Sunday, May 24, 2015

Financial Freedom

This is depressing (How Much of Your Income Should You Save at Forbes).  And I say that as someone who's been contributing to retirement since he was 16, keeps enough savings to cover a lay off, pretends at all times - purchases and savings - like he's a single-income family, and has slowly increased his matching stock plan at work as a secondary source of savings in case there's a problem (aka college fund, new windows, and a new furnace currently being tracked as possible non-planned expenses if I can't cover them through normal budget).  I think....think...this is telling me I have 12 more years of work left before I retire with the same level of income as I have now.  So I get to step out 7 years early if I plan carefully.  I'm not sure how my pension plan (old school, eh?) fits into that economic plan.  But in general I believe it encourages me to work longer so that the plan maxes out my end income to max out my end pension.  But my expenses should be decreasing as well.  Inflation goes up, but my house will be paid for and I'll have half a rental business to dispose of unless the market totally fails again (interestingly, even though the market is recovering, the economics of millennials moving back into the core city and driving lower-income families into the first tier suburbs, impacting school funding, is driving down the value of one of the properties.  As a liberal, this creates a real tension for me.  I console myself by repeating the mantra that I'm not an absentee landlord and work to increase the overall health of my property and contribute to a better tax base).

Maybe I should be encouraged - I could be retiring by 58 instead of 65, and that's not really all that far off.  Then again, realizing 58 isn't all that far off is sort of a bummer as well (should I be wondering if I'll be having grandkids by then?)

National Bike Challenge

I've got a weekend century coming up in less than a month and a 5+ day ride to Chicago (sagged by my family with hotels, so not exactly spartan), so I thought I should try to crawl on my bike a bit more despite the cold weather.  I got in an 85 mile ride two weekends ago (with Alan, Dan, and Dan's girlfriend Julie.  Ming did the short version; we've been giving him a hard time because he said he did 25, but took the detour for the 15) when I pedaled up to the MS50 in St. Paul and back, but that was an aberration.

So I was happy when a co-worker in R&D, Jack, talked me into the National Bike Challenge as part of the work team.  Logging those 85 miles would have been nice, but that's in the past.  I'm a serious self-gamifier, despite not necessarily appearing like it externally (I think).  It helps that my gamifying goal is never to be number one - Litterati is a good example - but to make a good showing in the time frame and time available to me.  So a new way to target some time is welcome.

I've popped up to #42 already (out of 64 logging) and my goal is to break the top 20, although I know Jack is in the bottom of that category and he logs a 60-70 mile ride every weekend.  I'll have to challenge him by aiming for a lot more weekly rides.  With the long weekend available to me, I took the Highline (hills) on Friday, the lakes (up to the top of Calhoun) yesterday, and into St. Paul for breakfast at the 4 Inns (closed, I went to Keys) this morning.  So just about 80 miles if you include some mini rides to the grocery store.

The challenge lasts through July, which means I'll get to stuff a 500+ miles in one week ride in there.  You'd think that would catapult me into the top riders, but our top rider has 1133 miles in 21 days. 53 miles a day.  I think he commutes 25 miles both ways from Inver Grove Heights if I read between the lines.  That's amazing.  If he's on a good road bike, he can probably do it in an hour and a half, so maybe he's only adding 45 minutes each way to his commute by using a bike.  No gas bill, but his food bill must be out of this world.  That's like 2500 extra calories burned a day (I'm going to assume he's smaller than me, but the speed makes up for it).  No. 2 through 10 are in the 25-50 mile a day range as well.  That's a love of bicycling I can't quite match during a work week.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Line Signal

I really liked the short Line Signal that was highlighted on io9.  Although perhaps for different reasons than the plot line.  The area where she's jogging looks quite a bit like the C&O/Cumberland Trail in West Virginia/Maryland/DC.  Enough to give me a slight sense of deja vu, right down to the picnic table.  I can picture having a ghostly encounter out there all alone, even if I don't believe in ghosts.

