Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year In Review

One of the nice things about keeping track of my games played is that I can go back and see what that month was like in retrospect. Here's my Year In Review based on the games I played that month.

Began my one solitaire game per month goal with Field Commander: Rommel. This game *almost* does it for me, but seems to be very fragile in terms of how you do based on the dice, although good tactics tend to be rewarded. I was also playing in a B-29 online campaign that was fun. Popular games that month were Dominion, Factory Manager, Rise of Empires, and Steam. I also got in a game of CC:Pacific with my friend Connor, whom I don't play games with often enough.

February started with Lorna's EGG mini-con in Eugene, which I sadly won't make this year. I rediscovered why I dislike Agricola (too stressful), and found Steam Barons to make almost no sense at all, which surprised me considerably. At least it came with nicer bits and two more maps for Steam. I also got in a game of BStarG's Pegasus expansion, which I also wasn't terribly thrilled with, and I screwed up the rules to We the People with my nephew Alex so badly that I may never be able to get him to play a CDG again. Mosby's Raiders was my solitaire game for the month, which I liked although the period doesn't interest me much. I also got the chance to try out the depots in Ticket to Ride: Europe.

March was largely taken up with prep work for GameStorm, which I contributed to by scheduling the board game section. Over 250 games were scheduled using what I'll charitably term as beta software. The coders worked hard on the project, but they were uncompensated and did it in their spare time, so it was never really ready for the con. However, we got 'er done and the con went pretty well and I felt like I contributed quite a bit to it's success. I ran a Conflict of Heroes campaign event that was fairly well attended, and I also managed to teach the game ahead of time. Other highlights were Nautilus, Dungeon Lords, and a variant map of northwestern France in a game of Brass. That and bringing a case of beer with me. I also enjoyed a game of Richard III, and my solitaire game fo the month was the newly released Phantom Leader, a stripped down version of the 90's solitaire game Hornet Leader (which also has it's own refreshed version out now).

After the previous month's mega-gaming events, April was sure to be a bit of a let-down in terms of volume. The weather was starting to turn, and I got out a few times on my bike. We were also beginning study for the games we'd play at WBC West in May. Dungeon Lords seemed to be the popular game this month, and I got in another mission for my B-29 campaign (I'd skipped this for March because I was so busy with planning the con). My solitaire game was London's Burning, which I lost when all of my pilot's died. Also, a three hour game of El Grande, which must be a record.

May was, of course, WBC West month, and all of that planning and prep work paid off. Highlights were The Burning Blue with Roger and A Most Dangerous Time with Mike. Almost all of my other time that month was spent prepping, so no solitaire games at all. I should also mention The Battle For Normandy, which was terribly frustrating as it is so close to being a truly playable monster, but with rules that seem to encourage some strange tactics to get units out of pockets that seem very unhistorical and unlikely. The designer was very responsive but after three attempts to explain the problem met with a lack of understanding I gave up. We may just play with house rules in the future if this game sees table time again. On the plus side, I got my first multiplayer monster game in.

June should have been the calm before the storm, had I know the storm was coming. The month was dominated by my involvement in a couple of musical projects connected to my University's reunion weekend, made particularly emotional as my conducting mentor and very good friend Roger Doyle was directing perhaps his last large-scale concert with a choir of alum. I ended up not only MCing and accompanying a light cabaret of former students, but also most of the alumni concert and was even asked to direct one piece - asked less than 18 hours before the concert, and I was planning to sleep for 8 of those hours. I taught Twilight Struggle to Matt G, and my solitaire game was D-Day at Omaha Beach, a game I dearly love, as well as playing that same title with Dave and I each taking a division. I also got to try out Dominion: Alchemy, which left me a little cold. I like the system, but it doesn't come out enough to warrant so many expansions and there's quite a bit of competition now.

