Saturday, August 31, 2013

I am definitely NOT back...

...at least not the way that I want to be.

Sally and my friend Ben and I ran this morning, and for as much as I want to feel like I'm running well--or at least better--this morning, it was rough.

6.5 miles at almost exactly a 9:00/mile pace.

On Intervention in Syria

I'm gonna go ahead and say this now just to get it on record before the war starts.  I don't want you guys to think I'm un-American in wartime, but now, before the war starts and while we're still debating the proper course of action, now is the proper time to express an opinion.

This attack on Syria is a stupid, stupid idea.

And I'm annoyed at our so-called liberal President for his apparent close-mindedness on the issue.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Hair Metal: Right Here, Right Now

I'm in a Sammy Hagar kind of mood.  What does that say about me, exactly?

And if that's not enough of a mind-trip for you, this video is from a year ago, which means that it has David Lee Roth fronting the band again, singing one of the Hagar-era hits.


Eh.  I take it back.  YouTube, I posted this video because of false advertising!

The Cosmology of Wanderhaven

I started working on the Wanderhaven tab of the blog today and eventually decided to integrate the Cosmology I wrote as part of my personal notes back a few months ago.  But once I had it all laid out in one piece, I realized that the Cosmology was way too much for the general overview I'd had in mind for just that one tab, so I'm gonna drop the full Cosmology here and then link to it off of the other page.

I confess that I probably wouldn't have done it this way if I'd had anything else written for the blog today.  But I don't, so there you have it.  I've no idea who'll be interested in this stuff--maybe nobody--but if you are interested, well, at least now you've got something to read today.

And anyway, who doesn't need a refresher in ancient Roman spiritual beliefs?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Warlocks in D&D Next

Last week I posted a little Swordmage homebrew for D&D Next, and people seemed to like it.  Got a goodly amount of feedback on it, some truly awesome folks followed a few of the Google Ads through to whatever sites they were advertising, and bottom line, I felt good about having put something out there that got people interested.  Plus, Swordmage seemed like kind of a logical homebrew considering that it doesn’t seem like Wizards of the Coast (WotC) plans to include an independent swordmage and/or bladesinger (gish) class in D&D Next—at least in their initial rules releases, anyway—which means that if you feel the need to have one in the game, you’re gonna have to homebrew it any which way you slice it.  
That’s a shame because, as I noted last week, a fighter/mage and a swordmage are not exactly the same thing.  To me, a fighter/mage is like an engineer who boxed in college.  Yeah, he knows how to fight, and yeah, he may also know how to design a bridge or a building, but these skill sets are not in any way related.  They simply exist at the same time in the same multi-talented body.  Contrast that with a true Combat Engineer, however, and you can see the difference.  True, our Boxer/Engineer and Combat Engineer may not have mutually exclusive skill sets, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to fight in anything like the same kinds of ways.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Better

I was tired yesterday. Between being busy at work and putting in a harder-than-I'd-intended run yesterday during lunch, by the time I got home, it kinda felt like I'd been hit by a truck. We had a late dinner, struggled to get the kids ready for bed--and for school today--and then sat down to watch TV. And then we (finally) went to bed, with me taking a couple of Advil and doing fifteen minutes or so of yoga before laying down to go to sleep.

I should do that very night. 

The Advil calmed the tendons around my right ankle, which have been sore since the beach run Sunday morning but really flared after yesterday's run, and the yoga loosened up my back, and for once, I fell straight into a dead sleep.  I won't say I felt great when I woke up this morning, but I felt okay, and for whatever reason, I looked thinner in the mirror this morning, like I'd finally lost all the weight I put on while we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago. 

Where I really noticed the difference, though, was on the bike ride into the office his morning. I made no particular effort to ride hard and didn't have any real luck with traffic lights, but I still feel like I rode we'll, and objectively speaking, I made it into the office in a mere twenty-one minutes--a pretty good time overall. I don't keep score every day, but when I do, twenty minutes is about the best I ever do without hitting all the green lights.

At this point, I kind of feel like, finally, I'm coming out of my post-vacation funk. I felt good running on Sunday, especially during warm-ups, and I felt good today, and it seems like I've managed to trim the extra pounds from vacation at long last. Ten days for six pounds; that seems reasonable, right?  Anyway, the acid test will come tonight when I hit the pool--and the scale--but who knows?  Maybe I can still close the Tri season out on a high note after all.  

I still feel ready for a break, but it'd be way better to go out on a high note. 

Wednesday Nonsense

Saw this in CM Punk's Twitter feed this morning. For what it's worth, the WWE may not be the most forward thinking company in America, I don't know, but they make excellent and impressive use of social media. 



