Saturday, November 04, 2023

Reading October 2023

Very heavy on graphic novels this month.  I got into a head space after I read Flung Out of Space, recommended by the NPR book concierge.  Once that happened, I went looking for new GNs and was sort of getting hit and miss [although the Joe Hill GNs are fun].  Then I found out that Hoopla has an Eisner winners category for the last several years [and Flung Out of Space is on it].  Between reviewing the Concierge past GN recs and the Hoopla Eisner list, it ramped up the quality significantly.  The Nice House on the Lake which I found that way [2 collections] was a fun read.

At 645 pages, Wastelands: the New Apocalypse was a solid collection of short stories, third in a collection, and dominated my reading time.  I liked the first collection best, so if you're going to read one collection of stories about the apocalypse ever, do that one instead.

Patton Oswalt's biographical Silver Screen Fiend was fun, although I think he'd hedge his praise of Louis CK 8 years later.  Some incredibly funny anecdotes and to read about very famous comedians who used to perform to basically empty rooms, or rooms full of other comedians, is sort of fascinating.
One for All was a difficult read for me.  It's easy to read, but there's definitely a romance novel or YA vibe to it that got in the way of my enjoyment.  I shouldn't be surprised.  I mean...that's its category.  But I kept wanting the main character to ... fret ... a bit less as a young woman who knows how to wield a rapier with musketeer-level skills.  Mentally I compare this to Dread Nation which I FAR preferred.

The Furthest Station is part of the Rivers Series.  Ben Aaronovitch added novellas between the main books, so this one was number 5.5.  To fully engage in the series includes novels, novellas, graphic novels [which are fairly good] and....per my Gamehole Con experience, observing on a sales table not playing, an RPG.  I don't quite get the RPG....can you spend all your time sexing up river deities?  If so, it seems like the RPG that takes place in the middle of an orgy when everyone needs a rest.

Rorschach was good - the Watchmen universe - primarily because it had a current politics political grifter for president vibe.  Eat the Rich and the Low, Low Woods [as well as Flung Out of Space] all have a diverse vibe [well, so does DC Pride for that matter], although I didn't like Low, Low Woods as much.  Little weird even for me.  Basketful of Heads and Refrigerator Full of Heads - a very fun mash up of sort of horror and sort of action/hero with a final girl.  I enjoyed the second one even though it wasn't as solid as Joe Hill's first part and had a different author.

And Creepshow...bleah.  Didn't capture the spirit of the original Tales From the Crypt comics I read when I was a kid or the Stephen King shorts.  Trinity War...only if you're a harder core DC fan [and even].
  • 10/31/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/30/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/29/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/28/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/27/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/26/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/25/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/24/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/23/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/22/2023: One for All by Lillie Lainoff, 2022.  400 pages. 
  • 10/21/2023: [Hello, My Name is] Refrigerator Girl.  2022.  GN by Jennifer DK and Katelyn Windels. 144 pages.
  • 10/20/2023: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt.  2015.  240 pages.
  • 10/19/2023: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt.  2015.  240 pages.
  • 10/18/2023: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt.  2015.  240 pages.
  • 10/17/2023: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt.  2015.  240 pages.
  • 10/16/2023: Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt.  2015.  240 pages.
  • 10/15/2023: DC Pride: the New Generation.  GN by Jadzia Axelrod, Brandt  Stein, Ivan Cohen, and more.  2023.  192 pages.
  • 10/14/2023: Plunge.  GN by Joe Hill with Stuart Immonen illustrating. 2020.  168 pages.
  • 10/13/2023: Rorschach by Tom King with Jorge Fornes illustrating.  2021. 304 pages.
  • 10/12/2023: Refrigerator Full of Heads. GN by Rio Youers with Tom Fowler illustrating.  2021. 160 pages.
  • 10/11/2023: The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch [Rivers of London series, 5.5 in the series]. 2017. 144 pages.
  • 10/10/2023: Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith.  GN by Grace Ellis with illustrating by Hannah Templer.  2021.  208 pages.
  • 10/9/2023: Eat the Rich. GN for the series numbers 1-5.  By Sarah Gailey with illustrations by Pius Bak.  2022.  128 pages.
  • 10/8/2023:  Wastelands the New Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams.  One of three short story collections in this series.  2019.  645 pages.
  • 10/7/2023: Creepshow: Volume 1 by Chris Burnham and others. 2023. 128 pages.
    • Didn't capture the spirit of the original.
  • 10/6/2023: The Nice House on the Lake 7-12 [vol 2]. 2023.  GN by James Tynion IV with Alvaro Martinez Bueno illustrating. 176 pages.
  • 10/5/2023: The Nice House on the Lake 1-6 [vol 1].  2022.  GN by James Tynion IV with Alvaro Martinez Bueno illustrating. 171 pages.
  • 10/4/2023: Justice League Trinity War GN by Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire with Ivan Reis illustrating. 2014.  284 pages.
  • 10/3/2023: The Low, Low Woods GN by Carmen Maria Machado with Dani illustrating.  2019-2020.  162 pages.
  • 10/2/2023: Basket Full of Heads GN by Joe Hill with Reiko Murakami illustrating.  2020.  184 pages.
  • 10/1/2023:  Wastelands the New Apocalypse, edited by John Joseph Adams.  One of three short story collections in this series.  2019.  645 pages.