And then there was The Summer That Wasn't. After three large-scale events that took a large portion of my time over six months, we went to the beach with friends only to have to come home early when my mother literally fell and couldn't get back up. Fortunately we had planned to move her to an assisted living facility anyway, but the process became much more difficult because suddenly she needed someone there just to get her to the bathroom. My sister and I carried the bulk of the load, getting her moved and toileted and keeping her spirits up as best we could. It was a Herculean effort, but no good deed goes unpunished and the end of the month saw my mother fall and suffer a subdural hematoma that we thought was going to kill her. In fact, she went into hospice (more a status than a place these days) and more than another month of figuring out that we could no longer carry the burden of caring for her, even with her in an assisted living facility. As such, gaming was nearly nonexistent. I got in one B-29 mission at the very start of the month, and hosted one game night, but that was it for gaming.

The first part of August saw my mother begin to recover, although only relatively. Her memory was badly damaged, and while the physical and occupational therapy helped to a degree it was also clear that she was not going to be able to retain much. By the end of the month, after trying to figure out how best to care for her, it was clear that the buik of the weight was going to fall on my shoulders, and after two months of giving up every aspect of my life to care for my mother I rebelled against my non-involved siblings and refused to do anything other than incidental assistance. We ended up hiring caregivers 12/7 to fill the gaps that the assisted living facility couldn't cover. By mid-month I had started gaming again, both with Tuesday nights as well as with Matt R for our Third Monday sessions. High points were Frontline: D-Day and Settlers of America. By now, it was clear than most of my gaming goals for the month, as well as my bike training, was shot for the year. It was also at this time that I decided to bail on my involvement with GameStorm for 2011 because my project bucket was not only overflowing but completely submerged. I also dropped out of the B-29 campaign after two months of excused absences from missions.

September saw me moving back toward normalcy in my life in general, although there were still some adjusting to do with my mother's situation. Perhaps the biggest events that happened in the month involved my discovery of Thunderstone as both a multiplayer and solitaire game. I completely fell in love with it and have played several solo games. I also discovered the Castle Ravenloft boardgame, which some poor fool reviewed on BGG after one one play and declared it too much of a mix of a puzzle and a ride. Which, of course, is the basic design decision in *any* solitaire game, which CR is by it's very nature as a full-coop game. I'm afraid I took out the frustrations of the past two months on this guy, who called me a Review Nazi for *politely* pointing out the flaws in his reasoning and his lack of experience with the game. When he claimed that I had no right to critique because I should respect his opinion, I kind of laid down the hammer on him privately. Many games were played this month, including Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and Fresco, both of which I also enjoyed. It was so very nice to get back to gaming and with such great people.

And then October came and made up for the rest of the year. Perhaps the best Sunriver ever in terms of games, which included me playing Sticheln drunk, a ton of Thunderstone, me scoring a copy of Alien Frontiers, a game of Mecanisburgo, a successful campaign game of RAF: Lion, the fastest game of Le Havre *ever*, and my first pass at playing The Barbarossa Campaign, a very clever solitaire game on the East Front. The annual Euro retreat at Sunriver really recharged my batteries, and I started to feel like my life was in my own hands again.

This month was my introduction to some of the best games of the year, Dominant Species and Civilization. Neither is a perfect game, but they are both a lot of fun and very engaging. I also got in a session with Jesse, my friend Connor, and a 5th Fleet scenario with Chuck. I also started playtesting scenarios for a Guadalcanal version of Conflict of Heroes with a local designer. I was also very happy to discover that I liked the redo of Brass, Age of Industry. I also wrote an analysis of Labryinth: The War On Terror which has gotten a lot of attention online, being linked to by the publisher as well as ConSimWorld. Not bad for an essay that was initially greeted with a loud "meh" by a guy who was apparently insulted that I thought that the US had largely botched the effort over the timeframe of the game. The gaming year was definitely looking up.

The year ended with a great day of gaming at Chris' house, as well as a nice three-player gaming day at Chuck's including Dave. I spent about 20 hours at Jesse's store in Wilsonville helping out and playing Game Consultant for the customers there, which while not as large a volume as one would hope, did see several people leave very happy with their choices. New games for the month were 7 Wonders, Resident Evil Deckbuiding Game, and The Fires of Midway. Matt R and I also learned Warhammer: Invasion and really liked it, and plan to play regularly. I also got my very first governor in Endeavor, something I'd failed to do in five previous attempts. All in all, a very good end to the year. I also got my resolutions for 2011 up on the Geek, which include a major project to study and game all of WW2 in the ETO chronologically over several years, probably more than a decade. Should be interesting, assuming I keep it up. My mother is fairly stable, although the perils and pitfalls of corporate end-of-life care have convinced me to start drinking a lot more heavily and working to have a major heart event right about the time I turn 75. Sadly, it also appears that our house has lost more than 25% of it's value in the past two years, and we are now stuck here, probably until we are actually old enough to have bought into a retirement community in the first place.