So yeah.  The actual match, Natalya vs. Brie Bella, is totally unwatchable.  But then A.J. Lee comes on and cuts what has to be one of the better promos they've had on the show this year, and as tough as she is on those girls, I gotta agree with her.  Every word she says is true.

All I'm saying is, since Summer Slam, the promotion has taken a step away from A.J., and with that, my girls and I have more or less stopped paying attention.

***
While we're talking about the important issues in the world, let me just say, for what it's worth, that I personally do not think that the case for intervention in Syria is very strong.  Yes, I admit that Assad is asshole who has used poison gas on his own people--like Saadam Hussein before him.  His regime isn't doing the world any good, and he personally probably has it coming.

But.  When you consider military intervention, it's worth asking what it is that you're hoping to achieve with it.  What are your War Aims?  And in this case, it's not at all clear that the U.S. actually has War Aims of any kind.  They're talking about a limited air strike; that will accomplish exactly nothing.  If they do something heavier, they may succeed in giving the rebels a chance to bring down Assad, but that's not assured by any means, nor is it assured that the new government would be better or more favorable than the current regime.  In fact, it seems likely that the new government would also be a bunch of assholes.

So, bottom line, if there does not appear to be any concrete way in which your intervention can actually help the situation, taking action is not advisable.  In fact, it's stupid because you not only play your hand, you play your hand in order to win nothing.  This is not an argument in favor of taking action.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday Odds and Ends

I've been trying to find the motivation to write something all day.  And failing.  Instead of that, here's a collage of crap that I've been thinking about today.

Word came out over the weekend that Marvel's in talks with Bradley Cooper to be
the voice of Rocket Raccoon.  By all logic, that shouldn't matter to much to me. 
Seriously, though, I haven't been this excited about a movie in a while.  And the
damn thing doesn't even come out for another year.
Sally bought me a six pack of Weed Amber Ale today.  And as I'm drinking
it--sober this time--I see now why they didn't call it an IPA.  Really, it tastes
more like a super-hoppy pilsner.  I suppose you could call it the most east coast
IPA ever, but that would just confuse the market.  So Amber Ale is probably right.
Two Roads put this picture of the Shore 2 Pour start today on Facebook.  If you
look close, I'm right in the center--red hat, no short.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tri Training Diary: 8/19 - 8/26 (Week 1)

Coming off of vacation and then last week's race, I'm not gonna lie--I've been struggling to stay focused.  We did a small tri last weekend and then we went to a beer festival, and that was great, but after that, I was ready to just kick back with a beer and let life come to me.  I don't know that that's a problem, per se, but it doesn't fuel the kind of training that keeps a guy's edge in the midst of a long season.

But this is why you put yourself on a team or in a club.  Because even when you don't have your best stuff, even when you can't find your best bits of motivation, you at least still have to show up.  And when you show up, good things can still happen even when you don't have the best intentions.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Shore 2 Pour

The race turned out to be 2.8-miles over lose sand at Short Beach in Stratford.  Ouch!  But the after-party was well worth it.


My buddies, post-race.
I know, right?

Plus, I finally got to try Roadsmarry's Baby, Two Roads' pumpkin autumn seasonal.  Quite an awesome beer, and a good stand-in for lunch, post-race.

If you're wondering, I went a shade under 23:00, finishing somewhere in the top third.  But I felt like I struggled, so frankly, that's a better finish than I probably deserved.

Beer Review: Shed Brewery IPA

I was at my local liquor store a couple of weeks ago and saw Shed Brewery's India Pale Ale (IPA), and decided to give it a try.  According to the bottle, Shed was born is Stowe, Vermont, way back in 1965, but these days it's brewed in Middlebury.  I don't remember offhand why I decided that I needed a Vermont IPA, but then again, it's not like a reason is actually needed, right?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Heard on Twitter

New Concept Art

Rocket Raccoon!


Amazing, right?

Friday, August 23, 2013

What kind of beer is Dwarven Ale?

The foaming mug emblem of
Clan Battlehammer,
the dwarves of
R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt novels.
It's Friday; I just got home and poured myself a beer.  


I spent part of the day today working on the campaign I'm hoping to run sometime soon--God willing that I have the time--and one of the major NPCs is a dwarf clan leader.  Campaign kind'a needs a macguffin.  Anyway, it occurred to me that this dwarf clan might brew beer, that dwarves are famous for their brewing, and that I have no idea what Dwarven Ale, famous as it is, actually looks or tastes like.

Now, my first thought was that obviously dwarves must brew stouts, but as I'm thinking about it, I realized that doesn't work.  Dwarven ale is always described as being foamy, and there aren't a lot of stouts that have a lot of head.  Barrel-aged stout in particular is only gonna give you a tiny amount of head--half a finger if you're lucky--so, well, stout is out.  Meanwhile, hefeweizen can give you plenty of head, but do dwarves grow wheat?  And anyway, wheat beer is not all that strong.  Doesn't really seem appropriate. 

