Wedding in Utica, N.Y.; Labor Day

Rebecca and Tristan Zimbler
Rebecca and Tristan

Friends, I hope you had a good Labor Day weekend. On Friday, 2 September 2011, Janice and I drove to Upstate New York for the wedding of niece Rebecca A.W. to Tristan M.Z. We met Janice’s immediate family at her middle sister Shelly’s house for a barbecue (sloppy Joe) lunch before checking into the Best Western Gateway Adirondack Inn in Utica.

I gave my nephews David and Joshua more comic books (including Teen Titans, Superman, and Spider-Man) and caught up with nieces Rebecca, Laura, and Amanda. We also watched recent episodes of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Top Shot via Netflix for the Wii.

While Shelly and Melvin hosted a rehearsal dinner, Janice and I went with her parents Marvin and Linda, her youngest sister Melinda, and Melinda’s children Amanda and Josh to get some supplies at Wal-Mart and to Applebee’s for dinner. Janice and I caught the latest strong episode of the revived Thundercats.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, we had breakfast at Denny’s, and Melinda’s husband Gary T.L. joined us. The diner chain was a mainstay in my undergraduate years at SUNY at Binghamton. We then went to a public park to help prepare for the wedding and reception, the same park where Shelly and Melvin were married. While the weather was hot and humid, we were lucky to avoid thundershowers.

The ceremony itself went smoothly, and the bridal party looked spiffy. Becky and Janice’s family was also represented by Janice’s grandmother (“Mammy“), her aunts Betty and Carolyn, and cousins Kristy and Tammy. It’s a pity that several invitees were absent. We enjoyed pasta, including a local dish called “chicken riggies,” and chocolate cupcakes.

After changing to more casual clothes and helping to clear up, we were glad to return to the air-conditioned hotel. The next morning, Janice’s family and the bride and groom met for breakfast at Denny’s before Becky & Tristan began their long drive back to Oklahoma, where they’re both still in school.

Janice and her sisters visited a museum exhibit on wedding dresses, and we ate pot roast and homemade mashed potatoes before driving through heavy rain back to Massachusetts. Since then, I’ve caught up on recorded episodes of the melodramatic Torchwood: Miracle Day, darkly whimsical Doctor Who, stalwart Inspector Lewis on Masterpiece Mystery, and the surprisingly Seinfeldian Looney Toons. Who says there hasn’t been anything to watch this past summer?

Coming soon: My take on the Justice League, fall SFTV, and back to gaming!

Holiday week walkabouts

The Justice League of America
Wonder Woman and the JLA

I hope that each of you has had a good Passover/Easter week. I’ve been busy with work, especially after the departure of former associate editor and fellow blogger Bianca S. (who had been my strong right hand on two sites) and subsequent departmental reorganization. We’ve also moved cubicles within TT’s offices in Newton, Massachusetts.

My brother, his wife, and their daughters visited recently. We went to the New England Aquarium and Boston Children’s Museum and enjoyed lunches at the crowded but diverse Faneuil Hall. We also got a snack of Belgian frites at Saus near Quincy Market and had sushi at the Fuji Japanese Steakhouse in Needham. We also cooked “barbecue” (sloppy Joes) and spaghetti and meatballs.

In addition, I was pleased to find that my nieces liked Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans‘ Starfire, and we played Wii Sports Resort and other games. The grownups enjoyed Uno and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. My role-playing games are on hiatus for the holiday week.

Janice and I will be visiting her family in Pennsylvania, but I don’t yet know when I’ll see my parents in Virginia again. In the meantime, I’m helping to plan a cookout coinciding with Damon F.P. and hopefully Dexter V.H.‘s visit in mid-May, a trip to Corbin A.Y. and friends in Manhattan in June, and a visit to David I.S. in Upstate New York and business trip to Chicago in July!

That’s not even counting local steampunk festivals, summer movies, or comic book conventions. Beyond all that is my 25th anniversary high school reunion in October. So much to do, so little time!

Holiday update 2007

December 2007
Holiday 2007

As I prepare to move my blog from MySpace and Yahoo, here’ s a look back at one of my first posts (note that some of the links may be broken):

Friends, I hope that your holidays have been happy thus far. Instead of sending out the usual annual update letter, I hope that people are reading this blog.