All in all a very challenging year for me. Perhaps the biggest highlight, however, was celebrating my granddaughter's second birthday. She bears a strong resemblance to me, and thanks to my son-in-law we have a close relationship. I can only hope that my biological daughter will decide to resume a relationship with us next year too. I also hope for my mother to remain content and continue to find the quality of caregivers that she has been blessed with for the most part this year. These people do incredible things for long hours and I could not have resumed my life without them.

As always, a very big thanks to the people I choose to game with. In a hobby that at times seems to draw in people for whom social skills were either never taught or were unachievable, I am blessed with gaming partners who are clever, funny, smart, and harder than hell to beat in a game. Without you this past year would have been nearly unbearable and I thank you.

Sorry for all of the personal stuff this time around. I guess I just needed a little catharsis this time of year. Thanks for reading and I'm looking forward to some new takes on gaming in general.

My Gaming Goals, 2011 Edition

I've posted a GeekList on BGG with my gaming goals for 2011. Of particular interest to wargamers is my new long-term project to research and game my way through the entire ETO theater of WW2, beginning with the Spanish Civil War, which will eventually have it's very own GeekList that I hope others will take part in. More on that later as I think through how best to include others as well as manage it myself. I'm very excited about this as a gaming goal!

In the past I've put the goals up here, but in the interest of keeping everything in one place and because I like the GeekList format, I'm going to do it all on BGG this year. See the link above for the resolutions, some of which are not about wargames at all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thoughts On A Few New Games - Ironic Edition

So now I've got all of these new games, as seen in my last post. I've tried more than a few out recently, and here are my thoughts in no particular order:

Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game - Excellent distillation of the computer game. I've played three player and four player now, and while it's a little on the long side I believe that brisk and experienced play could get this down to 2.5 to 3 hours. All the game needs is a display to track coins so that you can see those amounts easily for the entire table. See my earlier comments on the game in a previous blog.

7 Wonders - Two three player games with Mike and Chris and I'm thinking that this will see a lot of table time over the coming months. It will hold up to seven comfortably (assuming you have table space) and the game changes to some extent with different numbers of players. For example, with three you know that you'll see each "hand" twice (stripped down as you go, but still the same hand) so there's a chance that the card you couldn't quite purchase will show up again later, or at least force another player to burn it in their wonder or discard for coins. High marks.

Dominant Species - Another great game, possibly the best game of the year. Only one three player game with one animal each, but there were a lot of decisions to make and a lot of thinkin' needin' doin'. With five or more, I could see this being as frustrating as Le Havre with a similar number, but I'm still interested in trying it with four. I'm motivated to get this on the table at one or two of the all-day gaming sessions I hope to attend over the holiday break.

Resident Evil Deckbuilding Game - fairly evocative of the video game series, certainly the art is all there. Think Dominion but gearing up for combat instead of VPs, and you need to match ammo to weapons (in terms of quantity only) to have success. Having characters that level is a very cool element, as is multiple game versions that range from shoot at each other to a set number of turns in the game and a gimped Infected selection. Only played with two so far, and the rules are truly terrible, to the point of not even having been printed correctly (many graphics don't align right) and good luck digging the manual out of the official website, it's hidden in the tutorial section. Oh, and the storage is about as braindead as it gets. I don't know that it will beat out Thunderstone as my favorite, but I do like it quite a bit.