So...?  Maybe a white IPA, with the extra hops meant to keep the beer fresh for travel?  Double IPA?  Maybe a brown ale double-fermented in metal casks?

These are the kinds of questions that drive me crazy when I write.

The Weed Beer Festival at Lake Quassy Amusement Park (Pt. 2)

I started talking about the Weed Beer Festival at Quassy Amusement Park yesterday; that’s the one that Sally and I attended while our kids rode the Wooden Warrior over and over and over again.  As promised, here’s part two…
After Sally and I left the actual Weed table, we started going down the rows, intent on sampling everything.  That turned out to be something of a challenge, but I wanted to give it the old college try, and if you ask me, it definitely was a thing that was worth trying.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Weed Beer Festival at Lake Quassy Amusement Park (Pt. 1)

Last weekend was busy.  So busy, in fact, that I’m only now getting around to writing about Sunday, which was by far the more exciting of the two days.  But I didn’t want to start writing about Sunday until I had time to sit down and do it all justice, so…  
Well, sorry for the delay; hopefully it’ll be worth it.
So.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sally and I ran a race on Saturday.  After that, we kind of just laid around, not really doing a bunch.  Then we got up Sunday and did a little housework before taking the kids to Lake Quassy Amusement Park.  They were having the first (hopefully) annual Weed Beer Festival, and we’d bought  tickets in advance with the idea of riding some rides and then drinking some beer.  And that is just what we did.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Updated Weekly Schedule

I updated the Weekly Schedule page for the blog yesterday because, bottom line, I haven't been following the schedule lately.  Here's the latest and greatest, and if you have some thoughts on it, believe me when I tell you that I'd love to hear them.  The blog is kind of an open-ended project, but I know folks are reading, and I'd really like to get some feedback to hear what those readers think of what's going on here.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

D&D Next Homebrew Swordmage (Aug. 2013 Playtest Packet)

I’ve made it no secret on this blog that my favorite class in D&D’s Fourth Edition (4e) was the Swordmage.  I liked the class because it was versatile, and because as a 4e player, versatility was the thing I prized the most.  
But I also liked it because it was evocative.  I liked the book Swordmage and liked the whole concept of a close combat wizard—a guy who could get in close to bad guys and then explode with power to lay them out.  I even liked the idea that to be a swordmage, you had to be both smart and tough.  Smart because smarts are what it takes to learn spells; tough because only tough guys go hand-to-hand with monsters.  Bottom line, the whole concept spoke to me, and ever since Wizards of the Coast (WotC) announced D&D Next, I’ve made it a recurring project to try to reimagine the swordmage class through the lens of the various versions of the playtest rules.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Charles Island Sprint

Coming off of our vacation to Maine a week ago, Sally and I raced the (hopefully) first annual Charles Island Sprint triathlon this past weekend.  This race was the second in what is becoming an annual series put on by F.I.R.M. Racing and the Woodruff Family YMCA in Milford, CT.  
The tri scene in coastal Connecticut has been growing rapidly in the last few years, to the point where local Y’s have become competitive with each other.  Not so much in terms of their putting together teams and racing to crown a local YMCA Champion--although that would be an awesome idea, so maybe we should look into that--but more in terms of just trying to offer the best, most comprehensive mix of athletic services and community.  Part of Woodruff’s plan, then, is hosting these races and providing a triathlon club to help get new people involved in the sport and to give experienced racers a community of support on which to draw during the long training season.  I coordinate and coach the Triathlon Club at the Woodruff Family Y, although I’ll be honest up front and admit that I am not by any means the strongest triathlete that the Y itself has to offer.  I am a good swimmer, however, and a good swimming coach, and since that’s the discipline that tends to intimidate people and keep them from giving the sport a try, I feel like I have something to offer folks looking to get involved (or more involved) in triathlon.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

If I was a D&D Character

I never get tired of these...

I Am A: True Neutral Human Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-14
Dexterity-13
Constitution-15
Intelligence-19
Wisdom-13
Charisma-13

Alignment:
True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus.

***
First off, I also scored very high on the Lawful scaled and on the Good scale and very low on the Chaos/Evil scale.  So I think I'm trending more towards either Lawful Neutral or Lawful Good.

Secondly... there's no way my DEX is that high in real life.  I'm average at best.  Truth is, I'm clumsy.

Last: I scored zero (or lower) on every class besides Wizard.  So I guess that I'd be a Wizard in real life if given even half a chance.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Hair Metal: Damn Yankees

Heard these guys on the radio a bunch while we were on vacation for some reason.  Not this song, their other one.  But I like this one better, so...

