Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Reading January 2023

This was an absolutely fascinating month for reading.  It was a bust. I have three books I didn't finish and never intend to finish.  I listened to a lot of podcasts.  I streaming service binged, which I seldom do, but I've been trying to ramp up my excercise regime before spring gets here.  I went walking at the expense of sitting and reading just so I could listen to all of Ultra.  Great series.  Amazing and Minnesota ties.
  • I won't finish The Living Dead because it is beyond boring.
  • I won't finish Buckaroo Banzai because, despite being an absolutely beautiful book - it feels like a book should feel and the cover is glorious - it is almost incomprehensible for long sections.
  • I won't finish Hitler in Los Angeles because Maddow's Ultra was almost a perfect depth and Hitler in LA just takes it into the weeds.
But I finished two other books right?  I did.
  • The Paradox Hotel was not particularly original in my opinion and the main protagonist....she was horrible.  I could not relate to her.  I don't have a need to relate to all the characters I read about.  But I don't want to actively dislike the protagonist in a way that makes me feel glad I never have to emotionally engage with that personality in real life.  As was the case with several of the people who interacted with her in the book...one of us would likely die as an outcome and neither of us would shed a tear or even slow down to consider the loss of the other.  If you've read Use of Weapons by Ian Banks.  You know something about how truly abysmal as human beings some of those characters are. If you've read Donaldson's Gap Series.  Ditto.  For f^^^s sake are there some characters you wouldn't want within a galaxy of you or your family.  I liked those characters better than January from Paradox Hotel.
  • I totally get where Yu was going with SFU.  I can appreciate a really interesting attempt to map space travel to familial relationships, the dad that had dreams that never came to fruition, the frustrated mother, the heartache everyone causes each other, and how the present moment is literally a type of time travel.  There were some exceptionally funny moments.  But overall it just started to drag.  I got it.  So when it kept going, it began to feel a little like being beat over the head with the book.  The finished book.  Not the one being written real time in the TM-31 book creation thingamabob.
But, I will credit the two books for two good things.
  •  TAMMY the AI from SFU and Ruby the little floater AI [much likes the robots in Banks' Culture] were wonderful characters.  Both of them were better than the characters they were supporting and to which they served as foils.
  • This quote from SFU, page 232: "The path of a man's life is straight, straight, straight, until the moment when it isn't anymore, and after that it begins to meander around aimlessly, and then get tangled, and then at some point the path gets so confusing that the man's ability to move around in time, his device for conveyance, his memory of what he loves, the engine that moves him forward, it can break, and he can get permanently stuck in his own history."  It reminded me a bit of Sank talking in a post about winding down as we [men in general] get older.
The Media for January:

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Sarah Morris

Last Friday Jen and I went to see Sarah Morris at the 318 Cafe in Excelsior.  We've been to see Sarah a bunch of times.  At the State Fair Heritage stage.  At the State Fair by the BOB FM stage [sooooo brutally hot, particularly after a bike ride up there from Eagan].  At the Aster this last Christmas.  I'm sure I'm missing one or two.  Yeah....definitely.  Because I remember working on my bicycle under the entryway to the house while streaming her concert during the deepest Covid.  Ah...and at the Hook and Ladder for the Christmas concert with the Sometimes Elves - can't forget that one; it was wonderful and there's a poster of her on the boardgame shelf in the dining room.  And we backed her Kickstarter back in 2016 and Patreon her musical lifestyle.  Well....I think my wife would say I backed her even though it's our family Kickstarter account, because she didn't know who Sarah was until I hauled her to stage at the Fair.

You can catch her music over on her Youtube channel.  I recommend checking out some of her "Toilet Tunes" as well as her official videos.  That's the series she started while on Covid lockdown.  Lots of local artists.  By the book, country [she was on the BOB stage after all].  Realistically...a bit more folk, and lounge and variety than just country.  You'll find some toilet tunes that channels Janis Joplin and more. If you go into a show thinking she'll just be country and that means you'll be disappointed, you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised.  My sister in law seemed to be.  She lives in that area so we invited her and her husband to join us.  My brother in law was busy, but she showed up and seemed to have a really good time.  Smart lyrics.  Transcendent voice.  And she really is that small.

The 318 Cafe was a double gig.  She was there with Becky Schlegel. For a while they were doing songs about states that were warmer than Minnesota [it was the night it was like -16F by the time we got out], but transitioned into warm places they'd written songs and some warm thoughts about songs Becky had written on request for anniversaries and birthdays.  Pretty cool to have your own song.

I did enjoy that the library behind them lit up a little while into the show as a pair of janitors started evening cleaning.  It was like one of the coffee shop screensavers my wife plays on Youtube while reading.  A couple of guys coming and going from shelves of books as they dusted and vacuumed, all set to music.


Feed My Starving Children

This last week I did a stint at Feed My Starving Children in Eagan with a bunch of Minnesota co-workers.  There's no office here; we're all remote.  Originally we all thought there were five or six of us, but the total is closer to twenty.  Eight showed up for the event over lunch [Alteryx does give us a couple of days of paid leave to volunteer each year. Historically, I log them, but tend to make up all those hours and volunteer a lot more than 16.  That was the case at Thomson Reuters as well.  I will say, it's not back patting.  I'm not incredibly passionate about any one thing and I really respect people who are.  My area of focus is - and here you can see the disparate nature of it: kids with diabetes, kids with brain issues and cancer, adults with Alzheimer's, bikes for kids, food for kids, planting trees and clearing parks, medical services in Uganda, Movember which I don't miss with my porno mustaches, books for prisons, school supplies, food shelves, MS of course...ah, checking my LinkedIn for recorded memory: teaching kids Python, teaching teachers Python, teaching classrooms about tech jobs, hour of code, Garlough kids reading to me, teaching kids about economics and practical skills, coordinating volunteer services for several thousand coworkers, and putting in some volunteer hours on the corporate donation match and time match systems I originally created and maintained for more then a decade until we went with an enterprise system.  It's more about me and variety and meeting new people, so in the end it's a little selfish.]

