Gen Con

Last week I went to Gen Con. Yeah, it’s a board game convention… apparently the largest one in the world. I’d believe it, after seeing tens of thousands of people gathering in Indianapolis to spend five days playing board (and video) games. I never would’ve thought of going to something like it– in fact, it was my first “con”– but Aron and Derek went last year and thought it would be fun if the Magnificent Seven could reunite there. As it turned out, Bech and Mat couldn’t make it, but five of the seven did. Aron, Derek, Morgan, Dirk, and I all had a great time together. We hadn’t spent more than a few hours as a group in probably twenty years, so it was good to hang out and reconnect. Oh, and we played some games.

Dominion is my favorite board/card game, so I introduced Aron to it on the first day. Morgan and Derek learned it the second day. And Dirk picked it up the third. Although all of them liked it, no one took to it quite like Dirk. He absolutely fell in love with Dominion. On Saturday he and I played for eight hours straight as we tested several different expansion versions. Then on Sunday we spent another four hours at it. Afterward he bought the game in the vendors’ hall, took it home, and that night introduced his family to it. According to him, he “converted” them just as I’d converted him. Yay!

Of course it led to a few jokes, which I immortalized into some memes.

The games filled the Indianapolis Colts’ stadium, as well as the mammoth Indiana Convention Center and surrounding hotels. Here’s a shot of the stadium, showing hundreds of games in session.

Apparently nearly anything can be turned into a board game, if you have the vision. Yes, even a bad 80’s movie starring Kurt Russell.

Some of the games featuring “miniatures” were quite impressive. There was fantasy stuff, medieval castles, World War I and World War II scenarios, Star Wars battles, and on and on. Although I’m not into that sort of gaming, I could tell some people really were. I mean, look at how much fun these guys are having. It’s fun, guys, right? RIGHT?

Just about everyone who plays board games these days has played Settlers of Catan. It’s widely regarded as the seminal game that started a revival. So not surprisingly, there were all kinds of t-shirts honoring the grandfather of today’s board games.

(Of course, if you don’t play Catan, you won’t get any of those jokes…)

All in all, it was a fabulous weekend and a ton of fun to hang out with my best friends from 30 years ago.

Thanks, TSA

For my airline flight from Indianapolis back to Denver last night, I had the best experience with TSA security that I’ve had in decades.

I walked up to the line, which only had two people, showed my boarding pass and ID, and moved over to the security scanner. As I opened my duffel bag to pull out my laptop and put it in a tray, the TSA officer told me to keep everything in the bag. I just needed to pop off my sandals and set them in the tray, then run everything through the x-ray machine. I walked straight through the metal detector, retrieved my bag and shoes, and was off to the concourse. The total time? Around two minutes. Oh, and the security officer was friendly and chatty– a far cry from the usual dour faces I see around there.

It was so refreshing. If only it was more common than once in twenty years…

XVII

Today is Zaque’s seventeenth birthday. Wow– the years fly past. He had kind of a low-key day, but enjoyed several of his gifts.

Mom (I mean grandma) noticed during our trip to the City Museum that Zaque loved the little miniature hands and feet. I think she snuck back into the gift shop after we finished our visit and bought them. He was laughing so hard when he opened up the gift and put them on his hand:

Then he opened the custom mug I made for him.

After what he did to me on Father’s Day, revenge was sweet. Here’s what the mug looked like:

For dinner we’re going to have some steak– his favorite meal– followed by chocolate eclairs, which are (news to me) his favorite dessert. Luckily they’re my favorite dessert too!

Happy birthday to my “little” boy! (Who, incidentally, is now as tall as I am.)

The Loch

With Thom and Katie visiting for the weekend, we had planned to summit a Fourteener (Torreys Peak) on Saturday, but the weather conspired against us so we had to scale back our hike a bit. We ended up driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park, where we hiked a few miles past Alberta Falls (near the perennial favorite Emerald Lake trail) to a beautiful alpine lake called The Loch. Saturdays in mid-summer are quite busy at the park, but we found the trail to be much less trafficked than I’d expected.