Lazy Race Week

I’ve got a race this weekend, and if I can tell you something in confidence, it’s that I’m not as fired up for it as I could be.  Truth is, vacation was great, but it hasn’t been real good for my sense of purpose.  I’ve been back a few days now, but physically, I feel like I left a good part of my soul sitting on the dock up by Green Lake, and it’s taking a toll on my focus.  Plus, I gained six pounds while we were gone, and it makes me feel like a fucking beached whale.  I’m sluggish in the water, sluggish when I run, and downright torpid when I try to stretch or do yoga.  I feel okay on the bike, sure, but that’s only because I’ve been riding easy, and because it pays to ride easy when you commute.  Biking in a hurry on New York City streets is a good way to get killed.
*sigh*
I know what you’re thinking, but the truth is that I’m not really thin like that anymore.  Back in high school, yeah, I weighed about 155 lbs, and by the time I was in Beast Barracks, the upper classmen who told me that I looked like a refugee from a concentration camp were, I can admit, being tough but fair.  And it’s not like I ever really gained much weight in the years immediately afterwards.  Throughout my time at the Academy, I swam at a weight of around 162 lbs, and if I’m being honest, it would have been easier for me to drop weigh than to put it on.  
After my swimming career ended, I made a decided effort to get un-skinny.  I spent the last few months at the Academy lifting hard with a couple of my buddies, and by the time we graduated, I was already up to just over 170 lbs.  By the time I was in Korea, I was lifting weights every day and drinking plenty of beer—that got me up to about 195 lbs.  And then I left the Army and gained some serious weight, getting all the way up to 235 lbs before realizing that it was getting out of control.  I started exercising again and didn’t have much trouble getting back down under 200 lbs, but even now as an in-season triathlete, it takes real work for me to stay under about 192 lbs.  I went on a crash diet a couple of years ago using the Lose-It app on my phone and a carefully controlled diet that I built using the Thrive system, and I still only managed to get down to 186 lbs.  
So, bottom line, I’m just not some skinny kid any more.  Like it or not, that’s just not who I am.
Anyway, I came back from vacation at 198 lbs, and frankly, it amazed me because it’s not like we were particularly sedentary while we were gone.  Granted, it wasn’t my normally demanding routine, but I swam a lot, we hiked a TON, and we even rode a little bit.  I admit that I probably didn’t get my heart rate up over 110 bpm very often—in fact, probably not ever, except when we were climbing on the bikes a couple of times—but what do you expect?  We were on vacation.  
Anyway, I guess the weight gain is down mostly to too much beer and rich food.  I don’t know how else to explain it.
Regardless, it’s been affecting how I feel this week, especially swimming.  I have no idea what it’s gonna do to my racing this weekend, but it can’t possibly be good.  I mean, I feel like I can go long just fine.  But going fast?  Right now, I’m having trouble remembering why anyone would even want to.

***
I may be a little behind the power curve on this one, but can I ask what the Hell Johnny Manziel is supposed to have to that's so bad that it deserves NCAA scrutiny?  Or any scrutiny?

My man sold autographs for money.  His autographs, on copies of his own likeness, which are both things to which he undoubtedly holds all rights and trademarks.  But the NCAA is investigating him for inappropriate behavior, all while its selling his jerseys without even cutting him in on a percentage of the profits.  

How is that even legal?

Fact is, I don't understand what the NCAA is driving at here.  What if Manziel had been hired by the Washington Post to write a weekly column on college football?  Would he be allowed to make money for that?  What about if he'd decided to major in Journalism, making the column an undisputed part of his future career?  And if not, then how is that different than working at McDonalds?  For that matter, how is it different than selling autographs?    These things are jobs, for which you can be paid.  One is freelance writing, one is retail, one is straight-up sales.  All are the kind of thing that people all around the world do every day to make a living.  Granted, not everyone's autograph is worth something, but so what?  If Manziel's signature and likeness are valuable, surely it's only because he's worked to make them so.  

Like it or not, Manziel is as much in the business of celebrity as he is in the business of football, and based on the kind of success we've seen from people like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, I have to conclude that, yes, celebrity is a legitimate business.  It might not be easy, but it certainly is possible to make a living at it.  That Manziel happens to making a go of it only means that he's acting in the interests of his future career--a thing that the collegiate system ought to encourage rather than bar.  It's a tough economy out there, in case you hadn't noticed.

I only bring it up because I personally swam competitively all four years while I was in college at a Division I school.  And I was paid.  Every month, all four years.  Granted, I went to the Military Academy, but that only means that the checks never bounced.  And yeah, you may argue that I wasn't being paid to swim, I was being paid for my service to the Army, and that's true.  But then again, Manziel's not being paid to play football, either.  He's being paid to provide a specific hard trade good--his own signed likeness.  So he's an entrepreneur.  I don't understand why that's considered a crime.  Or football related in any way, really. 

