Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 End of Year

My goals from the beginning of the year--I've bolded the ones I accomplished:

  • Climb Mt Rogers and Buffalo Mountain
  • Take yoga/aikido/tai chi/something class--had a physical training class and I've signed up for a tai chi class starting in January
  • Revisit Costa Rica
  • Try new foods--things like pummelo, chayote, cherimoya: chayote, horned melon, oysters Rockfeller, gin, some Indian food, kubideh, doogh, 
  • Attend LibertyCon, Historicon, SLC ComicCon, GZGECC and others
  • Visit Mesa Verde, Shiprock, Monument Valley
  • Reconnect with the Charlottesvillains 
  • Study investing
  • Write 120,000 words of fiction
  • Visit Virginia ACW battlefields

Events from the year:
  • January: so cold the pipes froze; announced retirement
  • February: retired, went to Costa Rica; sold Mum's house in Montreal (and got a batch of furniture from it); and went to GZG ECC 17 in New York.
  • March: new carpet
  • April: visited Knotts Island; a 750ft ship dragged its anchors and went aground at Chick's Beach; and I went to RavenCon, where I met Michael Z Williamson and Sarah Hoyt, among others,
  • May: quiet 
  • June: visited some ACW battlefields around Richmond; hada visit from Greg Rees and his partner Julie; saw a bear near Willis; visited Jon and family in Nashville; the Huntsville Space Center; LibertyCon, at which I met Miriam Ringo, Dorothy and Peter Grant, Bill Fawcett, and Toni Weisskopf.
  • July: Gwen's brother Chris visited; a tornado touched down about 2.5 miles away; celebrated Independence Day in Williamsburg; camera class
  • August: helped Josh move from Blacksburg to Christiansburg; replaced a panel for the upstairs glass door.
  • September: attended Salt Lake City ComicCon; joined Diana for a tour of New Mexico (and bits of Colorado and Arizona)--Santa Fe, Taos and Taos Pueblo, Tierra Amarilla, Farmington, Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Albuquerque.
  • October: visited James and family and stayed at the Homestead, which included a trip to the shotgun range and the falconry mews; replaced the heat pump; saw two bald eagles together over the Lynnhaven.
  • .November: NaNoWriMo, at which I did better at teaching than doing; six crowns installed on front teeth; went to the Farm for Thanksgiving, and it snowed.
  • December: installed a new faucet on the kitchen sink; Josh and Gwen came here for Christmas, then they headed out to Philly, NYC, and Boston.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Temperature is 70°, and strawberries are still growing in the garden boxes on the deck. Pretty nice weather for Christmas Eve. Josh and Gwen and Diana and I are going to the 11pm candlelight service, then coming home and opening one package each.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Close Action

Josh and Gwen drove down from Blacksburg last night, and then this morning Josh and I drove up to DC for a Close Action battle with Mark Campbell (with the battle report onthe Battle Honors blog).

It's fun traveling with Josh. We had a variety of "You May Be A Redneck Space Marine" jokes:

  • "Them critters was tyrannids? Ah thought they was revenooers. Well, reckon it's all the same."
  • "You may be a redneck space marine if all your tanks are painted orange, they're all numberd 01, and they all play Dixie"
  • "We wuz so poor, our chapter paint scheme was black and white. And we didn't have no black paint either."
  • "You may be a redneck space marine if your Chapter Librarian is illiterate."
  • "When I was growing up, we walked to school, barefoot, through waves of tyrannids that was chin deep..." 
We talked about D&D and other RPG campaigns he wanted to run, and monsters he'd designed for them. His monsters for the most recent campaign were designed to function together, with would have been nasty to go up against them. We want to do a Monster Hunters International campaign, and a Dark Heresy campaign, and a D&D or Fantasy Hero campaign, and....

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Box of Money

Josh and Gwen arrived from Blacksburg tonight, so his main birthday present was somewhat delayed, but he seemed to like it: a box of cash. I'd gotten 260 bills (denomination unspecified) and broken up the bundles so what he saw was not "a couple of small neat stacks", but more "one big pile". He chuckled, he threw handfuls on the floor, he chortled, he rolled around in it, waving handfuls and laughing maniacally. We were all tickled. :-)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Writing Influences

"My writing has been influenced by HP Lovecraft, because if you don’t like giant sky squids, there is something fundamentally wrong with you." -- Larry Correia

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kitchen Sink

I have wrestled with the Forces of Darkness (it's dark under the kitchen sink) and emerged (some hours later) triumphant, having installed a new faucet. Tools used: flat screwdriver, phillips screwdriver, box cutter, carpet knife, allen wrench, WD40, bread knife, drill, socket wrench.

The one indispensable tool for installing a faucet (which you, Gentle Reader, doubtless already know is a Basin Wrench), was of no help at all; the existing Kohler needed a socket wrench to remove, and the new Delta specified "hand tight, Hand Tight, I SAID HAND TIGHT STOP STOP STOP!" according to page 4 (loosely translated).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Every year, Diana prepares paperwhite flowers as Christmas gifts.

Every year, I hear it as "paper wights."

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, with Australians

We had 18 people for Thanksgiving: Mom and Dad, me and Diana, Josh and Gwen, David and Elizabeth and their kids plus a couple extra, Tabitha and Chris and their kids. And Gwen had her laptop, and got her family in Melbourne on Skype, and it turns out that Marguerite, brothers Chris and Nick, Nick's son, cousin Duncan, and a couple of friends, had gotten up early on Friday morning and joined us with their Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings--can't really call it "dinner" because it was 6am for them.  Gwen had planned for the video call but the whole "we're having Thanksgiving dinner with you!" was a surprise, and quite touching. So we had a total of 27 for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snow at the Farm

We drove up to Blacksburg on Sunday night to spend a little time with Josh and Gwen, then headed to the Farm on Monday evening. And it snowed Wednesday morning. Everyone (Dad coming in from his contract office, Chris and Tabitha, Josh and Gwen) made it to the Farm; fortunately no one had to fly, as airports were a mess in the midAtlantic. Roughly five inches, and the first time we can remember snow accumulatig before Thanksgiving--it's more commonly January. Diana and I and Josh and Gwen went sledding.
And then the power went out, around 1pm. It looked as if we might have peanut butter sandwiches for Thanksgiving, or else haul the whole clan over to Elizabeth and David's place on Thursday morning. But the lights came back on at 7pm, and we were able to go back to cooking, washing, setting places and playing Skip Bo as normal.