Sefton, a little over a year old now, thoroughly enjoyed the hike.

Of course, I’d probably enjoy it more too if I was in a comfy carrier, complete with a sun shade.

We passed quite a few little waterfalls as the trail paralleled the mountain stream.

After about three miles we crested a hill to see the Loch. It’s quite large, and (like many lakes in the park) it’s framed beautifully by mountains.

We rested for a while, enjoying the warm summer sun and a gentle breeze across the water. I told Laralee to look “reflective” as she sat on a rock at the lake’s edge.

Then I joined her and snuck a quick peck.

Sefton, freed from his carrier, loved climbing around on the rocks and gesturing at everything.

It’s always fun to watch the master photographer at work.

I’m sure Thom’s pictures will turn out far more spectacular than mine, even though we were in the same place and my camera is better than his. Still, I enjoyed experimenting with some artistic shots.

Oh, and not surprisingly, there was a chipmunk.

After relaxing at the lake for a while, we headed back down the trail. It rained most of the way back, although it was more of a light sprinkle and felt refreshing on the dusty trail. All in all, a great day. Laralee and I will tackle Torreys Peak sometime soon.

Steamboat Springs, redux

This weekend we headed up to Steamboat Springs with the same crazy friends from two years ago. The only difference was a profound lack of Kyra.

We stayed in a magnificent ski cabin right next to the main gondola, although ski resorts look radically different in the summer compared with the winter. It was a great location, and we were able to bum around town, enjoy the activities, and see the sights.

We played an 18-hold miniature golf course. Zaque picked out the shortest club available, and kept referring to it as his “thunder stick”.

Laralee crushed us in the front nine.

Here’s my sweet purple golf ball, all lined up to hit par 2.

Before we started, Zaque and I agreed that the loser between the two of us would owe the winner “a favor”. I’m not quite sure what that meant, but I figured I could have him do chores or something when it wasn’t technically his turn. We seesawed back and forth through the entire game, but when all was said and done, the scorecard said:

Jeff – 56
Zaque – 57
Laralee – 57

Par was something like 44, but we didn’t pay attention to that. It was a nice tight game, and now I get a favor!

On Saturday morning, we got up before dawn to hit the annual Balloon Rodeo. It didn’t disappoint. I snuck in a few artistic shots before the balloons launched. We were standing beside a lake, and the chill air of the early morning formed a beautiful mist on the water.

As the sun peeked over the mountains, the balloons inflated and slowly took to the air. Not surprisingly, I ended up with roughly a hundred photos of them, most of which look pretty much the same. I like all the bright colors of hot-air balloons.

Viva la Colorado!

The crowd was pretty big– not surprising, since it was a beautiful summer morning.

Here’s a lot of color.

That night, the balloonists set up at the base of the ski area for a “balloon glow” event. Unfortunately it was a little breezy, which prevented them from inflating the balloons (they didn’t intend to fly– they were just going to illuminate them on the ground). Instead, they set up the baskets and flared the jets for about half an hour, even allowing spectators to control the flames.

Laralee and I both liked this shot, where the flame looks a bit like a seahorse:

Yep, it was a great time with great friends, as always.

Another visit to memory lane

Laralee and I continue chipping away at the vast piles of stuff we’ve accumulated over the course of our marriage. We plan to move in a year or so, and don’t want to drag all of this to the new place (wherever that may be) so we agreed to spend the next year getting rid of things.

Today I went through six boxes from the depths of the crawlspace. Two of them had my college textbooks. Yep, it’s interesting to see a stack of them that probably cost me a thousand dollars back in the day:

This was only a third of the textbooks I’d kept. Of course when I flipped through them, I was reminded about how much I knew once upon a time.

So those will be heading to Goodwill, who apparently will take old textbooks. I have no idea who buys them, but I suppose if someone decides they want to learn quantum mechanics, they’ll be thrilled to find my old book.

Then there was a box of day planners. Back in 1992, my first year as a resident assistant, the Department of Residential Life (“reslife”) provided all of the RA’s with little planners and encouraged us to use them. We had a number of responsibilities, and I found that it came in handy. From that day until sometime around 2012, I used a day planner. Every year I’d buy another one, and bring it everywhere with me to jot down notes and appointments and make sure I was crossing things off my to-do list.