I mean, is he also not allowed to set up a lemonade stand?  'Cause I have a feeling that if he did set one up, it'd be the most successful lemonade stand in Texas.  

Especially if they put his picture on the cups.

***
And that's all I got this week.  I'll let you know how the race goes.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

You decide...

...aggressive fashion choice, or social faux pas?


And does it make me look fat?

Isle de Mont Deserette: A Homebrew Campaign Setting for D&D Next

BACKGROUND AND GENERAL INFORMATION

The Isle de Mont Deserette sits off the extreme northeast coast of the Great Western Isles, approximately four hundred miles north of the city of Wanderhaven, the Kingdom’s northern capital, and a mere hundred yards off the coast of the Western Isles’ mainland.  It lies about two-thirds of the way up the interior coastline of the Charlesford Gulf, the largest in a chain of volcanic formations that together make the area both an excellent natural port and a rock-filled horror for unwary sailors.  Renowned Frankosian explorer Jacques de Charleford discovered the isle some three hundred fifty years ago, during his now infamous expedition to catalogue the land masses of the Western Isles’ far northeastern territories.  He named it after his sometime paramour, the courtesan Desiree Boline de Montville—a slight for which his wife later tried to have him assassinated.  
Mont Deserette and its surrounding islets are mountainous granite and obsidian formations, heavily forested, and rugged in the extreme.  The Isle is today considered the northern tip of the Kingdom’s frontier, and needless to say, it is sparsely populated at best.  The area is known primarily as a haven for fishermen and as the source of the Kingdom’s best bulk lumber, particularly aged pine and oak, although there are also some few stands of teak and mahogany as well as other valuable woods.  In addition to its vast forests, the area is also blessed with a near-infinite supply of workable rare pink granite, but sadly quarrying such and shipping it south has been proven to be ruinously expensive.  Finally, the Isle de Mont Deserette is home to a sizeable community of itinerant hunters and trappers engaged in the fur trade.  Such furs have occasionally been the source of fashion crazes at Court in Wanderhaven and on the Continent, and as a result recent years have seen an increase in the size of the trade.

This campaign setting is based on our vacation to Maine.  I started working on it
for the home-game I play with my kids.  I mention that because this view of
Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain greatly resembles the theoretical view
of Breakwater Bay from Mont Deserette.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bar Harbor's Thunder Hole Ale

Alright. So if you've been to Acadia National Park, then you probably already know that Thunder Hole is a natural rock formation on the southeast coast of Mount Desert Isle andat booms like thunder when the waves come in at about half-tide.  What you may not know, however, is that there is also a ivery fine brown ale from the Bar Harbor Brewing Company by that same name.

I brought some home with me, of course, and this is it. 



Monday, August 12, 2013

I Miss Vacation Already

You have to get away when you go on vacation because sometimes that's the only way to really escape the everyday stresses of your life.

I mean, yeah, it was a long drive home last night, but I swear, as soon as we walked in the door, my kids fell into a funk, and Sally and I started sniping at each other about meaningless bullshit.  Being stuck in the car all day probably had something to do with it, but even more, it was just about the fact that, hey, we're back, and oh look!  All the floors in the house need to be mopped, and some of the tomatoes that we left out on the counter exploded, and oh by the way, who's unloading the car, and how much did that vacation cost?

I took this picture of Sally out on our front deck yesterday morning before
we left.  Then I touched it up using Instagram, my new favorite toy.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back to Reality

Our vacation is coming to an end, and it makes me sad.  We had eight days up here on the lake, living pretty much off he grid, and it was nice.  But now we've got to pack up and drive back--seven hours south and west to Coastal Connecticut. 

Don't get me wrong. Connecticut is not a bad place to live. In fact, after something like thirty-five moves that have taken me all over the country, our adoptive hometown of Stratford is easily one of my favorites. I don't know that it quite beats out Fallbrook, California, but I like it better than I liked either Washington, DC, or Tampa, Florida, and I was very happy in both places. Besides, the one thing that Stratford has that's much more accessible than it is in those other places is the beach. We live all of two miles from Short Beach in Stratford--so close that most of my favorite run routes go down along the water. Those other places have beaches, too, of course, but in every case you have to load up the car and drive at least half and hour or so. In Stratford, it's right there. 

But, y'know, Stratford, Washington, even Tampa, are all places where the hustle and bustle of everyday life is ever present. It's not like I can get away from it. I mean, I like working in Manhattan, but it's still the biggest, bustlingest city in the country.  Going back to reality means going back to the pace of real life. And I guess that's okay, but I know for a fact that I'll need these memories of the serenity of Green Lake to get me through some of the chaotic times ahead. 

