Where have I been?

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that my posts have been less frequent in the past year. In lieu of my usual holiday “snailmail” letter, here’s an update.

Late 2014 turned out to be difficult. Janice and I traveled to Pennsylvania and New York City to visit an ailing uncle of hers and our college friend Steve A.L., respectively. Both of them died, so we drove back down to their funerals.

Mike H., the manager of the Compleat Strategist in Boston, also died, joining Robert A.S. and other role-playing friends whom we lost in the past few years.

After the usual holiday travel to see our families in Upstate New York and Virginia, Janice and I got sick in early January 2015, followed by a very snowy winter in the U.S. Northeast.

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Waltham, Mass., February 2015

I then changed jobs in March 2015 (Janice had changed technical writer positions in September 2014). This has been the main thing keeping me from blogging.

After about six years as an editor managing a TT site about Windows enterprise desktops, I began working at EH/RBR as a writer covering robots. My former colleagues gave me a very nice going-away party, and a few have stayed in touch, joining former co-workers from BNA and IDG/CW.

Robotics has been an interesting beat, as I’ve learned a lot by trying to keep up with the business news around this rapidly developing technology. I’ve also had the good fortune to travel to events in Milan, Italy; San Jose, Calif., and soon, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In the coming months, I may also get to travel to Canada, Denmark, and Lithuania for work. While I don’t particularly enjoy spending time in airports or cramped airplane seats, any chance to see the world, meet new people, and eat new food is a good one!

I got to tag along with Janice to Limerick, Ireland, and we really liked exploring the Cliffs of Moher, various castles, and the beautiful countryside. Janice and I have also returned to regular arts fairs such as the Lowell Folk Festival and the Christmas Revels.

In the meantime, Janice and I have kept busy, hosting college pal David I.S. & Sandra K. for last New Year’s and the wedding reception of mutual friends Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H.

We also hosted her family for Easter and her 50th birthday, grad school chum Erik B.L. and his family, and St. Louis-based gamer Byron V.O., who may be visiting again later this month.

In late August, we met my family in Ogunquit, Maine, to celebrate my mother’s 85th birthday, my father’s 80th birthday, and Janice’s and my 20th wedding anniversary. So many milestones!

I also attended genre entertainment conventions including Anime Boston, the Tampa Bay Area Renaissance Festival, the Watch City Steampunk Festival, the Boston Comic Con, and the Rhode Island Comic Con. All of them had the usual cosplayers, fun panels and autograph sessions with celebrities, and tempting artist and vendor booths.

We recently spent Christmas at my brother and his family’s new house in Northern Virginia, and we met some friends in Westchester, N.Y., on the way home. Some of us have started planning reunion gatherings to celebrate the 30 years since we graduated from high school and began college.

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The “Westchester crew,” December 2015

Three nights a week, I’ve continued my role-playing games and historical weapons classes. My D20/FATEVanished Landsfantasy campaign has given way to two adventuring parties using Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition (D&D5e).

Fellow Game Master Jason E.R.’s “Star Wars: Dark Times” scenario (using Savage Worlds) just ended its latest chapter, and we’re about to start Bruce K.’s D&D5e “Kings and Pawns” space opera miniseries. The latest “episodes” of my D20/FATEStar Trek: Restorationgame also went well.

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My latest Star Trek costume, Halloween 2015

Speaking of ongoing series, I’ve been enjoying the latest wave of fantasy, horror, superhero, and science fiction shows on television (more on that to come). I saw fewer movies in theaters in 2015 than in previous years, but I’ve gotten pickier, and time has been limited.

I’ve also been reading several SF magazines and Web sites, assorted pulp comic books, and various novels (mainly with the “Escapists” book club). So much to do, so little time!

I’ll try to post more specific reviews in the coming year, and I wish all of you a healthy, peaceful, and Happy New Year!

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Fare thee well….

Friends, I’m sorry to report the passing of Steven A.L. early this morning after a long illness. He was a good friend since we met at SUNY-Binghamton in the late 1980s. Steve was a committed political idealist, a fine teacher, and a great husband and father. He was 48.

I met Steve through student organizations as a freshman, and I soon joined him and the rest of the “Bellevue-Camelot” crew in many misadventures, both inside and outside our tabletop role-playing games. Those circles included our later wives Janice and Michele.

College chums
The “Bellevue-Camelot” crew, 1987

That cohort has many fond memories of Steve’s Halfling Thief “Branador the Bold,” Half-Elf Ranger “Mouse/Ereval” (who later became king of the Waletku kingdom in the “Vanished Lands”), and more.

Steve was also an avid cyclist, musician, world traveler, raconteur, sports fan, and all-around good guy. As others have noted, he was the most virtuous of all of us. He and Michele adopted a son Nathaniel, who is now 15. Our thoughts are with Michele and Nate.

Reunion in New York City
Friends and family in Brooklyn, November 2012

Janice and I were fortunate to join our college friends in Brooklyn to see Steve one last time together two weeks ago. We watched the Monty Python final reunion DVD, and we expect to come together again for the funeral. I’ll pass along information on where you can send condolences once I hear more from Corbin.