Friday, November 21, 2014


I got crowns installed for my front six teeth; the temps were done a few weeks ago, and today was the day for the permanents. I was half an hour late for my appointment, because it was scheduled for 2pm, but I associate the dentist with "tooth hurty".
When the process was done, she asked if any of the teeth were bothering me, and I replied that the most painful part was paying for them. She said that I could have gotten crowns for a dollar apiece, but nobody ever wants that type, because they're buck teeth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deeply Deeply Skeptical

"Americans should be deeply deeply skeptical of government power. You
cannot trust people in power. The founders knew that."

James Comey
FBI Director
October 12, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Got six crowns installed today. My whole upper lip and nose were entirely numb, and it turns out that it's very nearly impossible to sip tea (or anything else, but what I had was tea) when you can't feel your upper lip.

If I have any more crowns, I will qualify to be an emperor.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


I'd been floundering around for the first few days of this year's NaNoWriMo. I had the general idea for the plot, based on a slightly fantasy version of the Vicksburg Campaign, and I had some idea of the characters, and I had my Scene Planner cards all ready, but it just wasn't coming together. A thousand words one day, 500 words the next, and one section that wandered off into a different universe entirely. Last night I was quite discouraged, thinking "This Is Not For Me". This morning I said "You know, this story could be Star Wars: 1862 Edition", and from that I was able to write a 2500 word plot outline in which pretty much everything fell into place. Still a few plot questions to answer, here and there--"What does Ming Duo do during the climactic battle", for example--but I have enough that I can get started actually putting together a narrative. Huzzah!

Yes, there will be a fair amount of Find & Replace on the names before all is done. "We can fix that in Post."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why did the Chicken Cross the Road?

So it could be poultry in motion.

Friday, October 31, 2014


At church a few weeks ago, we met a couple of Regent grad students from Kenya, and eventually got arround to inviting them over for dinner. Brian is from Nairobi, and Victor from Malindi, on the coast a bit north of Mombasa; they're studying business, with the intent of forming a full service travel agency so that you know exactly what to expect. They have at least some idea of the cultural differences; for example, in Kenya, a good might have someone armed and in camouflage on each floor; those are police, not soldiers, and they're there so you know there's good security and you don't have to worry. The tourist, however, is likely to say to himself, "They feel a need to station a soldier on every floor; it must be dangerous!" I'm not sure to what extent it's possible to say "This hotel is rated as a 5 but it's really a 4, so expect that", across all the different hotels and restaurants and safari tours and such that a tourist might want, and further to what extent they will be able to anticipate that sort of cultural difference. But that's what they're trying for. Very respectful, and willing to ask questions and accept the advice, so quite different from Americans...or at least "Americans who haven't tried every other possibility first."


We saw TWO bald eagles around 1pm today, over the river behind our deck. One flew off north, the other one disappeared into the marsh grass. I thought that one might have been injured, so I put out the kayak and went around the island. Turns out the "north" eagle had stopped at the platform for osprey nests; as I drifted down towards him, he grumbled and took to the air again, and that brought the second one up. They flew back and forth over the river for a few minutes, then one disappeared south and the other headed west.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heat Pump

Well, we'd had a problem with it last year, and the tech had told us then that we'd need to get a new one sooner or later. Fortunately this is the slow season for HVAC and I got a hefty discount, which made it merely "painfully expensive". So now we have a new heat pump, air handler, and thermostat. Hurrah.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Diana and I wanted to take Josh and Gwen to the Homestead resort, and decided that this was the weekend. We left a day early in order to visit Mom and Dad in Monterey, where they're renting a house. Monterey is a village--I'm told there are about 100 registered voters in town--in Highland County, on the border with West Virginia. The weather had just turned crisp, meaning 35° at night, and the leaves were turning gaudily gold and red. We saw one maple where the outer portions of the leaves were red, while the parts by the stems were still green. Some of the people up there raise sheep, and we saw a few flocks that had a llama or two added to protect them from dogs or coyotes.

The Homestead is a huge hotel--perhaps not in comparison with hotels in Vegas or New York or such, but it dominates the town of Hot Springs.  Apparently it's a little less ritzy than it used to be; they still have English style tea every afternoon, but you no longer have to have jacket and tie to take tea. A couple of restaurants, two arcades of shops, a pool, a theater--this is all inside the hotel itself, mind you--and they also have a couple of golf courses, a stable, a hawks mews, a shooting range, hiking trails, ski slope, archery range, and probably other stuff I didn't get to.

Saturday morning we started with a trip to the mews, which held an eagle owl, a pair of Harris hawks, and some saker falcons. These are birds selected for their ability to tolerate strangers; the instructor said that it's possible to train a redtail, for instance, but they won't cope with having other people around. She got out a Harris hawk and we walked around the area, with the hawk gliding from tree to tree, waiting to see if we might flush a rabbit or squirrel. This bird didn't mind getting close to us--once her wingtips brushed my wrist as she flew past, and she passed close by a couple other people if they happened to be between her perch and the trainer. The trick to getting the hawk to come to you is to hold up a piece of meat--chicken, in this case--and the hawk will pluck it out of your hand as she lands on your gauntlet. We all got a chance to try that. She weighed a bit over two pounds, although she felt lighter; she only stayed on our hands for a minute or so before going back to a tree.

That afternoon James met us and took us to the shooting range. Josh and I got an over/under 12 gauge shotgun, with about 100 round between us; Diana and Gwen had a Beretta 28 gauge shotgun, with 50 rounds. It was the first time shooting for the ladies, and they did pretty well; Josh and I managed to break a few clays as well, although some were a bit tricky. There was one that simulated a rabbit running along the ground, and I don't think I ever did hit that one; it always seemed to bounce at just the wrong moment. We had dinner with James and Heather at the local Italian place, then followed Sunday church with a hike up the Cascades trail, a couple of miles following the creek uphill and seeing the falls. Finished with a picnic at the upper end of the trail, before heading home.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Southwestern Tour

We just got back from a trip which started, for me, with Salt Lake Comic Con. Afterwards, I met Diana in Albuquerque and we traveled around New Mexico and the Four Corners region:

  • The Turquoise Trail and Madrid
  • Santa Fe
  • Taos
  • Los Ojos, the Jicarilla Apache Reservation and the Continental Divide
  • Chaco Canyon
  • Cortez CO, Mesa Verde and the Anasazi Heritage Center
  • Four Corners and Monument Valley
  • Canyon de Chelly
  • Albuquerque
More detail on each stop in later posts.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Glass Door

