Category Archives: games

Fame, Fortune, Happiness

Did you ever play that old board game, “Careers”?

This game was devised by a sociologist, James Cooke Brown, and was first made and sold by Parker Brothers in 1955.  At the start of the game, each player decides and writes down his victory target which consists of collect points for fame, fortune or happiness.   Assuming at least 100 points (the original game used 60),  a capitalist player may choose a victory formula of say “fame=15; fortune= 70; happiness= 15”.  A narcissistic player may choose “fame= 60; fortune= 30; happiness= 10” but the player with the inner hippie might want “fame= 15; fortune= 5; happiness= 80”.  They then roll the dice and make their way around the game track, making career and life choices that help them reach their winning formula.  Some may want to choose high earning jobs, others an education and still others aspire to be beach bums – whatever works for them.

If we were to just take a moment to reflect on this concept, what might we say was the winning formula that we have actually chosen for our real lives?  What has been our combination of the three?  Which one has had our emphasis and which one have we allowed to starve in the darkness?

How does one decide?  Won’t it be great if I could be rich, famous and happy?  Even Linus knows what I mean….


If I am honest, I think I have always wanted a life formula of Fame= 20; Fortune= 30; Happiness= 50.


Did you achieve your target or has happiness given way to fortune or has fame (like winning the Nobel Prize for Science) been elusive?

What was your formula for success and how have you fared? Curious squirrels want to know.

Adapting to Living in the New Artic

I understand that our friends in North America are currently facing a second major snow storm of the winter brought about by an extreme weather formation called the polar vortex which in turn is probably an impact of climate change.

Let’s face the truth.  Climate change is already here.  It’s too late to try to avert it; now we can only look into adapting to climate change.  Us squirrels are already learning how to find our buried nuts under several feet of snow (we are experimenting with adapting avalanche beacon activity).

I know that all that endless arctic snow and cold can be a real emotional and mental strain.   So as a service to all polar vortexed readers, the Lone Grey Squirrel has scoured the icy wastelands of the world for ways to adapt to this aspect of climate change.

And we found the answer in Irkutsk, Siberia.  Ah, Irkutsk, Irkutsk.  I know it so well. (It is one of the territories on the board game Risk).


Anyway, the only way to adapt to the drudgery of cabin fever and the bitter cold is to learn to love the icy weather.  Have fun with it.  If life gives you lemons, make lemonades.  If climate change gives you ice as far as the eyes can see, then do as Ethnobeat, a group from Irkutsk, has done – make ice music!

Let’s face it.  Much of North America is going to look a lot like Siberia from now on.

Here is Ethnobeat playing on and with frozen Lake Baikal.






French Toast

Even the Band Does the Haka

Well, this is a post on the run.  Having  just recently nervously survived watching the Rugby World Cup final in which the team I was supporting, the New Zealand All Blacks hung on to beat France 8 points to 7 points, I am now at the airport awaiting my flight to Mongolia.

Already the celebrations are going on all over New Zealand and amongst their fans around the world.  Apparently, one newspaper headlines reads, “French Toast”. Hahaha.  Although that is not really fair cause the French team played really well and looked liked they could have stolen the game but the All Blacks will savour the victory even if it is by one point.

All Blacks - Celebrate as World Champions 2011

Observant readers will have noted that the Lone Grey Squirrel is in transit to the land of Genghis Khan where the men are tough, the women tough and the food tougher.  All Blacks beware, there is great potential for a Mongolian rugby team.

Future World Rugby Champions?

Anyone Out There?

I know its the Olympics and all over the world, people are glued to their television and enthralled by the drama and tension of competition. I know because the blogging traffic has dropped by about 50%. I know because I too am getting very little sleep at night watching the daily highlights.

Still, the blog must go on. For those of you ardent sport haters/ haven’t paid thier cable bills/or have so much free time that you can blog and watch Olympics, I thought I would reward your dedication to blogging with a little bit of “caption writing” fun. Please suggest the funniest or most suitable caption for this picture.

Dungeons and Dragons (Part 2)

Having chosen or rather been given no choice but to choose a thief, I was ready to be drawn into the Dark Realms conjured up within the twisted mind of Almighty Wally, our host and Dungeon Master.

The Plot
Wally explained that our party had come across this small village at the foot of the mountains. In recent times, some ancient religious sect had taken over the abandoned castle on a nearby mountain. Since then, strange things and creatures have been seen. The villagers dare not venture out at night due to the presence of werewolves and other creatures of the night. Then last month, members of the cult met the village heads to demand 10 virgins each full moon for sacrifice to their demon God. That first sacrifice was due in two weeks time. The village leaders offer to pay us to go to the castle and defeat the cultists before then.