I've done Feed My Starving Children a number of times.  2008 with a Thomson Reuters crew2013 with some of Aeryn's classmates [some of whom were coworkers at TR].  2013 again, and a few years around that watershed in both directions, as I worked with the TR Global Volunteer group to have FMSC come to TR so we could have a few thousand people volunteer instead of a few thousand people travel to the packing site.  They just drove a semi full of tables and tons of food and supplies down into the underground parking garage.  I specifically remember labeling bags the year I couldn't walk so well because of the busted hip and pins - e.g. probably 2012.

This was a particularly fun instance because there was a group of challenged adults from Dundas.  Maybe Epic Enterprises?  I think I heard that name while all the chatting was happening.  They were a great time.  Super friendly and really supportive of each other.  I spent more time on their line then on our Alteryx line as we firmed up our stations.  The majority of my time was heat sealing bags of food.

Here we are, busily packing.  I'm way over in that far corner of the photo.  I'm disappointed you can't see the blind co-packer on my line.  He was the most upbeat person I've met in a long time.  Cracked jokes, Didn't spill a grain. Told stories.  Made me smile the whole time.

Cleanup commences.

Cleanup well underway.  That woman near the incomplete packed food because it wasn't quite enough for a box was so nice.  A real joy to talk to. She's staff at Dundas.  

Here we all are post-packing.  I had my hairnet off already, although it's not like I have a lot of hair to net.  Was cool that Christina showed up.  She was my recruitment friend at Alteryx.  A year ago or so she was looking for a job after a stint at Kowalski's in Eagan where she worked with my kid [they even played board games together].  I put her in touch with a couple folks in the ML space I knew locally. However, eventually she went with Alteryx, which I'd been interested in because I knew a little about their product and found it super intuitive for non-coders.  So when I realized my time at VP needed to end, she was my reference.  It was good to realize some of the locals had been with the company almost seven years as well.  That means the commitment to a certain amount of remote work has always been there and isn't just a symptom of the covid era that will disappear the way some companies are trying to position it.  Anyway....great time.  I really need to get over there a bit more often.  It is uplifting to know my food was headed to Columbia to shore up malnutrition and starvation.

7 Grandmasters

Friday night we went to a double feature at the Trylon.  Ming and his wife went to the first movie with us.  Her very first time at the Trylon. I was super excited to see 7 Grandmasters [all about the movie and his Pei Mei style here: https://www.perisphere.org/2023/01/27/7-grandmasters-according-to-the-wisdom-of-shang-kuan-cheng-master-of-the-pei-mei-technique/ as well as at Wikipedia].  I didn't realize it was being hosted by the same Seattle film guy who co-streamed The Mystery of Chessboxing in the earlier days of covid lockdowns.  Jen and I [and for part of it, Aeryn] watched that with live commentary by Rza of Wu Tang Clan and, along with some National Theatre production that streamed at that time, it's actually a fond memory of being somewhat trapped in a non-social / non-in-person environment.

Fun movie, although the translations were a bit unusual.  Ming - who could read both sets of subtitles and understand the speaking, noted that the subtitles were a bit "Shakespearian" in nature which made for exchanges were they argued about who was a 'rascal' and to never trust 'rascals'.  There were probably better word choices.  But if you got in the flow, you knew what they were saying.  It's fun to see the Chinese characters.  There's a TED video where a woman tries to teach some basics of Chinese pictographs in a few minutes.  I remember vaguely that person looks like a little stickman.  So when they said brother and nobody and me [but not you] you could see the little man in conjunction with other characters.

The second show was a series of grindhouse trailers/previews the same collector had pulled together in all his time working with old 35mm movies.  The Grindhouse Trailer Spectacular.  That was fun.  Some truly awful trailers and a lot of breasts.  I think this one in particular - Black Cobra Woman - was the one that seemed to be implying people were sticking snakes in places they didn't belong.  And Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals sort of speaks for itself. Good write up here. Was a great time, although by the end I felt a little exhausted at the grindhouse onslaught.


If there's any doubt I'm a slacker, historical me left a message in a txt document on my desktop about what to blog about a few months ago when I was first thinking about getting a little more back on it because I like having the history at my fingertips away from the big social media companies.

