This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 28 December 2007.

This week’s entry revolves around a trio of writers, all of whom have been in the industry for more than 30 years.

  • Action Comics #860, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Jon Sibal (DC)
  • The Brave and the Bold #9, by Mark Waid, George Pérez, Bob Wiacek & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #18 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen & Scott Kolins (DC)
  • Countdown to Adventure #5 of 8, by Adam Beechen, Allan Goldman & Julio Ferreira and Justin Gray, Fabrizio Fiorentino & Adam DeKraker (DC)
  • The Death of the New Gods #4 of 8, by Jim Starlin & Art Thibert (DC)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #37, by Jim Shooter, Francis Manapul & Livesay (DC)
  • Thor #5, by J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
  • Atom Eve #1 of 2, by Benito Cereno & Nate Bellegarde (Image)
Countdown to Final Crisis #18 Countdown to Final Crisis has maybe its best issue yet, as the whereabouts of Ray Palmer (the original Atom) are revealed, including the backstory of what he’s been up to, an explanation of why the Atom – of all people – is important to the well-being of the multiverse (hint: he’s a scientist) and even ending on a surprising cliffhanger. I guess you can read this issue in one of two ways: Either that it’s sad that it took 35 issues for something to actually get resolved, such that the reader wonders why all the fuss was necessary, or else it’s an indication of Keith Giffen‘s influence as “story consultant” telling head writer Paul Dini and the editors to get on with it already. I’m not always Giffen’s biggest fan (I don’t have much good to say about his run on Legion of Super-Heroes with Paul Levitz in the 80s, for instance), but if nothing else he has a traditional approach to storytelling: Start off with a big event and keep the story moving from there. And that’s what’s really been missing from Countdown, which started slowly and then nothing happened for half the series.

It may be too little, too late to save this series, but at least there are signs of life.

The Death of the New Gods #4 Jim Starlin is another guy who even when he’s not at the top of his game can usually be counted on to get the fundamentals of storytelling, and he’s coming through in The Death of the New Gods. I expressed my reservations about the whole New Gods thing when the series started, but it’s actually turning out to be entertaining, and I think it’s because it’s not a New Gods story, it’s a Jim Starlin story.

Starlin often likes to have a big mystery in his stories, and here it’s the big question: Who’s killing the New Gods? Metron comes face-to-face with what is presumably either a giant clue, or the answer itself, but my lack-of-caring about the New Gods means that it means nothing to me. That could be the series’ fatal flaw as far as I’m concerned, but with 4 issues left, no doubt Starlin has a lot more up his sleeve.

The other interesting development is that while the story so far has focused on Mister Miracle, Starlin is setting it up to end up as a Superman story, which makes sense if the series lives up to its title: Superman might be the only one left to witness the death of these powerful beings. Starlin doesn’t often play around with structure in his stories, so I’m curious to see where he takes this angle.

Legion of Super-Heroes vol 5 #37 After 30 years, Jim Shooter returns to write Legion of Super-Heroes. His last issue was Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #224 back in 1977, since when he done little things like be Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics during the 1980s. The word on the street is that there was tremendous opposition to Shooter getting this writing gig – he’s reportedly made a lot of enemies in the comics biz – but as a fan I say “Good for him!”

Greg Burgas has a pretty good review of the issue as a reader who (unlike me) isn’t much of a Legion fan: Shooter introduces the characters along with some of their personalities, and starts setting up a large storyline about aliens invading the solar system, only no one knows who they are, and the Legion is both in disarray thanks to having an unexperienced leader (Lightning Lad, who’s filling the shoes of Cosmic Boy and Supergirl, both of whom have left the team) and a strained relationship with the United Planets. Joe McCulloch makes some good points too regarding the awkward dialogue in the story, with the supposedly-teenaged characters coming across as if they ought to seem “hip” or “futuristic”, but instead just seem silly.

I say “supposedly-teenaged” because there’s always been a bit of nudge-nudge-wink-wink-wink about teenaged superheroes, especially the Legion and the X-Men, who always seem smarter, wiser and more responsible than the vast majority of people their age. Very few writers ever make even a passing attempt to either explain this peculiarity or run with it as a story point. Anyway, I bring all this up because new artist Francis Manapul gives the characters some beefed-up physiques (see cover at left), making it even harder to take them seriously as anything younger than young adults.

