giving you a long series of photos, it is hard for me to explain some of the concepts they were explaining to us. One of the big ideas was to capture the sense of place with the photograph. Try to tell a story, or have the viewer ask questions. To try to explain a bit, I have included a picture of mine from Manchu Pichu, Peru I took earlier this year. While this picture doesn’t really show the classic view of the site, I hope that it gives you a feel for Peru.

There were so many other great tips. I have so many notes on portraiture, lighting, what to pack and also importantly what to do in the “real world”. Not everyone has time to research a project for a year and then spend a week at one site finding the right angles. One really cool idea they had was that when you go on a trip, give yourself an assignment. It gives you a focus and gives you a talking point when you approach people.

One of the more interesting aspects of the seminar was when Dan Westergren discussed which of Jim Richardson’s photos were chosen to compliment Jim’s story “A Scottish Obsession.” Jim wasn’t always happy with  which ones were included in print version of the National Geographic Traveler magazine, but there were editorial reasons why each decision was made.  Of note, if you read the iPad version of National Geographic Traveler, you get more pictures and content

Since the Seminar was partially sponsored by Acura, we got a couple of extra perks. We got to take home the hefty book Simply Beautiful Photographs by Annie Griffiths (signed by the seminar leaders) and published by National Greographic. Acura and National Geographic are sponsoring a contest for those of us in the seminar. We have about a month to craft a picture featuring an Acura car in an interesting way, using the lessons from the seminar.

The prize is a $500 gift certificate to a top restaurant.

Does anyone have an Acura I can borrow?