Fires of Midway - Follow-on title to Hell of Stalingrad from Steve "I never met a shade of orange, red, or pink that i didn't like" Cunliff. Sorry if I misspelled your name, dude. In some ways a much superior game, although there is still a roll to see if your carrier sinks at the end of each turn. Not quite as bad as HoS, but frankly I was a bit disappointed. That said, there's more to think of and more decisions to be made, although too much luck of the draw for this to be a good competitive game as opposed to just a fairly good heavily abstracted consim - this was a period of the Pacific War where everyone was learning the ropes, having not intended for this to be a war fought using carriers, and they were still figuring out how best to do it and learning mostly from huge mistakes. The winner will largely be determined to a large degree by who gets to launch planes first and gets to their target. Still, a pretty good ride and some very novel concepts and worth a look so long as you can tolerate the game having such a high degree of chaos to it.

King Philip's War - You want chaos? This game has it built into every combat roll. And a lot of *very* pissed-off Native Americans who didn't understand what the game was all about or consim gaming in general. Every time you fight, there's a chance that the battle won't happen, or that you'll get massively gimped. I think this would make a good introduction to A Most Dangerous Time, to be honest, as many of the same wacky elements are present although with different delivery mechanisms. Major kudos for a game on a portion of history I have no recollection of being taught (early American colonial era, when there was still a Plymouth colony).

I'll have a lot to blog about over the next week or two, lots of end-of-year gaming opportunities that I'm very excited about. Even better, we start planning for WBC West in January!

I Buy Way Too Many Games

I was considering doing my own "awards" for boardgaming in 2010, and so wrote down all of the games I bought that came out this year. Of course, this is not all of the games I bought, just the ones that were published this year. The result was more than a little disturbing for everyone but my FLGS. Here's the list of euros and strategy games I bought (non-wargames):

7 Wonders
Alien Frontiers
All Things Zombie
Resident Evil Deckbuilding Game
Dominion: Prosperity
Dominion: Alchemy
Dominant Species
Castle Ravenloft
Heroes of Graxia
Leaping Lemmings
Lords of Vegas
Perry Rhodan and the Cosmic League
Railways of the World: The Card Game
Settlers of America
Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game

I estimate that this is about 50% of the non-wargames I purchased in 2010, many of which were published in late 2009 but not purchased until 2010.

Here are the wargames. I am not including magazine games, even those from Operations Special #3 (which are pretty close to "real" games). Assume there are another 10 magazine games on the list. Games that were pre-ordered have an '*' at the end of their names. Also note that there are probably a few games here that skirt the definition of wargames but go with it.

Beda Fomm
Chariots of Fire*
Conflict of Heroes: Price of Honour
Frontline D-Day
Hearts and Minds
Julius Caesar
King Philip's War*
Nations At War: White Star Rising
Normandy '44*
Nothing Gained But Glory*
Ottoman Sunset
Panzer General: Russian Front
Fires of Midway
The Spanish Civil War*
The Tide At Sunrise*
Serpents of the Seas*

At a very rough estimate, I would say that the wargame list is about 80% or more of the total number of wargames I've purchased.

Clearly I have a problem, and I don't just mean storage.

Next year I will have a very clear idea of what I purchased because I'm now tracking my acquisitions on the 'Geek. I'll also note that I have cut back my preorders for wargames to include only game that are 1900-present or pre-gunpowder (and even that I'm mostly excited only in strategic games when it comes to ancients). Even that is probably way too much.

This year I gave away or sold at firesale prices a large number of games, and still have something like 25 I'd like to get rid of. Were I to just give up on Avalanche Press entirely and sell off all of my Panzer Grenadier, Great War at Sea, and Second World War at sea games, that would free up a few shelves of space. The collector in me just can't quite do it.

I'll probably die underneath a pile of wargames when I'm in my old age, just like those hoarders you see on television recently. The neighbors will figure it out when they haven't heard my dice tower making any noise for a month. Sigh.

And the awards? I didn't think I'd played enough of these games, especially the wargames, to make any good judgements! I certainly haven't played any of the euros enough to make a call either. Bad sign, man.

I should also note that I didn't include any expansions in the list either. There are a few of those as well.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

My Gaming Resolutions For 2011, Rough Draft Edition

It's December again, so time for me to consider my 2011 Gaming Resolutions. I have about a 50% success rate with these so far, which is not quite where I want to be. Of course, RL seemed to be a particular problem this year, with massive amounts of my time being devoted to special projects through the first six months of the year followed by my mother's health problems. Even now I'm directing a choir that I had no intention of directing, and will be through January. However, after that I am devoting 2011 to taking a year off from organizational duties.

