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(no subject) [Aug. 29th, 2010|09:50 pm]
gamergrrl
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I'm writing this on the train to Ottawa  - the wifi is a big buggy, but at least it's there. FanExpo is over, and I had a wonderful time.

Today, I divided my time between the trade show and the gaming room -- the crowds weren't as bad as they were yesterday, except in the line to see William Shatner.  As much as I would have liked to have seen him, my instense dislike of lineups held sway and I decided to give it a miss.  But I bought a few things, got Kelley Armstrong to autograph a copy of one of her books, which I am currently reading, and took some more pictures, including a good one of Summer Glau. 

But it was nice to get back to the gaming room, where John Chew was still enticing people into playing Scrabble.  He cancelled the planned rated tournament due to lack of participants and whhaen I wandered in at around noon, he was putting a young novice through his paces.  I always find that interesting, because it wasn't so long ago (four years and a bit, to be exact) that I was a novice player and made all the same kinds of mistakes.  Despite my lacklustre rating (1172 at last count), it's incredible how much I have learned over the past four years about this fascinating game.

Then John asked me if I wanted to play -- and given that I'm not one to turn down a challenge (or, for that matter, any Scrabble game at any time, anywhere), I agreed.  At the Ottawa club, I'm the bottom seed in Divison A  (my club rating is 1273 and 1200 is the cutoff for the top division) and I had played expert players before, usually losing.  So I expected to get trounced, but I was pleasantly surprised by a combination of good tiles and my ability to make the best use of them.

Since I didn't record my racks (I am now determined to start doing so in future), I can't do a full analysis of the game, but I can talk about a few of the highlights.   My opening rack contained 3 As and a V, so I opened with an obvious play of AVA - if appears John was a bit vowel-heavy himelf and played FEE.  Having rid myself of the junk on my first rack and drawn very well, I was not only able to bingo with FATTIER, but it was a DWS/DWS for 97 points. Two turns later, I found myself with AEGINTX and hoped John would provide me with an open C or L; no such luck, so I played off EX for 22 and drew S?.  TASTING tasted just fine hooked to his previous play of DAW - and it wasn't until he responded with EROSION to my first T that I realized that, of course, I should have made the blank a C (I had dismissed WASTING and BASTING because of the possibility of an E back hook to a B or W, but for some stupid reason, CASTING eluded me).

At that point, I was still leading 221-154, and got some mileage out of EROSION sitting next to the TWS line by playing MIB for 38.  He then played B(o)ZO for 30 and I was able to respond with 38 points of DO(z)E.

I continued to draw wel and made a few good playsl. I failed to challenge HEROISE(d)  -  apparently it's good in SOWPODS but not in TWL - but the tile gods were smiling.  I was holding the last S (both blanks were gone) and I realized I could play HARK/KI with the H right next to a TWS ,and play something and SHARK next turn for heaps of points.  But then I saw the following: 1) If I played HARKS/SI instead, the K would land on a DLS and I'd pick up 53 points on the one play and 2) Given that I still had a good lead, I'd much rather have an H sitting on that wide-open bingo lane than an S. 

After playing HARKS, I picked up a J and played JAG for 35.  A few small plays on both sides and the final score: 497-372 in my favour. I'm well aware that if I were to play 5 games with John (or any expert player) I'd probably lose 4 of them, but it didn't diminish my pleasure at the victory.

After that, I talked to John about some of the barriers I was facing to improving my game, and we decided to play a game in which he Quackled every move (for the uninitiated, Quackle is a computer program that simulates a game and will tell you what it thinks is the best play for any given rack & board position).  I lost that game 420-407, but I learned a great deal about strategy and choosing between a variety of different possible plays. All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, and I am grateful to John for his wise counsel.
 


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FanExpo Canada: Day 2 [Aug. 29th, 2010|10:13 am]
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Day 2 at FanExpo: seething crowds; shoulder-to-shoulder crush in the trade show - people with one-day passes who weren't able to get into the show until mid-afternoon because the lineups were so long.  Thank god we had Premier passes (and in any event, it's fun walking around with a tag that has VIP on it!)