LINE SIGNAL - Short Film from Meat Bingo on Vimeo.

Catch up (and not the blogging kind)

I think I'm almost caught up with most of the big things.  My team was at work 8-2  yesterday (Saturday) getting our product ready to go out the door and, as a non-programming manager, I took care of tracking down representatives for systems that weren't functioning properly and working on the employee awards program work I've been putting off forever because I had/have taxes to complete and rental property fences to help with and so much other work and family time.  The awards program work included fixing an Infopath form, which was the tricky bit, because I didn't have the right licensing originally and the intern who had created it wasn't around to work on it.  The very last button I pushed overrode all the historic forms and wiped the team view for five years, but the data is still there, just hidden and, like a smart person, I backed up the xsn so I can get back to a few versions.  At least I hope that's the case.

I have a bit left to do on my personal taxes, but my wife was still getting her data entered and I have them 99% of the way there.  And I have application security work to do this week (security artifacts in the backlog as part of the delivery process - I'm not even vaguely sure what documenting that looks like yet) and a product to get out the door and a dryer to replace at a rental property, but all that stuff was also there when I had other work, so it feels more under control.  I think post-Saturday work, it'll turn out to be a quiet weekend of bicycling, coffee, and treadmilling while watching the new Daredevil series on Netflix.

Ah, and I ordered the Castle Panic expansions (the Wizard one and the Dark Titan - better description from Fireside games here), although they won't get here for a few days.  I really like Castle Panic, so hopefully this will get my family reinvolved.  I don't think The Dark Titan released before yesterday (table top game day).  Klund says I should play Star Realms, but I'm a little wary of starting a semi-collectible deck-building game. Eryn has an urge to play miniatures and I can't support two hobbies at once.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

FFG Redux

We told my wife all about how much fun we had at Fantasy Flight Games, so when she was off work on Friday we took her up there for coffee, lunch, and gaming.  I think we spent over 4.5 hours there and most of it was because she was having fun (not that we weren't).  It was a huge gaming week at our house.  In addition to two trips to FFG, we also played Castle Dice at Dunn Brothers on Wednesday night (and took a huge book on the history of NASCAR to work as a gift for Ron and left candy with the security guard), Masterpiece, and Boss Monster.  Ah...and Dominion.  Two sets.  The shelves are having an effect.

While we were at FFG we played Cthulhu Fluxx again, three person this time.  And we learned Wasabi, where you order your sushi with extra wasabi points for putting the ingredients in the right order.  There are special cards for moving pieces around, stacking them, and swapping them, so it starts to be a real challenge getting the rare ingredients to stay in place on the board.

Here's part way into Wasabi.  Some of the ingredients have a single tile.  We tried to determine how many games are on their shelves.  If you go with a reasonable 10 per shelf and 7 shelves per case, there are over 500 games there.  I think it's significantly more.  An amazing collection including some Kickstarter-ed games.  Half the fun is just reviewing them to see what you want to play next.

We also played Get Bit! which Eryn has wanted to play since she saw it on Table Top.  What do you call the first player to lose at Get Bit?  Bob.

Swim faster little guys!

And we got in a game of Alhambra, which Kyle, Ming, Adam and I have played several times.  Wasn't my choice, so I didn't have to feel guilty about having them play something I already knew (and my wife won! She's the red marker).  They were worried because the rules were in another language, but I remembered them well enough to play.  I couldn't manage to get a very long outer wall to save my life which really ended up costing me a lot of points.

My wife wanted two pictures of her win as it happens so seldom.

Eryn picked up a copy of Werewolf for her birthday party and Pooteewheet pre-ordered a copy of Dead of Winter when I mentioned they'd be doing a reprint soon.  I better get my other games in before that shows up as I suspect it will be the favorite for a while.