Despite these kvetches, this is a pretty good start: There’s nothing here that can’t be seen as a writer trying to get a feel for the characters in his first issue, while setting up an ambitious story. Seeing Lightning Lad get overwhelmed so quickly, without someone right there to help him keep things under control is really my biggest beef with the story. Manapul’s pencils are pretty good, although Livesay’s inks might work better if they pulled the pencils in a more classic, rather than Image-esque, direction – someone with a heavier line to provide more depth and delineation.

As Burgas says, the issue feels like Shooter is basically throwing a whole bunch of stuff in the air and we’ll have to see where it lands. However, signalling that this is going to be an ambitious story arc is a great way to make the reader reserve judgment on the inaugural issue. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Shooter’s got planned, and I certainly hope that he’s given every opportunity to get his bearing and produce a decent run on Legion. And if the Legion is the sort of comic that interests you, then you might want to check it out.

Joan D. Vinge: Dreamfall

Review of the novel Dreamfall by Joan D. Vinge.

Dreamfall is the third in Vinge’s series about the telepath, Cat. It’s the last one written so far, though it’s not intended to be a trilogy (as far as I know); rather, Vinge has been unable to write until recently due to a car accident several years ago, as explained in her Wikipedia entry.

Dreamfall feels like a counterpoint to the second novel, Catspaw, in many ways: Catspaw explores the tension between Cat’s place among the lower class and the upper class, while Dreamfall explores the tension between his human heritage and his Hydran (alien) heritage. Also, Catspaw shows Cat trying to make use of his damaged telepathic abilities, while Dreamfall shows him struggling with trying to be a professional scholar/scientist in a difficult scenario. And, Catspaw takes place on Earth while Dreamfall takes place on an alien world.

Cat is part of a team which has been summoned to the planet Refuge, where his friend Kissindre Perrymeade’s family – Tau – heads a congomerate which is exploiting the resources of the planet. The team is there to study the cloud-whales, large gaseous beings which drift across the planet and whose thoughts crystallize and form large reefs in the oceans which exhibit strange properties. However, Refuge is also one of the worlds formerly controlled by the Hydrans, and the Hydran population has been marginalized and mostly restricted to a ghetto near the main human city. As this is Cat’s first opportunity to voluntarily contact Hydrans, one evening he heads into the Hydran town, where he immediately gets wrapped up in an ongoing Hydran resistance to the human occupation of the planet, placing him at odds with the Tau security chief of the planet, Borosage, as well as outing him as a human/Hydran hybrid.

The Hydran resistance has kidnapped a young human child and may be using him as leverage against the humans, escalating tensions and forcing Cat into becoming a negotiator between the two sides. Of course, there are more than two sides: Some humans are more hard-line than others, while the official Hydran government are not affiliated with the resistance. Many humans are of course frightened by the Hydrans, who have powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation, among others, but the humans also have far superior technology. Moreover, Cat is torn both between his feelings for Kissindre, and similar feelings for a Hydran woman whom he meets.

With all of these conflicting and contrasting elements, you’d think Dreamfall would be a cracking book full of adventure and emotion, but I found it to be quite slow and not very exciting. In another contrast with the previous book, Catspaw shows Cat reasoning and acting and having a profound effect on the people around him, while in Dreamfall he seems so at odds with himself that he’s far more reactive than active, struggling with his own emotions and unable to make decisions unless he’s forced into them.

For example, he gets linked to the resistance accidentally when he runs into the woman kidnapping the human child. As a result of this, Borosage’s superior forces Cat to be a negotiator with the Hydrans. Although the Hydrans are initially repulsed by this telepath whose abilities are turned off, he wins the trust of one of them, Miya, and finds himself conflicted between his feelings for her and for Kissindre. But he doesn’t really choose (or even fail to choose) between them; rather it seems like he gets railroaded by circumstance into picking one instead of the other, along with some pseudo-mystical argument about how Hydrans can tell when they’ve met the person they’re meant to be with. Through it all Cat seems bewildered and passive, which makes him a boring main character.