But the crowds didn't bother me too much because I decided to spend the day playing Scrabble in the gaming room, which is on the first level of the convention centre and did not involve taking the escalators up to the Expo itself.  The gaming room -- or rooms, because there were several adjoining -- were also crowded, but normal crowding, like a typical gaming con.  And the room had a gaming con atmosphere: Settlers in one area, Warhammer in another, a big Munchkin tournament and -- something you don't find at a typical gaming con - Scrabble.

John Chew, Toronto player and co-honcho of NASPA, had planned to hold four three-game mini-tournaments during the Expo, but it seems that the crossover between fandom and Scrabble is less common than between fandom and other games.  Only four of us wanted to play in the tournament  -- including two players I had encountered at tournaments before, Shan Abbasi and Roger Cullman.  As a fourth, John asked his godson, Daniel West, to play -- Daniel is unrated, but has been taking pointers from his godfather.  So we had a three-game round-robin tournament which Shan won (undefeated!), and I came in second and won $10, which was interesting because Roger was the highest rated player of the four of us. 

I played pretty well throughout -- despite a loss to Shan (520-392)  in which he bingoed 4 times to my twice --  and had a nail-biter against Roger which I won 391-390.  Poor Daniel was cannon fodder for all of us and I had a lovely 458 against him; but it was the game against Roger  I was most proud of. 

After the tournament, I played a number of pick-up games and only ventured onto the Expo floor once.  That was when I wanted to get something to eat, but the food lines were so long it was impossible.  I returned to the gaming room to find that John had bought a few orders of Chinese chicken at the food court across the street, and I purchased one from him -- it was fantastic|!

At 6, Elizabeth, Marcelle, Patti and I met back at the hotel and took a cab to the College Street area, which is full of lovely Italian restaurants. We had an amazing meal and walked around a bit -- got back to the hotel and spent 2 hours playing Facebook Scrabble (in this particular case it was Face-to-Facebook Scrabble, because one of my regular opponents was on line at the same time I was.  I got creamed twice (he's an Expert player), but still enjoyed it. 
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(no subject) [Aug. 27th, 2010|11:19 pm]
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Took a day off work today to go to FanExpo Canada in Toronto with Elizabeth, Marcelle and Patti.  While I had been to three Worldcons, I had never gone to FanExpo, which is actually a much larger event.  FanExpo is not like an SF con in that the focus is more on the trade show than on the programming, although there are some panels, speakers and other events. The top guests tend to be media (film/TV) stars rather than literary stars,.  And it covers five different genres/activities: SF, comics, anime, horror and gaming.

The combination actually works very well.  I have always felt there was a lot of cross-over between SF fans and gamers, although I certainly know gamers who are not into SF...and SF fans who aren't gamers. The two years in which Jim and I missed the World Boardgaming Championships to attend Worldcons in Glasgow and Montreal, we learned that we weren't the only ones who had made that choice.  I guess both gaming and SF fandom are subsets of the same kind of geekdom, attracting many of the same kinds of people.

We decided to take the train to Toronto, and it was a nice, leisurely ride, made particularly pleasant by Via Rail's free WiFi...and, of course, the company of Elizabeth, Marcelle and Patti.  We arrived at around 1 p.m. and already there were lineups snaking around the convention centre -- lots of people in costume, and many of the costumes very professionally done.  Fortunately, we had bought the highest level of tickets, which allowed us to go into a shorter line and have access to the show at 2 instead of the regular opening time of 4.  But even with that, it took us more than half an hour to get in, even though the number of Premier passes was limited to 1,500.

The wait was well worth it.  The trade show is massive -- even bigger than the dealer's room at Gen Con (or for that matter, Book Expo Canada, which used to be held in exactly the same location).  There was something for everyone: books and comics; action figures; games; jewelry (including some lovely steampunk jewelry), T-shirts, and a lot of very good SF/fantasy/anime art.. There was a big Ninendo area featuring some of the latest Wii games; a large Rogers booth trying to get people (including me) to switch from Bell or other providers, and even a Zeller's area selling a wide range of video games and game accessories.  And yes, I found one great boardgame booth and bought a copy of Forbidden Island, a game I had played as a prototype at the Gathering of Friends in April.  There was also a huge display promoting the new Tron movie, and a replica of the Batmobile.  The folks who run FanExpo are well aware that Geek Nation has lots of money to spend!