I'm going to skip mentioning Saturday because it was a mix of taxes and Fast and Furious 7.  Eryn has seen many of the other F&F movies (as in 5, 6, and 7, the ones after she was 6), so she really wanted to go.  Vin did a nice job making it a goodbye to Paul Walker without subtracting from the nonstop action, although the idea of a full size military drone flying around a US city with the government knowing about it seems a bit ludicrous.  Ha!  Punny! Despite not being spelled the same.


Hmm...where was I.  Wednesday last week.  Minneopa State Park.  Well, I can sum up Spring Break Thursday in one word MallOfAmericaAmusementPark.  I read my book, drank coffee, and tried to make up stories about the various strangers I saw, and Eryn ran around and enjoyed the rides for 8 hours.  It was slightly more than 8 hours, because we were out of the ticket line before 10 and she was on the rides past 6, but maybe I have to subtract Chipotle time, DQ time, and Teavana tea-restocking time (it was our not-a-big-out-of-state vacation, so a $40 canister of tea seemed acceptable as an alternative to plane tickets and a hotel)?  For my part, I read a few hundred pages out of a book of post-apocalyptic short stories and took a lot of short walks.  The Mall gives me a serious case of the blahs.  I hate consumerism.  And I say that as someone willing to walk around Target and just look at things without buying anything while my daughter is at guitar lessons.  Heck, the other day I bought a green garden gnome, stealthily hid him in the front yard garden where he's almost invisible, and named him Melvin.  I'm willing to enjoy consumerism with a generalized purpose, just not hundreds of specialty shops that make no sense to me. Although other folks probably say the same things when they see me buying a Deadpool graphic novel at the local shop for Eryn, or a board game at FFG. It didn't help that a trip through Games by James revealed they're selling the same game as FFG for a $20 markup, $28 if you had pre-ordered it for a discount using the FFG pre-order program.  I don't find it offensive.  I find it completely nonsensical.  How can anyone with a phone not look up what they're buying at the mall and decide, "I'm not f-ing buying that here."

As a bonus, while we were eating our DQ Blizzards, the stars of The Longest Ride made an appearance.  There were people in line for over four hours in their cowboy boots and hats to see them.  Brit Robertson is cute for someone born after I graduated from high school, but I can't imagine standing in line four hours to meet her (man, that would be sort of creepy, although there were women there my age who obviously were there to meet Scott Eastwood, barely born before I graduated high school) and I'd much rather meet her pimping Tomorrowland than The Longest Ride.

Regardless, we had fun.  Eryn was exhausted but happy, and I was full up on post-apocalypticism (nice! that's a good word, even if it doesn't really exist).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Minneopa State Park

Wednesday was supposed to be nice, and it was.  Really nice.  80 degrees plus.  Set a record in the Twin Cities for that day.  So it worked out well that we planned a trip down to Minneopa State Park near Mankato to enjoy the weather with the top down and drop off a Cards Against Humanity expansion for Klund and Mrs. Klund.

The Klunds are off sampling wine, but they have housesitters.  Serial killer in a van housesitters.

Minneopa was a little park.  And the water wasn't exactly running high.  But it was good for an hour of amusement.  These signs always confuse me.  Shouldn't ALL pets be on a leash?  Even if they're exotic instead of domestic?  I'm pretty sure they mean, "don't worry about the squirrels", but those aren't really pets.  And if they were.  They'd need a leash.

This sign sort of grossed Eryn out.  I dared her to lick the ice flow in the falls to see if it tasted of fecal matter.  Then she said, "How would I know if it tasted like fecal matter?!"  I said if she's smelled it, she's tasted it.  Which seemed to bother her even more.  There was a more in depth sign that pointed out sometimes the falls are green with algal blooms and sometimes brown from sediment, and fecal matter is there pretty much 24x7x365.  A result of being at the end of the watershed in a heavily farmed area.

Even without a lot of water they were pretty.  This is the upper falls.

And a nice picture of Eryn looking at them.

Here she is with Minneopa Falls behind her.  For a moment, I thought this was all there was to see.  So why would you leave Minneapolis and Minnehaha Falls?

