Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

International TableTop Day 2015: What We Played

Celebrated International TableTop Day with nine straight jam-packed hours of gaming, graciously hosted by my friend Tom. So much fun. Here’s what we played:

Started the day learning TakenokoI’d been hearing good things about this one for awhile, and it was pretty easy to pick up, and a lot of fun.

Takenoko

Followed up with two brief Mars Attacks: The Dice Game contests –

MarsAttacks

and head-to-head Star Wars Trivial Pursuit(Classic trilogy, of course.)

SWTriv

Then Munchkin Loot Letter.

LootLetter

And then our game crowd grew, so we played a tremendously fun game of Cockroach Poker (another first for me) –

CockroachPoker

– and an 8-person game of Tsuro that ended in a two-dragon tie. (I was the last dragon to actually lose.)

Tsuro

Even more folks showed up, so we split the party into three tables. I introduced a couple friends to Roll For It (which we played twice) –

RollForIt

– and then Zombie Dicewhich we played once with the standard rules, and once with the School Bus expansion.

ZombieDice

I wrapped up my day with back-to-back games of Betrayal at House on the Hillwhich I’d never played before, and really enjoyed. The explorers triumphed over the betrayer both times, although my character died along the way in the second game.

Betrayal

So I learned three new games, played several that I don’t get to tackle very often, and spent a full day reveling with friends in dice, luck, strategy, and fun. It was almost like a mini-Gen Con – including the “Hey-it’s-almost-nine-o’clock-and-I-never-ate-dinner” thing. Not complaining in the least.

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Games, geek | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

USAF, South Korea, 1971-72 – Part 3

At the beginning of last year, I started scanning some of my dad’s photos from South Korea in the early 1970s, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve been meaning for a long time to pick up the project again, and just before Christmas, the spark to do so arrived in the form of a surprise email through the Flickr page where I’m archiving the pictures.

Pat Bachman served with my dad from January to December 1972, and said he found the pictures I’d posted through an online search for the 5th TAC Kojin. The radar site, he explained, was a detachment of 5th Tactical Air Command (The Road Runners), headquartered at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Pat also added a few comments to dad’s pictures on Flickr, so I updated a couple photo captions in a previous post. He said he remembered my dad fondly as a hell of a nice guy, and graciously offered to send along a few of his own pictures for the collection.

This is Pat’s shot of the “short-timers’ board” in the 269 Lounge. Pat offered the following notes: Placement on the board represented placement in line for catching the “Freedom Bird” (represented by the helicopter) and rotating out. The Freedom Birds belonged to the Army and were part of the Jolly Green Giants. The name tags under the helo are the 10 who had recently left site – pic shows 11 because two rotated out on same date. Tags at the very bottom-left were visitors (VIP’s or pilots making first trip to the site). Tags on the donkey cart were the “Mule skinners” – truck drivers who routinely delivered supplies.

“Short-timers’ board.” Dad’s tag is on the downhill train, directly beneath the helicopter’s front wheel. He was fourth in line to leave. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Sincere thanks to Pat for getting in touch, providing these photos and some background, and for inspiring me to finish scanning dad’s photos in the days and weeks to come.

(Click on any of the photos to visit the full gallery and larger versions of the images.)

This is the mine field above the base, with the radar antenna just visible at the upper right. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Base camp. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Butler. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Front door security post. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

NCO club. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

And finally, Lifer – the site mascot:

Lifer. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

 

January 3, 2015 Posted by | 1970s, Family history, photos, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Things I’ve Learned So Far This Year

1) Household Tech Tip: If your vacuum cleaner motor continues to provide suction power, but the roller brush stops moving, before removing the entire bottom plate looking for something jammed in there; then borrowing your mother-in-law’s vacuum; then driving yours all the way to the repair shop – you should perform this simple step: Look for a button marked “BRUSHROLL ON/OFF.” If you own the same vacuum cleaner we do, you’ll find it cleverly hidden right on top of the vacuum, next to the main power switch. In the event you have already reached the local repair shop, you and the helpful repair person may share an enjoyable laugh at your own expense, which is still miles ahead of a vacuum cleaner repair bill. (In my defense: I’ve never used this particular button. Why the heck would I?)