The first half of the book is all about building the tensions between the humans and the Hydrans, and it all comes to a head in the second half, which is more lively but only a little more satisfying. Dreamfall seems more focused on trying to craft a setting and evoke a mood (of lost causes and dying cultures). As in Catspaw the book climaxes with Cat ending up in an extremely dangerous situation, but rather than taking a big risk for a good reason, it seems like he made a few choices without really examining what he was doing which led him to a bad place. Vinge tries her utmost to convey the weight of the choices that Cat does make (he does eventually have to make the ultimate choice between being part of human society or Hydran society), but I was never convinced that he was making these decisions for good reasons, or that he was even particular aware of what he was choosing or why. The story is one of some fairly subtle shifts in Cat’s outlook and behavior, and I don’t think it managed to thread the needle of believability. The book does have a reasonable conclusion to its main conflicts (complete with a satisfying fate for one of the main heavies), but it doesn’t feel as meaningful as the ending of Catspaw.

Overall I don’t think Dreamfall either works well on its own, or deepens or broadens our understanding of Cat beyond what we saw in Catspaw. It seems to be trying to evoke more of a sense of wonder than Catspaw did, but the most wondrous elements – the cloud-whales – are mostly relegated to the background. Even the psionic elements are less interesting here than in the previous books, since Cat’s own telepathy is rarely active.

I found the book to be hard going, and not very rewarding for the effort. It’s a big step down from Catspaw, which is easily the best of the series to date.

Joan D. Vinge: Catspaw

Review of the novel Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge.

Catspaw is the sequel to Psion, following Vinge’s telepathic hero Cat on a new adventure. Cat became quite wealthy after his adventures in Psion, and used his wealth to see the galaxy and join a travelling school for the rich. While at the planet Monument, he’s kidnapped by the taMing family, who want to hire him as a telepath to protect one of their own, Lady Elnear, who’s been the subject of two assassination attempts. Since his money is running out, and the head of security, Braedee, says he can provide drugs to activate Cat’s dormant telepathy, he agrees. He travels to Earth and is inserted into high-class taMing culture, which makes neither him nor Elnear comfortable.

As the drugs slowly shake loose Cat’s telepathy, he realizes that he’s been placed in a very difficult position, not least because telepaths are hated and/or feared by most of humanity. Elnear is running for the Federation Council, the only body in humanspace with the power to act against the powerful shipping clans. The taMings themselves head Centauri Transport, one of the most powerful clans. Cat is mistrusted by most of the taMing family as soon as he arrives, despite his cover story as Elnear’s aide and surgery to alter his cat’s eyes and thus his abilities. He also learns that the taMing family has another psion in it besides Jule, but he doesn’t know who it is. And that’s just for starters.

Catspaw is a much better novel than Psion was: Rich and textured, with complex and believable characters. Cat is immediately much more interesting and sympathetic just because he became more mature and introspective in the time between the two novels. It’s an unfortunate commentary on Psion that what happened to Cat off-stage after it was more satisfying than what happened to him in it.

The book is filled with nifty characters, even the ones who don’t get a lot of screen time: Braedee starts off as a cyber-enhanced security chief but he ends up being notably reasonable and distinctive without being infallable, and he and Cat have an uneasy relationship. Daric taMing and his wife Argentyne are two of the major players, being somewhat at the fringe of the taMing family socially as well as owners of an avant-garde nightclub, which gives them feet in more than one world and thus natural allies for Cat, although ones he has a somewhat messy relationship with. Other taMing characters – Lord Charon and his wife Lazuli, and their children Jiro and Talitha – help add texture (and some drama) to the story. Really the most disappointing figure is Lady Elnear, who comes across as sort of a messiah figure and doesn’t really have a lot of depth to her. Protecting her is Cat’s main and original goal, and she opens doors for him among the classes he’s frequently with the taMings, but she doesn’t have a lot of character of her own. She’s mainly a foil and tool for Cat’s story.

Catspaw also has a nifty and complicated plot around which it’s built, and Cat’s relationship with the taMing family is woven into that plot. Lady Elnear’s life is indeed in danger, but the threat isn’t the simple one which Braedee originally explains it as. Cat is also put into a position to both improve the lot of telepaths in humanspace, and improve the lot of people bonded to Contract Labor, thanks to meeting the right people through Elnear. But of course his opportunity to do all this is threatened by the book’s main villain, who is far more adept at working in high society than Cat is, which forces Cat to make some difficult decisions and take a tremendous risk to defeat his foe.