But there was more.


At the end of the sidewalk were steps that led down into the area below the falls and back up again along a ridge.  No geocaches as it's a state park, but perhaps Eryn can get herself Chived for doing what she wants.  Not exactly dangerous.  The sign is there because the fence is washed out way back there behind her.

You can get down below the lower falls, and there's still a bit of ice hanging out.  This photo would probably bother Eryn.  It looks like she's posing, but she's really just trying to get her jacket off.  Remember? 80+!

The falls without people in the picture.

But not really.  If you could blow it up enough, there are carvings almost everywhere.  It's one of the most scratched up areas I've ever seen.  Next to the falls, High on the walls right by the falls.  On the cliffs near the falls.  On the cliffs opposite the falls.  Next to the stairs going down and going up.  It's graffiti central.  I think the best one can hope for is that archaeologists of the future find it interesting.

Here you can see the carving in the context of the falls.


Eryn sitting near the falls.  My wife was amused to see ERYON carved near her.  She didn't do that.  She knows how to spell her name.

The use wasp nests for bulbs in the state parks.  We're that hardcore in Minnesota.  I'm surprised they leave it there given it's near the picnic area.  You'd think everyone would be surrounded in wasps.

Oh no!  But that's only a fall, not falls!

There we go.  Two is officially fallS.

We stopped for a sandwich in Mankato and enjoyed all the dust devils and wind.  Not hard to believe Minnesota is in a drought.  And hit the rest stop on our way home where we were treated to this near the Cambria warehouse.  Apparently he's driving a lot more than we were.

Thursday, April 02, 2015


Tuesday was the laser tag and ramen stage of Eryn's spring staycation.  We went over to Grand Slam and I read David Duchovny's book about cows while she spent three hours laser tagging, using the batting cage, and playing skee ball.  The place was absolutely mobbed with children and I swear the smelliest ones (including one smelly father) felt it necessary to sit in my space.

Here's Eryn hitting some balls.

Not the best form, but she connected with a lot of them.  So good hand-eye coordination.  That wasn't always the case.

Afterwards, we drove up into Minneapolis to enjoy some Ramen (Dramen - half and half, black and pork) at United Noodles.  Best part about not showing up until closer to 3:00 p.m. is there was no line to speak of.  We got our bowl immediately.  I ate 95% broth and 5% noodles.  She ate 95% noodles and 5% broth.  We were both happy.  I took my Firefly hoodie off in advance to avoid any ramen splatter.  I learned something important last time.

I didn't have a picture of Eryn with her noodles, but I do have an older picture at United.  I'll admit to it, because that's obviously not dramen (1/2 and 1/2) in the bowl.

We also picked up some microwave/stoptop ramen that won't burn my mouth with the spices and a package of green tea Kit Kats.  Damn things cost $8.99 a bag.  Green gold.

And then we spun by Coastal just because I've always meant to go and never have (and it gave us a chance to put down the top on the car).  Seems like an obvious place to go for crab legs and sushi-quality fish, although we weren't in the market for anything at the time.


Monday was Macy's Flower Show Day.  My wife didn't have any clients, so we grabbed her as well and went to see if the flower show was worth the fuss.  It was not.  I find the arboretum and Como both significantly more interesting.  All the flowers looked a little wilty.  I suspect coming into the show after it's been on for a week you get to enjoy flowers that are suffering the effects of hundreds, if not thousands, of people touching them.  I certainly saw lots of touching and bumping.  It's a bit of an older lady pile up there, with a number of older men in tow.  The women need their pictures with all of the flowers.  It's peculiar.  But perhaps that's what happens when department stores all close their photo studios (I was in Sears today explaining to Eryn where the photo studio used to be and how I got plenty of photo studio pictures when I was a kid).

We kicked off the afternoon at The Hen House downtown.  A very good breakfast.

And an amusing way of differentiating the women's restroom from...

...the men's restroom.