Apparently I was supposed to write about the following [I think I succeeded in a very small subset of cases]:

  • Parkrun - although that's off for the winter because no way.  I did one at about 30F and that's as low as I'm willing to go and there better not be snow.
  • The creative writing I was doing lately - finishing up the book and a short story collection
  • September 22 - Minnedemo
  • September 23 - Theatre in the Round and going to Doubt
  • September 25 - Renfest with my prior Virgin Pulse team mates and Aeryn including how they grilled Aeryn for my music tastes when I was out of earshot and all settled on Hootie and the Blowfish [I will admit to liking Hootie and, in particular, Darius Rucker, but it's not like I sit around listening to Hootie any more often then anyone else].
  • September 26 - first day of work at a new job [Alteryx]
  • October 1 - Charity Bicycle Ride for Uganda, 930 a.m. on the Luce Line - we started at Luce Line Brewing 
  • October 8 - Chilifest at Tall Brad's.  I'd hate to lose that my chili's acronym was CRT because I knew there were a few folks present who would be annoyed if they knew.
  • October 9 - Bryant Lake Bowl, Nadine Dubois event
  • October 15, - duplex with Drew to pick up leaves [we were incredibly efficient]
  • October 21 - after three months, we have a [non-flesh] dishwasher again.  It took that long to get the part and we were pretty sure they'd forgotten us.
  • October 20-23 - Gamehole Con.  Ha, got that one.
  • October 24 - bivalent boosted in time for in person New Hire training.
  • October 24 - Aeryn has a band concert at Ted Mann at the U of MN
  • October 25 - Luna passed
  • October 28 - I went to the movie Night Riders at the Walker and did the round of the sculpture garden and local upscale bars because I was there so early.  Aeryn was supposed to go with me but had their first date.
  • October 29  - munchies at Christos
  • November 1 - Jen and I made Sugar Skulls [I did post this one because Jen's posing with the sugar skulls almost like they're breasts, which is probably a creepy Day of the Dead type visual someone's done before more artistically].
  • November 3 - the MS ride bike kickoff at Utepils around dropping Aeryn off at a Seattle Kraken game [note, not a Wild game, Aeryn likes the Kraken].
  • November 4 - Mad God at the Trylon.  That was a trip.
  • November 5 - Black Adam with Jen.
  • November 8 - D spot with Jestine and Erik.
  • Also in November - Quit Banjo lessons.  Just couldn't make them fit with the new job.
  • November 13 - A birthday celebration where I introduced Aeryn to Krush Groove at the Trylon.  For someone who wasn't a hip hop guy in his youth, I always loved this movie.  Something about Prince-era 80s [even books like Emma Bull's War for the Oaks] makes me happy, even when it wasn't something I frequented back then.
  • Week of November 15 - birthday in California.  I did my New Hire event in Irvine.  I didn't visit the beach, but I ate a lot of ramen, found myself in the middle of an Iranian protest, found a cool place to have a banana split overlooking a square surrounded by apartments that would tax most incomes, met two of my new co-workers, did some charity, walked everywhere....had a great time for my first trip since I came back from the last company's planning meeting in Providence.
Yeah...I always wonder why I feel so busy when I think I'm not, but we definitely get around.  At least for me, empty nesting didn't really slow me down.  Of course, we're not empty nesting [again] as of recently, but that's a whole other thing.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Bad Waitress - Farewell

Farewell to the The Bad Waitress.  Today is their last day.  I have fond memories of eating there with Aeryn as they were growing up, after acting classes at MIA, after the Tea Tastings over at Mrs. Kelly's, and just generally if we were in the hood.  It was probably our second go-to in that area after Christo's [and we have reasons for eating at Christo's beyond "we like Greek food" including the owner being an acquaintance, her niece being a school acquaintance of both my brother and myself, and my workplace of what seems like forever ago having been only a few steps closer to Lake].  Extra props for The Bad Waitress because I didn't catch covid there. Instead I caught it basically next door at the Copper Hen on Easter for a buffet brunch.  The very thing they tell you not to do.  We went to Bad Waitress only a month before that, back in March 2022, and they were incredibly careful about keeping a lot of ventilation going, masked up, and particularly clean.  I definitely felt safer there than in a number of venues. I'm really going to miss my occasional breakfast there, particularly when they got creative with the pancakes.  A sad departure.

"When we opened The Bad Waitress, we set out to serve our friends and neighbors better food with a fresh approach. We’ve believed since the start that brunch makes everything better — but this time, it couldn’t save the day.   With great sadness, we announce that The Bad Waitress will close indefinitely after brunch on Sunday, January 29, 2023. Being a part of Eat Street and serving the Whittier neighborhood and beyond these past 18 years has been an honor. The strength, spirit, resilience and support of this community will continue to inspire us for years to come, and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve you. We could not have done it without all of you.  We hope you’ll all join us for one last lunch date, boozy brunch, mid-morning coffee, or to use your Bad Waitress gift card before we close our doors on Sunday, January 29. "


Some of my friends have been going to an almost monthly dinner for four years now.  Less a big gap for covid that started basically a day after I shipped home from Provide, Rhode Island from a business planning trip and sat away from others as it was an unknown at the time.  The crowd changes a bit here and there as kids and girlfriends and ex-girlfriends show up and people run into commitments.

The food isn't always good, but that generally becomes part of the lore.

I think my favorites have been Chimborazo and Mama Sheila's House of Soul, but we've been to a lot of my favorite places to eat including Christo's, Winzer Stube [RIP], Moscow on the Hill, and Peninsula.

All of us at Kasada for dinner last week.