We, of course, agreed to do this gallant task as they were paying us a lot for a succeessful mission. But the way to the mountain castle is protected by a thick thorn hedge and patrolled by packs of werewolves and Giant trolls. We first needed to visit the labyrinth of Gath because at the centre of the labyrinth was a mural that would tell us more about the ancient castle and a map to guide us through the thorn hedges. Oooo. I listened intently to Wally. Not a bad story to give us a little semblence of sense in what would otherwise be a series of senseless encounters and fights. Before long, our merry band consisting of a Paladin, a Barbarian Warrior, a Ranger, a Cleric, a Druid, an Assasin and a Thief (squirrel jumping up and down, that’s me! that’s me!) entered the dark underground Labyrinth of Gath.

The “Staying in Character”.
Woweee. In the labyrinth, it seemed that everywhere we turned there was some beast or monster to be killed. Most of the time, the Ranger got them at a distance with her bow and arrows. Whatever got past that were soon chopped down by the Barbarians axe or the paladin’s sword. Even the Cleric (or Mage as they called him) and the Druid got the occasional beast using their magical powers or by calling on their deities for help. I was happily sneaking past all the fighting and collecting hidden treasures and artifacts. This was okay for awhile but I soon got fed up of missing the glory and excitement of the fight.

So in the first encounter after the morning tea and rest room break, I decided to live dangerously. We had entered a chamber and there was a giant Troll in it. Every one took their expected action stations. Once again I was expected to stay out of the way until the big heroes dealt with the baddie. But enough was enough, I told Wally that I chose to sneak behind it and attack with my dagger.

Jaime said, “Are you mad? You can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Cause you’re a thief! You’ve got to stay in character. And what are you doing? You’re pricking away with a puny dagger, for goodness sake!”

“I may be a thief but I am a brave and fearless thief!” I replied.

Jaime appeals to the Dungeon Master to intervene. Wally decides to let me do what I want. He’s sure that I will soon learn the folly of my ways.

I have a small theoretical chance of throwing the dice where the outcome would be that I had a lucky stab at the monster and it just happened to sever the juggular and the monster keels over mortally wounded. Like a gambler at Las Vegas, I blew on the diced and willed for the right numbers to appear. Like most gamblers at Las Vegas, I lost.

The battle goes something like this;

I jump on the back of the troll and stab him with my small dagger. (Roll dice). Miss. No damage.

Troll busy fighting with Paladin. So I try to poke him with my dagger again. (Roll dice) Hit but only 1 damage point against the troll. Equivalent to a bee sting.

Troll decides to swing his club at me. (Rolls dice) Hits me with 12 hit points. Wally tells me this means that I have lost my left arm and am suffering from internal bleeding. My character may be suffering but my adrenaline is up.

Being the gallant thief, I stab away again with my dagger. (Roll dice). My blade breaks off because of the hard troll skin.

Troll swipes at me. (roll dice) Another 15 hit points. Wally tells me I am now splattered all over the cave and am definately dead. Ah well.

They thought that I had learnt my lesson about staying in character but I can be really, really stubborn about learning things. So they allow me to rejoin the group as a new character (also a thief) and I am promptly fried to a cinder while on a suicide run towards a dragon with my little pocket knife. They respawn me again and I die two more gruesome deaths before lunchtime.

Wally and Karen come to me and say, “Look, stay in character or else you’re not resurrecting after the next death.” It seems my attempts to make my thief a hero is not going down well with everyone else. They don’t think I should rise above my station. It’s also slowing down the quest as each time I die, they have to return to the village to get a new thief. Okay, now that my sense of immortality had been lost, I decided to conform and stay in character.

The Great Boredom
Before long, we had killed everything there was to kill in the labyrinth and all we needed to do was exit the labyrinth. Our party turned left, left, left. Dead end. Right, left, right. Dead end. Left, left, right. Dead end. We keep going. Before long 15 minutes of fruitless wanderings had passed. Almighty Wally speaks from heaven, “look you guys are supposed to be bloody scientists! The way out has a simple mathematical solution!”

With one voice we murmured, “Oh, a mathematical solution! Why didn’t you say so!” One hour later we were still stuck in the labyrinth. People were beginnning to yawn, read magazines and nod off. We were going nowhere.

Finally, Wally asked what did we want to do next. We said go left. Not because we knew what we were doing but because we didn’t know what else to say. Wally solemnly rolls his dice and says, “hurray! you are out at the base of the castle!’ Now, we all suspect a bit of divine Wally intervention there but we were so glad to be back in the sunshine we kept quiet.