One of the panels of the upstairs glass door had fogged up, either because the guys who did the residing project weren't careful enough or just because it was twenty years old. I looked at replacing the whole door and frame, but the estimates were in the $1300-1800 "and probably more" range. So we dropped back to the idea of just replacing the glass in that door.
I called Binswanger and set up a time on Friday for a guy to come measure. They rescheduled to Monday. They rescheduled to Wednesday. They never showed up Wednesday--"he'll call you right back" didn't happen.
So I called Atlantic Glass. They called me to confirm the appointment (instead of me calling them), and the estimator showed up right on time. It was a custom size, so the estimator didn't work out the price right then and there, but the office called within an hour--and when I said "go ahead", they called back within 30 minutes to confirm that the factory had the order and promised to deliver it by the date I wanted it. A couple of days ago, they called to say "It came in early, we can install it Friday if you're ready." And today, the team called me, showed up on time, and got it done in about 20 minutes instead of the hour they had anticipated. I particularly liked that they took the effort after the install to get the glass spotless; there were some gummy bits at the top, and it would have been easy for them to just leave them and say "We're done", but they got out a razor and scraped it clear. Well done.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Saw a bald eagle again this morning, about 10:15, as we were having breakfast on the deck. Third time this summer, and each time he's been flying north over the river.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Diana really enjoyed going to Mannino's for her birthday last year, and had mentioned several times that she wanted to go back there. So, for her birthday, I told her to be ready to go out--but didn't say where. And  I drove to the oceanfront, which is opposite of where she knew Mannino's to be.
Except they opened another one last month, at the beach. Win.

Monday, August 18, 2014


Got my copy of the new DnD 5th Edition Players Handbook today, preordered from Amazon. My initial impresson is "much simplified from 3.5th Edition, much less Video-game-on-a-tabletop than 4th Edition". More at my Battle Honors blog as I get into it.

Point of view

Diana: "It seems ____ has a new boyfriend. Is this the guy you met? What did you think of him?"
Me: "She did not solicit my opinion of him, and I did not interrogate him."
D: "But did he seem like he might be weird and dangerous?"
Me: "If so, I would probably like him."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blueberries, Part 2

As recounted in Blueberries last month, we had blueberries but no that time.
A week or so later, we saw a squirrel helping himself to Our Blueberries. I shooed him off, but he just went over the edge of the deck and waited a few minutes before slipping back for a second helping. This time, I quietly got the hose out, turned the water on, aimed...and Mr Squirrel got an instant bath, which he didn't like at all. In moments, he was off the deck and three trees away, and I haven't seen him come back.
And then a male cardinal discovered the buffet, and his method was to land in the bush, nab one berry, and dash off. He wasn't taking many, and he was such a handsome bird, and anyway he was gone before you could do anything about it, so we didn't. And then we looked out one afternoon and there was the male, swooping in and dashing off as usual, and furthermore there were three females who swooped in and stayed for second helpings and dessert. There were a few unripe berries left, plus empty husks of blueberries on the ground.
Diana has decided to let the birds have them, and just buy blueberries.

Anzac Biscuits

I've made Anzac biscuits for the first time. Slightly burnt, which may be from cooking too long, or not using real butter, or a combination; nonetheless, still quite good.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dinner at the Nawab

Dinner at the Nawab: Bewali chicken, chicken subz salna, Peshawari naan, and mango kulfi. The Peshawari naan, with coconut and cherry, was particularly good, and I enjoyed the bewali chicken. I'd have enjoyed the kulfi more if it had been a different flavor; the texture was a bit heavy for "ice cream" but if I'd expecting "frozen custard" or something along those lines, I'd have been okay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Just finished the last session of my Intro to Photography class, given by the Museum of Contemporary Art. I don't know that I learned anything I couldn't have learned from the camera manual and a photography book...but I hadn't done that, so I'd say it was a valuable class. The camera's auto settings usually do a good job, but it doesn't handle low light well, and the class taught how to manually adjust things so I can get a good picture instead of a fuzzy blob.


Just received the starter set for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, which I've heard described as "D&D 2.5". The starter set includes an adventure module and pregenerated characters, so I'll put them on the table for a test run this week.

Also got Victory Point Games Moundbuilders, which looks interestin both from a historical standpoint and as an engine for generating a game campaign background.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Saw an eagle, once again as he was flying north up the river.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Moving Day

Josh was changing from his own apartment to renting a room in a house, and called at 1:30pm on Friday to say "Could you come up this weekend and help move?" So by 3:40 we were on the road. Stayed at the Farm on Friday night, drove to Blacksburg and made a couple of trips back and forth to the new place in Christiansburg, then back to the Farm for Saturday night; stuffed a few end tables and such into the back of the CRV and drove back to Blacksburg on Sunday morning; then home to Virginia Beach.  870 miles in 52 hours. Did not see a bear this time; however, the dense fog/light drizzle while coming up Bent Mountain was enough excitement to last me a while.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Medal of Honor: Kaho'ohanohano

Note that this soldier killed 13 enemies in melee, wielding an entrenching shovel...

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Private First Class Anthony T. KAHO'OHANOHANO, Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above the call of duty in action against the enemy in the vicinity of Chupa-ri, Korea, on 1 September 1951. On that date, Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO was in charge of a machine-gun squad supporting the defensive positioning of Company F when a numerically superior enemy force launched a fierce attack. Because of the enemy's overwhelming numbers, friendly troops were forced to execute a limited withdrawal. As the men fell back, Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO ordered his squad to take up more defensible positions and provide covering fire for the withdrawing friendly force. Although having been wounded in the shoulder during the initial enemy assault, Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO gathered a supply of grenades and ammunition and returned to his original position to face the enemy alone. As the hostile troops concentrated their strength against his emplacement in an effort to overrun it, Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO fought fiercely and courageously, delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy. When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed. Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO's heroic stand so inspired his comrades that they launched a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy. Upon reaching Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO's emplacement, friendly troops discovered 11 enemy soldiers lying dead in front of the emplacement and two inside it, killed in hand-to-hand combat. Private First Class KAHO'OHANOHANO's extraordinary heroism and selfless devotion to duty are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 7th Infantry Division, and the United States Army. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Trinity had a service at the 31st Street Park this morning, and we saw dolphins in the water about 100 yards out from the beach.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Bicycle Built for Two