I've mentioned before that I seem to do much better with specific goals instead of vague ones. For example, saying i want to learn a new system just means I can't make up my mind which one to take on. At the same time, doing something once a month tends to run right into RL.

The ones that have had the most success were goals that involved tracking, but I'm already doing all of that.

Here is my list of preliminary goals for 2011. There aren't too many, unfortunately, so I'd like to get a few more, so please make some suggestions. Serious ones, please, unless they are *really* funny.

Here's the first set:

1) Learn and play six scenarios from the ASLSKs. I have a fair investment in ASL, and since the boxes from the original AH product were long ago broken down and recycled, it would be hard to sell this stuff off. I had the original store edition of Squad Leader (still do, as with the three expansions) and liked the system a lot, and am hopeful that at least the ASLSK version (which I also own all three of, along with the one scenario pack and a couple of MMP magazine scenarios) will give me enough of a sense of whether I want to take this as a lifestyle choice or not. There is a great group in the area, the Bezerk Commissars, so I'd have some extra impetus to learning and playing regularly. At present my goal is to play six scenarios with no requirement that I get into the guns or tanks at this point.

2) Attend a wargame con out of state. Given my increasing lack of patience in air travel, that probably means I'll be going to either a con in California (probably a GMT West Weekend) and/or BottrosCon in Vancouver, BC. I'd intended to go to BottrosCon this last year, but I'd forgotten that it was in early November and when the time came I missed it. At some point I'll return to WBC, but not just yet.

3) Develop a game app for the iPad. Right. Actually, I was a pretty good coder back in the day, although it did tend to overwhelm my life (code snippets on napkins, coding in my head in the shower, etc). The Mac has an excellent SDK for this that I've downloaded, and I already know C so Objective-C won't be that hard to learn at the same time. However, it will require me learning or refreshing three different concepts at the same time - the language, the SDK, and XCode (the coding environment). I plan to start with an extremely simple game, one that you could do on a spreadsheet - Israeli Independence. I'd eventually like to do a couple of other games, Thunderstone for solo play and The Barbarossa Campaign (which would benefit tremendously from quick management of the Soviet Initiative phase). However, those would require a lot more work and for now I just want to get my feet wet. Biggest problem will be art, so I'll be seeing if I can get original scans from Victory Point Games, the publisher. I have no intent to put any of these out at this time, as I don't want to be responsible for maintaining the code, but I would consider selling to the publisher if they were interested.

4) Play The Classics. This refers to Euros, not wargames. I intend to do this on the nights I host rather than inflicting it on anyone else's hosting, so that means 14 games next year. Playing one "classic" would be enough, so Elfenland followed by Ascension would qualify. I have yet to determine what is considered a "classic" but I think that it will need to be at the very least five years old and highly regarded. I'll need to run through my collection ahead of time to come up with the List for this goal.

5) Play a large advanced scenario of a Fleet game with Chuck. Kind of a "personal" goal, but I put it out here to see if this is the sort of thing that would qualify as a Gaming Goal worth tracking. Another goal of a similar nature is playing Federation Commander with Alex. Not sure if these will make the cut or not.

Of last year's goals, I plan to continue tracking both my collection and plays on the 'Geek. I have decided not to even consider touching Fields of Fire until there is an official ruleset that won't make me pull my hair out, which has been promised more or less since the poorly developed game was released. However, if a new official ruleset does become available, I may have a longer-term goal to add in that will take place over a couple of years instead of just one.

That's all I have for now. I'm not including my playtest efforts with CoH: Guadalcanal, nor games I plan to play at WBC unless it's something major such as the multiplayer game of Battle for Normandy we played last year. As such, just a multiplayer game isn't on the list as it's something I've already done. Goals are intended to be things that I haven't done before or want to take to a new level.