The Climax.
By dinner time, we had reached the inner sanctum of the castle. Victory was at hand. There were a few minion guards to occupy the heroes. But my thieving eyes was on this beautiful giant crystal sitting in the arms of the bronze idol in the centre of the room. I rushed towards it, skirting the fighting (notice, I am keeping to character) and as a thief would do, I placed my sweaty hands on the crystal and lifted it up. Before Karen the Assasin can call out a warning to me, Wally rolls his dice and proclaims that white smoke begins to rise from the idol.

The cleric and the Druid rush to my side and attempt to call on their Gods to stop the billowing smoke. (Roll dice). The smoke grows in volume.

The cleric and the Druid try throwing holy water on the idol. (Roll dice). Smoke turns black. Team memnbers are blaming me for picking up the crystal. I say, I am a thief, what do you expect! They say, they would expect me to check for traps before picking up the crystal. “Oh” I say.

The Druid takes out some scrolls and begin chanting but the black smoke gets worse and sparks appear.

Then I had an inspirational thought! I told Wally, “I smash the crystal to pieces on the floor.” Wally looks pale as he rolls his dice. He turns paler when he sees the result.

“Um. There is a big explosion, an earthquake, volcanic eruption. The castle collapses. All of you have to do saving rolls to see if you survive.”

The team is not happy with me cause half of them are dead and the other half gravely injured. I am dead for the fourth time. They drag their sorry, battered bodies back down the mountain to the village only to find that the villagers have lost everything in the earthquake and eruption and they were attacked by angry mobs.

Everyone was stunned.

The aftermath.
It was almost midnight when Karen and I walked to the bus stop. We had left the place like every one else a little shocked and subdued by the game outcome. We sat at the cold bus stop for a few minutes before Karen turned to me and said,”You know, that almost never happens.” I nod solemnly.

She added, “I wish it happens a bit more frequently. It was so funny.” The bus came and the driver found us laughing hysterically. Karen, Wally, Jaime and I remained friends but I was never ever invited to another campaign. Jaime never got over the fact that his Paladin was lynched by the village mob!

Dungeons and Dragons (Part 1)

This is the story of my experience, while I was at University, with the strange gaming world of Dungeons and Dragons.
The Initiation
The world of Dungeon and Dragons is a strange and secretive one. I was always interested in it and made my interest known but I got no response from my colleagues other than some vague mumbling about how they had read about it somewhere. Yet every Monday, I saw sleepy, bloodshot eyes all around – evidence that each weekend, there was a secret gathering with long, wild, serious D & D marathons going on.
For weeks, I felt left out. Then one winter day, Karen asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I said “Nothing much – feeding squirrels.”
“How would you like to see some real action?” she asked teasingly. Of course, I was ecstatic. “Meet me outside the labs at 9.00 am Saturday. Come alone and don’t be late!”
I was there early and had to wait for her. Eventually, Karen appeared out of the blowing snow and led me into the white landscape. We took some creative short cuts through some hedges and fences and we walked along some streets for a good fifteen minutes. I realised that we had been going round the same cul-de -sac for the last five minutes and it was a familiar cul-de-sac too.
“Karen, are we headed for Wally’s pad? I ask only cause we’ve gone round it four times.”
“Shhh!” and she pushes me up the driveway and to Wally’s front door. “Had to make sure we were not followed” she offered.
She tapped the door three times, paused and then tapped twice. Wally, opened the door and ushered us in without a word. Only when we were inside did they both relax. “Sorry about the cloak and dagger but not every one’s significant other or supervisor knows where we are today and we want to keep it that way!”
I was led into the den and there assembled were six other comrade at arms waiting and eager for the coming adventure into the Dark Realms.
The Rules
I enthusiastically asked lots of questions but nobody really wanted to waste time helping the novice out. So the rules were simplified and summarised for me. Chose a character. Play the character. When the character does something, I get to roll the dice which determines the outcome of the action. Everything else was under the control of the Almighty Wally our host and Dungeon Master.
The Pecking Order
The wonderful thing about D & D is that you get to chose from a variety of characters. For example, you could be a wizard, not unlike Gandalf. Or perhaps a super-righteous defender of all that is good, a Paladin. Even a Ranger with special abilities like talking to animals seemed like a cool character. Or perhaps a cleric, skilled with knowledge of the supernatural.
“Why can’t I be the Paladin?” I asked.
“Andy is the Paladin.” Karen replies.
“How come he gets to be the Paladin?”
“He brought the beer.”
“Jaime. He brought the chips.”
“Ranger? Wizard? Elf?”
“Taken, taken, taken.”
“What’s left?”
“You can be a thief.”
Beggars can’t be choosers. “Okay!” I said cheerfully. “I’ll be the best thief there ever was. Let the games begin.”
(end of part 1. To be continued……)