A list of places we've been the last four year:
  • January 2023 [Ming] - Kalsada’s Filipino food
  • December - New Year’s at Scott and Jen's
  • November 2022 [Kyle] - Yarusso Italian [Scott came back from Irvine CA for Alteryx]
  • October 2022 [Matthew]  - Christo’s
  • September 2022 - no munchies
  • August 2022 [Ming] - Hai Hai
  • July 2022 [Larry] - Chimborazo
  • June 2022 - no munchies
  • May 2022 [Scott] - The Mill Northeast
  • April 2022 [Kyle] - Hola Arepo
  • March 2022 [Ming] - Ngon Vietnamese.  Ming hopped the queue.
  • December 2021 -[Kyle] - New Year’s.  Ming is in Hawaii
  • October 2021 [Matthew] - Wiederholt’s Supper Club.  No Ming.  He got lost.
  • September 2021 [Larry] - Guava’s Cuban Cafe
  • August 2021 [Scott]....Cuban place by Brad lunch, El Cubano
  • July 2021 [Kyle] - Buffalo, Forget Me Not Cafe [Dan’s memorial with Larry as well]
  • June 2021 [Ming] - Donatelli’s [Italian, I think]
  • March 2020 (Matthew) - Moscow on the Hill [Scott came back from Providence, RI for VP]
  • February 2020 (Larry) - Beruit
  • January 2019 (Scott) - Brasa (only Ming and Julie and Scott and Jen and Aeryn, St. Paul >> very, very cold)
  • December 2019 (Ming) - Mama Sheila’s
  • November 2019 (Kyle) - Sakura (St. Paul)
  • October 2019 (Matthew) - Chimborazo (Columbian)
  • September 2019 (Larry) - Mesob (Ethiopian on Hiawatha)
  • August 2019 (Scott) - Apoy Phillipino Bistro
  • July 2019 (Ming)- Mama Sheila’s Soul Food Kitchen [Buffet]
  • June 2019 (Kyle) - Babani’s Turkish
  • May 2019 (Matthew) - Winzer Stube German Restaurant
  • April 2019 (Larry) - Adelita’s (Hispanic, Oz was there)
  • March 2019 (Scott) - George and the Dragon [Brunch]
  • February 2019 (Ming) -  City Afrique (Scott's family missed)
  • January 2019 (Kyle) - Peninsula (Malaysian)

The Book Club [Play]

Friday night we went to The Book Club [Play] by Karen Zacarias [directed by Shanan Custer] at Theatre in the Round.  It's their 71st season over there.  I'm glad they made it through the deepest depths of covid.

Here's the official summary, which should be free of spoilers: "Laughter and literature collide in this smart comedy. Ana lives in a letter-perfect world with an adoring husband, the perfect job and her greatest passion: Book Club. But when her cherished group becomes the focus of a documentary film, their intimate discussions about life and literature take a turn for the hilarious in front of the inescapable camera lens."

The play was very good.  All about a group of friends at a book club and the interactions that are certainly not confined to the reading.  I don't think I'm giving anything away there - it's what you'd expect out of such a play.  Definitely funnier and lighter than some of what we see over there.  A lot of laughter from the audience. And I'd say pretty older kid accessible unless you're deeply conservative.  But if you are, I'm fairly certain you're not frequenting Theatre in the Round anyway.

Props to Baily J Hess who played the "pundit" and interjected some additional humor as a variety of characters during scene changes.

Because we use the flex passes and can't make it to all the plays - life gets in the way - I throw my extras at Ming.  Here he is photo bombing Aeryn.  He was supposed to sit next to us, but Julie wanted to see this one as well so he picked up an extra ticket.  But not in time to make sure all our seats were together.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Arbeiter Game Night

Wednesday, Aeryn and I went to Arbeiter Brewing in south Minneapolis to explore their game night.  I had high hopes based on their photos from the week before, but there was surprisingly little gaming going on.  I think the two games closest to us were a game of Magic the Gathering and cribbage.  Quite a few people and a good revolving group of people buying Nepalese food, but not a lot of stranger gaming as you'd hope to find.

It's also Lunar New Year's at Arbeiter, so they  had a few specials on tap.  I tried their Foundation - Blanton's Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout [12.6], their Wee Heavier - Buffalo Trace Barrel-Aged Scottish Wee Heavy [9.9], and Pfeffernusse [6.3].  I'm really glad Aeryn was driving or I'd have been calling a cab or walking to Allison's house.  Those were all delicious, but definitely had kick.  On the way out, the bartender fetched me a four pack of their Best Buds THC Seltzer because "we had talked about it."  I wasn't drunk enough to believe that, but I was tipsy enough to not be offended I looked like every other middle aged, six foot ish, bleary eyed white guy.  5.0 mg/16 oz can.  Jen noted it made her feel baked.

Without anyone to play with, we kicked up a game of Flamme Rouge with the Mateo [weather] expansion.  I balanced my cards well, although the one cyclist had a deck that was a pile of exhaustion cards by the end.

I think they're pedaling so fast here that they're blurry.  Or it's the rain. Don't crash little dudes.

My photo finish win.  And I still have both balls and a sunny disposition.

The general list of beers.  Quite the selection at the moment.

After a game of Flamme Rouge and Project L, Aeryn and I noticed that two of the people at the table next to us were playing with their phones while waiting for their friends to finish a very long game of Magic the Gathering.  We invited them over to play Project L and they had a great time.  Real fun playing with strangers.  Project L may be a perfect bar game.  That guy catty corner to me was really putting some serious thinking into the whole business once he got his brain wrapped around the strategy.  The Klund Kreations 3-d inserts are a nice add.  Makes it feel much classier than picking pieces out of a pile in a plastic bag.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Embarrassing Photo Bank

I really don't want to lose this, so I'm going to put it here where I can always find it.  One of the moms was taking pictures at a sporting event and caught my friend Ben  [rode the RAM with me last summer] in a pose that can only be described as looking like some sort of "ass appreciation".  The little finger cocked forward on the guy in front of him makes it look like Ben is about to get a lapdance from some cowboyesque stripper in a populated gym  You go, Ben.