As Dr. Vasal knows, I'm not looking for ten items ;-) but I think five is probably too small a list, especially since a couple already have built-in schedules (cons, classics night). So throw me a bone!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Sour Grapes

I'm a resident of Oregon, for those of you who don't know. I did not attend either of the large state universities in the area, but I do have a certain amount of pride in my state. For the record, I attended a small (2500+ student) private school, University of Portland, whose main claim to fame in collegiate sports is their women's soccer team. When I was attending school there at the Master's level, the team was doing well, but when I was an undergrad we had no sports teams that were really competitive that got any notice at all.

For the first time ever, one of the two state schools, Oregon State University and University of Oregon, is almost certainly going to the BCS Championship. This is particularly interesting as for the last five years those of us on the West Coast have felt that the BCS system is rigged against Pac-10 schools. For those who aren't aware, UofO's athletic programs have been boosted and to a fair degree funded by Phil Knight, the guy who started Nike and has more money than almost anyone.

This past Saturday saw the annual Oregon Civil War football game, which for many years was the only time either team stood a chance of winning a game the entire season (back in my high school days). The programs have clearly been revitalized in recent times, and they almost always compete well in their division, if not nationally. As such, the Civil War game tends to create a lot of buzz in the region, and often the result has bowl game implications. A few years ago, Oregon State's loss to Oregon (an upset) in the game cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl, and it's very clear there are still hard feelings about this on the Beaver side.

Yep, our state's school mascots are Beavers and Ducks. Better than the Flaming Slugs or Galloping Pedophiles I guess, but not by much. Although I have seen very aggressive Ducks before. Wait, those were geese.

This year, Oregon State had high hopes of crushing Oregon's trip to the BCS Championship as payback for the earlier upset that kept the Beavs from the Rose Bowl. It didn't turn out that way - Oregon won 37-20, and were pretty much a lock for our state's first ever trip to a very possible championship. You would think that at this point that everyone in the state would be thrilled that, in the midst of one of the worst economies and highest unemployment in the country that this would be a shining beacon of Oregon can-do attitude (along with, of course, a particularly wealthy white Knight).

Instead, OSU fans were, within minutes of losing the game, cheering for Auburn to win the BCS Championship. And as far as I can tell they haven't stopped.

Understand that Oregon won fair and square, and did it on OSU turf. This wasn't a close game decided by a bad call or two. Oregon won by three scores, two of which would have had to be touchdowns. It wasn't a blowout in college ball terms (87 to minus 42, as seems to be the case often), but it was decisive.

We live in the south part of the Portland metro area, which most of the Portland area boosters would travel through on their way home from the game, and went out for dinner at a local family restaurant chain about the time the boosters were coming home. It was crowded and noisy and more than a bit uncomfortable as both groups of boosters were there (with children, I might add, most of them pretty young). I saw repeated snarky comments, looks, and more than one interaction that I could have seen going physical were there not cooler heads present.

As I watched, I realized that this is the world Americans now live in. 16 years of uber-partisan politics, where your side can do no wrong and the other side is evil incarnate, has reduced us to nothing but tribal politics. The Other is, as stated on a ultra-right-wing blog I accidentally stumbled across, "vermin". Or, as far too many liberals would say of Republicans, "Nazis". These sorts of gross generalizations, perpetrated by uninformed bloggers and an increasingly unabashedly partisan media, are not only massively untrue, they are also ripping the country apart.

Worst of all, the major reason that we are being ripped apart is for corporate profit. The people at Fox News might have some actual ideological motives for what they do, but in the end it's to make the rich richer. How else could you explain how the Republicans want tax breaks extended for the rich and encouraging earmarks for their own districts while at the same time bemoaning the deficit, a deficit that their party created? The Democrats are, for the most part, no better - they just don't have a centralized ideology but instead a lot of people who vote for them because the Republican platform is increasingly frightening. And even then, the Republican Party is on the verge of going Populist in a big way via the Tea Party, something that hardly ever ends well if you study American history.

I will almost certainly get slammed by someone on the right claiming that I have an offensive position, and have no idea what I'm talking about. Actually, I consider myself a moderate forced to vote liberal because the right is *so* far right. Someone told me the other day that a significant percentage of Americans think that the WMDs in Iraq simply haven't been found yet (after seven years of looking). Believe me, we'd have found them by now. We had every piece of paper in the country at our disposal, and someone somewhere would have mentioned them. With this kind of misinformation continually streamed into people's brains by propaganda machines, it's not surprising but deeply troubling that we can't think critically about such obvious lies.