Friday, November 03, 2023

John Prine Birthday Celebration at Hook and Ladder

On October 13, I went to the John Prine Birthday celebration at Hook and Ladder near the burned out precinct. Holy bleep was it cold.  It was their last outdoor event of the year.  This isn't long before things get going.  There was a point where I was out there alone with my beer.  Don't worry.  John Prine can't be kept down [or those covering him].  There were still a lot of empty seats later, but partially because a lot of people were standing to keep warm, or rotating inside to keep warm.
John Prine Outside Brrr 2 by: was cold and it was wet.  There was a lot of rain.  I wasn't entirely sure what they meant by my reserved seat was under a cover.  I was pleasantly surprised it was rainproof.
John Prine Outside Brrr by:

They opened up the inside space and pointed a camera at the stage.  There were a lot of people in the chairs to the sides and over by the bar area.  Funny to watch a concert on a screen that's happening all of fifty feet away.
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I love this Rogue Citizen posters that went up after the protests. I have a very nice photo of me with my bicycle near the two on the outside wall that I use for profile photos and get to know me write ups.
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Second of the internal courtyard posters, this one with GPF.
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I don't know why they have this corner kid in the courtyard.  I'm trying to figure out why Jack Daniels felt this was a good promotional item.  I think it makes it look like the white guy in the courtyard is studiously looking away from the BLM posters.
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There were ten? cover bands?  Each did two songs and a big get together at the end, with some overlap here and there. This young lady stripped down to her spring dress once she got warmed up. I think that's Leslie Vincent.

Per Hook and Ladder: "The Hook & Ladder Theater is pleased to host the 14th Annual Big Fat Love show, celebrating what would have been the late John Prine’s 77th birthday. The popular event is curated and hosted by Ben Cook-Feltz & KFAI’s Ellen Stanley (a.k.a. Mother Banjo) and features a “Who’s Who” lineup of regional artists, including Becky Schlegel, John Magnuson, Katey Bellville, Jon Rodine, Leslie Vincent, Art Vandalay, Dan Gaarder, Cathy ‘n Abel & more!" 
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Here's Katey Belville singing from her FB page...I've never embedded from FB before...guess we'll see if it works.  If not, here's a link to her FB post:

Couple of shots of the various performers.
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It was no small event.  Although the guitars might have outnumbered the audience by the very end.  Folks got extremely cold by 9 p.m.  I stuck it out because I was enjoying it immensely.  I would have had more fun with Kyle there, but I talked him out of going because he would have had to drive from 50 miles away into the cities, and the rain earlier was insanity. I thought he might end up driving for two hours one way.  Ironically, Ben [who went on the MS rides with me] was there with his wife, brother, and sister in law, from literally a few miles from Kyle's place.  Doh.

Saw Tim there as well, who I used to work with at Thomson Reuters when we were on the Lawschool team together.
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The final "all bands" act.  That's Becky Schlegel in the middle.  My wife and I saw her perform at the 318 in Excelsior with Sarah Morris.  I'm catching enough of the local music scene that I get overlap.  That's fun. I was almost expecting to see Sarah there as she does a cover of George Strait doing a cover of John Prine doing "I Just Want to Dance With You".  Someone else covered that one.  They all were forced to submit options to ensure there were no duplicates.  A great time.
John Prine Everyone by:

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Gameholecon 2023

The weekend before last, Aeryn and I took a long weekend - Thursday through Sunday, although I also abdicated on Monday because I've found I'm not quite ready to go to work after three solid days of gaming - to go to our....seventh?...Gameholecon in Madison, Wisconsin. 