As it happens, I flipped open to this page in my 1993 planner:

Cool! On May 10 I picked up my car (yep, my very first car). The next day I installed a new stereo in it, after finishing my astrophysics final of course.

Oh, and the box with instructions for my original Lego sets. Here’s my very first space Lego set!

Two more boxes had my electric train stuff. It contained dozens of train cars, boxes of track, and things like gas stations and a theater and all those other things I built from kits for my big train setup in the basement as a kid. Years ago, I figured my boys would like to play with it, but it sat forgotten in the crawlspace, and now it’s too late.

I was going to just toss all of it, but decided to call a local hobby store to see if they even sold HO-scale electric trains these days. It turns out they don’t, but they knew a guy named Warren who collected them. They gave me his number, I called, and he was happy to accept them. He told me I could leave them at the store for him to pick up, and mentioned that if he sold any of it on eBay he’d be willing to split the profits. I replied that I didn’t care, but after hanging up, I was curious and hopped on eBay to see what sorts of prices a thirty-year-old train set might bring. As it turns out, individual Tyco cars in their original boxes (which I have) sell for anywhere from five to twenty dollars apiece. Who knew?

Finally I stumbled upon a small box that contained my original Star Wars action figures. I only have about twenty, but they’re original, circa 1980.

Again out of curiosity, I checked eBay because I know people trade these things. I found a Boba Fett just like the one sitting on top of my box above, and it was listed at $40. The little gun my stormtrooper is holding? Ten dollars. For just the gun. It’s crazy. That little box is easily worth hundreds of dollars.

So, once again it was fun to dig through some nostalgic stuff, and as I take it to Goodwill and the hobby store (and the trash can, in some cases), it’s funny to think of the thousands upon thousands of dollars I spent on it over time… and even what some of it is worth now, if I only had the desire to spend effort selling it on eBay. Oh well. Hopefully Warren can make something.

Pedantic

I was at the gas station last night and saw this sign.

Am I the only one who notices the problem? Ugh, it’s the little things…

Missouri

Over the weekend we trucked (well, mini-vanned) out to Missouri to visit the larger Schroeder Clan. It was a great trip, with a lot of fun times around the pool (of course!) as well as a trip to the St. Louis City Museum, which I’d heard of but never seen. If I had to describe it in a word, that word would be “eclectic”.

Here are some photos of our adventures…

Zaque “hangs loose” as he cruises through somewhere in Kansas:

My beautiful wife:

There was a little jar of M&M’s in the kitchen, and Laralee kept sneaking handfuls (handsful?) of them, while commenting that no one would suspect her, and would blame the younger kids. Sure enough, they got the blame.

Some mammatus clouds near sunset:

A caged Zaque at the City Museum:

Zaque’s strange attraction to tiny hands was given new life when he found tiny feet.

Some evening Sudoku on the patio:

Two handsome guys with their Hawai’ian shirts (you can hardly even tell we’re related):

And a few pieces of kameraspielen as I experimented:

Yep, good times all around. We’ll be back again sometime next year…

WikiHow

In the spirit of crowd-sourced instruction, the WikiHow site is a great resource to learn to do various things. Many of the instructional guides include drawings to illustrate what’s being taught, and there’s an entire Reddit group dedicated to taking these drawings and using them to illustrate an entirely different concept. Some of the ones that made me laugh out loud:

How to Cannibalize Your Uncle as a Family

How to Maximize “Quiet Time” for Your Kindergarten Class

How to Remember You Have Legs

How to Physically Delete an Annoying Student

How to Tell Someone Their Diet Failed

How to Think of a Rhyme for “Spaghetti”

How to Use “Enhanced Interrogation” to Find Out Who Tore Up the Living Room

How to Escalate a Thumb War

How to Embarrass a Horse at a Sleepover

That’s helpful

Me: What do all these buttons do?
Manufacturer: Here’s a helpful diagram to explain.

It’s important!