Here we are at Macy's and the statue of David, who changed floral patterns every few seconds.  As you can tell, Eryn isn't exactly keen to be there.  In the grand scheme of laser tag, amusement parks, state park trips, and board game excursions, I think this ranked lowest on her list.  If only the Betsy Tacey museum had opened three days earlier, I could have made her think back fondly on the flower show as more interesting.

I liked the Starry Night flower exhibit, although it was screaming, SCREAMING, for a Tardis, either in the painting or installed alongside.

I feel this is part of our daily excursion because it's in the parking ramp.  What are they trying to do to bicyclists?  It looks like a glorified mouse trap.  Hey, follow these signs to this dimly lit, locked cage full of dirt and various other things.  Put your bike in there...go's safe.  At least if you're under 7'0".


Speaking of Words With Friends, Kyle and I tied.  This is the first tie in something like almost 600 games. Not just with Kyle, but overall since around 2011.  And then a few days later I tied a random competitor off the internet, sullying the close WWF bond I forged with Kyle.  It's surprising how seldom this actually happens.


If I say it is, is it?  I was sort of hoping this would be a back door to let me make up words.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Day three of vacation was the usual for Eryn and me, a trip to Dunn Brothers for morning coffee.  Although it was almost four hours long given all the work I had to catch up on so I could enjoy the rest of the week. I didn't take any pictures, but not surprisingly I have pictures of her sitting in the exact same spot she sat yesterday only a week early.  The only difference is yesterday I sat on the right side of Dunn working at a table instead of the left side of Dunn reading a Stephen King's Revival (great book, by the way). Eryn presumably played Minecraft both times.

So these will suffice to document our day at Dunn Brothers.  Really, most of our days at Dunn Brothers.  I finished the day doing bills and catching up on Table Top episodes I haven't seen (if you stare hard at the back wall this season, Eryn's name is somewhere on one of the bricks).

Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Zoom, zoom, zoom.  Black and white.

Paper Planes

No, not the MIA song.  The other day I had a meeting and, sitting out on the floor instead of in my office, I grabbed a random meeting room to participate in the webex so it would be quiet and I wouldn't disturb anyone else.  It wasn't a very exciting meeting.  This represents about 10 minutes into 60 minutes of paper plane folding because someone left a spare notebook sitting in the room.  By the time I was done there were more like dozens of planes on chairs and on the table.  When I walked past the room later, there was a meeting going on and planes drifted up against people's laptops and notepads.  They probably thought a group was having a contest, not that a single employee had temporarily gone insane.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fantasy Flight Games

This was Saturday, Day 2, of my nine days away from work.  It's not succeeding entirely because, well, work.  But for the most part.  Eryn and I did low key today.  Cup of coffee while I cleaned up a back log of things I wanted to blog about so I don't forget them, admired the new book shelf which I added to the kitchen because two bookshelves weren't enough for all our games.  Three aren't either - I have all the big box games on the bedroom upper shelves - Axis and Allies, Sid Meier's Civilization, Shogun, Tide of Iron - the sort of things you'd need a shelf apiece for.  But the others are now set up book shelf style so they're readable for gamers, and the tops of the shelves free of piles of games and available for bicycling knickknacks and the like.  I also made it halfway through cleaning up Eryn's pile of stuff that sort of mounded over one of the shelves and her little table.  We were long overdue for a decluttering.  Which is less a decluttering and more of a new pile destined for Goodwill this week (and the foodshelf, and Best Buy recycling, ad naseum).

Yesterday, I thought Eryn could help me go find a copy of a card game Troy at work wants me to play.  I was pretty sure I'd get soundly trounced without knowing how to play and, while the online rules are good, they don't really give you a feel for play.  So I looked up stores where I could buy a copy of Call of Cthulhu and what pops up?  The Fantasy Flight Gaming Center in Roseville.  Plans changed. If I was going to buy the game, why not get it directly from the source of the game.  And the web noted there was a cafe as well.  Eryn and I rolled up there just prior to opening at 10:00 a.m. to check it out.