For those people who think I'm a liberal dupe, let me just say that I think the people who have gone around claiming that the Bush administration actively engineered 9/11 are just as crazy. It's just that the right has worked so damned *hard* at it for the past 16 years, and have been able to get away with it for so long. When someone disagrees, the right shouts them down and just keeps repeating their message over and over until we believe that we should be giving equal time to arguments that can't tread water in the kiddie pool. And there is no question that the left can't win at Fox News' game.

In the end, my side is right, your side is wrong. No, that's too generous. Your side is evil, my side is on the right hand of God. Sound like anyone we think we know? Islamo-fascists maybe?

It permeates American society, to the point where people who should be happy that a state team will be vying for an NCAA football championship are instead willing to root for Satan himself rather than their bitter rivals.

That's a lack of vision. A lack of being able to see the big picture. A lack of being able to think critically and an overabundance of thinking with your lizard brain. A knee-jerk reaction.

Americans live in a country where popular culture has become nothing but encouraging these lacks. Corporations don't want consumers to think. Corporations don't want computers to see the big picture. They want them to consume their products and make the corporation and their shareholders money, regardless of cost. They are concerned with this quarter's numbers, often this *month's* numbers. It's why so much energy has been put into "debunking" climate change when almost every scientist who knows anything about the subject understands that we're on the verge of massive disruption from the melting of the polar ice caps.

We don't even teach critical thinking in our schools. We teach enough information for people to become good workers and consumers. It's no wonder "intellectuals" are feared by the masses - they're smarter and can convince the average joe into just about anything. And they are.

Yeah, Oregon won. And they dashed OSU's hopes a few years back. But kids, the game is *over*. The election is *over*. Thinking that it's all about the next election is great until that election is over and then it's only about the next election. It's not about the next election, it's about looking at our problems and finding solutions. We've completely given up on that process. We aren't making sausage, we're flinging shit at each other and calling it fair and balanced.

Next time you're feeling smug that your side won, think for a few minutes about why that should be better (and if the reason is so that we can get that mongrel out of the White House, and isn't there some irony there, you need to think of why you're even thinking *that*). Because winning in life is about as transitory as it gets.

Next time you're feeling angry because your side didn't win and looking solely for revenge, think for a minute about whether or not that revenge isn't going to cost a whole lot more than acceptance will. When the Republicans won a contested election on very questionable grounds in a very close election (these are facts, not propaganda), most liberals were unhappy but shrugged and waited to see how Bush would do. As of 9/11, he was on track to be a lackluster and one-term president. Liberals were happy to wait it out. Then we got 9/11 and the country went mad and we invaded another country for reasons that, had the Soviets pulled it 20 years earlier (and they did) we would have been furious. And a very large part of the country couldn't see that at all, and it hasn't gotten better.

Jon Stewart threw a rally to Restore Sanity. It was remarkably unsuccessful in that the entire world completely missed the point. It wasn't to show that he could throw a bigger party than Glenn Beck. It was to point out that we have become dysfunctional to the point that we are endangering our very planet, not just our own country or way of life. It was to point out that perhaps it's better to take a *really* deep breath, step back, and look at how we conduct ourselves. On both sides. Of pretty much any argument you can think of.

In my state, we can start by hoping that our team, regardless of where you attended college (and really, is that a good reason for this kind of animosity?) does well on the national stage. Because unless you have a good reason (and by that I mean a rational reason) to root for Auburn, such as having an actual connection with the school, you should be rooting for your team. Your team in this case is Oregon, a team from your state. Hell, if you're on the West Coast, root for them, if for no other reason than to root for the Pac-10. At the very least stay neutral. Because to root for Auburn because you lost a game fair and square is exactly the sort of thing I hope to God you aren't passing on to your children. And I hope with a little thought you'll come to feel the same way.

And then, just maybe, we as a culture have a chance to survive. Because American Exceptionalism now means that we're exceptionally dunderheaded. If we're really all that exceptional, screaming at the other side is pretty clearly a Really Bad Idea that hasn't worked in almost two decades and it's time to get over it.