Games April 2024

April 30, 2024 11:00 pm

Jess and I continued our campaign in Kinfire Chronicles: Night's Fall successfully completing quests 17 and 4 with Feyn and Roland making their way to the great city of Din'Lux.

We played two games of Wyrmspan while in Arkansas for the eclipse (of course we brought a suitcase full of games, do you not when you travel?). I won one (by 1 point!) and lost one.

Also while in Arkansas we played Ex Libris, which I lost.

I also played a few rounds of Cobra Paw (have the fastest paw to collect the tiles) and Exploding Kittens (be the last one standing after all the kittens have exploded) with the girls in Arkansas.

Back at home we introduced friends to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle by playing year 4; we lost. This is a game some friends introduced us to years ago. I was skeptical at first because there are so many money grabs where a crappy idea is skinned over with a popular theme and they sell a million copies just because. But it actually is a solid game at its core and the theming generally only enhances the mechanics.

It's a cooperative deck-building game which increases in complexity and difficulty as you move up the years (representing the years in the books). You must enhance your deck with more powerful cards to defeat a set of villains before they take control of a set of locations. My biggest complaint is that the difficulty can vary wildly depending on the ordering of the villains.

At a board-game meetup I jumped into a game of Millennium Blades--which seems to be as post-modern as you can get in gaming. It's a game in which your characters are collectible-card-game players (e.g., Magic: The Gathering). In the game as your character, you buy/sell/trade cards to form a deck and then you play tournaments of the inner-game card game against the other players.

Points are awarded for how you rank during the inner-game tournaments. The game alternates between these inner-game tournaments and a buy/sell/trade/deck-build phase until you've held three tournaments. We didn't have time to finish the whole thing. We did 2 tournaments and one buy/sell/trade/deck-build phase. I lost. It was a bit of a strange game.

At another board-game meetup I played another game of Mystic Vale. I lost. I still find the core mechanic interesting from a technical perspective, but the game doesn't really speak to me.

After Mystic Vale, we played The Guild of Merchant Explorers which I really enjoyed. It's a quick game with simple mechanics, but I found the core concept and theming to be very engaging and fun. It's the first game in quite a while that I played and then immediately put on my wishlist.

It's a "group solitaire" kind of game played in 4 rounds. In each round you build out trade routes on your map (everyone has their own, identical map--no resource contention with other players). Everyone can play each turn simultaneously which keeps things moving. With your trade routes you score points in various ways (connecting cities, exploring ruins, building villages, etc.). Most points wins.

The game comes with 4 different maps to play and several different objective cards (3 used per game). There's randomization of how you can build your trade routes and players get asymmetric special-building powers that really drive differences in play between players. So there's some decent variety built in. With 3 of us playing for the first time I think we completed a 4-player game in 30-45 minutes.

Books April 2024

10:48 pm

Books I finished reading in April 2024.

Axiomatic by Greg Egan

This is a collection of short stories by Greg Egan which I really enjoyed. The stories are usually hard-sci-fi nuggets--explorations of "what if this were true about the universe?"

Some really great, though-provoking pieces.

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A "first contact" story. But it's not about space-faring species exploring the final frontier. Nor a nascent space-exploring species being welcomed into the intergalactic fold.

More of an exploration of what happens when fate puts a pre-industrial civilization at the center of an intergalactic incident.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks

Sacks recounts the development of modern chemistry through the lens of his childhood in England before, during, and after World War II.

A time when an 11-year-old kid could wander down to a supply shop and come home with all manner of caustic, toxic, and explosive chemicals to play with.

Wild in how fundamentally different his youth was from anything that would be considered "normal" today.

And finally, The Father Thing by Philip K. Dick; which I read as a standalone short story. I think it qualifies as American Gothic in style--a brief horror story about an invasive species.

Garage Door Painting

April 29, 2024 5:37 pm

The paint on the garage door was in need of a refresh. It was puckering, buckling, chipping, and peeling in sections across the lower half of the door (which gets direct sunlight for about half the year). So on Saturday I scraped, sanded, and pressure washed the door. And on Sunday the girls helped me prime and paint it.

I don't have a before picture, so you'll just have to trust me that it needed the work. You can see how badly faded the paint is by comparing the finished door to the wall on either side which was originally the same color.

Solar Eclipse April 2024

April 14, 2024 7:21 pm

As Jess' parents happen to live directly in the path of totality, the girls' Spring Break was the week prior, and the eclipse was on a Monday we decided the conditions were just about perfect for us to head out and hope to enjoy the show.