As summers go, this certainly hasn't been bad. We've had one week of hot weather--granted, we could always have more--but mostly it's been quiet and relaxed all around.  Even triathlon season is coming to a close. I've got a race next weekend, and another one in early September, and than that's pretty much it for the season. 

*sigh*

We rented a second bike attachment and went out on the carriage roads as a family in Acadia yesterday.  It was a nice day--riding is easily my favorite thing that we do as a family--but even that has to change. Hannah is definitely right up at the weight limit for the attachment; pulling her yesterday was a serious challenge, even though I could feel her helping with her Trail-a-Bike's pedals. But what are you gonna do?  Any way you look at it, Acadia is a hilly and at least moderately challenging place to ride. Sure, I'm okay out there, but I ride every day. For a nine-year-old, the place is a significant obstacle. Fact is, we've got to get her out on the bike a lot more as part of our regular lives. 




Anyway, we went to Bar Harbor for dinner and souvenir shopping after our ride, and that was fun, too. Dinner was terrific--the best we've had in a long time. 

All in all, I have to say that it was a terrific way to close out the trip. 



Now, of course, we have to drive back, but I least I can do it with Sally and the girls. It's nice having them around. 



Saturday, August 10, 2013

D&D Playtest Feedback (Ver. 8/1/13)

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, my daughters are both big D&D fans. We're on vacation in Maine this week, and since we're staying in a cabin without TV or Internet access, we brought quite a few board games to pass the evenings. We started our week playing Dungeon, worked up to The Legend of Drizzt, and by mid-week started a campaign using the latest D&D Next Playtest Rules, the version released late last week (8/1/2013). 

The good thing about the latest version of the ruleset is that it's stripped down. My daughters are smart little girls, but they're 8 and 9 respectively, and the intricacies of the game in its full glory are a little much for them. Likewise, I've been trying to get my wife to play along with us for quite a while, but as she noted at the start, she's more than happy to engage in a game of "Let's make believe" with her family, but she has little to no interest in learning the actual rules for Dungeons and Dragons. The new ruleset succeeded in making the game at least somewhat approachable for her, and in fact, when my kids were ready to just start playing her character for her as the game progressed, she actually muscled her way back into the campaign and re-engaged in the game. I'd call that progress. 

We started out playing in the car on the way down to Mount Desert Island on Wednesday. My daughter's character, Sneakatara "Sneax" Boatman, was sent by ship to the logging town of Ellesburg to broker the purchase of some bulk lumber on behalf of her benefactor, Draks the Fire Elf. Sneax was accompanied by Nathaniel, a half-elf paladin of Mars and one of Draks's innumerable sons, and Nathaniel--my character--in turn brought along Malaika, my wife's half-orc barbarian, as muscle. But in Ellesburg, they learned that one of the logging camps had been attacked by goblins, so their lumber was unavailable.  The local lumber factor therefore introduced our heroes to Zelda, my younger daughter's elf ranger, and soon enough, they were off. 

In the course of re-opening the logging camp, we fought five encounters, against goblins, wolves, a bugbear, cave spiders, and finally an ogre and the giant spider he'd been keeping as a pet. We recovered the missing caravan guard--now desiccated  and webbed over--and the missing lumber shipment, and I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all, even my wife. 

My notes on the game are as follows: 

1.  I think the DM's Guide's experience point budget for encounters is low. We fought five encounters and needed only one of the three Potions of Healing we brought into the adventure. The girls liked winning, but as a DM, I think the game would've had more suspense if it'd been a little harder. 

2. My paladin's AC (18) was virtually unhittable. That may well have been the design, but it was a little surprising, especially for a 1st Level PC. That said, the problem probably would've corrected itself with slightly harder encounters. 

3.  My paladin's horse was a big asset in one fight. It offset his armor's speed penalty and made him more maneuverable in the one battle we had in which range was a factor. 

4.  My daughter's halfling rogue was an absolute assassin. The new Sneak Attack rules make it very easy to deal Sneak Attack damage, and together with her two-weapon fighting and her ability to Hide, she did fully half the party's killing.  It helps that she got THREE Critical Hits. 

5.  My wife's barbarian took nearly all of the damage that the monsters dealt. That was probably about right. She was always out front, had a relatively low AC, and had plenty of hit points to take that damage. I spent most of my Lay on Hands points healing her, and she used the one Potion of Healing we consumed. 

That said, when she raged in the final battle, it made a HUGE difference. The ogre got a solid hit on her that would've dropped her in place, but because she was raging, she had resistance and shrugged it off. So what would've perhaps become a desperate right instead became pretty easy. 