The week before Christmas was busy, even though Janice and I had finished most of our gift shopping. Working on two issues simultaneously to get most of this week off kept CW‘s copy desk humming. On Saturday, 22 December 2007, we went to the local dump and post office, and I got my car inspected (which went more quickly and was cheaper than the previous week’s repairs). 

We also had a Chinese-American buffet lunch at the Hunan New Taste, stopped by the Walpole Mall and the Big Y supermarket, and picked up my subscription at the New England Comics in Norwood, Massachusetts. 

On Sunday, we stayed in because of the latest snowfall and caught up on television. What are your favorite holiday specials? Mine include classics such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and various versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Janice’s include A Garfield Christmas, Bill ‘n’ Opus: A Wish for Wings That Work, and Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas.

Of course, numerous Rankin-Bass cartoons and stop-motion specials have marked the holiday for generations, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. More recently, we have A Muppet Family Christmas and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Robbie the Reindeer, and Shrek the Halls

I also had a quip-filled City of Heroes (CoH) virtual session with David I.S. and company, and Janice baked in preparation for seeing her folks. We plan to have a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve, since we’ll both be working that day. 

We drove to Upstate New York on Monday, Dec. 24, first to Janice’s parents’ home. Like my parents, Marvin and Linda M. live atop a hill on five acres in the country. Unlike my family, they have numerous pets and a steep, icy driveway. Janice’s middle sister Shelly was already there with her husband Melvin W. and children Rebecca, Laura, and David

I checked out photographs of friends on teenager Becky’s Clie handheld device, played chess with tween Laura, and played pool with 9-year-old David and his father. Shelly told us about her missionary work in inner-city Utica, and after a tasty lasagne dinner, we drove down to Janice’s youngest sister’s home, where we were staying.

We joined Melinda and Gary L. and their children Amanda and Joshua for Christmas Eve. I helped keep the kids occupied while the other adults finished wrapping a pile of presents. Amanda demonstrated her recent violin lessons, and I talked with 6-year-old Josh about various superheroes. Their cat Chocolate kept us company as we slept.

On Christmas morning, unwrapping continued, as the Manwillers and Wrights reconvened at the Lewis home, which has the most open space. Among other things, we got DVDs and an electric snow shovel. We had a ham luncheon, followed by Laura and 8-year-old Amanda playing with animal toys and David and Joshua playing with action figures and videogames. Becky is old enough to participate in most adult conversations.

Thanks to Gary’s PlayStation 2 and Xbox, I played an off-road racing videogame with Melvin, as well as Justice League Heroes with Josh. Although I don’t have the money or time to add console systems to my crowded tabletop (pen-and-paper, dice-and-pizza) role-playing, teleconferencing, and CoH PC gaming schedule, it was nice to try them out once in a while. Josh also demonstrated Spider-Man and Star Wars Lego II for us. (Lego Batman and Indiana Jones games are coming!) 

I telephoned my family in Virginia, but I still missed being with my parents, brother Peter, sister-in-law Kelly, and nieces Ava and Lili. I hope to see them sometime in spring of 2008. But first, we’ll be at Dexter V.H.’s latest wedding in New York City in just over a week!

We returned to the Boston area on Wednesday afternoon after taking out the Lewises and Janice’s mother to lunch at Applebee’s. On Thursday, I caught up on e-mail and prepared for various games, including last night’s D&D3.5 “Vanished Lands: Holy Steel” teleconferencing team and tomorrow’s D&D3.5 “Vanished Lands: the Broken Chains” holiday makeup fantasy session. I’ve got to work today. 

Of course, no year’s end blog post would be complete without a set of “best of” lists. IGN.com has a pretty good rundown of movies, genre television, and comics, but here’s my abbreviated version for 2007:

Favorite movies: Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Ratatouille

Favorite SFTV shows: Avatar: the Last Airbender, Doctor Who, and Pushing Daisies (Fellow blogger Ken G. has also noted the untimely demise of the underrated time-travel drama Journeyman, but at least Pushing Daisies and Reaper got picked up.)

Favorite comic books: Captain America, Detective Comics, and The Spirit

Favorite musical singles (and videos):Gone Gone Gone” (Robert Plant and Alison Kraus), “Rehab” (Amy Winehouse), “Umbrella” (Rihanna)

Favorite RPG releases: D20 Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed.: Ultimate Power, A Practical Guide to Monsters (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5/4e), D20 Star Wars: Saga Edition

What were your faves? I look forward to blogging about such entertainment and more in the coming year, and may it bring good health and prosperity for all!