Skinamarink.  I fell asleep.  Jen had to wake me up.  I'm pretty sure it is a horror movie aimed at ASMR folks and Five Nights at Freddies [FNAF] fans, of which I'm neither.  There's even a whole scene with the flashlight on / flashlight off moving from door to door, and Aeryn assures me the Fisher Price telephone makes an appearance in FNAF as well.  Although perhaps that's the clock.  Close enough and I'd trust Aeryn on FNAF over my internet research any day of the week.

Good on the guy for producing a legitimately different movie for only 15k, but it simply didn't do it for me.  Felt a bit disjointed.  The scariest part - how long Kevin had been in the house - had to be spelled out rather than revealed.  And the entity just didn't strike me as having a rationale, although I suspect that was part of the whole point.  I'd trust the audience score on this one, not the critics.

Hash House Harriers

This is for Kyle.  A long time ago, he, Adam, and myself had an adventure in Wisconsin that included hiding out in the Viking Brewery warehouse while a tornado was trying to spin up outside.  We were holed up with a family with a couple daughters and an extremely drunk running club with the foulest mouths I'd ever heard, and even fouler nicknames.  They'd been chasing a "rabbit" between kegs and breweries for a long time, and by the time they got to our stop, they were probably still trending toward fall down drunk before they even touched a Viking brew.  And the owner of Viking was not stingy with the free beer while we were all trapped inside waiting out the weather.

I was telling my boss - prior boss post reorg a week ago - this story as he's working on a half marathon and is into orienteering as well.  So today I'm talking to him and he tells me that he's driving around Cambridge, UK, this last weekend and he sees a guy in fox ears and a fox tail running across the road.  He immediately thinks, "This is what Scott was talking about! Where someone is the runner/rabbit and leaves chalk symbols for everyone else to chase between drinks."

So he went home to look up if there was a local chapter of the Hash House Harriers in Cambridge.  There is a local chapter.  But the fox wasn't part of the local HHH.  Wrong day.  He was just some rando in fox ears and a fox tail out for a jog.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Booty Bouncing Burlesque

Last weekend, Jen and I went to Tassels Off Burlesque at Hell's Kitchen. It's been a long time since we caught a burlesque show.  Go back far enough, and you'll see my blog littered with them, including a burlesque-specific trip to Chicago with Jen and Kyle.  Amusingly, we saw some familiar acts, including Tila Von Twirl who we've seen both in Minneapolis and Chicago, Foxy Tan who is always amazing as both announcer and dancer, and...Gollum! Several others as well. I would posit that it's nice everyone is getting older along with us, but that seems unnecessarily mean. I hope they stay young forever. There were a few new ... faces ... in the show as well. It was fun, even if we're on the older end of the crowd now, and I've missed it after so long, including the covid gap.

I think one of my favorite acts was a dancer vaguely dressed in 70's era men's clothes who did a number to Everything I Own with a guitar case and other props.  Jen wanted to know why they were tassel twirling bags of bread and aggressively chewing on a loaf.  Check the link if you're unsure why.

That tall dancer closest in frame performed to a dance mix of the song Period Sex.  Darn funny.  

Others included: "Glitter Cakes, Texas Teacakes, juggler Derrick Jermaine Harper, Phoenix De La Rosa, Plum Ridiculous, Raja James, Trisha Spectacle, Pedi Bourgeois, and special guest hosts Tre Da Marc, and Sparkle Du Jour! Your bra flinging producers Musette the Mistress of Mischief, Kitson Sass and Pistol Prudence pinky swear a night to remember for one and all."  Derrick Jermaine Harper didn't disappoint all glittered up on his unicycle.

My understanding is they were raising funds for a glamping adventure in the Wisconsin wilderness.  Sort of the camping / learning thing I've seen folks like Actualol do, except he did it for board gaming, not burlesque [as far as I know].  That must be a bit of a surprise for anyone randomly traipsing about in the wilderness.

I see Black Hearts is coming to Hell's Kitchen on February 10.  Kyle, Ming, and I once caught their act near the U  of MN with Fat Leonard [he's not really fat].  The dancer doing the Portal-related game dance threw cake and booze at the audience members in the front, ala The Cake is a Lie.  They're a fun act.


Street Fight: the Street Always Wins

So back in 2013 I took a spill on my bicycle on the ice while I was commuting to Thomson Reuters.  Rude Bicyclist Day as I called it then. This year, fortunately, no spill... yet.  But last Saturday I was letting the neighbor's Corgi relax on my lap while we were dogsitting. The fur and dander started to give me a serious headache. Nothing new there.  Pet leavings have always been a problem.  It's why I have animal free zones in the house where I work and sleep.  What was new was that I decided I would take two Aleve for my headache.  I knew I had an ibuprofen allergy per that prior post, but I had taken Aleve a few times since then [e.g. maybe six pills over almost a decade] without problem.

Apparently that's changed.  I look like I'm in mugshots below after some street fight and this is 48 hours after I realized I was having a problem.  It took almost 96 hours for everything to settle back down for the most part. I had to go camera-off for Zoom meetings for two days. Not because I didn't want to scare people more than usual, but because I didn't want to extend meetings with discussions about whether I'd been in a fight. 

Swelling, nearly scratching my remaining hairs off my head, and a few hitches in my breathing.  I could tell I was getting swelling in my throat.  I'm probably crazy for thinking it was more interesting than dangerous each time it sort of glitched for a moment.  Jen got up to hang out with me while I watched some late night television to ensure I wasn't going to die in my sleep. I'm conscientious that way.  I'd rather people found my body propped up on the couch right away in the morning then got their day started only to find me lying cold in bed at some point when they already had plans in motion.