2) That voice in your head you hear when you’ve returned from a trip to the store that says “You know, you really should take an extra two seconds and set down the gallon of milk to unlock the front door rather than try to juggle everything and risk dropping that milk and making a ridiculous mess of the door and sidewalk.” Yeah, you should listen to that voice.

3) Holy shit, The Legend of Korra is even better than I expected – and I expected a LOT, given the enthusiasm for this show. Binge-watched the first season on Amazon over the past few days. It’s gorgeous and well-written and amazing.

January 2, 2015 Posted by | geek, Ohio | | 1 Comment

What I Read in 2014

books2014

Here are the 16 books I read in 2014. Still not near the quantity I was reading five or six years ago, but more than last year (11 total, 5 re-reads), and only one re-read in the bunch.

  1. Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
  2. The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
  3. Among Others – Jo Walton
  4. The Alphabet Not Unlike the World – Katrina Vandenberg (Poetry. Really, really good poetry. Like “Inspires John Green while he’s writing The Fault in Our Stars” good poetry.
  5. Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
  6. The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
  7. Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
  8. The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi – Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
  9. Alpha Centauri – Or Die! – Leigh Brackett (I picked this up a couple years ago at a bookstore in the small Ohio town where Brackett and her husband Edmond Hamilton lived. I wrote about it for StarWars.com.)
  10. Star Wars: A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller (I stopped reading most Star Wars novels long ago, but this one caught me, and it was quick and fun.)
  11. The Art of John Alvin – Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
  12. The Future of the Mind – Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
  13. The Importance of Being Ernest – Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player OneInterior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
  14. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury (re-read)
  15. Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It – Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
  16. Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (No, I can’t believe I’d never read it either. What an incredibly fun book.)

I also spent a lot of enjoyable time in the pages of the following four role-playing game books last year, and I expect it to continue in 2015:

  • Numenera (core rulebook) – Monte Cook
  • Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (5th ed.)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (5th ed.)
  • Dungeons & Dragons  Dungeon Master’s Guide (5th ed.)

 

January 1, 2015 Posted by | 1980s, Fiction, geek, science fiction | , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Present

Awhile back, I was reading a flier for a Church Family Fun Day or something like that. Activities for said day were listed like this:

  • Food!
  • Games!
  • Balloon Animals!
  • Bouncy Castle!
  • Face Painting!
  • Chip Richter!

And for a moment, that last one really puzzled me, because I didn’t know what sort of chips fit in with the kind of event I was envisioning, nor could I imagine what “richting” them would involve. Does one study to become a richter, or is it a piece of equipment for processing these particular chips?

Yes, a few blinks later, I read the fine print identifying Chip Richter as a musician who’d be performing that day. Still, the absolutely complete confusion in my head for those few seconds was really funny, and at some point not long after, I told Jenn & Kelsey about it, and they immediately latched onto it as a running joke. You know, like we’re watching a movie or something, and I’ll get up to get a drink, and ask if they want anything from the kitchen, and one of them will say, “Yeah, do you mind richting us some chips while you’re out there?” Because that’s the kind of family we are.

Come this past Christmas morning, there’s one present left, in a gift bag behind the tree, and Jenn & Kelsey are adamant about me opening it last. When the time comes, they are extremely goofy and giggly as I reach in, grab the first of two tissue-paper-wrapped bundles, and open it to reveal this:

chips

And while you can see it coming now, at the time, I was very much “Um….OK?” as I looked at this bag while Jenn & Kelsey were just quaking with barely-contained laughter.

So I open the second package.

richter

And I – I just don’t – it’s a kitchen thing…attached to a hardware thing – but…?