 And then there was the area where the special guests were autographing and doing photo ops -- and what a fascinating array of guests:  Veteran actors like Ernest Borgnine,Dean Stockwell and Julie Newmar, Adam West and Burt Ward from the old Batman series, Michael Dorn, who played Worf on Star Trek TNG and DS9, and many others.  It was possible to get quite close to the guests and I took lots of photos: I was particularly fascinated with Borgnine and Stockwell, who were terrific actors long before they did any genre media.  Before Borgnine did McHale's Navy, he won an Oscar for Marty; and I will never forget a very young Dean Stockwell in Compulsion, a slightly fictionalized account of the Leopold and Loeb murder case (Stockwell played one of the two young murderers).  And Julie Newmar - known to this crowd as Catwoman in Batman, she had been a well-known actress and dancer for years. While her face shows her age, her body is still as lithe and lovely as it always was.

Seeing all these older stars sitting their signing autographs made me wonder if they'd rather be doing an acting gig than talking to fans who only remember them in genre roles.  But we all know how precarious an actor;'s life is, and particularly an older actor, so I guess it's not a terrible way of earning a living.

Much of the programming starts tomorrow, and I'm quite impressed with the lineup of gaming activities. I was originally planning to play in the Great Canadian Boardgame Blitz (which I did at CanGames in Ottawa), but then the Toronto Scrabble Club folks decided to run a mini-tournament, and I'll be doing that instead .  There's also a big Settlers of Catan tournament, a Munchkin tournament, lots of Warhammer stuff, and I just noticed that Talisman -- a game I really like -- is also on the program.  And they're expecting 60,000 people on the weekend!

More tomorrow...
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In memoriam: Shirley Thomson [Aug. 13th, 2010|01:47 pm]
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I had originally intended that this blog be exclusively about Scrabble and boardgaming, but a person who had an enormous impact on my life died earlier this week and I wanted to use this space to pay tribute to her.

The first time I met Shirley Thomson was on my first day at work at the Canada Council for the Arts in 1999.  I had, of course, seen her before at National Gallery openings and other arts events, but had never spoken to her directly.  She wasn't in on the interviews for my job at the Council -- she left that to her subordinates -- and when I was introduced to her in the elevator I was quite nervous about being in the presence of this formidable woman.

Three days later, Shirley stormed into my office waving a copy of the Globe and Mail.  She obviously didn't like something she read in the paper, as her words were "what is this crap?" , as she pointed to the story in question,  While I was somewhat taken aback by this imposing, elegant woman using that four-letter word, it also made me realize that there was a lot more to Shirley Thomson than meets the eye,

I worked closely with Shirley until her retirement as the Council's director in 2002.  I arranged her media interviews, wrote some of her speeches and travelled with her to a variety of meetings and events across the country.  During that time, I came to know the person behind the persona -  and an amazing person she was.  She told me about her childhood as a bookish, somewhat eccentric youngster in St,. Mary's, Ontario; about her divorce from a political science professor (whose works I had studied in university) and her subsequent decision to go after her PhD when she was in her forties.  We were both closet smokers then, and snuck out for cigarette breaks whenever -we could.  And once  -- just once -- I literally saw her with her hair down, when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night in the hotel she and I were staying at.  Now I knew for sure what that iconic topknot was made of -- long, long natural hair. r

One of my favourite stories happened  shortly before a federal election.  She was intereviewed by the Toronto Star during one of her many visits to Toronto, and was asked "what do you think will happen to arts funding if the Canadian Alliance gets elected?".  Without thinking, she uttered two words: "we're toast".  Later on, I asked her whether or not that comment was a little imprudent, given that the Canada Council was a non-partisan agency and she reported to the government.  She acknowledged that maybe she shouldn't have said it, but added "but it's true, isn't it?"

I repeatedly offered to ghostwrite Shirley's memoirs, and she always said "no, I'm not ready for that yet".  Earler this week, a former colleague at the Council e-mailed me the news of her death at the age of 80, which came as a shock.  Shirley was so dynamic, so vital, that I thought she would keep going forever, and I can't imagine a world without her.  Goodbye, Shirley -- I'll miss you.





 


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Home, briefly... [Aug. 9th, 2010|07:53 pm]
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Back in Ottawa for less than 24 hours.  We're doing 3 loads of laundry and re-packing the car in preparation for our journey to Nova Scotia tomorrow.  I'll be going into the office to do a bit of work in the morning, while Jim finishes the packing and picks up Foxy. Then we're off.

