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.

Feb15_10
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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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 café 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!

6 July 2010: Independence Day update

Summer 2010

Friends, I hope you had a good holiday. After meeting Janice’s middle sister Shelly and her
family
in Worcester, Massachusetts, the previous weekend, Janice’s parents and the family of her youngest sister Melinda arrived from Upstate New York on Saturday, 3 July 2010. Brother-in-law Gary had never visited our current duplex in Needham Heights, Mass.

Janice took Melinda, their parents Linda and Marvin, and our niece Amanda to the outlet mall in Wrentham, Mass. I drove Gary and nephew Joshua to the New England Comics and Newbury Comics in Norwood (I’ve got some reading to catch up on). We then walked around Legacy Place in Dedham. I also played a stripped-down version of Marvel HeroClix with Josh before reuniting for a good dinner of barbeque (sloppy
Joes
).

On July 4, we all went to Kimball Farm northwest of Boston. It had a range of attractions for families, including food, a craft shop, animals, and bumper boats. There was something for everyone, including miniature and “pitch and putt” golf, as well as an arcade. The weather was warm, but it didn’t slow us down too
much. Janice and I left her folks after dinner at T.G.I.Friday’s and made it home in time for Needham’s fireworks.

Melinda had to leave early on Monday for Amanda’s swim class, but Janice’s parents joined us for a pancake breakfast, Needham’s annual parade, and lunch at Wild Willy’s Burgers. The food theme continued after they left, as Janice and I ate leftovers and watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel.

Unfortunately, we missed the Minuteman Model Yacht Club’s “Independence Day Open” regatta
on Rosemary Pond. My Pathfinder: Holy Steel/Dragonslayers” teleconferencing team and the face-to-face
role-playing gamers didn’t meet this past weekend, but we hope to get back on track after assorted scheduling disruptions. As I’ve recently posted, we’re gearing up for a new adventuring party in the virtual fantasy group and my “Vortexspace opera campaign.