I booked flights on Southwest months ago as soon as the booking window opened. So on Wednesday April 3 we headed off to San Jose and flew through Denver to Little Rock. Despite seeming to have plenty of time we ended up barely making our flight and they closed the jetway door after letting Jess on as the last passenger. But we made it.

We picked up our rental car and headed off to the house, stopping at Chick-fil-A for dinner along the way.

On Thursday, Corinne and I did a little exploring of the property and found what I presume are cow skulls scattered around the edge of the neighbor's land for....some reason....

Corinne had had a fever and cough for the 3 days before our trip, but was surprisingly fine for the plane rides. Then her cough became pretty much constant. We had told the girls we'd go bowling on the trip and figured we better do that on Thursday before the area got busy with other umbraphiles. So, we went into town for bowling, just as we started the 10th frame Jess' phone appointment with a doctor for Corinne called, so she went off to somewhere quiet to take that call. I bowled her 10th frame for her: I bowled 4 strikes out of 6 throws! 2 almost-Turkeys in a row!

Well, the doctor diagnosed Corinne's cough as croup and prescribed a steroid. This timing was convenient since we were in town already. Heather and Corinne went back to the house with Papa and Bubbie while Jess and I went to the pharmacy for the prescription and a humidifier. Conveniently the prescription was filled in about 5 minutes and we were on our way.

And that was the last time we left the house until it was time to come home. Our plan had to be hunker down on the assumption that everything was going to be crazy busy. We have no idea if that happened though since we never ventured out into it.

On Friday, Cameron & Nichole and kids (+ dog) came up to visit for the weekend too. The girls were enamored of their little kids.

Along with using a humidifier, and taking the steroid Corinne was advised to get some cool night air to soothe her lungs. So on Friday night I bundled her up in layers of blankets and we went and sat on the porch. She was cozy.

On Saturday there was hanging about the house. Corinne did a lot of sleeping as she recovered. Heather played a lot of Stardew Valley. We had s'mores out on the porch that evening.

Sunday was Cal's 2nd birthday, so there was cake and presents. The dog was nonplussed about the whole thing. Heather played more Stardew Valley.

Monday was finally Eclipse Day, but nothing to see until the afternoon. The girls continued to be enamored of the little ones (I'm realizing the infant isn't in any of these pictures so far, but there was also an infant).

And then, finally, it was time! Sunday had been overcast all day and a storm front was forecast to move in Monday evening, but luckily Monday afternoon was just some wispy clouds. They could have been anywhere else in the sky, but we weren't that lucky.

I set up the camcorder to record us figuring future us might care about seeing the people there rather than the sun, but I really do wish I had grabbed it and swung it around the area and shown the sky. Oh well. Next time. In 2045. Here's how the five minutes around totality went for us:

And after 3 minutes and 25 seconds of totality--it was over. It was pretty cool. We could see what was presumably Venus and at least one star. Looking up at the sun was like someone had taken a hole punch and just punched a hole through the sky where the sun was supposed to be. Just a jet black "hole" surrounded by a ring of fire.

We brought some games with us and over the course of the visit played a
couple games of Wyrmspan, a game of Kodama, and a game of Ex Libris. I
also played some Exploding Kittens and Cobra Paw with the girls. And Corinne and I completed the Minecraft puzzle she got for her birthday.

Cameron and Nichole headed home that evening and the next morning we were off to the airport.

Which was not without its own adventure though. About 45 minutes into the drive Corinne threw up all over herself (she had also thrown up Monday night at dinner time, but after getting cleaned up felt fine and ate dinner). She also felt nauseated Thursday morning and stayed home from school, was okay during the day, and was nauseated again that evening (she's been okay the last couple days). No idea what that was all about.

We were on the highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic heading into Little Rock with no resources beyond our luggage, so we got off the highway and found the closest gas station (which was not exactly nearby). I bought a roll of paper towels and filled up a water bottle and cleaned up the car as best I could while Jess worked with Corinne to get her out of her clothes (to the dumpster they went) and get clean clothes out of the luggage.

I figured we'd be paying a cleaning fee, but when I dropped off the car and told them what had happened the response was "Yah, that happens sometimes. We have a guy who details them, thanks for cleaning up as much as you did." So I said, "Okay, just make sure they clean down in the seat-belt buckle well or come summer someone's going to leave the car in the sun for a few hours and then they will not be happy." And that was that (maybe we'll get a cleaning fee later, who knows).

With Corinne Dramamined for the flights home we proceeded back across the country via Las Vegas and then we were home that evening.