It's interesting how much more impacted my left "eye" is, although maybe that's a trick of the camera and the angle.  But that's the brow/part of my face that:

  • has swelling from this allergy event
  • has scaring from when I was hurt in the Mustang [minimal, you'd have to know to look for it, but it's there]
  • has the scar from having the birthmark removed when I was younger [contrary to what I told my father in the law the first time I met him about how it was from a knife fight]
  • was all droopy from Lyme's related Bell's Palsy, not once, but twice [1987 and probably 2019]
Even when I'm not all puffy, that side has a noticeable wrinkle to it compared to the other.  I applaud it for simply not giving up and sliding off my face.

Anyway.  In the future,  no Aleve.  No Advil.  Tylenol and Benadryl are still alternatives, although I haven't taken the former in a decade, so who's to say what the situation is there.


My latest gaming obsession is accurately called Obsession. I read about it a post about good games to play solo.  I don't play solo as much as that implies, but I do have a selection of games I can go to if no one will play with me [Street MastersThe 7th Continent: Classic EditionPaperback Adventures which is taking a backseat to Obsession, and several others]. However, I've played almost exclusively with others since my wife picked it up for my birthday.  This was one of the few birthdays where I said, "I want that.  You can get it here.  They confirmed they'll be getting a shipment so you can lock one down in advance as well as pick up the expansions I want at the same time."  Not ironically, probably one of my most used birthday presents so far, and not one I had to give away because it didn't fit.  I even signed up to host a session at a local board gaming convention, although I'm not approved yet.  I may have been too late to host and get a table.  That's ok...I'll just haul it along and play a pick up game or by myself if I can't find another event.

I taught Aeryn to play.  I taught Kyle to play last weekend.  And Aeryn and I taught our neighbor to play.  For as complex as it looks, you can get someone going in about 15 minutes and they'll even be able to formulate a bit of strategy at that point.

The basics: you're improving your manor in order to attract the local heirs by playing to their druthers.  You can do this by building various rooms and spaces for events, and then using those rooms to host events for gentry and distinguished guests.  Initially, you're limited by your reputation to which of your rooms/events you can use and which guests will attend, but as the game progresses you can increase your reputation to host more prestigious events and more prestigious guests. So there's a balance between the rooms/events you acquire, the guests you accumulate, the money you accumulate to buy new rooms/events, when you do these things [you get to influence the heirs quarterly by focusing on a room/event theme], and how you deploy your little fleet of servants to accommodate the needs of guests [do you need valets and footmen or maids to host the event and particular guests, do you have enough, and are the ones you used in the previous turn still too tired...even in the Austen era overclocking your workers wasn't cool...hear that Elon?].

There are some objective cards as well that you gain and lose, but those can be really tricky to target.  Once during the game there's a National Holiday where you can ignore reputation [so if you're really lagging at your manor you can try to score that one big fancy dinner party for the hoi polloi as long as you manage your staff in advance] and you can swap your reputation to try and tweak your position.  Each family has a slightly different ability such as an extra room, extra staff, or extra money to give them some character.

Aeryn and I have played the standard game a few times.  Then played the Jane Austen variation where you hide the theme for the quarter [which should make for a more balanced room set, but as you can see in the photo above, Aeryn doubled down on a theme].  And played the extended version where you play for 20 rounds instead of 16 and the National Holiday really seems to sneak up on you and isn't as critical because everyone is targeting larger rooms with the longer runway.

I also have the Upstairs/Downstairs expansion although we haven't played it yet.  It adds a family and a few new servant types.  The nice thing about it is that the servants allow you to modify or trigger existing effects.  So they don't completely rewrite the game, they just allow you more levers to target your strategy [e.g. a bit more money on an event, a bit less money on a buy, a way to wipe the board of the rooms for sale, etc].

Truly one of my favorites, particularly given how easy it is to bring someone new into the game.  There's a lot of local color to really give it some character and you can really feel the frustration when you invite a rich but uncultured American heiress to your event at the cost of your local standing [and victory points], despite how much you need her to motivate your manor economy.

I should add.  I have played the solo version exactly once [yesterday] and the automata crushed me. The general gist of solo play is the solo character has particular points for each room type each quarter.  You can't beat them all, so you have to focus on the themes it is weak at.  That might be at odds with how you're trying to build money, servants, etc.  The automata player steals a tile or wipes the board every turn, making long term planning pretty difficult, particularly as it has a penchant/preference for stealing the high value monuments before you can put together the cash/pounds. If it beats you in a quarter, it adds the victory points to its base total.  If you feel like a challenge, you add the monument points it scavenges to its total.  When I totaled up the challenging value, the "easy' automata beat me 167 to 104.  But I learned some strategy so we shall meet again.

Smells Like Working Code

Erik and Jestine sent me a holidays present. It was a little startling because it came in this Styrofoam package with huge orange fragile stickers on it and heavily wrapped in tape to hold the two pieces together in what seemed like almost an airtight fashion.  If I wanted to picture what receiving an organ in the mail would look like, it pretty much fit the bill.