5 August 2010: Chicago family reunion

Chicago's Willis Tower

On Wednesday, 28 July 2010, Janice and I took a JetBlue Airways flight from Boston’s Logan Airport to Chicago O’Hare to visit part of my mother’s side of the family. We rented a car and drove to the Marriott Northwest before grabbing dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. The dry-spiced boneless Buffalo chicken tenders were particularly good.

The next morning, Janice and I drove to the Barrington station of the Metra (commuter rail), which we took into the city. When I helped out at BriForum in June, I noted how Chicago’s urban density reminded me favorably of my hometown of New York, just as San Francisco is a bit like Boston. Unfortunately, the sprawl around Chicago, in which good arable land is being turned into subdivisions and strip malls, reminded us of Northern Virginia.

Janice and I walked through “the Loop,” Chicago’s downtown neighborhoods, and we saw the giant bean sculpture at Millennium Park. We also enjoyed the galleries and cafĂ© at the Art Institute before heading back out to the suburbs, stopping at a Graham Crackers, a comic book shop, on the way.

My younger brother Peter, his wife Kelly, and their children arrived from Virginia that evening. We went to my cousin Cristina‘s home for dinner, meeting her husband Arnold and their daughters Marjorie and Meg, plus Marjorie’s boyfriend Joe. For the first time, Janice, Kelly, and the girls got to partake of a Filipino feast, including Pancit Molo (a variation on wonton soup), not prepared by my mother. It was great to reconnect with some family members after more than two decades!

The next morning, Peter and I picked up our parents, who had been delayed by bad weather. Although plans to go into town had to be postponed, we rejoined the Tan family for lunch. For dinner, we dined at Le TiTi de Paris, a fancy French restaurant. I had steak stuffed with prosciutto and cheese.

On Saturday, July 31, we drove to the Navy Pier, whose attractions included a carousel, a Ferris wheel, jugglers, a stained-glass exhibit, and a large food court. I had a proper Chicago hot dog. By now, you’ve probably noticed that, like most families, eating is a major activity during any reunion. We took a river cruise focusing on the city’s diverse and historic skyline, followed by deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. Marjorie proved to be indispensable in getting us around.

On Sunday, Janice and I returned to Boston after just scraping the surface of the things to see and do in Chicago. We mowed the lawn, bought groceries, and began catching up on e-mails and recorded television. Our travel done for now, we’ve gotten back to work.

As you may have seen from other posts, my role-playing games have also kept me busy. The Sunday night Pathfinder teleconferencing team has started a new adventuring party in my long-running “Vanished Lands” homebrew fantasy setting, and the Monday night local face-to-face group is gearing up for my “Vortex” space opera campaign. I’ll try to blog more about them, comic books, and other stuff soon!

29 September 2009: Out in the country

Out in the country

This past weekend, Janice and I drove to western Massachusetts for the “Big E,” the Eastern States Exposition, which is the equivalent of a state fair for New England. We left work early on Friday, 25 September 2009, and visited the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside before checking into the nearby Holiday Inn. We had dinner at the upscale shopping mall, and among other things, I found another superhero costume for Halloween.

We then met Janice’s parents, her youngest sister Melinda, and Melinda’s family. After
Josh went for a swim with Janice and Melinda’s father Marvin, we played pool and
foosball, two of my favorite table games, with them and Gary and Amanda. After breakfast at Friendly’s the next morning, we went to the festival, which was crowded because of the nice early autumn weather.

We browsed through the craft square and numerous vendors’ booths, visited the state pavilions and historic buildings, petted some livestock, and of course, enjoyed fair food and refreshing birch beer. There was an impressive butter sculpture of a dairy farm. Although Janice and I didn’t get to this past weekend’s Phantom Gourmet food festival or the King Richard’s Faire Renaissance festival, we like going to such seasonal celebrations.

Our return to the Boston area went smoothly, but Janice’s folks weren’t so lucky — they got into a fender-bender on the way back to Upstate New York. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt. Given how infrequently our families come to Massachusetts, I hope that the incident doesn’t discourage them. Speaking of visitors, Damon F.P. and Dexter V.H. hope to visit in the next few weekends.

Work has continued to be demanding, but it should be easier this week with the return of my direct supervisor from her Italian vacation. My evenings have been filled with the usual games and the return of genre television, which I’m sure I’ll blog about more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let me know what you think and if there’s anything you’d like to see here!