When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
My daughter graduated from high school this weekend. I’m incredibly proud of who she is.
We both attended the same school system grades 1 through 12, which made for a lot of flashbacks for me, and a lot of stories I’m sure she tired of hearing.
Here we are sitting on the same Canton Civic Center stage I walked across during my graduation in 1989.
Started the day learning Takenoko. I’d been hearing good things about this one for awhile, and it was pretty easy to pick up, and a lot of fun.
Followed up with two brief Mars Attacks: The Dice Game contests –
and head-to-head Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. (Classic trilogy, of course.)
Then Munchkin Loot Letter.
And then our game crowd grew, so we played a tremendously fun game of Cockroach Poker (another first for me) –
– and an 8-person game of Tsuro that ended in a two-dragon tie. (I was the last dragon to actually lose.)
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) –
I wrapped up my day with back-to-back games of Betrayal at House on the Hill, which 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.
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.
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.
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.)
And finally, Lifer – the site mascot:
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.
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.
- Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
- The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
- Among Others – Jo Walton
- 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.
- Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
- The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
- Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
- The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi – Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- The Art of John Alvin – Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
- The Future of the Mind – Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
- The Importance of Being Ernest – Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player One. Interior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury (re-read)
- Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It – Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
- 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.)
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:
- 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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
And here’s what I played at Gen Con:
Dungeons & Dragons
(I did a GeekDad write-up on all three, “The Shiny, The Weird, and the Neoclassic.”)
Roll For It
Golem Arcana (demo)
D&D Attack Wing (demo)
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.
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.