What was inside was almost as terrifying as a human organ..  They sent me a Smells Like Working Code candle to go with my Will Code for Coffee mug with Erik's...mug...on the front.  I've got to give it to this candle.  I use my office/game room as a bicycling room as well and I'll do an hour on the trainer with the door closed.  The temperature will skyrocket almost 15 degrees sometimes I put so much heat/energy into the air.  You probably can't imagine the sweat.  It's like I'm walking out of a sauna.  However....two minutes of the Smells Like Working Code candle and the room no longer smells like sweat.  It smells like an incredibly powerful and floral candle...mixed with sweat.


Lit up to provide that bit of ambience every blog post needs. That photo is scratch and sniff.  Try it.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Reading December 2022

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Reading November 2022

Over 2000 pages....and then some.  That's an aggressive month of reading given I had new hire and other things going on as well.

Sunday, November 06, 2022


The Tuesday before last, October 25, we lost Luna.  I realized after a while that she wasn't coming out of her crate.  By the time my wife came down and we were trying to coax her out, she couldn't stand, fell over when she tried, and was having constant mini seizures.  She's been seizing for a long time and having incidents of falling over, falling into things, and sort of narcolepsy-ing.  She was calm, but not herself, and had clearly had a major event like a stroke during the night.  She wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink, and appreciated all the attention, but was clearly befuddled.

We were very happy her last full day involved running at the neighbor's house.  Ted was always good to her and running next door was her happy place, across three different neighbors in that house.  And she was excited when the neighbor from the other side came over to check on Bailey the cat who we thought was actually the animal in the worst health, although she's rallied for a few weeks.  But Luna passing didn't do her any favors. Luna was always super excited about visits from people she recognized. 

We took her to the vet so she could pass peacefully and the fact that she wasn't slobbering like she had rabies was a telltale sign that it was really bad, particularly after I'd carried her in wrapped in a blanket.  She always foamed like crazy when excited and stressed.  It was pretty obvious she'd had a very long life and had decided she was all done.  A was still at school and we didn't want Luna to deal with any pain or being scared while waiting and I think they understood.  They're still a little mad about when Sandy passed back in 2008 and we didn't tell them it was happening.  But they were so young at the time and didn't like death.

Luna was a good dog. Barked too much.  A little too tightly wound.  Thought she was more clever than she really was and often tried to sneak in a poop when she thought she was being sneaky behind me instead of where I could see her. But we loved her and she loved us and she was happy.  We have lots of fond memories, even those that involve her being a little crazy like when she went bark crazy when my phone made a bee-boo noise [it's a sad noise now], or when she pooped half a dozen times if she went for a walk.  She was a gift from an old VP of Tech at TR after Sandy died.  We were drinking at the bar for a manager event and I mentioned my dog had died when I became a manager, and she mentioned her husband had a pile of oops hunting puppies.  We took A to her farm and she played in a pile of puppies and took Luna home.

There are piles of photos on my blog and Flickr.  But as I posted over on FB, what I see now is all the places Luna is not.

Her favorite place to nap next to my office.  The gate was to stop her from hiding in the basement behind the furnace when she got older.  She claimed it as her own and liked to sleep with her head resting across the bars.  When the treadmill was in the basement, she'd often sleep with her head on the base bars there instead.

Her auto water bowl.  Toward the end she drank a lot of water and sometimes couldn't seem to quit unless someone asked her to take a break.

Her kennel where she slept.  Sans comfortable blankets and towels.  Those are all her favorite 'ducks'.  Whenever someone new would show up, she'd haul one out to show them and hope for some play time.  There are some fun photos of her trying to get a burnt pancake off the top of the cage which was a game for a while. I think Luna was sad when I quit burning pancakes.

The neighbor's house, right outside my office window.  When we took her over to play in the yard she'd sit by the entrance and just quiver until she got the go-ahead.  Then she'd take off for the far side of the yard at full tilt, only deviating if she could find a squirrel or bird to chase.

The crooked back door where she liked to sit, enjoy the sunshine, and watch the birds, the squirrels, and the neighbors working in their yard.  That's her nose goo all over the window.  It's still there - we haven't washed it yet.  That'll feel like really letting go.  More so than putting away her bed.

One of her favorite spots to sun in the neighbor's yard and stare down squirrels.

The tree she was obsessed with toward the end after she realized it was squirrel central where the squirrels moved between Ted's house and Ty and Alexa's house.  She'd sit under there in the leaves and stare them down.  There was a day not so long ago I posted to FB about whether anyone had seen her because I couldn't find her and I thought she'd gotten lose and taken off.  Instead, she was in the leaves under the tree ignoring me.  This is where we buried a bunch of Luna's ashes.

A photo I don't think I posted for my family anywhere else from when Luna was just a puppy.

One of my favorite days with Luna, out for a walk in the snow.  She loved the snow and would bury her face and almost whole body in the snow banks.  She never felt it was a good excuse not to spend time next door.  I think she'd have pulled a Jack Nicholson in the hedge maze and been grinning as she froze.

Thank you for being a good dog, Luna.  You made A happy and that would have been enough.  But you made us all happy and gave us many great memories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Gameholecon 2022 - Day 3 and 4

Aeryn and I have a tradition of going to Mickie's Dairy for breakfast every Gameholecon.  This year there was a big game scheduled for Sunday.  Can you tell?  There are a LOT of people in red in this photo you can't see.  It's like an iceberg.  They got rid of the banana monkey.  That was the first thing we noticed.  You can see it in an old set of GHC photos.


