Everyone seems to churn out at least one "Top-n" list of the year around Christmas time, so who am I to argue? Here's my Top (insert arbitrary number) list of this year, based on things that I've enjoyed or appreciated, in no particular order. I reserve the right to add to this list as I think of stuff.
- War on Terror: The Boardgame.
I preordered my copy a long time ago (game #30 to be precise), and I got it a few weeks ago. I've played it three times, and it's been good fun each time. I've got a few issues with the rules, though.
Firstly, the liberation points thing that decides who wins. The first time I played it, I actually won about half-an-hour before anyone noticed. Yesterday, I played it with Steve, Keith and Leesa, and Keith and I both thought that it ended arbitrarily and abruptly. Thing is, Leesa probably wouldn't have won unless we'd pointed out that she had enough money to buy enough cities to win the liberation points. After the game, Keith and I were in full agreement that something should be done about the scoring mechanism and winning criteria, as it just seems buggy.
Also, there are a number of wording quirks which led to us playing the game wrong (again). Thanks to a thread on one of the unofficial forums, I've received clarification of one rule that I still don't quite agree with, although we did agree to play that way. Even so, there are a number of arcane rules that are forgotten and change the whole dynamic of the game. There are also a few spots where the blue book and the card in question don't seem to agree, or are ambiguous.
Anyway, even with these flaws, the game is hugely fun, and balanced quite well between complexity (which appeals to some of the more geeky game players I know), and fun (which appeals to the novices and casuals like me). Highly recommended, and I look forward to playing it a bit more this Christmas.
I spent a good proportion of this year taking regular doses of morphine as part of the recovery process for the surgery I had in March. Fantastic stuff. I stayed on it longer than they hoped I'd need it. Also, props go out to Diclofenac, Co-codamol and high-strength Ibuprofen. Not Amitriptyline though, prescribed for the pain and tingling in my right leg, but makes me feel permanently hungover. Bad Amitriptyline... no props for you.
Coming off morphine isn't fun, though. While in hospital, I had a morphine drip on a PCA machine (one of those clicker things), but it was blocked far more often than it was working, so I spent a good deal of time in excruciating pain. After that, I went on MST pills, which are slow-release morphine, along with pink Sevredol tablets to take as needed.
Every time I reduced the dose, it worked like this: I'd drop the MST dose by 10mg b.d., and then I'd feel horrible for about a week. I'd ache all over, like I'd been beaten, and I'd stay in bed all day. After that settled down, I'd go back to doing exercises and going to the gym for a week, and then have to drop the dose again. Since this process took about three months, I spent a quarter of the year pretty much aching all the time.
- The West Wing.
Being stuck in bed for a good chunk of the year, I watched a lot of DVDs. More than anything, though, I watched The West Wing. I think I've watched all seven seasons in sequence about five times this year altogether. It's most definitely my favourite show of all time, and has been since I first saw it about seven years ago. I also think it might be one of the most important shows of all time, as I expect it's shaped many political viewpoints, as it has mine.
Unfortunately, Aaron Sorkin's latest opus, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" doesn't work as well for me. While we officially don't receive the show in the UK yet, I've seen all the episodes out so far, and only the most recent two have been any good. Sorkin should really stop lecturing the audience. Every show (barring the last two I mentioned) seems to be a treatise on what Aaron Sorkin hates about the world, usually concerning Christians and conservatives. While I'm no fan of christians and conservatives, he's preaching (largely) to the choir, and far less eloquently than he did in The West Wing. Every little snipe comes with the massive clang of an anvil dropping. It also doesn't help that the comedy sketch show-within-the-show isn't actually funny.
I won't be too upset if this show doesn't get renewed, and I'm in two minds about whether to buy the DVDs when they come out, which is a significant decision for me, being the completist that I am. Ironically, I think I'd prefer "Nations", the fake show about the UN mentioned in the show, which so obviously represents The West Wing in Sorkin's theatre of televisual revenge. Such a show might have made a good spin-off from The West Wing, with President Santos and SecState Vinick making guest appearances.
Anyway, The West Wing filled up a good percentage of my year, so I can't really leave it off my list. By the same token, "sleeping" also gets an honorary mention.
- "Chill" radio, and chilled-out music in general.
I recently discovered "Chill" on my bedside DAB radio, and I'm now a big fan. Without it, I wouldn't have heard Emiliana Torrini's "Easy", found out the title or artist of FC/Kahuna's "Hayling", or listened to enough Underworld, Faithless or Dido(!).