Yes, it is painful how slow on the uptake I am on this, and it’s not helping that Jenn and Kelsey have now completely erupted in hysterics, and I look at these objects in my hands, these things that make no sense together; these chips and this –

Oh God They’ve Built Me A Chip Richter.

And the pair of them: They can actually see the comprehension dawn on my face, and it just kills them and breaks them into explosions of joy and laughter, which in turn destroys me, and before I know it I am laughing so hard I can barely breathe and tears are running down my face because I love these two people so much and so absolutely, and this moment is fantastic and permanent and mine and ours forever.

Now, where are the instructions for this thing? These chips aren’t going to richt themselves!

December 31, 2014 Posted by | Family history | | 2 Comments

A Walk in the Woods

For various reasons (none of them really good ones), I haven’t been running lately. I felt the need to get into the woods at Quail Hollow today, though, so I put on some boots and warm clothes and went for a 2-mile hike.

It was sunny and in the mid-30s, with no wind. Really nice day to be out there.

It’s a little strange going out and walking on the trails I’m used to running, and it’s a completely different experience in the woods this time of year compared with summer: The sun reaches deeper pockets, with no leaves overhead – with the exception of the pine stands – and you can see further off the trails.

I made a few stops along this stream, because it was running high compared to summer, and I liked the way it looked and sounded.

Found a culvert, kind of oddly placed, since it’s not on any sort of trail.

And discovered that the Woodland Swamp Trail has had an eventful fall:

Then there was this weird thing. I thought it was a big blob of sap at first – it was probably 4-5 inches long – but it was squishy, like a giant rotted grape.

I also found a small, empty turtle shell.

I was out in the woods for a little more than an hour, and felt like maybe I’d needed it more than I realized.

 

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Games, Games, Games – Gen Con 2014

IMG_20140817_104702_494

I got home from Gen Con fifty-some days ago (Yes, it was – as expected – another completely fantastic trip.), and I’m pretty sure I’m finally caught up on all my game-related writing.

I played 16 games at Gen Con this year, 11 of them for the first time, plus I came home with one more game to review.

So, here’s our series of GeekDad Gen Con collaborative posts, to which I contributed:

The Getting Excited for Gen Con 2014 Super-MEGA Post

The “Very Best Stuff We Saw at Gen Con” Post

My new dice and dice bag from Gen Con.

From that “Best of” post:

Pretty sure I’m not alone in this, but since being re-introduced to D&D a few years ago, I get such a kick out of picking up new dice. They’ve become not just part of my game-playing, but little souvenirs and memory triggers, too, since I have generally only added dice to my (relatively small) collection when I’m visiting a convention, or playing in a local game store.

And when it comes to dice, if you can’t find the ones you’re looking for at Gen Con, then those dice just don’t exist in this ‘verse.

With my recent fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set purchase, I needed a new dice bag, and Gen Con was the perfect place to find one. I also bought a set of oversized dice, a CritSuccess d20 spinner ring as a surprise for my wife, and added a couple free d6s courtesy of Crystal Caste (which provides an official Gen Con die every year) and Stonehaven Miniatures.

Gen Con’s non-stop nature remains one of the reasons I love it so much. I love this picture that Jonathan Liu took when we were playing Machi Koro. If memory serves, it was well past midnight, and we were far from the only people hanging out and playing games in that hotel lobby.

While the exhibitor’s floor at Gen Con closes every evening, several of the massive open gaming halls stay open so you can meet up for late-night Lords of Waterdeep or Lewis and Clark. And after-hours gaming at the hotels or the convention center can mean a chance to cross paths with the game designers themselves, since most of them tend to be busy during the day. We had one of the Wizards of the Coast creators stop by our table as we were playing his game at last year’s Gen Con, and this year, we wound up playing some nifty as-yet-unreleased games, simply because we were in the hall late, and Jonathan happened to see a few game designers he knew.

Reflections on Gen Con 2014: Expectations vs. Reality

 

And here’s what I played at Gen Con:

Firefly (RPG)

Numenera

Dungeons & Dragons

(I did a GeekDad write-up on all three, “The Shiny, The Weird, and the Neoclassic.”)