Vinge doles out enough new-and-interesting ideas content over the course of the novel to make it feel more science fictional than just a society drama. The reader really feels Cat’s internal tension of being just sophisticated (and clueful) enough to survive in high society, while having the understanding of the underclass to have some resources that others in the taMing household don’t. He also learns something about his telepathy which lets him make some headway that no one else could have, setting up the book’s resolution. There are lots of details about the technological capabilities of Earth in Cat’s universe, too, of varying interest. By the standards of today’s science fiction it doesn’t feel quite as high-tech as it probably did when it was published, but seeing Vinge pull all the pieces together in a single novel is impressive.

The Cat novels sometimes seem to revel in the brutality Cat is subjected too, but Catspaw has the best balance of Cat being an active agent versus being a target of other peoples’ hatred, as well as a satisfying conclusion in which it feels like Cat really accomplishes something to make it all worthwhile. It’s certainly the best of the three books in the series (so far), and arguably worth reading even without first reading Psion.

Why We Live Here

(Second in an occasional series.)

The leaves didn’t finish falling from the trees until late this month. (A few trees still haven’t finished, but the ones around my yard have.)

Yesterday afternoon I sucked them up with my leaf blower.

(That would be yesterday, the day after Christmas.)

It took me a little over an hour, but then, I have a small yard. All I was really waiting for was for the leaves to dry off from the last rainfall so that most of them wouldn’t be sticking to the ground.

Snow? What’s that?

It has been a little chilly, though – highs in the low 50s. We’ve built a few fires this week. But it’s supposed to hit 60 over the weekend.

The jobs and culture are nice and all, but I maintain that the climate is the fundamental reason people live in the Bay Area in the first place.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and all that to you and yours. I hope if nothing else you’ve been doing the sorts of things that we’ve been doing today, which is to say, not a whole lot, and what we have done has been fun.

We got up a little early and opened presents. The big present was that I bought Debbi a MacBook, replacing the old Powerbook G4 she inherited from me when I bought my MacBook Pro a year ago. It’s been having battery problems, and of course it’s a heckuva lot slower, so this is a nice upgrade. Yes, I bought her the black one.

She bought me a couple of games I wanted (I hadn’t realized until recently that Mayfair Games has released two new variants of Empire Builder: Russian Rails and China Rails). She also bought me a giant stuffed turtle, as you can see here (the turtle is the one on the left).

Plus she bought me a small box of marzipan chocolates from See’s Candy – they’re among my favorites. Mmmmm.

After going by to take care of our friends’ cat Missy in the afternoon, we came home and made dinner. And boy-oh-boy did it turn out well. A 12-pound turkey which was cooked just about perfectly, plus stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, plus gravy. I roasted the turkey while Debbi made most of the rest (with a little help from me on assembling the materials) Everything came out on time (which might be a first for me cooking a turkey) and it was tremendously yummy, and we have plenty of leftovers, too.

We also talked to our families during the day, and otherwise relaxed and watched TV and surfed the net.

On top of that, last night we drove around to look at Christmas lights and saw quite a few good ones, including one cul-de-sac which put out those candles-in-bags (no, I have no idea what they’re called) all along the edge of the whole street, both sides. Very pretty! We smiled to see our own light display out front when we came home, too.

A very nice Christmas. How was yours?

Laser’s Edge Christmas Sale

Progressive rock retailer The Laser’s Edge is having a Christmas sale, running from now through the end of the day tomorrow, Christmas day. (The Laser’s Edge is in New Jersey, so that’s probably midnight EST.) If progressive rock is your thing, I recommend running right over and buying some stuff.

I don’t write about my progressive rock interests as much as I’d hoped, but if you’re interested in checking out some of my favorites, I think you can’t go wrong with any of the following:

I’ve bought dozens of CDs from them over the years and have always been happy with their selection, prices, service and friendliness.

Winding Down

I’m on vacation now. Somehow the weekend flew by so fast that it’s already Monday. Yet I’m not at work. Which is a good thing, since I can really use some downtime. We get this week through New Year’s off anyway, but I took the rest of next week off, too, so I have two full weeks at home. That’s right – we’re not going anywhere, just doing Christmas at home and hanging around.