WBC was an exhausting but gratifying experience.  For those who aren't on Facebook, I came third in the Rail Baron tournament and won a nice piece of third-place "wood" --- identical (except for the year) to the third-place plaque I won for the same game in 1999.  I wasn't at all disappointed about the third-place finish: getting to the finals is an achievement in itself, and I had such a rough start in the game (I went broke and had to auction off two railroads) that I thought I would come in dead last.  To add to my enjoyment was the fact that the tournament winner was Ottawa's own John Henry, a mainstay of the local gaming scene and regular player in the Rail Baron tournament I run annually at CanGames.  It was John's first time in the WBC finals and, needless to say, he was delighted.  And given the calibre of players (from eveywhere!) at WBC, having two Ottawans get to the finals was wonderful.

If it hadn't been for WBC, I would be in Dallas right now at the National Scrabble Championships -- unfortunately, they always seem to coincide and I can't be in two places at once.  But I've been having a great time monitoring all the action -- including the full Table 1 games -- on my Blackberry while Jim drove the car.  (You can find it at http://www.scrabble-assoc.com/tourneys/2010/nsc/build/).  After 21 games, top-seeded (and former national and world champion) Nigel Richards is still holding onto the lead in Division 1, despite a hard-fought (525-528) loss to Evans Clinchy and a hopeless game (314-436) against Nigel Peltier.  Both games were at Table 1 and I went through them both, and the loss to Nigel P. was merely a case of some of the worst tile draws I'd ever seen.  Nice to know even people like Nigel Richards have the occasional game like that -- I certainly have enough of them!

Well, time to put more wash in the dryer.  On to Nova Scotia!
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The tyranny of dice [Aug. 6th, 2010|11:04 pm]
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Scrabble players often discuss the extent to which luck is a factor in the game, especially after the kind of game in which your opponent has all  the power tiles, and you're stuck trying to swap your multiple Us or Is...more than once.  Many that I have spoken to suggest that that among players of approximately equal ability (lets say within 200 rating points of each other), the luck factor probably accounts for about 30 per cent of the result, with the rest accounted for by strategy, word knowledge and anagramming skill...not to mention accurate tile tracking.

In the strategic boardgaming hobby, there's also a lot of talk about luck, especially in games that involve a dice rolling.  Most gamers have played more than one game of Settlers of Catan in which they have painstakingly placed their first settlements on 8s and 6s, only to find that 3s and 11s come up just as often.

Rail Baron, a classic Avalon Hill railroad game, is a case in point.  For those unfamiliar with the game, the object is to earn money by buying a network of railroad lines that can take you to destinations on a US map.  The destinations are determined by dice rolls and you roll dice to get around the board.  The better your rail network, the more destinations you can reach on your own lines, thus avoiding paying your opponents to use their lines.
 
Since I arrived at the World Boardgaming Championships, I have played four games of Rail Baron -- three preliminary heats and a semi-final.  I won two and lost two, and luck was a significant factor in all the games.  In one of the games I lost, I had the best rail network and needed to roll a 5 on two dice to win the game.  I rolled a 4, and my opponent managed to get home before me.  In today's semi-final, I had a terrible rail network because early on in the game, I rolled very low numbers, thus allowing my opponents to buy up the good rail lines before I arrived at destnations.  But because of the luck of the dice, I emerged victorious: I never rolled destinations in the Southwest, where I had no track whatsoever, and frequently rolled the Northwest, which was my best region.  And in the endgame, when I and two other players were trying to win by going home, I rolled a trip to Denver, two pips away from my home city. 

If dice luck is such an important factor in Rail Baron, why is it that the same players tend to dominate year after year?  Tomorrow will be my second trip to the finals (although the last was in 1999), and I have twice been first alternate -- i.e. the sixth best player, just out of the 5-player final.  (About 50 people play in the tournament).  Most if not all of my fellow semi-finalists have been there before, so there must be some skill involved somewhere.