Went to the boardwalk today and rented a two-person surrey bike. We took it up and down the boardwalk--not quite the whole length, because the bike is fairly heavy, there's no gearing, it's a lot of work to get it to go up a slope, and the seats weren't what you'd call "comfortable". But aside from that, it was fun. Nice clear day at the beach but not too hot, with lots of people out having a good time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Just got Fading Glory, GMT's reprint of four Napoleonic 20 games from Victory Point Games. Included are Waterloo, Smolensk, Borodino, and Salamanca. I had a good time my first go at the Waterloo scenario, and I've signed up for Rising Glory, the next one in the series.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

New Books

American Gods, by Neal Gaiman
To Sail a Darkling Sea, by John Ringo, the second of his Zombie Apocalypse (Black Tide) series
Under Heaven, set in a version of Tang China, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bald Eagle

I happened to be looking out over the back deck and saw a bald eagle flying north along the river. He was moving at a pretty good clip; I saw a flash of white head and white tail and said "Hey! Eagle!" and he wasbehind the trees and out of sight.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


We got a pair of blueberry bushes last winter, and we've just had our first blueberry harvest. Most of them are a paler blue than what you'd see in a store, but some of them are as deep and intense as you could ask for. I have no idea why the birds and squirrels haven't gotten them.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Josh, Chris Rees and I went to a 14-player Trireme game at Ryan's, with After Action Report at Battle Honors.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day in Williamsburg

Hurricane Arthur having passed and the sky cleared by late morning, we--Diana, Josh, Gwen, Gwen's brother Chris and I--went to Colonial Williamsburg. At the Courthouse, Josh served as a Justice of the Peace ("Guilty!", he cried); Chris presented a complaint about the Inpector of Roads not doing his job, and ended up as the new Inspector himself. An hour or so later, Josh enlisted as a private soldier in the Continental Army; Chris declined to renounce loyalty to the King or to swear allegiance to the Continental Congress, and was on the verge of being blacklisted until the Major questioning him decided that he must be drunk and from New Jersey. We visited the Magazine and saw the muskets, fowlers, halberds, and a couple of guns; we sat through the court session; and we visited the gunsmith. Listened to the Fife and Drum Corps for an hour. Picnic dinner behind the Visitor's Center. Got out light sticks and then went to the Palace Green, where the orchestra was playing; they started out with the Star Spangled Banner, and just about everyone stood with hand on heart. After that, we went back to the Visitor's Center beside the pedestrian bridge, and watched a spectacular fireworks display; as far as I could figure, we were only about 1000ft from where the rockets were bursting, including altitude.  Diana and I gave our glow sticks to a couple of wide-eyed little girls, then we bundled our crew back into the car and headed back to the Beach.


The outer bands of Hurricane Arthur, the first hurricane of the 2014 season, arrived in Hampton Roads last night. We got a cell phone alert at 1am with a tornado warning, and it appears that shortly after that, a weak (EF-0) tornado landed about 2.5 miles NNW of here, and another one in Norfolk on Granby Street. We didn't see any sign of it, just a gust front of what was reported to be 50mph winds.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


My first LibertyCon. I went to panels on neurophysiology (led Tedd Roberts), writing epic fantasy, warfare in science fiction, and how to kill zombies as messily as possible. Saturday included a talk on how independents can increase their sales on Amazon (e.g. have a well designed book cover, where the title can be read at thumbnail size), structured socialization for geeks, a reading by John Ringo, a worldbuilding workshop led by Bill Fawcett and Jody Nye, and an introduction to the Tiny Epic RPG, plus a few minutes in the Con Suite at the end of the evening. Sunday was standing on the front steps where a few guys were around John Ringo, each telling or embellishing tales, and then a two hour game design workshop with Bill Fawcett. And on Saturday evening we had dinner with Jonathan, who was in Chattanooga due to the vagaries of the railroad.
People met include Miriam Ringo, Dorothy and Peter Grant, Todd Lyles, Michaux Dempster, Bill Fawcett,  Toni Weisskopf, plus others I'd met before including John Ringo, Mike Williamson, and Sarah Hoyt, and others. About 600 people at the con, which is a nice size, not too crowded. Quite a drive to get there, but a lot of fun.

Friday, June 27, 2014

U.S. Space and Rocket Center

On the trip from Nashville to Chattanooga, we went by way of Huntsville AL to see the US Space and Rocket Center, with a pause at the Tennessee/Alabama border to pick up some fireworks. We spent about three hours, which wasn't enough time to see everything, but we did get a look at the Wernher von Braun exhibit, the Moon Program hall with the Saturn V in it, the A12 (precursor to the SR71), and the park with a timeline of interceptor missiles. I was tempted to go on the centrifuge--the G Force Accelerator, which subjects the rider to 3g--but, perhaps fortunately, it started raining and there was no one at the machine.
In retropect, we should have allocated a full day to this.

Monday, June 23, 2014


After a leisurely morning which included crepes, honeyed Greek yogurt and strawberries, and then watching Jon's video from their Belize expedition, we went into Nashville. First order of business was lunch at House of Kabob, which we'd been to before. Kubideh, felafel, hummus, and doogh. Kabob kubideh is minced beef and onion with spices, and was excellent; doogh is milk-consistency yogurt with mint, and would be more to my taste if it had a bit of sugar, and less mint.

After that we went to the Frist Museum for an exhibit of animation, showing clips from early kinetiscope shows Sailor Moon and CGI parts of Hulk.  There was also a gallery of photos from Marty Stuart, about half being country music stars an fans, and the rest from the Lakota reservation.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Driving to Nashville

Today we drove from the Farm to Nashville--according to Google Maps, 432 miles, up Route 100 to I-81 and I-40. The road didn't seem as crowded with tractor trailers as I-81 north of Roanoke, and the terrain was bland enough that it went by pretty quickly, without being so boring as to induce sleep (as compared to the stretch between Richmond and Charlottesville).
I wore my Vols Orange shirt so the natives wouldn't suspect me of being an outsider.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wild Turkey

On the way back from Blacksburg to the Farm, we stopped and had Italian--well, Diaa had lobster, I had lasangna--at Mickey G's in Floyd, which was pretty good Then I took the back route from Rte 221 to the farm via Rte 754, which is still unpaved in parts. I saw some movement by the roadside, and it turned out to be a wild turkey with a couple of chicks. The adjacent field had a wire fence, six inch mesh, and the adult took a few tries before she got the idea "this isn't actually open and you can't get through here." We drove off so she could back up into the road and then fly over it.
Also saw a deer in the field before Vincent & Reva's.