As usual I have a lengthy list of things I’d like to do over the break, and I expect I’ll only do about half of it. Here’s what comes to mind off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

  • Play poker. Going to the casino during a weekday is a good way to avoid the crowds.
  • Assemble some Magic decks.
  • Take care of our friends’ cats, which we’re doing through tomorrow.
  • Hit some used bookstores.
  • Clean up the study upstairs, especially the closet, which is full of disorganized crap. I’m hoping that Storables will have their annual closet sale after Christmas, in which case I might redo all the shelving in there, too.
  • Related to that, prepare some comic books to sell on eBay, and just throw out (well, recycle) some others that I know won’t be sellable.
  • Buy a new stereo receiver. Mine is over 18 years old and is showing signs of being on its last legs. I might also look for other consumer electronics, like a DVR.
  • Write. I have some stories I want to work on which have been coming together in my mind. I ought to try to get a few pages of them written and see if I develop some momentum so I keep going.
  • Draw. I’ve also ben getting the yen to do some sketching, so I might play around with different styles in my sketchbook.
  • Cook. We plan to cook a turkey for Christmas, and I also plan to make meatloaf (mmm, bacon-wrapped meatloaf) and biscuits sometime.
  • Go to lunch with Debbi some day when she’s at work and I’m not. (She has this week off, but not next week other than New Year’s.)
  • Upgrade the desktop computer to Leopard.
  • Find a new theme for this journal, as I’m getting tired of this one. I expect I’ll find a theme someone else has concocted and just make a few usability tweaks to it to work with my set-up. Since I don’t have a testbed install of WordPress, I’ll have to set one up, probably on a local computer, to play around with themes.
  • Read. Our book discussion group is early next month, and the book is long, so I need to get cracking on it.
  • Catch up on journal entries. I have several that are half-written which I haven’t posted yet. Including two from last month’s vacation!

Like I said, I probably won’t get through all of that. But it’s good to have a list, right?

I haven’t made much progress on it yet, though. But I did finish the crossword in this morning’s paper. Oh, and finished my Christmas shopping – that’s very important!

Joan D. Vinge: Psion

Review of the novel Psion by Joan D. Vinge.

Psion is the first in Joan Vinge’s series of novels about a telepath living in a future starfaring society. Apparently she started writing Psion when she was a teenager, and published it years later after she’d established herself (for instance, it came out after she won a well-deserved Hugo Award for The Snow Queen). It was recently reprinted by Tor, but my copy is an earlier edition.

In the book’s universe, mankind has reached the stars, and encountered sentient alien life: The Hydrans, who are close enough to humans that the two species can interbreed, and whose psionic abilities start to emerge in humans with Hydran blood. But humanity also dominates and marginalizes the Hydrans, and is no kinder to their offspring. Our hero, Cat, is such a person, abandoned as a child in the Oldtown of the planet Ardattee, the center of the human Federation. His cat-like eyes are the only sign of his heritage, but after being arrested he narrowly escapes being forced into Contract Labor on another world by being recruited for a program to help psions understand and control their abilities. Hydrans have various psionic abilities, and Cat is profiled as a telepath, albeit one whose abilities have been repressed.

The program is run by a telekinetic, Siebeling, who develops a dislike for Cat, perhaps because Cat falls in love with his girlfriend, a teleporter and empath named Jule taMing. Cat slowly recovers his telepathic abilities even as he gradually learns how to live among more civilized people, and he learns that the Federation is using the program in part as a lure for Quicksilver, an immensely powerful psion who has been terrorizing other worlds. Quicksilver contacts Cat and Jule, but before they can be recruited Cat has a falling-out with Siebeling throws him back onto the streets and eventually into the arms of Contract Labor.

Cat is shipped across the galaxy where he ends up working in the mines of Cinder, the world which is the source of the rare mineral which makes space travel possible. There he both learns about his heritage, and what Quicksilver’s plans are. He also learns to stand up for both his friends and for what he feels is right, even if people on all sides hold him in very low esteem.

Psion has a lot of neat ideas, but it’s not a very good book. Cat is a one-dimensional protagonist, his only variation is that sometimes he gets a bit whiny about his bad fortune. That bad fortune and his background as a street rat means the story is hardly a rags-to-riches one, although you’d think that finding you’re a telepath would open doors for you, but Cat gets repeatedly beaten down, by Siebeling, by Contract Labor, and by almost everyone else around him. There’s no free lunch in this universe for anyone who isn’t rich.