Does dice luck -- like Scrabble tile luck -- eventually even out, allowing the best players to rise to the top?  Or are some players just plain lucky?
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(no subject) [Aug. 3rd, 2010|10:36 pm]
gamergrrl
I have often been asked about the difference between Scrabble tournaments and boardgame tournaments, and given that the World Boardgaming Championships happens during the same week as the National Scrabble Championship -- and I'm attending the former -- I thought it might be interesting to talk about those differences.  When I first started playing competitive Scrabble three years ago -- I had been playing boardgames competitively for more than 20 years -- I found the differences particularly striking.  Here's my list:

1) Scrabble tournaments are quiet.  So quiet that if a person talks during a game -- or even worse, if a cellphone goes off -- the noise is drowned out by a chorus of Sh-sh-sh-ing,.  Boardgame tournaments are noisy - very, very noisy.  People often comment on their moves, their position, other people's moves, and so on.  And it's not uncommon to hear cheering in the midst of a boardame tournament.  At a big event like WBC, several different tournaments will go on in the same room, and some games are  noisy by their very nature.  If you want to concentrate, don't even think about playing anywhere near the Can't Stop tournament (and I can think of a lot of games that applies to).

2) Boardgamers are going for trophies or plaques, not money.  In fact, I've never seen money awarded at a boardgame convention, except maybe in the form of game store or dealer's room gift certificates. At WBC, the top players (usually the top 3 or 4 or 5  finalists, depending on how many people competed in that particular tournament) get plaques -- the first place plaque is bigger than the second place plaque, etc.. These plaques are so popular that WBC participants talk about how badly they want to "win wood".  I am the proud owner of three WBC plaques -- a first, a third and a fourth., as well as about 8 trophies from other game conventions.  And long after the Scrabble money is spent, the plaques and trophies are still there for all to see.

3)  There are a lot of similarities between competitive  Scrabble players and competitive boardgame players: they both tend to be smart, and yes, there is a preponderance of "nerds" (and I use the term affectionately, because I count myself among them).  But Scrabble tournaments appear to be more diverse: there are more women (particularly in the lower divisions), there are more people of colour, and the age range is much greater.  In Scrabble, it's common to find people in their 60s, 70s or even 80s competing..  As I look around at my fellow boardgamers as I write this post,  it looks like everyone is in their 40s or 50s.  That's not really true -- there are kids and older folks (including my husband Jim) who compete.  But the group here appears to be more homogenous.

4)  The competitive boardgame hobby has tried for years to develop a rating system, but so far, all attempts have been pretty dismal.  There's something called an AREA rating based on a player's performance at WBC, but since many game masters don't bother handing in detailed results, the ratings are not very acccurate.  Several years ago, WBC started awarding "laurels" (like rating points) to players who placed in the final rounds of their games, and our badges list how many laurels we have acquired over the years (I have 107, for example).  But unlike Scrabble ratings, no one really pays attention to them, and there is nothing to show what game they won the laurel's for.

Well, it's off to my next game.  I lost my first heat of Empire Builder by a measly $8  (given that you win when you reach $250 and I had $242, that's like losing a Scrabble game by a handful of points.  There are two more heats, so there's still a chance for me to make the semis.  In the meantime, I'm off to play Ivanhoe, a light card game with a medieval knight theme. 
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(no subject) [Aug. 3rd, 2010|05:01 pm]
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I'm sitting outside the ballroom at the Lancaster Host Hotel, surrounded by my fellow participants in this year's World Boardgaming Champonships.  This is my 9th or 10th WBC (I missed two years because I went to Worldcon instead), and it's an amazing event -- the boardgaming equivalent of the Scrabble National Championships.   We came down a bit early because Jim was playing in the 1830 pre-con on the weekend (1830 is a railroad game involving buying stock in railroads and operating them).  He made it to the semi-finals, but didn't go further --the competition is really fierce.

My first big tournament (Empire Builder) starts tonight, but I've been playing a variety of pickup games and prototypes.  I can't talk about the prototypes (that's a big no-no because of intellectual property issues), but the piciup games have included Priests of Ra (same mechanics as the original  Ra but with different tiles and scoring) and Cable Car, which is a streetcar route building game with a stock market component.  I also played in one heat of the Through the Ages tournament, and got massacred - but it helped me get a better understanding of the game, which I had only played a few times before.

Lancaster, of course, is in the heart of Amish country, and although we don't spend a lot of time outside the hotel, we always get a feeling for the fascinating mix between Amish and non-Amish residents.  Horse-drawn buggies coexist with cars on even the busiest streets, and the kocal stores sell everything from traditional Amish crafts to Amish romance novels.  In Amish country, the smorgasbord is king, and we went to one of our favourites -- Miller's -- for dinner the other night.  An interesting place to be.