Had an OGRE game with Josh and Kelson, using the Breakthrough (expanded) scenario. I got an Ogre IV and six GEVs; the defenders got 40 strength Infantry and 30 Armor, including a couple of superheavy tanks and one howitzer. My GEVs followed the river, with some maneuvering to make sure that I was just out of range for him to move and shoot; my Ogre came in at the center, then cut east toward the water. My GEVs, of course, mostly went poof but I pushed two into the swamp at the far east, neither of them was disabled, and they exited on turn 7. My Ogre lost its missile racks early, and about half its treads by the end game, but then it crossed the last stream, nothing could follow fast enough, and I got off the map on turn 8. Final score was Defenders 47 points of damag to the Ogre plus four GEVs at six points apiece = 71; the Ogre side killed 84 armor value (12 tanks plus the howitzer), 18 infantry (which, as I recall, was three platoons), 46 points for exiting the board on turn 7 (two GEVs) and 8 (Ogre) = 148.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


We went to Blackburg to visit Josh and Gwen while Gwen's dad and his partner Julie were there. On the way back to the Farm at twilight, a bit west of Willis, I saw a black cow in  the road.
Hm, rather short cow.
It's a bear!
I flickd my headlights a few times to alert the car coming the other way, and came to a stop. The bear  was just standing in the road, unconcerned. He ambled into the right lane, stood there for a bit as if wondering "I came over here for something...what was it?", then turned back to the left lane. I eased the car forward a bit, and he slipped into the woods.
I know we've had a bear at the Farm but this is the first time I've seen one in person outside a zoo.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


We went to a wedding for a friend of Josh's; at the reception they served oysters Rockefeller. First time I've had that. I also had a sip of a gin and tonic, with Tanqueray, which was also a first time. Both were better than I expected.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Civil War Battlefields

One of my goals for the year was to go and see some of the Civil War battlefields around Richmond, and as Diana was in Toronto this weekend, I went and saw. Drewry's Bluff, where a Confederate fort turned back an attack by Union ironclads including Monitor; Tredegar Ironworks, which made ordnance; and Cold Harbor, where Lee turned back an attack by Grant with what was described as the "highest casualties for that short a period".

I enjoyed Drewry's Bluff. You go down a side road to a little parking lot with space for perhaps ten cars, then walk about a mile through woods to the site of the fort. The earthworks are a little eroded, and some trees have grown up, but you can still see the gun emplacements and see the part of the river to the southeast, where the Federal vessels were. The bombroof and well and shot oven have collapsed with age, but you can tell where they were. There's an 8" gun sited on one of the platforms.

Tredegar felt more to me like a general ACW museum than one specifically for ordance. They did show some small arms, a few guns (i.e. cannon), and about two dozen different types of shot and shell--the flat-nosed cylinder for 6.4" Baker shot, for instance; on the other hand, I didn't see anything showing how the guns were produced. A second floor had displays showing the progress of Union forces over time, as they occupied Southern seaports, pushed up from New Orleans and down from Ohio to control the Mississippi, and then marched through Atlanta to South Carolina. I hadn't seen that sort of "area controlled over time" series of maps, and it was quite helpful.

I was a bit disappointed in Cold Harbor, but I think that's because the tour path is a loop, and I went counterclockwise. If I'd gone the other way, I'd have first seen well-defined trenches with fairly good lines of sight, and had a better feel for what was going on.  As it happened, my first view was of eroded trenches overgrown by woods, with no feel for the terrain. If I were doing it again, I'd want a map of the original battlefield, showing slopes and woods as they were at the time. The welcome center did have a good operational-level presentation, showing how Grant come down from the north, Less blocked his approach, and both lines jokeyed for position.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


A hummingbird breezed onto our back deck for a quick visit to the hibiscus. She sampled all the blossoms and darted off before I could fetch the camera.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Horned Melon

I was in the grocery, and so was the horned melon. I said "I've never had one of those before!"

The inside is a lot like a pomegranate. You've got a lot of tiny capsules with seeds inside. The seeds are edible and a bit more noticable than cucumber seeds, but less than watermelon--about the same as the white seeds from a watermelon. The rest of the capsule is green and has something of a tart taste, although not as much as a citrus fruit. If you cut open the melon and scoop out the insides, you'll have essentially a green jelly with seeds mixed in.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Learning to Write

“You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf... You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.”
― Tom Clancy

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Today was another "fix yet more stuff around the house" day, with cleaning the oven, changing a light switchplate, painting the stairwell, and a few other tasks. Particularly difficult except getting the touchup paint to be the same amount of matte as the original. Apparently there are half a dozen levels, something like high-gloss, gloss, satin, eggshell, matte, and flat. Possibly not in that order. And I don't know what the painter used six years ago, so it was trial and error to match it. But it's done and there are no oddly-shiny patches on the stairwell walls now.

Took a break to have lunch at the Nawab, our local Indian restaurant. Beef with fenugreek, dal makhani lentil curry, basmati rice, and kheer rice pudding for desert, all quite good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day

We went to the mountains for Mother's Day weekend, to visit Josh & Gwen in Blacksburg and Mom and Dad at the farm. Josh and I unwrapped Command and Colors: Austrians on Friday and got in a 4-man game of OGRE with a couple of Josh's friends on Saturday.
Sunday afternoon we went to the farm, where Dad and James and I tried out the .22 Dad had gotten for Christmas, and I also tried James' 9mm. None of us are exactly prize-winning marksmen, but I did manage to tag a potato with the .22 at about 15 yards, after a couple of rounds.
Restaurants for this trip included the London Underground Pub, where burgers with baon-onion marmalade were the unanimous choice; Boudreaux's, for drop biscuits with andouille sausage gravy; and in Clarkesville on the way home, The Lake House--which is a renovated house, although it's not actually on the lake--for the California bacon burger with carmelized onion and avocado.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


We've seen cormorants and terns, in addition to the more-common herons, red winged blackbirds, gulls, and geese.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The marsh is not yet entirely green, but it's making progress. There is a yellow-crowned night heron (as identified by Jonathan) who has laid claim to the section of the marsh just behind our deck. A lone bumblebee has made a project of pollinating the blueberries by herself, day after day. And we've planted half a dozen azaleas, plus daisies and others.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


My first time to RavenCon, and lightning struck the building.
That's what I heard, anyway. A fire alarm went off as I was in the gaming room between seminars, and we all reluctantly ambled toward the exits. While it was pouring rain. Fortunately not too many people (ie, not me) got into the rain before Con Security started herding people back in, telling us that it had been a lightning strike. The gaming room has no exterior walls so we didn't hear a thunderclap ourselves.