The story is more one of a street rat who finds something worthwhile to live for (Jule, and his powers) and finds that his heart is in the right place, even at great cost to himself. But it’s something of a downer because Cat rarely has the chance to make decisions, and when he does he usually yanks the rug out from under himself due to his lack of sophistication or understanding of other people, but I’m not convinced that he really learned much about himself during the story. Cat runs through a series of situations mostly not of his making, but it feels a little too programmed. You feel for the guy, but not enough to make the book feel special.

I think Psion will mainly appeal to people who enjoy stories which are mainly lessons from the school of hard knocks. That’s not really my thing, so despite an interesting backdrop, I don’t recommend it.

This Week’s Haul

A very light week right before Christmas. I guess comics ill arrive on Friday for the next two weeks.

  • Countdown to Final Crisis #19 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Keith Giffen, Jesus Saiz & Rodney Ramos (DC)
  • Ex Machina #33, by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris & Jim Clark (DC/Wildstorm)
  • The Umbrella Academy #4 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
  • Primordia #2 of 3, by John R. Fultz & Roel Wielinga (Archaia)
Ex Machina #33 I don’t think I’ve written much about Ex Machina since I started FP. I originally started picking it up because of Tony Harris’ artwork (having enjoyed it on Starman and JSA: The Liberty Files), and it’s consistently been just interesting enough to keep reading. But it’s never nudged its way to the top of my list.

The premise is that Mitchell Hundred had an accident which gave him the ability to talk to and command machines. He had a brief career as the only superhero, The Great Machine, but gave it up after saving one of the World Trade Towers on 9/11. He subsequently ran for Mayor of New York City and won. The series is a chronicle of his tenure as an iconoclastic leader and public figure.

Vaughan’s story is told in 4-issue increments, usually based around a single theme or even. This latest issue is the final part of “Ex Cathedra”, in which in late 2003 – Mitchell visits the Pope and ends up as a pawn in someone’s plan, as well as under the scrutiny of the Vatican due to his abilities. Like most of the story arcs, this one feels like it ends with more questions than answers, although this one does have a couple of big bangs that it goes out on; some arcs end with an anticlimax.

Vaughan has a very understated writing style, both here and in his more celebrated series, Y The Last Man. There’s always the sense that the story is going somewhere, but not a feeling of a whole lot of progress. There are little kernels of information that someone in Mitchell’s world knows what happened to him, or why it happened to him, but I don’t feel like I really know more about Mitchell’s situation than I did at the beginning. I think that’s what frustrates me the most, and I guess it’s just a mismatch between Vaughan’s writing style and what I prefer to read. Maybe I ought to go back and read the whole thing so far at once. and see if it reads better at one shot.

Harris’ art is still terrific, and he’s an artist very well suited to a book which as many “talking heads” scenes as this one. On the other hand I think the script could push him harder, especially in rendering some more amazing pictures. (This issue does have one pretty good scene in that regard, though.)

After three years’ worth of issues, the jury’s still out on Ex Machina, which is a long time for me to stick with a series with that feeling. But I do want to know what’s going on, so I keep reading; I wish Vaughan would speed things up, though.

Luck Was With Me

Yesterday we had our department holiday party, at the trendy bowling alley Strike. I’m not much of a bowler, but it’s fun to do once in a while. We all had a good time, and a few folks definitely seemed to get better as the afternoon went on.

I still haven’t figured out how to get the ball to roll smoothly down the lane – it sort of skids and slips instead – but I did manage to improve my aim significantly, to the point that at the end of the second game I bowled three strikes in a row, and managed to get a photo of my accomplishment:

Three Strikes and I'm Doing Okay

Yep, Josh still won. Josh has some actual bowling experience in his past, so I was delighted just to be even in the same ballpark as his score.

Tonight I went over to the last Wednesday gaming night of the year at Subrata‘s, where we played Ticket to Ride Märklín and I was fortunate to draw a few coordinated routes and piled up a huge number of bonus points on a fairly short train network and was able to win that game even though I was concerned up to the end that it was going to be extremely close, mainly because my network was so short. But I guess I haven’t played enough of that variant to have a good feel for what position everyone is in late in the game.

I can’t really ask for much better fortune in my game-playing than that. I’m even feeling like I’ve been drafting better at Magic lately – I think the Lorwyn expansion suits the way I think much better than the Time Spiral block did.

Now if only I can figure out how to get better at no limit poker that I’ve been playing with my friends, then I’ll be happy with my gaming across the board…