I played a lot more games than I originally thought I did.  I don't know why it felt less jam-packed this year.  Maybe time is moving slower for me. I missed a few in this montage.  Cape May for instance.  Cape May is a beautiful game, with solid houses and businesses.  But it's way too much like Monopoly in some ways for my taste. Definitely a game you could bring in a new boardgamer on. The lack of bumping up against others much, and the fact that my bird-watching driven goals [hint, if you play Cape May, don't pick an open ended sort of goal like "more boards than everyone else". Pick a non-relational goal like "six different birds"] aligned with someone else who simply liked screwing around with the bird watching mechanic, meant there was no way I was going to win. I don't need to win to have fun.  Far from it.  But losing because of a random player choice that it's almost impossible to recover from is strange.

So here are the weekend's pictures, in no particular order.  I know] in in the past I've broken them out by day, but I'm lazier now that I'm older, and I didn't put them into my img generation script in any particular order.  Garbage order in, garbage order out.  I also realized a.] there are zero photos of me and b.] no photos of Aeryn with this year's Con-associated beanie-baby type monster, the Gelatinous Cube.  They put enough items dissolving in the cube on each side that it can also be used a giant fuzzy die.

On to the games, and such.

This is Tenpenny Parks with Nate Linhart, the designer [on the left].  We played with the mini expansion which serves to encourage players to vary their selections.  This was a great game. A bit of tetris-style tile laying, but unlike The Isle of Cats, the tiles can only touch tangentially, you have to clear the trees if you run out of room, and you can expand your board to make more space [if you're willing to clear more trees].  A fun them and the rides/attractions give it a real style/humor.
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Nate pondering our strategies, or falling asleep.  My strategy was the best: earn a lot of money, and try to shut everyone else out from earning money while using the income to create victory points [visitors to the park].  Aeryn said he was amused that Aeryn used the same strategy the next when they played [after watching my session].
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My park - definitely a place you'd want to visit because I maintained a natural tree-friendly look and a bevy of money earners at the exit [the yellow tiles] just like a real park.  Don't leave without routing the kids through the merch.
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I've played some games with cardboard structures before, and usually they're flimsy, and I actually don't want to play them when the pieces crumple or fall over.  Drags me out of the theme.  Tenpenny did a nice job of making the carousel extremely solid. Nice pieces all around.  The money and victory point markers, despite being cardboard are solid.
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We stayed in an Air BNB VERY close to the U of Madison college stadium.  Maybe all of two blocks?  Could be three.  Seemed like mostly campus houses, including some frats.  All these shoes belong to two people.  Maybe only one.  I'm not sure how you travel anywhere if you need 4 to 5 pairs of shoes. I panic when I have to take both sneakers and dress shoes at the same time.  Nice place this time.  Definitely a little more glam than the last few years.
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Rauha.  Perhaps my last minute signup favorite sleeper game. I had a gap in my schedule so I filled it  Sometimes that means the game won't be very good [because no one took it during initial sign up].  But sometimes it's a fun surprise.  In Rauha you collect resources types that overlap on cards to influence deities to help you out in a small 3x3 grid.  You collect and trigger actions in the row/column combos as a marker moves around the board like a clock.  And when it gets to the corners it triggers additional actions and deific intervention.  It was a lot of fun, although if you stumbled into a particularly good "engine" for generating points you could really leave everyone else completely in the dust.
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Aeryn at Ramen.  We did both Morris Ramen - our usual haunt although not strictly speaking every year - and Ramen Station this time. Morris Ramen is by FAR a better bowl of ramen. Although also a more expensive bowl. However, when they brought my ramen both the server and Aeryn assured me I had ordered what I didn't think I had ordered.  I'm fairly democratic about my ramen, so I wasn't going to argue too hard against amazingly fast service at a super crowded restaurant.  That should have been the real hint. I was vindicated when another server noted I was eating the ramen that belonged to the table next to me [one of them had to wait like an extra twenty minutes for his bowl].  Due to the mixup, they gave us a free beer and dessert, so it was actually a beneficial mistake.