My schedule:
Friday: Writing Believable Villains (panel); Agile Writer (Greg Smith) ; Historical Airships (Iver Cooper)

Saturday: Creating Believable Magic (panel); Working with an Editor; Writing the Other (panel); Baen Traveling Road Show (Jim Minz moderating, with authors Michael Z Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Chris Weuve, Iver Cooper, Patrick Vanner, Steve White, Joelle Presby and non-innocent-bystander Tedd Roberts); Game mechanics.

The most informative session was the one on airships; Iver Cooper had slide after slide of detailed information and obviously knew the details of what he was talking about. I thought, in fact, that he might be an aeronautical engineer, but in fact he's a patent lawyer. The session with the most fun was the Baen show, in which Jim Minz told us which books were on the production schedule, talked about some of the art on the covers and some of the new authors, and got (and gave) some good-humored heckling from the authors. The most useful one, from a "writing insights" standpoint, was probably the Believable Villains one, although when I go back through the notes for Agile Writing I may change my mind. 

Good quotes: 
Kate Paulk: "I'm actually disappointed that I haven't gotten a fatwa over Impaler."
Eric Bakutis: "There's always the sequel. It's important to have goals!"

Sarah Hoyt: "Your well-rounded character can be deflated by something sharp and pointy."

Sarah Hoyt, speaking of one of Tom Kratman's characters: "He is seriously lacking in ruth."

Met Michael Z Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Chris Weuve (who I'd met at Trafalgar Day 2005, although he was towards the rear of the Franco-Spanish fleet, while I was close to the van in Heros, so "met" might be an overstatement), Iver Cooper, Greg Smith.

Bought Cthulhu Fluxx (as a gift), Pirate Fluxx, four of the Flashman books, an autographed hardback of Freehold, a draft edition of Agile Writer, and a couple of miniatures, and added a few more books to the wish list (Paulk, Bova, Tony Daniel, Hoyt). 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Disturb us

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, 
where storms will show Your mastery, 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
Sir Francis Drake

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


"There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields the true glory."
--Sir Francis Drake

A Wind on the Bay

We had 30-40mph winds predicted last night, but what we actually got, out on the Bay, was 60-70mph. One 750ft ship went aground off the beach east of Lynnhaven inlet; eleven more dragged their anchors.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Saw the movie this morning. It had a nice libertarian, don't-trust-the-government streak to it. It didn't explicitly say "we think Obama's kill list and drone strikes are bad, and people like Edward Snowden are good", but it sure didn't miss saying it by much. And the theme of "you get to choose between freedom with risk, or security with slavery" was explicitly stated. Cap's "I'm always honest", and the contrast with the villain, could be taken as a comment on our current administration (quite a few of our previous administrations, but it was made during this one). Lots of action, of course. A couple of fan-service shots of Black Widow but not obnoxiously so. Nice introduction of the Falcon. I saw this one in 3d; I'm likely to go see it again in 2D.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Knotts Island

We took a trip to Knotts Island after church today. It's about 45 minutes drive, past Pungo and the aviation museum. It's flat and has water all around it; looks like new construction needs to be raised on pilings--we saw two houses being built that way. A small community, with a restaurant (closed until May), a vineyard/winery (also closed), and one mini-grocery/general store (which was open).  But they did have the ferry, and a street sign that said "Fat Boys Nip Joint", and open water and ospreys. There were lots of green open fields (which always puts me in mind of cavalry actions) and the trees were covered in blossoms, so it was pretty enough for a spring afternoon drive.

Friday, April 4, 2014

First Kayak

Took the kayak out for the first time this year. The water is still cold, and I didn't see any first jumping, but I did see a goose on a nest, and pair of ospreys hunting where the river widens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yet More Snow For My Birthday

We went up to the farm for the weekend, with Mom & Dad, Gwen & Josh, and Tabitha and her kids. It snowed on Saturday night--not a real nuisance, but enough to dissuade us from going to Whitetop Mountain and enough to say "winter isn't quite over yet". Josh and I put Ironclads on the pool table; he trounced me, but I had him laughing when my ship aimed for a riverbank and I ordered "Stand by to portage!"
We had poundcake and butterscotch pie for my birthday, and good family time. Drove back by Floyd, Fairystone Park and Bassett, which is a few minutes longer but much less windy and twisty than going by Laurel Fork and Bent Mountain. The countryside apparently decided that enough was enough and it was going to be Spring; trees were flowering and beginning to bud.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Now reading:

  • Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  • Darkship Thieves (Sarah Hoyt)
  • Monster Hunter Nemesis (Larry Correia)
  • Royal Flash (George Macdonald Fraser)

Saturday, March 22, 2014


And the new carpet is finished. "Finished" meaning we still need to adjust the furniture placement, put all the books back on the shelves, paint the strip of baseboard which was concealed by the old carpet but now shows a 3/8" wide strip of paprika-brown between the white part of the baseboard and the cream of the carpet. So the house is not "in order" yet, but it's getting there. Now it's time for a break before the next pro...wait, break's over already. Hang a picture, install a door, uproot a plant killed by frost, install pegboard in a closet...

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Ah, Virginia Beach in the springtime. A day at 70°, two days with icicles on the deck, and then it's 70° again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Last week we ordered new carpet. What we have was here when we bought the house, and we'd been talking about replacing it since last August, but didn't want to deal with new carpet while Zoe was sick. But the time has come, and the carpet is being delivered tomorrow.
Which means that all that furniture from Montreal, that we've just gotten arranged? We're moving that. Well, the carpet guys are moving it, but we have to get all the stuff out of and off of it. Empty the closets. Move all the books. We have an amazing number of books. More than five bookcases worth. Oh wait, that's just in one room. That doesn't count the bookcase downstairs, the two bookcases in our bedroom, the closet full of books, or the boxes in the attic.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snow, with Bonus Sleet !

We got a nice layer effect with sleet, then snow. In March. I shall have to speak sharply to the Chamber of Commerce about this weather.