Aeryn and I played One Night Ultimate Werewolf on Sunday morning.  Definitely a younger crowd, although the guy to my left was roughly my age.  But the three people to the right you can't see are closer in age to those you can.  We played....thirteen games.  I think they played even more after we left to find a bathroom and some food.  With all those roles, it was a little tough at times.  Once there was some confusion about who was outing who as the werewolf and I commented to Aeryn, "I think they're just not certain about the rules in this case."  I was right.  In their defense, I got the doppelganger wrong when I played that role.  I acted like I truly believed I was who I'd taken a peek at when it was my turn to snoop around.
We hung out at the game library for a while and played Santorini.  Aeryn mopped the floor with my twice.  I am definitely out of practice.  I could see the loss coming and still couldn't rally.

 Aeryn played The Quacks of Quedlinberg and had a good time.

I played Munchkin Panic while Aeryn was at lunch.  I don't think this is a great game.  I prefer the standard Castle Panic, whereas this one is much more competitive.  Although you still have an everyone loses condition.  There's a card where you can kill a castle section yourself for victory points.  Three people availed themselves of it.  So mean.  Not that it mattered - I'm pretty sure we would have lost anyway, although it might have bought us a few turns.  Once those two hits to kill monsters get inside the castle, you don't have the advantage of the castle killing them off organically.  I enjoyed playing with the couple on the right.  Competitive, but really fun.  The guy to the left of me kept getting louder and louder and yelling more directions as it became obvious we were going to lose.  Him...not so much.  I do like the mix of castle cards and treasure cards in Munchkin Panic.  That's a nice change.
There's always a scratch and dent area at the sales tables.  It wasn't as good this year.  Although this copy of Kitsune of Foxes and Fools was still there from last year.  If everyone pays attention to boardgamegeek reviews, it will still be there when the apocalypse assures there are no more Gameholecons.  The Power Grid maps guy who has been there every year we've gone wasn't there this year.  Last year I attempted to buy a Power Grid map for Korea, but it's the only one that's sold out everywhere.  Now I'll never get a copy.  I did find Aeryn a copy of Doctor Who: The Card Game with the Twelfth Doctor expansion at half price.  I knew it wasn't supposed to be a good game, but I trust Aeryn will modify it to make it something more interesting.

Troyes was my favorite game of the con. I picked up a spot at the table last minute because I had a gap where I'd found Aeryn a game, but not myself.  I think those last minute adds have always been some of my favorites.  After a rocky start figuring it out, I got in the groove.  I like the mechanism where you can steal dice from other players [effectively their workers, soldiers, scholars] to use for your own sets.  There's a good mix of communal events costing everyone resources that make you have to weigh your choices about what you can live with.  Reminds me a little of Champions of Midgard in that respect, but the player interactions are taken up a notch, which I really appreciated.  I'd give it an 8/10, although part of that might have been playing a full set of four with a good group of gamers. I ordered myself a copy of this one.

We did get some gaming in at the house, so it wasn't only for sleeping.  Not as much fun without Ming there, but we made due.  Wingspan with Klund and Koleman and Aeryn.  I did not fare as well as the night before.  Lots of cards, but a brutal time trying to get food even with all the options.  Aeryn's better at this game then I am: lots of time playing it on Board Game Arena and Steam.
Me and Aeryn playing Calico.  I like Azul: Queen's Garden better, and they're somewhat similar, but it's definitely fun. I bought it for my wife from a game store over on Minnehaha Ave and we've played it once.  Aeryn and I played three times over two nights.  The last time we played with the full set of objectives rather than on learner mode.  You're trying to place tiles on your quilt with patterns and colors and then match those patterns and colors to the objective tiles. You can overlap patterns and colors and each objective can get extra points for both conditions.  Enough of a pattern in a row, attract a cat.  Enough colors near each other, attach a button. Get all the buttons, get a rainbow button.  That's pretty much the whole game.  Makes my head hurt.  Aeryn is very good at it.
More Calico.  Aeryn's Flumph isn't playing.  We went to two design events on Saturday and Sunday, per the last post.  "Monster Creation" and "Worldbuilding".  I was disappointed there were no women on the panel, but they were interesting.  My takeaway from Monster Creation...if you're doing it professionally, there's a lot more math involved to standardize the monster against the system then I would have imagined.  My take away from worldbuilding...sometimes the weird unanswered questions are really useful.  One panelist mentioned a story where knights threw something away they didn't want to be found dead with before going into battle.  A knight throwing something aside is mentioned.  But never what.  It creates a thread someone else can fill.  Even the author said he didn't know what had been thrown away.


Klund, Koleman, and me playing Roam.  My last game of the event [the next morning was one of the seminars, although we've played games before we leave before].  I love Roam...a fast game with a placement mechanism a little like Tetris with the players having different vantages on the board.  I was probably a bit too sleepy to be playing at that point.

The next day, we left for home and stopped at Osseo, Wisconsin for pie.  There's a brand new board game shop on main street, Boards and Bricks.  An amazing array of games.  Aeryn found a copy of Ticket to Ride Japan [and Italy] and got a discount.  Really excited because the roommate loves Japan and loves Ticket to Ride.  The bullet trains make it extra classy.

Overall: not my best Gameholecon.  I think I needed more new games, tbh.  But I learned a few I really liked, had a lot of fun with Aeryn, and didn't have a bad experience at any point, and I'm not sure I can say that about past Cons.  After all, play enough games, and you'll get a bad table.  It's like work teams in some ways, but concentrated.  A lot of different cultures in miniature in a short period of time.  I did like the relaxed pace.  I definitely didn't feel rushed.  And, props for bringing an apple and orange so I could eat some fruit.  A good lesson for future gaming events.