THIS is not Morris Ramen.  This is Ramen Station.  It was delish, just not AS delish as Morris.
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Random con photo.  I think my mom should do DnD map quilts.  This seems like a useful quilting hobby.  Play your game until it gets cold, and then hide under the map.
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My most hated game of the Con. The Quacks of Quedlinberg.  YOU ARE WRONG BOARDGAMEGEEK, THIS IS NOT A 7.8 RATED GAME. The first 8.5 review I read over there included the phrase "while I'm not blown away by the mechanics"....then it's not an 8.5, IS IT?

I ended up playing with this nice gentleman and three roughly 13 year old boys I was fairly certain were peering into their bags in what is supposed to be a push-your-luck blind-draw style game.  I hate push-your-luck games.  I hate playing board games, in general, with 13 year old boys.  I hate playing with their phones because that's generally what they all do between plays.  But it was a useful play to understand who I might recommend it to as a push-your-luck game. I'm not the only gamer I know and I try to understand a few games I don't like in case I think they're a good recommendation for friends and/or family.
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Mike, who's hosted a pile of games for Aeryn and myself in the past, and Kevin.  Who knows what Kevin is looking at.  It doesn't seem safe-for-con.  I hope he wasn't violating the behavior rules. I don'ot think he knows what he's looking at to be honest.  That's why he has those granny glasses.
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Mickey's - the breakfast of choice in Madison, right near the college stadium.  Within walking distance this time, although we drove because it was on the way to the convention center.  A truly wonderful breakfast and a mainstay for Aeryn and myself for seven years.
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At one point I just threw "breweries near me" into my browser at the convention center and found the Delta Beer Lab.  A great little brewery within the edge of walking distance of the gaming venue. Super inclusive.  One of the servers was dressed as Mickey...or Minnie...mouse in ears, makeup, and a halfshirt.  And I'm fairly certain the "delta" part of their name is because they're gay owned and/or friendly. I let them know maybe they should be striking up a promotional deal with the gaymers group at GHC, or at least dropping "come drink with us" flyers on the shared notifications table and whiteboard.  My book for the Con.  A bit dated - he might have less to say about Louis CK nowadays, but a fun introspection on his early years.
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Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest.  An out-and-out murderfest.  Seriously, like 90%+ of our pirate crews died over the course of six voyages.  Most by murder / actions by the other pirates/ships.  Some self-inflicted [not always a bad thing if you're trying to distill what's in your crew pile]. Once we figured it out and why you'd want to keep certain pirates, lose others, and what to collect, it was fun.  But trying to wrap our heads around the interaction mechanisms was a challenge at first. I won this one, in part by coordinating collections of items others weren't paying attention to because I stayed in the most infamous end of the pool [which meant I drew last, but had plenty of choices of the things I wanted that they weren't jockying for].  The pirate theme was fun, and I hadn't played a pirate game in a long time.  This week I played a few rounds of Islebound, so I've ratched up my pirate [or buccaneer] quotient.
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Kevin, are you winning at Dune?  Is the spice flowing, Maud' dib?  Is your fear the game killer? Permit your annoyance at playing with kids to flow through you and then turn your eye to that inner path.  You will find nothing. Only you will remain.  And maybe Mike.  Mike will probably remain.  Someone has to teach you the game.  And honestly, in my experience, 13 year old boys playing games never go the f^ck away.  Dune mantras or not.
Kevin by:

Aeryn and I scheduled a play of True Dungeon at about this point.  Think Dungeons and Dragons meets distributed escape room/s.  You get a pile of poker chips that are magic items and armor and weapons, pick a class, outfit yourself for the coordinator tracking your armor and to hit and specials, and then play shuffle board and memorization games and brain teasers to defeat monster and magic. There's a story associated with it as you move through the maze, so you meet witches, animatronic trees/undead, and rather complex puzzles involving some brains and dexterity. We played with a family instead of a hard core group this year, which was fun.  The mom had played Just One with Aeryn and I which is a fun party game where you can't give a clue that matches someone else's clue. I remember her as worried her husband might catch on to the fact that she didn't know Sting was also a sword.