6.  My younger daughter wanted a way for her Ranger to have an animal companion. I hope a future ruleset will have some rules for either a beast companion Ranger or for putting together Companion Characters using extant monsters. I'd have given her a dog of some kind if I'd thought about how I might have done it earlier on. 

And that's all I've got. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ice Cream, Mini-Golf, & a Laundromat

We had a less physically demanding day yesterday. We'd decided on Wednesday that we were gonna hang around the cabin and take it easy in the morning, and that's what we did.  Wound up being good timing for a day like that because we had our first day of rain yesterday, and yeah, it sucks that we had rain during our vacation, reality is that by yesterday, we were all pretty tired.  The situation cried out for a day of rest. 

Eventually we showered and had some of the world's ugliest pancakes, made by me of course, and then headed out--a little after noon. We stopped by our favorite little hippy Rock Art place, the girls got some souvenirs, and I took a few pics. 




For some reason, the tiny little Hindu Gods, $5 each, really spoke to me. 


After Rock Art, we dropped clothes at the local laundromat, went by Cadillac Mountain Sports and bought Hannah a new helmet and some new riding glasses, put our clothes in the drier, and then headed for Mount Desert Island and a round of Pirate Mini Golf. 



One thing about Pirate Mini-Golf--loser gets a free ice cream. 


We capped the day with a stop at the local winery and wine tasting. Surprisingly, Sally and I both really liked the Red Zinfandel they had, a spicy, full-bodied concoction made with thick-skinned grapes and somehow fermented with the grape skins still on!  Good stuff, that, but sadly, I didn't take any pictures there. 

We may well head up to Bangor today because its raining and foggy today, but I'm really not sure yet.  Guess we'll see. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hiking on Great Head

Hannah bounced back beautifully from her fall Tuesday, and we were able to have another great day yesterday. 

It started out kind of lazy at the cabin. I went for a long swim, up and around the peninsula on which we're staying and then out into the open water of the lake. I set my watch and planned to be gone for around twenty minutes, but I ended up pushing a little further, so that by the time I got back, I'd been gone a bit more than twenty-six. Call that a mile exactly with the occasional stop to stretch and get my bearings out on the lake. 

I got back, took a shower, and saw that Sally was making pancakes. That gave the girls and me time to finish the game of The Legend of Drizzt that we'd started on Monday. We started with Dungeon on Sunday, then played Legend of Drizzt Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then planned to play the full version of Dungeons and Dragons after Legend of Drizzt was done using the latest version of the D&D Next Playtest Rules that came out last Saturday. 

I was a little annoyed when the new ruleset came out because I'd spent time putting characters and an adventure together for the trip using the old Playtest rules, but as it happens, the new rules were a blessing. Wizards of the Coast (WotC) stripped the new ruleset down to the bare bones, leaving a game that my 8-year-old and my 9-year-old could follow easily and completely. That was a pretty good improvement. Heck, we even got Sally involved, although I don't know how much she was a chalky playing and how much of what she was doing was more-or-less hunkering us. 

Anyway, it didn't take us long to finish up Drizzt once we got going again, and after that we had breakfast and headed out for what was supposed to be a short day-hike around the Thunder Hole and Acadia's Great Head.  








We wound up going quite a bit further than we'd planned. We were out maybe four hours total, and I bet we hiked (and climbed) at least five miles total. Needless to say, by the time we got back to the car, everyone was pretty smoked. Even the dog crashed out, and in fact, she's barely moved since we got back. Lazy puppy!

Today we're taking it a little easier. We're gonna hang around the cabin this morning and then head into Ellsworth this afternoon and hit Cadillac Mountain Sports, get dinner, and then watch The Great Lumberjack Show this evening at 7:00. 








Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On Pushing Your Kids

One of the challenges of being a parent is knowing how far and how hard to push your kids. Well, that's one of my big challenges anyway. 

Our daughter Hannah has been a little slow picking up her bike riding. I've gotten her out a couple of times back home in Stratford, but we've done most of our family riding with her on a Trail-a-Bike attachment, and as a result, she hasn't been real confident balancing on her own, and she hasn't had to worry about learning to brake or climb out of the saddle.  Still, she made some progress earlier in the summer, so we brought the bikes--hers included--out on vacation. And we took those bikes into Acadia yesterday. 

The problem is, Acadia's not really very flat. And Hannah's little bike doesn't have any gears, and she's not very comfortable using either the little hand brake that it has or the coaster brakes. So going down the first long descent yesterday was a real challenge, and after that, poor Hannah had to slog her way back up about two miles of climbing--gaining maybe six hundred feet--all on a heavy steel-framed kiddo bike. She did it, but it was a real challenge, and by the time we got to the top of the climb, she was well and truly exhausted. 