Mars Attacks

Machi Koro

Flip Flash

Roll For It

Zombie Dice 3 – School Bus

Lewis & Clark

Lords of Waterdeep

Golem Arcana (demo)

Cash & Guns

D&D Attack Wing (demo)

True Dungeon

Strife: Legacy of the Eternals

Operation F.A.U.S.T.

Steve Jackson Games also sent me home with a copy of Munchkin Adventure Time, which I just wrote up for GeekDad.

Dang, do I love Gen Con. Let’s do it again sometime.

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Games, geek | , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, Sally

sally

Sally & Kelsey. Photo by Jenn.

Somewhere around 14 years ago, Jenn called me from a pet store. The local pet rescue crew was there, and would I please just come down and take a look at this particular pup that she and Kelsey had met. You don’t have to say yes, I was assured, just come and meet her!

In the years since, I would recall my trip that day like this – with a hat tip to Vizzini and William Goldman: “I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. Never go into a pet store with your wife and daughter when a rescue puppy is on the line.”

On the ride home, Kelsey named the dog Sally.

We said goodbye to Sally today, a cool and sunny September morning of towering cornfields and just a few hints of changing leaves on the tallest trees.

When we brought Sally home as a puppy, she was smaller than any of the three cats we had at the time, so even as she grew into those massive paws that looked ridiculous on such a tiny creature, she knew she was never the boss of the house.

She also never quite seemed to grasp the fact that she was, in fact, growing, and considered herself a lap dog long after she surpassed 50 pounds (she was close to 90 at one point) and could stand at the kitchen counter. And I loved seeing this way-too-big dog curled up – Look! I’m still small, see! – and sleeping on Kelsey’s bed.

Having been around cats most of her life, I’m convinced Sally adopted some of their behaviors: I’ve never seen another dog tongue-bathe itself cat-style, which Sally used to do all the time.

One evening, when she was out in her fenced-in area of the backyard, a skunk came along, teasing and spraying Sally. We tried to drive the thing away from the house to no avail, and were completely at a loss when Sally backed up for a running start and threw herself at the lower edge of the fence with such speed and force that she pushed completely under and past it without stopping, and then – >bam!< One Dead Skunk. The whole thing took maybe 10 seconds.

She loved fruit and vegetables. Seriously: If we left a bunch of bananas on the counter, we’d find the peels on the floor the next morning. Tomatoes, too. Oranges she’d chew a bit before remembering that she didn’t like them. One night, Jenn and I half-awoke to a solid thump! from somewhere in the house. In a four-animal household, that kind of thing is only truly alarming if there’s some kind of follow-up ruckus, and there wasn’t, so we went back to sleep.

A day or two later, Jenn asked if I had eaten all the cantaloupe she’d just bought. I hadn’t touched it, of course, and we eventually half-settled on the idea that maybe she’d left it in the grocery cart or something. Mystery solved about a month later when I found a pile of cantaloupe seeds hidden in a back room corner. A whole freaking cantaloupe. Goofy dog.

When we needed to move in the summer of 2013, it broke our hearts that we couldn’t bring Sally to our new home, but some amazingly kind and generous friends nearby offered to take her in. Our adoptively-named Sally-Pongo got to spend the last 14 months in the close company of another older dog (who sadly passed away not so long ago), taking lots of long walks through the woods and fields, scaring up wild turkeys, watching herons, and wading in a pond – and being loved by a whole new family who we will never be able to thank enough.

We had to make the decision to let Sally go this morning, when our friends called with the news that she couldn’t get up, and had made a mess of herself, and had barely managed to get to her water bowl. Jenn and Kelsey and I drove over right away. Sally was shaking, and hurting, and the four of us knelt around her in the wet grass and the shade of the trees behind our friends’ house, looking into our dog’s eyes and letting her know how much she was loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

BG 89-91: A quarter century and a mix CD

Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.

Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.

My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.

Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:

New Order – Blue Monday

Real Life – Send Me An Angel

Depeche Mode – Strangelove

Pixies – Dig for Fire

Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust

Yaz – Only You

Don Henley – The Boys of Summer

The Cure – A Few Hours After This

August 6, 2014 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Music, Ohio, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OSWCC Summer Social 2014

simmons37crop

Image from a photo by Kim D.M. Simmons

I signed up to join the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club shortly after Jenn & Kelsey & I moved to Ohio fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1999.

I had learned about OSWCC through the vintage Star Wars collecting Usenet newsgroup, and was intrigued by the idea of a group of collectors getting together in real life to geek out and swap stories, trade stuff, and share new finds and favorite pieces.

I seem to remember that the club communicated mostly through email lists at the time, and even though I soon felt comfortable contributing online, it was still quite awhile before I actually found the nerve to attend one of the monthly meetings of the North Region. I remember being nervous about actually meeting my fellow OSWCCers in person, and wondering whether the few pieces from my own collection I’d brought to share would be blown off as lame, and whether I’d feel odd and left out. It was kind of like heading off to a week at Camp Tippecanoe when I was a kid.

Turns out it was really cool and low-key and just a bunch of Star Wars fans hanging out and nerding it up for a few hours. And I loved it. For a few years there, I hardly missed a regional meeting, and I spent a crazy awesome 30+ hours with OSWCC friends at Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis.

In 2001, I had to cancel my trip to what was supposed to be my first OSWCC Summer Social, due to a seriously violent 24-hour-case of the barfs that swore me off Chik-Fil-A for life. I started a 10-year streak of Summer Social attendance in 2002, though, making it a priority every year even though along the way, my attendance at the regional meetings had trailed off. And the social was a highlight every year: road tripping with friends or bringing Kelsey along; catching up with everyone and browsing the tables; picking up really cool pieces and meeting some really interesting folks.

The OSWCC gang was my first audience for the essays that eventually became Collect All 21!and my friends there were the first to embrace and support it.

My trips to Celebrations III, V, and VI included more fine times hanging out with OSWCCers.

My social attendance streak came to an end in 2012 when we were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and I missed last year’s as well, due to a family move.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure about this year – again, I haven’t been to meetings or active in the club forums for some time – until my friend and fellow OSWCCer Matt asked if I’d like to share some of my Star Wars nostalgia with a presentation at this year’s social in Cincinnati. (The location rotates annually between the Cleveland, Cincy, and Columbus regions.) It had been awhile since I’d done one, so I accepted the invitation, stayed up late the night before the July 12 social writing and rehearsing, and hit the road that Saturday morning with my daughter and her friend.

Digression: Kelsey had not been to a social since 2007, and had only been to one other before that. It was a pleasant surprise when, the Thursday before this year’s, she said, “Hey – you didn’t invite me! What’s up with that?”

We left early and met up with my buddy Josh in Ashland to share the rest of the there-and-back-in-a-day trip. (Yes: More time on the highway that day than actually spent at the social. Still worth it.)

Man, what a fantastic day: Scott D.M. Simmons and his dad, Kim D.M. Simmons were there – that’s a Kim Simmons vintage Kenner photograph up at the top of the page – along with a bunch of OSWCC friends who I had a ton of fun catching up with. Many of us have now known each other long enough to have seen each others’ kids grow up.

Despite the support OSWCC has always given my writing, I was really nervous about my presentation, because these are people I know. It’s different doing a reading at a library or convention where the audience is people you’ve never met. But you know what? Once I started, I wound up having fun. And people said some incredibly nice things to me afterward, and I was grateful to Matt for the opportunity and glad to have made a few people laugh, and happy to have sparked some other childhood memories.

I’ve missed this. And even if I don’t meet my goal of making it to a North Region meeting again soon, I’m awfully glad I made the trip.

(Also: If you’re a Star Wars fan and you live in Ohio, and you haven’t looked into joining OSWCC, why the heck not?)

 

 

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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