September 13, 2014 12:59 pm

P1010176asHeather has watched a number of TV show episodes that involve camping.  So when, a few months back, we asked her if she wanted to go camping she was ecstatic.  She knew all about it.  She told us about setting up a tent, and sleeping bags, and a fire, and marshmallows, and on and on.  We decided to play it safe for a first-time-camping experience.  We booked a site at Del Valle, which is just on the edge of town, for a Friday night back in August.  If the night turned into a disaster we could just bail and drive home since we'd only be 15 minutes away.

In the future we won't be returning to Del Valle.  Apparently it's kind of a party campground.  There aren't enough bushes and trees to separate camp sites so it's mostly like camping in a huge group with a bunch of people you don't want to interact with.  Regardless, Heather had a blast.  She ate a hot dog in a bun for the first time and she had her first S'more.  She thought the S'more was alright, but wanted the marshmallow and chocolate without the graham crackers (funny, since this morning she ate an entire package of graham crackers).

We survived the night, went home and then everyone took a 3-hour nap.

Last weekend was the Daddy-Daughter Campout with church, for which Heather was also super excited.  It was up in Redwood Regional Park.  The main benefit there is that it's a singular group site.  There are no other camp sites around it so you have much more isolation.  That and there are a lot of trees and bushes.  The camp site is a cleared area within all this growth.  That was a more pleasant experience overall.

Heather was a trooper and didn't even fuss when it was discovered I had not, in fact, packed the hot dog buns and ketchup like I thought I had.  She happily ate her hot dog without either.  My night would have been a little more comfortable had I checked the air mattress before leaving though.  It had a pretty substantial hole in it so I was flat on the ground by midnight.  Heather slept great on a pile of blankets.

She's already asking when we can go camping again.  So I guess we need to start buying useful equipment instead of just making do with whatever we can find.

Game Helpers

12:06 pm

board_gamesAt church we've been doing an annual game night.  I put together a bunch of game helpers for each of my games that are really handy to have when introducing new players to the games.  They provide information on how each turn should flow and what decisions need to be made.

So I thought I'd stick them here for anyone else that might want them.  The page numbers refer to the game manuals--where that instruction is referenced if you need further guidance.  Each file is available as a ready-to-print PDF and as an Open Document (ODT) file.


Flash Point Fire Rescue:

Last Night on Earth:


Survive: Escape from Atlantis:

Ticket to Ride:


A Day with Hugh Howey

September 12, 2014 9:11 pm

IMG_20140911_090630asOne of the employee morale groups (for lack of a better description) runs a series where they invite authors to come and speak about their work and meet with employees and then get a tour around the Lab.  Back in April or May they asked if anyone had suggestions for authors to invite out.  I suggested we invite Hugh Howey out.  He's a science fiction author which is always a good match with the Lab population and he has great knowledge of the self-publishing process which would be of interest to aspiring authors lurking about the property.

We were very pleased when he accepted our offer and we arranged for a visit on September 11 while he was already going to be in the Bay Area.

He took a tour of the supercomputer facility in the morning and then gave a presentation and we had a group lunch.  I spent the morning working, but was able introduce him at the talk and have lunch and then tour the National Ignition Facility and the High Explosive Application Facility with him during the afternoon.

It was a lot of fun.  He's a geek at heart which made seeing all the incredible science great fun.  I really enjoy getting to tour other parts of the Lab.  It's easy to stay cooped up in my office and not hear about all the other amazing work being done.

After our tours a small group went down to the Concannon Winery for dinner.  It was a blast to ask him about his work and his experiences in life and hear how those experiences have influenced his writing.  He's an incredibly personable guy and has remained quite humble despite his great success.

I think he enjoyed visiting the Lab as much as we all enjoyed having him.  I highly recommend sitting down with him for a chat if you ever get the chance.  In the meantime, we will all just have to settle for reading his stories.  I can't wait to see what bits and pieces from his visit work their way into his writing.



The Very Long Trip: July 3 - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

September 2, 2014 11:39 pm

IMG_20140703_155806asAfter wrapping up our visit to the Titan II Museum we then drove on to San Diego, CA.  After a good night's rest we were off to our final adventure for the Very Long Trip--the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  I was there going on 10 years ago now (whoa) with some friends from college.  Jess and Heather both like zoos so I thought it'd be fun.

First thing we did was head to the hot air balloon which is tethered, but they take you up to 440 feet to have a nice look around.  The air was cool and there was a nice breeze at that height.  There was a discount for going before noon and they shut it down due to wind later in the day.  So I'm glad we skipped ahead to take our trip up.

After our ride we started the wandering about.  Due to time and energy restrictions we had to write off entire sections of the park.  It's a massive complex.  You could easily spend 3 days exploring.  It wasn't very busy, for which we were glad.  There seemed to be a lot of people there, but when we left we could see just how much more parking was available.  If it were full that place would be uncomfortably dense.

We saw warthogs (and babies!), gorillas (and a baby!), elephants, leopards, zebras, and all manner of birds and deer-like creatures.  We got to see two of the world's last seven-known remaining Northern White Rhinos which was neat and sad at the same time.

The park ticket includes a tram ride around the main grounds.  The Safari Park has many acres of land where as many species as possible co-exist to create a more natural environment.  So you get to ride around the perimeter of that.  For an additional charge you can take trips into that space to get closer to the animals and feed them and what-not.

We picked up a couple of neat souvenirs.  The giraffes are about 8 inches tall, hand-carved in Kenya, they're only connected at the base.  They were only $22!  We thought that was a steal, so we also got the parrot.  The parrot is about 4 inches tall, made in Ecuador, and only $6!

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After lunch we hit up the carousel (Heather loves carousels) for a few rounds and then headed off. We drove until we finally got home back to our own beds. We pulled in sometime around 2 AM, I think, after over a month away from home. It was very good to be back.

Oh, and one last thing. Since we were driving along I-10 there were areas we could see across the border into Mexico. Which for Jess is the closest she's ever come to leaving the country, so we had to take a picture. (I'll forgo my rant about going through 3 border crossing checkpoints on this trip despite never crossing the border. Grrrr...)


And that finally concludes our epic journey known as "The Very Long Trip." Over 3,500 miles / 51 hours of driving across 4 states and 3 time zones. I don't know how many times we watched Bubble Guppies, Curious George, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and Frozen (with the snow monster edited out for Heather's sake), but it was enough for a lifetime. It was quite the journey, but I think our next grand adventure is going to be via rail (tentatively Fall 2015).