We should have walked back down. 

But. She's been doing so well, and in fact she'd just said, "Y'know, Dad, sometimes if you want to get better at something, you really do have to get pushed outside of your comfort zone."  And added to that, after all that work, I know she was looking forward to coasting down the hill.  So we let her do it, and I trailed behind her, ostensibly to talk her around the turns and help her control her speed. 

What happened, unfortunately, is that she got going too fast way too quickly, and so when she tried to brake she couldn't slow herself down, and of course, from behind her, what could I do?  She very quickly lost control, fell, and went face-first into a rock. And honestly, thank God for that rock, or she'd have been launched off the side of the trail and into the woods below. 

Ultimately, she was lucky. She got a pretty nasty scrape on her arm--for which we wound up taking her to the Emergency Room in Bar Harbor--and she cut her chin up pretty good, and she's got some bruises, but really, she's fine. No concussion, no broken bones; no harm, no foul. Her bike's a twisted mess, and I'll probably replace her helmet before I let her ride again, but all in all, I could have been so much worse. 


Intellectually, I know that falling off your bike is part of growing up, that you can't grow up right without taking a few bumps and bruises along the way. And yeah, nobody wants to wind up in the Emergency Room on vacation, but bottom line, we were there for two hours, and it wasn't nearly the disaster that it could have been. Still, that was a pretty good little scare yesterday, a reminder that this active lifestyle we're trying to teach our kids comes with a few real risks. And if the risks are outweighed by the rewards, they are still real, and you still have to be prepared for them. 

Needless to say, our car's first aid kit got a little overhaul yesterday afternoon. 

Today we're going to do some easy hiking and a little miniature golf, but hopefully we'll be back on the adventure trail before the week is up. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some Pics from Cadillac Mtn

Sally and the girls and I hiked up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park yesterday. The mountain is, I believe, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, although at 1500 ft, it's not in the league of some of the summits out west. 

We picked up the Northwest Ridge Trail off the northern part of Acadia's Loop Road--itself at a height of about 350 ft--and climbed about 1150 ft over the course of a little more than two miles.  I confess that I'd have preferred to do the climb on my road bike using the road that runs parallel to the trail, but alas, the girls just aren't ready for that yet. So we hiked up the trail, and they did great, even our puppy Faith. 






I took a couple of really cool panorama shots, too, but I don't think they're worth showing until I can drop them onto Photobucket and link them here. Because, bottom line, you need the full resolution for to really do those pictures justice.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Green Lake

It took some doing, but we're finally up at Green Lake in Maine. It's vacation time!  

Our cabin is maybe seven hours north of Stratford, out on a little peninsula that juts down into the heart of the lake itself, accessible by a single dirt road with water on either side for a hundred feet. The peninsula itself is covered in pine and cedar trees and great granite boulders that have been here since the glaciers retreated a million
 of years ago.

It took us a good nine hours to get here yesterday, but that's because we stopped in Freeport for a couple of hours at the big L.L. Bean campus that's there. The Bean family hails from Freeport, and our little tour through town yesterday seemed to confirm that the success of their little camping and fishing retailer has allowed the family to pretty much purchase the place wholesale. Fortunately, they seem like benevolent overlords--an argument in favor of modern day American despotism. All the people we saw working in Freeport were stunningly beautiful, fit, and happy.  It was kind of amazing, really.  

Freeport, though, is still a good two hours south of Green Lake, and indeed, I didn't really start to feel like we'd gotten away from it all until we got to Bangor. They call Bangor a city, and you can find it on a map, but driving through, it looked like a reinforced truck stop with a lot heavy industry geared towards supporting the lumber trade. I'm sure there must be more town there somewhere, but we didn't see it, and indeed, after we passed, I told Sally I was surprised we'd missed all the buildings. 

She laughed, asked me if I needed buildings all that badly. 

Well.  We're here now. If past experience is any indication, it'll take a few days for the stress of the City to fade, but I feel better already, and of course, I took some pictures. They don't do this place justice, but they're all I have. 





Friday, August 2, 2013

Help Wanted: Writers!

If you're a writer, there are a lot of places you can go if all you care about is seeing your name on a byline.  But I personally don't understand why anyone would go to most of those places.  I mean, if you're looking for a writer, but you're not offering any money, how is that actually an offer?  What is it that you're offering?

Friday Hair Metal: Subdivisions, Live In Holland

Every Friday should start with Rush.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Thor Poster

I got this from Newsrama.  Really speaks to what the movie's gonna be if you ask me.


And folks wonder why I think a D&D movie could work.  It's a matter of execution, guys.

Thursday Odds and Ends

I wasn't real hyped about going into swim practice yesterday, even going so far as to tweet: