Entry for September 05, 2006

Friends, I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, 26 August 2006, Janice's parents Marvin and Linda and one of nieces, Amanda, visited eastern Massachusetts from Upstate New York. That morning, we drove into Boston for a whale-watching cruise and even managed to find affordable parking.

We sat near the front of the upper deck on a blustery day. For an 8-year-old, Amanda was very patient during the two hours out into the Atlantic Ocean and didn't get seasick, unlike a few other passengers. Fortunately, we saw several whales, including minke whales, finbacks, and humpback whales. One even swam alongside our boat and rolled over! See my Yahoo photos for details.

We then went to the New England Aquarium, which I had visited during my company's annual off-site meeting this past spring. Janice and her family (all big animal lovers) enjoyed seeing the penguins, turtles, jellyfish, and numerous other types of fish there.

We had an early dinner at a local Friendly's in Needham, Mass., before Janice's folks returned home because they had to work the next day. Speaking of work, I finished one special project only to sign up for another. The copy desk's hours have been longer lately (8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on average, but both earlier and later as we get closer to end-of-workweek deadlines) due to persistent technical snafus.

I've also been busy during the past week filing hundreds of photographs from our various trips. Janice's and my DVD collection continues to grow. In addition, boxes of magazines and comic books are waiting for me, as well as binders of gaming notes, reduced somewhat in number after last October's basement floods. Concerns for ill family members continue, but we're unfortunately too far away to be of immediate assistance.

On the past few Sunday mornings, I've been back to playing the "City of Heroes" online multiplayer game with Dexter V.H./"Midnight Hand." It's still heavy on action, but at least "Gwydion" is getting the hang of fighting gang members and zombies. Speaking of role-playing, the D20 "Mutants & Masterminds" 2nd Ed.: "Drake's 7" superheroes recently fought extradimensional monsters in a cemetery and supervillians in their lair beneath a lighthouse!

The local group is shifting back to my long-running D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" heroic fantasy campaign this month, and most members have expressed a preference for continuing our Tuesday night sessions and for starting their next Player Characters in a desert setting. I'm also looking forward to a change of pace, although the more rules-intensive "Dungeons & Dragons" Edition 3.5 system requires more effort on the part of the Game Master to prevent imbalance or more attention to combat than to character, story, or setting.

We're now in the midst of screening potential players, since Paul J. has gone back to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Thomas K.Y. is likely dropping to part-time participation, since a weekly game is too demanding of his schedule. I sympathize. Fellow SUNY-Binghamton alumnus Beruk A. has also had difficulty getting to my place, since he lives out in Framingham, Mass., and doesn't have a car.

After Corbin A.Y.'s successful cameo a few weeks ago, we've met Otis D., who previously played in Dan A. and James B.'s D&D3.5 group. Brian W. and I have also e-mailed with a few alumni of a D&D3.5 "Eberron" group in Waltham, Mass., that recently self-destructed because of personality conflicts and differing expectations. I'm wary of people with such baggage, but we need to find out who'll mesh best with the existing team.

Thus, I've posted recruitment notices online and plan to visit local gaming and comic book shops within the next few weeks. I've never had trouble finding people who shared my interests in science fiction, fantasy, or gaming in the past 20+ years; finding people who role-play well together has been a challenge, however.

Although Janice and I probably eat out more often than we should, I've also been spoiled lately with homemade brownies, lasagna, and beef stew. We also ate at a decent Mexican restaurant on Moody Street in Waltham yesterday, although many of the shops there were closed for the holiday. Janice and I found that like the Natick Mall near where I work, the Burlington Mall northwest of Boston is undergoing major renovations.

Among the books I picked up is the D.K. reference to the Conan novels. As a long-time fan of Robert E. Howard's barbarian, I've been happy with the recent comic book adaptation's faithfulness to his books. By Crom! We'll see whether any more movies get made…

Speaking of comics and adaptations, the Cartoon Network's latest "Fantastic Four" series was off to a decent start. While the angular French style of anime takes some getting used to and the dialogue could be better, I hope it will fill the void left by the cancellation of "Justice League Unlimited" (coming soon to DVD). "Teen Titans" will be replaced by "Legion of Superheroes" later this month, and the new television season is just getting started. Take it easy, -Gene