Why had we not been up there before.  The place is amazing.  The production facilities are across the lot and this is the gaming/retail/cafeteria space.  Way over there is the front door, Followed by lots of retail and a huge Warhammer display for the miniature folks.  Eryn thought all the layouts and miniatures were interesting.  And if you hate painting, there are painters on sight who seem to paint for a fee.  The games are FFG only.  There were hundreds of them for sale, including some I've only seen on Kickstarter.  Now I know who pays the "get 10 copies" level.

And there were large play areas to the left of us in that picture and a whole separate hall devoted to card tournaments.  There was a mini-Magic the Gathering tournament underway.  In the room we were in other players were having a board game tournament with a game I didn't know.  And those two are playing Dead of Winter, which you can watch on Tabletop, and which I've seen played at work twice by Jon and Dan and folks.  It's pretty neat looking, although it looks more fun with four as opposed to the two in this photo.

Those are the guys having the board game tournament on the far side of the room.  And those can take a game and play it.  Take. A. Game. And. Play. It.  It's a damn game library.  We walked over there and drooled for 30 minutes before I pulled Call of Cthulhu off the shelf so we could give it a spin. It's not every game I've ever wanted to play, but it's more than enough.

It took us a while to figure out Call of Cthulhu until I realized it was like a cross of the iPad game and Magic the Gathering.  You use the cards to make "pools" of energy and then you can use them to play spells, events, artifacts, monsters, and investigators.  At least one color in the pool has to match.  And you have to spend the whole pool, so if your character costs one and you have five cards in your pool, you still spend all five.  You can add pools via means, but that's the gist of it.  The tentacle-y monsters are to mark which pools you've used and attract little girls to the table (not Eryn, an employee's daughter) who want to play with them like Fisher Price people.  Her dad said, "That's Cthulhu honey.  Remember him?"  At which she very excitedly nodded her head.  I like how Eryn's Tardis' (Tardi?) mirror the Cthulhus (Cthuli?) in this picture.

Anyway, take two factions, shuffle a deck with some neutrals, and use your pools to play your cards.  The factions differ in strengths and you try to win story cards from the center by investigating.  A point for strongest on the story.  A point for most investigation symbols on the story.  And extra point if you're uncontested because your opponent doesn't commit, you drive him/her insane, or you kill him/her.  The order of how you do those things and which stories are committed to is determined by the current player.  Two player game.  Lots and lots and lots of expansion cards (which we didn't play with).  FFG calls it a living card game and there are a variety of them, like Netrunner and Star Wars and Game of Thrones, in case you prefer scifi or fantasy to horror.

Check out the dork in the Reavers Steak House hoodie.  That was a present to myself recently.  I love it.  It's difficult to get it off of  me.  Eryn was amused that the barrista/cashier told me it was simultaneously cool and scary.  And note the trash bin behind me.  If you order food, or coffee, you can eat it at the table while you play.  Eryn actually had wings.  They were boneless and they included a fork without being asked (good planning), but no one blinked an eye about saucy wings and fries and grilled cheese heading out to the table.

We played a game and 2/3.  The first game was to figure out how it worked.  The second game was to take advantage off what we knew.  Eryn rocked the invulnerability of some big terror-inspiring monsters.  I had a mix of immunity from terror and damage dealing.  So the second round decks played against each other nicely.

She realized I was taking photos.  The place got more and more full as the day went on although there were usually some tables available and it appears you can reserve a table or two if you're a group.

We finished off our gaming (note more people) with a game of Cthulhu Fluxx.  Eryn destroyed me the first game.  And we both lost the second game until I dug through the 24 cards I'd just swapped and realized that one of them said "if you both lose, you win."

There were a lot of people playing Star Wars miniatures, a favorite of my nephew Ollie since we got him two sets for Christmas, so I include this photo for him.  The above-urinal advertising has a slightly different flavor at FFG than it does at a bar.