Steve joins my high school Game Masters Bill B. and Ray C. and Boston-area alumnus Rob A.S. at that table in the sky. He will be missed.

Chowing down with college chums

The past several weeks have been especially busy at my work, partly because of the latest reorganization of our editorial staff. Still, I’ve managed to get out to lunch a few times while the weather was nice.

I finally got to Solea on Waltham’s Moody Street. It has been a long time since I’ve been to Dali in Somerville, but my co-workers and I liked Solea’s tapas just fine. The Local is a decent American bistro near Blue Ribbon Barbecue in Newton, Mass.

On Saturday, 27 July 2013, Janice and I drove out to the Lowell Folk Festival, which we chose over the Boston Arts Weekend since we had gone into town recently with Damon F.P. and Carlo R. We liked both the postindustrial, art-friendly city of Lowell (which is similar to Waltham but larger) and the festival itself.

There were a lot of great musicians, as well as crafts vendors, family activities, and, of course, food. I was pleased to try a wide range of ethnic cuisines, including Greek, Polish, and even Filipino! It might not be my mother’s cooking, but it’s as close as I’ve found in New England.

Janice and I also explored the New England Quilt Museum, which happened to have an exhibit of items from the past 200 years from eastern Pennsylvania, which is where Janice’s family lives. In addition, we stopped by at Larry’s Comics. There were enough other restaurants and galleries that I’d be curious to visit Lowell even without the festival.

This past weekend, I got to see some college friends. Stuart C.G. visited Boston on his way back to New York from business travel in Singapore. We enjoyed the Boston Comic Con. I wasn’t able to dine with him, Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. on that Friday or Sunday. However, Beruk, Janice, and I did join them for dinner at Smith & Wollensky on Saturday, Aug. 3, near Stuart’s hotel downtown.

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Kai-Yin, Thomas, Gene, Janice, Beruk, and Stuart in Boston

The food and service at the steakhouse were superb, as I recalled from one of Stuart’s previous visits. I enjoyed the shellfish bouquet we ordered as an appetizer, and the roast rack of lamb was good (if a bit challenging to cut apart).

On Sunday, Aug. 4, I visited yet another SUNY-Binghamton alumnus, Ron J.K., at his brother’s home in Brookline, Mass. As always, the family was very hospitable, and Ron’s niece Anna showed off her pet iguanas and knitting skills.

On Tuesday, Aug. 6, David I.S. stopped by on his way home to Upstate New York after his travels, which included a cruise to Bermuda, meeting friends in Manhattan, and hiking in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, he had picked up a respiratory infection in the process, but we managed to grab a bite to eat at City Streets, one of Janice’s and my go-to restaurants nearby.

In the coming weekends, Janice and I will be traveling to Virginia for my parents’ birthdays and to Pennsylvania for a wedding of a cousin of hers. We’ll need another vacation by the time summer’s done!

Weekend wanderings

I’ve already reported on college chum David I.S.’s visit this past month, but it was just the start of our busy season. On Friday, 26 April 2013, Janice and I drove to Utica, New York. We met her family for dinner at Babe’s.

The next day, we attended the second wedding of Janice’s middle sister Michelle at Chesterfield Restaurant. It was nice to see family, including Janice’s Uncle John and cousin Kristin, who came down from Canada.

While we were unfortunately unable to attend the birthday celebrations of nieces in Upstate New York and Northern Virginia, Janice and I have kept busy. On Saturday, 4 May 2013, we visited The Outer Limits in Waltham, Mass., for Free Comic Book Day. We then went into Boston for the Food Truck Throwdown between Boston and New York vendors.

The street food was all very good, including crepes, cupcakes, and a wide variety of cuisines. I especially liked the pita sandwiches from Comme Ci Comme Ca, a Mediterranean-style truck from New York. Janice liked the empanadas from Nuchas.

Janice and I then went to the Museum of Fine Arts, where we toured exhibits of Michelangelo drawings, paintings of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, European posters, and an extensive collection of samurai armor, among others. It was nice to again enjoy the spring weather by walking around town.

On Sunday, we caught Iron Man 3, had dinner with friends at Bertucci’s, and attended Ken G.’s annual Cinco de Mayo party at Lanes & Games in Cambridge, Mass. We had a good time chatting with people, playing pool, and watching the bowling. I’m sorry that I missed the videogames and air hockey, but it’s back to work!

Playing pool
At Lanes & Games in Cambridge, Mass.

In the coming weekends, I look forward to the annual Watch City Festival, which will feature steampunk events, artists, and vendors. I’ve also got my weekly games and historical weapons classes, and the “Escapists” book club is meeting next Tuesday night.

I don’t know if I’ll get to the Phantom Gourmet Hot Dog Safari or Anime Boston later in May, but I do look forward to a cruise from Newport, R.I., with Janice’s parents at the end of the month.