To be fair, though, I drove to our usual Monday night RPG group in South Norfolk; the Virginia Beach roads were pretty clear, while the Norfolk roads were still entirely covered with packed snow. Not just the side roads, but the interstate and major highways. So we have a "fail" for letting snow fall in the first place, but a "partial win" for the transportation department. Good enough.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Had a good game with Ryan, Dan K and Bob S of Ironclads.Our Confederate ironclads got beat up enough by the Union (and, in my case, my own ram and spar torpedo--a bow-to-bow isn't healthy even if your target is frail) that we had to withdraw; however, we'd pulled the Union ships far enough off to one side that our blockade runner was able to slip along the edge of the channel and the Union never got a shot off.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

Today was the closing for our selling Mum's house in Montreal. It was a bit sad, not because I particularly liked the house myself, but because I know Diana and Josh had fond memories of it and will miss it. You can say "It's just a house", but a place that you've known for 25 years or more has a personality of its own, to you.

In good news, today Josh got a job offer, and specifically a job doing economics rather than lifting boxes. He and Gwen went to an Econ Department ski trip, met a professor who needed someone for a project, and behold, a week later, he's employed. Huzzah!

Sunday, February 23, 2014


For about seven years I attended Ground Zero Games East Coast Con in Lancaster PA; however, a few years ago the con organizers decided to move the con to Owego NY, which makes it a nine hour drive instead of six hours, and I hadn't gone since. Since I now have the time, I decided to go
I drove up the Eastern Shore, through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and into New York. The Eastern Shore has a lot of pretty places, open fields and farms and such, but there's an air of decay that you can't miss. Businesses closed, houses abandoned, buildings collapsed. The good part was that, compared to the highway hypnosis of the interstate, the route was varied enough to keep you awake as you're driving, and even though "nine hour trip" sounds like a long time, that includes three or four breaks so it wasn't bad. Starting in Pennsylvania, the ground was covered by snow, and the Susquehanna River was frozen over, but the roads were clear.
The con had about 35 people attending, which was a bit less than I'd have hoped but sufficient. Jon Davis and his sons were there, as well as Indy Kochte, Stuart Murray, Aaron Newman, Martin Connell, Steve Barosi, and the Canadian contingent of JP Fiset, Tom McCarthy and Jim Bell, and others. As it happens, I was in Stuart's games three times--a homebrew Jedi vs Droids game on Friday night, and two runs of the same Hammer's Slammers scenario on Saturday morning and afternoon--and then got into Martin and Steve's Mars Needs Women VSF StarGrunt game on Saturday night. AARs will be at Battle Honors. I decided to forego the Sunday morning game due to the length of the drive. Had a great time, and it was good to see old friends again.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow in Blacksburg

Actually the snow arrived last week, about 20" of it, but we didn't arrive until Saturday afternoon. Josh and Gwen had built a snowbear; today, we helped them build Mrs. Snowbear, complete with skirt and pearls.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Costa Rica 2014

We spent a week in Costa Rica, which was not so much "celebrate my retirement" as "trigger my retirement". We'd tentatively reserved the bungalow for 2014 before we left the hotel during the 2013 trip, so the dates didn't have anything to do with my retirement plans; however, when I had to set a specific date for my last day of work, I said "You know, when I came back from vacation last time, I didn't want to have to go back to work. This time, let's not go back to work."
Costa Rica this time, compared to last time, was less exciting, less adventurous, more relaxed. We knew where stuff was and how it worked. We mostly stayed at the hotel, or on the beach, or walked into town and looked around.
Three adventures we did have: the Pacific, snorkeling, and kayaking.

  • On one of the days we walked west along the beach and around the point; somewhere in there, we passed from "Tamarindo Bay" to "Pacific Ocean". I went out on the rocks to where the waves were crashing in, and it was just the same as it was on the bay side--except this was the PACIFIC OCEAN and the nearest land in that direction was Hawaii.
  • We took a four hour snorkeling excursion with six other people, taking a boat north quite a ways--I believe it was to Playa Prieta. We saw a devilfish jump entirely out of the water; we saw several sea snakes, including one that got closer than I was really happy with; and one of our party saw a small white-tipped shark. And of course there were the usual abundance of tropical fish, from eighteen inches long down to tiny darting gold flecks. One key point: "snorkeling" is another word for "laying face down in the sun for hours, not realizing how burnt you're getting." 
  • We took a kayak out to el Capitan. It was a bit nerve wracking because you have to go at an angle to the waves, instead of bow on, and I was worried about us rolling over. We made it, though, and beached on the islet. On the near side, there are millions of shells and fragments, and hermit crabs creeping about. On the seaward side, there's nothing but volcanic rock, swept clean by the waves. Just a few feet from the ocean, though, there's a tide pool about ten feet long and seven feet deep; it shelters some fish and a colony of spiny urchins, dark burgundy in color and about the size of a lemon.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Day Retirement Party

At three in the morning it got down to 1°F, although it didn't feel that cold; presumably the thick blanket of snow helped. The roads had been plowed enough that the office was open, although we were told "get here when you can" rather than "at the usual time".
Today was my retirement lunch! The people from Accounting (Karen, Des, Tina, Ashley--Jocelyn hadn't made it through the snow) and Customer Service (Jimmy, Rich, Georgette, Greg, Zoe, and Ryan who's moving into my spot) were there. My "speech" was "Hi, y'all"; they asked me if I would change my mind about leaving, asked whether we were moving and what our plans were, and said that the eight years I'd been with them had been fun. "You should retire more often!"
We got out early so people could drive home before it got dark and before the melted snow could refreeze. When I got home, there was all this fresh, untouched snow in front of the I made a snow angel.

Snow Angel

The roads were clear enough that I could make it to work, although they let us out early so we could slide home during daylight instead of evening. On arriving home, I helped push a couple of cars into and out of parking spaces. And then I made a snow angel. Because snow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It snowed last night. nearly ten inches. I'm used to a snowy morning being unusually quiet, but in this case I was awakened at 6:15 by someone revving his engine, spinning his tires, pause, rev, spin, pause, and repeat for about twenty minutes. I don't know if he eventually got out of his parking space or gave up.
In the afternoon I got out the shovel and scooped snow off the steps and out from behind the car. First time I've shoveled snow in ages. Mostly we stayed indoors, though; the snow was too dry to make snowballs, and we were busy moving furniture in preparation for the Great Montreal Import.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Counting the Days

At work today, speaking of my impending retirement, someone said "You must be counting the days!"

Well, no. You'd think I would be, and it sounds odd even to me that I'm not. I really should have a big calendar, on which I gleefully mark out each remaining day with a fat red marker. If I hated my job, I'm sure I would be counting off the minutes until I could get free; but I don't hate it, it's just that I want to do other things now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dancing girls

Diana is at Mum's house in Montreal, pointing out which stuff goes to Virginia Beach, which stuff goes to the Salvation Army, which stuff stays for the new owner.