This just came in the mail…

Any time an envelope says Important Information, I know it must really be important. Because they wouldn’t be allowed to put that on the envelope if it wasn’t true, right?

Back to BYU

After a few months living at home, Alex is heading back to BYU for the summer semester. He (wisely) decided that staying in Longmont wasn’t helping him “move forward” with his college and career goals, so he registered for three classes and will be starting next week.

Now that he has a car, it’s much easier for all of us– we don’t have to plan a couple of days to drive out to Utah and back. This morning he loaded everything into his car. I remember the days when everything I owned in the world fit into a single car…

He even had enough room for a passenger. And this is a Honda Civic coupe!

After everything was settled and Laralee had double-checked every last detail, he was ready to head out.

And he’s off! (He even learned to drive stick shift in the last week, so he’s rolling smoothly along without killing the clutch.)

We’ll miss having him around, of course, but I know he’ll have a good time during the summer.

Solstice

Fifteen hours of daylight today! I thought the summer solstice would be an apropos time to take a few sunset photos. I biked a few miles to McIntosh Lake and waited for the sun to dip to the horizon. It was pretty cloudy, so unfortunately I couldn’t actually see much of the sun, but I managed to get a few decent shots.

I’m always a little sad to know the days will be getting shorter now, but there’s still a lot of summer ahead…

Tongs

This… speaks to me. Maybe I’ll do it.

All hail the hail

Alex and I headed out to play some ultimate today. When we arrived at the field, there were overcast skies and it was sprinkling lightly. No big deal, although sometimes it’s a little tricky playing with a slippery disc. We started our game.

Then the rain started coming down a bit harder. Still not a big deal; by that time all fifteen of us were pretty wet, but when you’re already wet it doesn’t matter if you get a little wetter, right? We played on.

Then the lightning started coming closer. We paused to count the time between the flash and the bang, to approximate the distance, and decided it was okay. Over the next few minutes, though, it became not okay. The flash-bang dropped suddenly to just a few seconds, and the skies were lighting up all around us. We called off the game and started picking up the cones. A huge bolt of lightning hit right across the street with a deafening crack of thunder. Yep, time to clear the field!

Then the hail started. While driving home, the skies opened up and the rain was coming down in sheets. Hail mixed in with it, and there were roughly quarter-size chunks of ice everywhere. It was coming down hard, too. My car was rattling and banging with the impacts. The roads were covered in ice.

With all the rain that had come down, there were rivers of water running across the roads and along the gutters. People were hitting them at full speed and splashing water 10-15 feet in the air. (People! Slow down!)

When we arrived back home, Alex and I changed out of our absolutely soaked clothes and decided to head out for some pizza. This is the view as we walked through the neighborhood to our local pizza parlor:

Yeah. That’s less than thirty minutes after the pouring hail. Crazy.

Lies, all lies

For Father’s Day, Zaque had a mug custom made for me. It says “My son kicks my butt in Munchkin”.

It’s pretty clever, and of course it only invites retaliation. On his birthday I’ll have to come up with something good.

On the afternoon of Father’s Day, he and Alex and I played some Munchkin. I trounced them both. Twice. Take that!

Lavender

Occasionally I’ll find a spider in my basement office. They’re usually fairly small wolf spiders– very common around here, and completely harmless. I just squish them with a tissue and go on with my work.

A couple of nights ago, Laralee went down to my office to get something, and came screaming back upstairs. “There are so many spiders in your office!” I went down and, indeed, there were maybe four sitting quietly in various spots. Maybe the cool evening air made them come out of hiding, or maybe they come out of hiding every evening and I just don’t notice because I’m not in the basement. In any case, I squished them as usual.

Then Laralee got a spray bottle and added some essential oils to it: lavender and peppermint, I believe. She proceeded to spray the heck out of my office, hitting all of the baseboards and corners and spider hidey-holes. For good measure, she doused the rest of the basement. Imagine a bomb exploding, but instead of throwing shrapnel it throws lavender smells. It was something like that.

Now, two days later, I’m back in my office. There are no spiders. And it smells like a flowery garden. Yay lavender!