The biggest revelation was that my DAB radio has an "Info" button, which with enough presses will give the track name and artist. I'd completely failed to notice that button before. Since "Chill" has no DJs or ads, and most of the music is largely instrumental, there's buggerall way of working out how to go buy the fantastic track you just heard, apart from that magic button. As a result, for the first week or so, "Chill" managed to get me alternately calmed down, and frustrated beyond belief that I can't figure out what to google for.
In recent years, I've been listening to more and more chilled out music, developing from the cheesy beginnings listening to Enigma back in 1991, Portishead and Massive Attack in the late nineties and early naughties, through discovery of Röyksopp in 2002, and then onto the past couple of years listening to Lemon Jelly, Zero 7, Air, and Thievery Corporation.
I don't think I'm a music fan in the same way I'm a TV and Movie buff, but chill music is really the only thing I can sit and listen to. With all other music, I'm either busy doing something else and not really hearing it, or I'm actively listening to it and wishing I had something more productive to do, or some TV to watch.
- EyeTV by Elgato Systems.
As I mentioned above, I've spent a good deal of this year in bed recovering. A lot of that time has been watching TV courtesy of my iBook and the little EyeTV USB device feeding in More4, E4, E4+1, and Film 4.
Timeshifting is king, and doing it on a laptop while sitting in bed is really nice. I would, however, like one of their dual-tuner devices, but I'm really waiting for one that can do dual-DVB-T and also composite input so I can run my PS2 through my iBook. They don't seem to have a single product that can do both functions... yet.
EyeTV quality has seemed to suffer recently, since the release of version 2.3. I'm getting quite a few quirky bugs, but unfortunately not ones I can put my finger on and file a decent bug report.
For example, I'm recording something tonight, but I wanted to see the description for "Never Mind The Buzzcocks" at 21:30 on BBC2. When I click it, it gives me the description of "Prison Break" on Five, which is incidentally a show I wish I'd got round to watching from the start, but it's too late now. When I set it to record, it tells me that recording "" Every Tue, Fri & Sat 00:00 - 00:00 - (unavailable) conflicts with something I plan to record tomorrow (ie. Monday). It doesn't mention that it conflicts with the thing I'm actually recording tonight.
I've had a few other problems like this, and while I'm reasonably diligent about filing bug reports to them on issues I can nail down, I just can't word this one properly. I really wish EyeTV was open-source, as I'd happily track this one down. I'd also submit some patches to unbreak some of the annoying functionality, such as the jump to live TV that happens when a show you're watching timeshifted stops recording. I also can't stand the little controls window that pops up and stays up whenever you hit any button by accident whether it has a function or not. That thing really needs to be less intrusive.
Regardless, EyeTV has significantly affected my life this year, so it goes on the list.
- Old-school game emulation.
This year, I've replayed "Day of the Tentacle", "Full Throttle", "The Dig", "Sam and Max Hit the Road" and the "Monkey Island" series, all courtesy of ScummVM on my iBook and my PSP. I've also played a lot of "OpenTTD", which I must say is a stunning feat of reverse-engineering and coding. I must point out that I've previously paid for all of these games before (some twice!), and while it's a grey area, I think this shows a legitimate use and possibly a legitimate market for abandoned games.
Incidentally, while talking about games and specifically the LucasArts games above, I do hope that LucasArts will develop a worthy successor to the X-Wing series, ideally with a completely immersive/seamless engine, so you can climb out of the cockpit and fight/wander around the capital ship or planet, as hinted in the space battles in Star Wars Battlefront II. Battlefront II just wasn't good enough for me, at least on the PSP. I wouldn't object to such a game being massively multiplayer either, as long as it (a) doesn't require a PC, and (b) has single-player MMO emulation.
I'll also add my two main gaming hopes for 2007: Wil Wright's "Spore", and Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto IV". Spore looks like a game I'm going to spend a lot of time playing, and a lot of time staring at, astonished by the depth and sheer brilliance of the coding. I can pretty much guarantee that I will choose and buy the best console for playing these two games, probably sometime in October 2007. I bought my PS2 solely to play GTA3 and Vice City, and bought my PSP solely to play GTA:LCS. I don't expect anything to be different for GTA4. I do hope Sony gets their act together with regards to the PS3, and that it actually pans out okay. Otherwise, I'll be gritting my teeth and spending money on a Microsoft product for the first time in seven years when I go get an Xbox 360.
- The Caribbean.
While it cost me an arm and a leg, my holiday in the Caribbean was fantastic. I can't really say much more than that.
Anyway, that's about it. As far as Bottom 'n' things are concerned, I've got to say George W. Bush. My reasons are pretty much the same as nearly everyone else.