I only wish the latter half of WBC didn't coincide with the National Scrabble Championships, being held in Dallas starting later this week.  I've still been keeping up my Scrabble while I'm here thanks to Facebook...with a little help from Elizabeth, Sue, Ross, Dean,Tasia, Diane and others.

More to come....









 


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ACE Institute [Jul. 30th, 2010|11:46 am]
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[Current Location |Cleveland, OH]

Today is the last day of the Association of Association of Cooperative Educators Institute in Cleveland. It has been a fascinating experience, and although it is related to my work, it somehow didn't feel like work.  I met fascinating people and learned a lot about Ohio and the economic challenges people in this state and this country.  Over the past two years, we have read and heard a lot about the impact of the economic crisis in the United States, but it wasn't until I came to Cleveland that it really hit home.  Tales of abandoned factories, lost jobs, incredible economic hardship...and a lot of hope that co-operatives can be part of the solution.  Ohio co-operators are trying very hard to make it happen: initiatives like Evergreen, which is creating jobs for low-income residents in Cleveland, and institutions like the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University -- which has been instrumental in the creation of 80 employee-owned co-ops and the retention of some 14,000 jobs -- are very exciting.

The co-operative sector in Canada and the US have a lot in common, but I have also found some significant differences:

1)  There is a lot more emphasis on employee ownership in the U.S. than in Canada.  While Canada does have quite a few worker co-ops, they make up a tiny proportion of the Canadian co-op movement.  At ACE, worker co-ops were mentioned more than any other sector.

2) Credit unions seem to have a much stronger presence -- and are more integrated into the broader co-op sector -- in Canada than in the United States.  For example, when I asked why Evergreen obtained its financing from Key Bank (a big commercial bank) instead of from a credit union, I was told that most credit unions don't do business loans.  In Canada, loans to businesses -- and especially small businesses -- are an integral part of credit union activities.

3)  There seems to be a much more organized effort to engage youth in co-ops in the US than in Canada. While several provincial co-op associations have youth camps and other youth programs, there doesn't seem to be a Canadian equivalent of NASCO - a U.S.-based association of student co-operators.  U.S. co-operators agree that engaging youth is a challenge: there just seems to be a more organized way of doing it here than at home.

Enough of work stuff.  As of this afternoon, the conference is over and I'm officially on vacation.  We're heading off to Lancaster, PA for the World Boardgaming Championships...and I promise the next couple of journal entries won't be about work!
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Cleveland, OH [Jul. 29th, 2010|08:41 am]
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I'm in Cleveland, Ohio for the Association of Co-operative Educators conference, which is directly related to my job at the Canadian Co-operative Association,   It is a fascinating conference and the participants are a good mix of academics and co-op practitioners.
A highlight of yesterday's session was a tour of the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, part of a larger initiative aimed at developing worker co-ops in low-income communities.  The laundry opened last October -  it now has 15 employees, several of whom have completed the six-month probationary period to become worker/owners of the company.  This is a wonderful example of how the co-operative model can be used to create jobs and keep money in the community.

While I'm here for work, we've also managed to combine pleasure with our business.   Jim is with me, and as we were on our way here, I happened to post a Facebook status update that I was on the way to Cleveland.  I immediately heard from two gaming friends -- Erin O'Malley and Leo Tischer -- both of whom suggested we get together to game while we were here.  Together with Erin's friend Charles, they came to our hotel on Tuesday night and we had a great game of Union Pacific in the lobby of the Marriott.  Leo also taught us a card game called Splits, which was lots of fun. 

And last night, we went off to Progressive Field (named after an insurance company - nothing to do with politics) to see the Indians play the Yankees.  The previous evening, the Indians pulled off a surprising win as a result of an excellent performance by a rookie pitcher named Tomlin.  Alas, they were back to their losing form last night, and the Yankees won the game 8-0.  I got the sense that there were as many Yankee fans in the stadium as Indians fans, and all eyes were on A-Rod, who was going for his 600th career home run.,  He didn't do in -- in fact, the were no homers in the game, despite the high score.,  But it is always fun to go to a game, and it was our first visit to Progressive Field, which is one of the better stadiums we'd been to.
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