Since she's away, I had three dancing girls over. Well, dancing somethings. With the mukluks and parkas and all, it was kind of hard to tell if they were, in fact, girls. They may have been manatees.

Power went out for a couple of hours, and it got down to 54° in the house, which is better than the 16° outside, but still pretty chilly. It was also dark, but you can use a laptop as a substitute flashlight, somewhat awkwardly.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Cold and snow. Diana is in Montreal, where it's something like -30°, but that's okay, it's supposed to be cold there. It's not supposed to be 13° in Virginia Beach. With three inches of snow. Brr.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movie Weekend

Diana is out of town this weekend so I've watched a couple of movies:

  • Big Trouble in Little China. I was wondering how I missed seeing this when it was originally released, and the answer is that it came out in 1986 when I was in grad school. Kurt Russell and his buddy Wang Chi set off to rescue Wang's girlfriend McGuffin--er, Miao Yin--from the sorceror Lo Pan and his mini-bosses Thunder, Rain and Lightning. The great line, after they slay the villains and rescue the girl (and some other girls they run across along the way), is " We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we, Wang?" This appears to be a reference to Job 26:11: "The pillars of Heaven shake and are amazed at His rebuke."
  • The Warrior's Way. A Japanese warrior/assassin refuses to kill the baby who is the last surviving member of the enemy clan; he takes the child, fights his way through his clan's other killers, and goes to the American West. He starts a new life as a laundryman in a small town, taking care of the baby and befriending a young woman. However, outlaws come raiding. The hero must take up his sword again, but once unsheathed, the sword's lament draws the clan assassins who are hunting him. This one didn't have any notable quotes but it did have a good structure, with The Final Battle Against the Outlaws being interrupted by the Final Battle Against the Assassins.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I told my boss nearly a month ago that I was ready to leave; today I officially handed in my resignation. Huzzah! I've started training my replacement, telling my customers that I'm going, and cleaning off my desk.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Following up on my resolution to try new foods, we made Costa Rican Beef and Chayote, which is not actually a dish I saw in Costa Rica, but we tried it. Mostly ground beef and onions, plus garlic, parsley, curry powder, diced tomatoes, green pepper...and chayote squash. Chayote looks like a pear but tastes more like cucumber, maybe with a taste of celery. If you're out of zucchini, and you happen to have a chayote laying around, you can use it as a substitute. Not the sort of taste explosion that would cause anyone to weep for joy; on the other hand, it isn't a lutefisk-and-kimchee sandwich.


With assistance from Mad Mike Williamson, I have obtained a kukri. One more item checked off the bucket list. Nearly ready for the zombie alpaca lips.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sugar Cane Juice

Available in canned form, from the Asian market. Back 40-some years ago, I could get it straight from the cane, which (according to my 40+-year-old memories) was better than this. But it's something new to try.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Company Party

My employer had its annual Awards Dinner and Casino Night, and since this is my last one before retirement, we decided to attend. Half an hour of drinks to get you numb enough to go through the next hour, which included the Comedy Routine, the Look Back at 2013, the Awards, and the Company Plans for 2014. Last go round the awards part dragged on and on as the top few sales guys got award after award and everyone else sat there; this time was fewer awards and a bit more spread out, which was a lot better, After that it was dinner and conversation, which would have been followed by gambling with monopoly money, except we slipped out around 8:30 and headed home.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frozen Pipes

An arctic air mass has slid across the US which has made it bitterly cold--meaning 14° here Monday night, and much colder in the Midwest. This morning I woke up at 5:30 to the chirping of my Uninterruptable Power Supply, because our electricity had gone out. So I came downstairs, saw the temperature inside the house was 57°, and got the UPS to stop making noise...whereupon I heard water running under the house. Marvelous. First time I've ever had pipes break. Fortunately there's a main cutoff valve inside the house, so I cranked it to OFF and crawled back under the covers. Electricity came back on at 6am.
Called the plumber at 8am, they promised he'd be there before noon. We had a couple of gallon jugs of water, so we could heat up a cupful for tea and a bowlful for a sponge bath, Not exactly sufficient but better than nothing.
Noon came and went. The plumber did not.
Several more calls. "We'll put you on the schedule", they said. Silly me, I'd thought we already were on the schedule, but I guess just calling and getting a "he'll be there before noon" doesn't count.
More calls. I'm wondering which day he'll show up.
Finally the van arrives at 8pm. Plumber is a nice guy and has obviously had a long day. He crawls under the house and resurfaces with good news: the pipe did not actually break. What happened was, the cold caused the copper to contract enough that it pulled out of the coupling to the back deck faucet. He puts an end-stop on the pipe so we can turn the water back on; he'll have to come back to reconnect the deck faucet but it's not like we're watering plants in January anyway. Disaster averted.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I say tamarind juice in the Asian market and brought some home. Tastes something like quince, something like guava with the grassy taste. I was thinking of Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica, when I got it; however, it was originally native to tropical Africa.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


For my first time out of the house in a week (not counting trips to doctor's offices and the hospital), I went to Ryan's to kick the gaming year off with a bout of Ironclads. Dan, Ryan and I rotated among the three ships in the Ferrol 1865 scenario, with the Confederates winning twice, the Union eking out a win once.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years

What an exciting New Years. I had a recurrence starting Sunday night of whatever it was that I had for Thanksgiving week in 2012, although thankfully this time has been rather milder--we caught it earlier and went to Urgent Care first thing Monday morning. Spent the rest of the day (and indeed, most of the week) taking antibiotics and propping up my leg. Tuesday, we cancelled our New Years Eve dinner reservation, pulled out the laptop and watched Hopscotch, a charming Walter Matthau movie from 1980. Wednesday, back to the doc for another shot. Today, to the hospital for an ultrasound on my ankle to see if this is being caused by a blood flow issue--which it is apparently not.
But I read a novel, parts of a couple of rule sets (Monsters and Other Childish Things, Don't Rest Your Head, Godlike) and set up Navajo Wars.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Things to do in 2014 (a partial list):
  • Climb Mt Rogers and Buffalo Mountain 
  • Take yoga/aikido/tai chi/something class
  • Revisit Costa Rica
  • Try new foods--things like pummelo, chayote, cherimoya
  • Attend LibertyCon, Historicon, SLC ComicCon, GZGECC and others
  • Visit Mesa Verde, Shiprock, Monument Valley
  • Reconnect with the Charlottesvillains 
  • Study investing
  • Write 120,000 words of fiction
  • Visit Virginia ACW battlefields