Nice Haircut Mark McGrath.  That's the name of the post-ramen at Morris beer at Young Blood Beer Co, almost right next door.  
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Aeryn had been searching for this game - Unspeakable Words - since this saw it on Tabletop with Wil Wheaton [with Erin Gray from Buck Rogers for all you old guys] like...ten?...years ago? Ah...found the video and it was nine years ago.  I was close.  But the game went out of print almost immediately and was roughly 100 dollars on resale, and I have limits.  Those limits are generally if I have to pay more for a game than its list price.  This year it was on the scratch and dent shelf for half price so a great deal.  You craft words and the more complex your words, the more likely you are to go insane.  So there's a balancing act between simple words and scoring enough to get to 100 points first.
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Near the Delta Brewery during my walk.  This sign amused me.  Is it really that dangerous at the donated book warehouse?  Things explode or spontaneously combust?  Is the sign commensurate with the reality of how scary it is to have to back up if you go into a place you can't turn around?  Seems like overkill if you can just throw it in reverse and back out.  I wonder what happened to drive the need for this level of warning.
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Dog Park.  A bit like Wingspan, but not like Wingspan at all.  You're collecting dogs, taking them for walks, giving them collars, and using the toys, sticks, etc, they find and use to adopt more dogs.  Some dogs do special things.  Sets of dogs are good for scoring points.  I like Wingspan better.  Much better.  But I get the appeal if you're a puppy person instead of a bird person.
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Again, don't play with a 13 year old boy with a phone.  You'll just end up prompting them loudly to take their dog on a walk every rotation as they drag their eyes away from a screen and try to reengage with reality.  Maybe that needs to be a board game of its own and if you fail to "distract boy from phone" the game just makes you sit there for an interminable amount of time doing nothing.
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Dog park is a pretty quick game.  We got in two plays in our two hour window including mentoring.  So the second game was really more like 40 minutes. I think I placed second both times.  So not a winning strategy, but a consistent one.
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I didn't play this. Catan isn't my thing. But I thought the 3-d board was cool.  Aeryn played a 3d home brew Mario Kart Racer board game that they really enjoyed.
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A bit of Cascadia back at the Air BNB.  We didn't game as much at our 'abode' this time.  Folks were sleepy, busy with kids...kept us a little out of sync for coordinating play time
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Aeryn in the crowd that is Mendota 7 where almost all of our games were played.  There are about eight rooms in the area for gaming and the main hallway is used as well.  A whole other section is RPG/DnD folks.  And this year the lot was really crowded and I think it's because of the Magic the Gathering cube tournament going on in yet another hall.
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Lots of photos of 7 Wonders.  7 Wonders Architects, 7 Wonders Leaders, and 7 Wonders Cities.  Figured I'd go all in as I'd been intending to learn 7 Wonders since I was in a coma over a decade ago.  I hated Architects.  WAY too simple, although as I understand it, that's the point.  To dumb down 7 Wonders.  Leaders and Cities...I get why people like them.  But you definitely have to have 4+ people [imo] so the trading and some of the skip mechanics work. I'd rather play a Red Raven game given my druthers.  My Colossus of Rhodes from the first round of Architects.
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Leaders.  I liked this better.  The mechanic of "buying" resources from your neighbors [whether they like it or not] is fun.  The one thing I didn't like is that sometimes you get in a bind where you simply can't get a resource. You can shift your strategy at that point, but it's frustrating to be playing off three boards and no one has what you need for what's in your hand.
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Leaders and Cities, although Cities didn't make much of an impact other than the pass through mechanic someone had for when they were attacked.
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Even when it's not my game, the people are fun when they're not 13 year old boys.  Everyone is always happy to learn something new or play with someone new. I had one game that the coordinator didn't show up for on the last day and we just talked gaming habits for 20 minutes.
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A different setup for 7 Wonders Architects.  I won this one.  I had a much better strategy after the first run through.
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More Architects.  I wonder if I took so many photos because I was bored?  That's counter-intuitive.
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Aeryn and I had lunch at Denny's in the Dells on the way to Madison. And breakfast/lunch at Mickey's on the way out of town.  We stopped at a cheese shop in the Dells for snacks on the way home and in Osseo to get pie and visit the game story, although with MEA weekend going on the pie place was off the hook and we chose to bail [so no banana cream pie for the wife].  I'm not sure who tries to wolf down a whole jar of spicy quail eggs in the cheese shop parking lot.  If the trip home is longer than the digestion cycle, that's going to be an unpleasant ride.
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