Saturday, December 3, 2016

What is Old is New

One of my favorite parts about being a parent is that as my son grows and experiences the world, I am able to watch his wonder and excitement when he experiences something new.  Yesterday my family and I stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch. After the meal my son and I went outside and sat in the rocking chairs while he played with one of the checker sets.  He was so excited that the pieces could be stacked!  I tried to show him out to play but since he is just two, he wasn't overly interested in the actual rules.

So when we left the restaurant he was distraught that we were not taking the checker set home.  Mom promised him we could play checkers at the house and use our own set...I was fairly sure we didn't actually own a checker set.  Once we arrived home I went to check our game shelf and low and behold we did own a single checker set...a 1977 Disney Checkers.

I had forgotten all about this box.  After finding it on the game shelf I do remember that it has been in our family for a long time.  Since my son now loves checkers and everything Disney, this was a perfect fit.  The most amazing part is that after almost 40 years we are only missing one of the yellow pieces!

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Mandela Effect

I was listening to the radio a few years ago when the DJ came on the air and started talking about the Berenstein Bears.  You know the children's books from years ago,written by Stan and Jan Bernstein.   Now you may or may not have noticed that I have spelled the name Berenstein different than what is depicted in the picture to the right.  Well the DJ on the radio show was talking about how he swears that the name of the books from his childhood was written The Berenstein Bears and not The Berestain Bears.  

I listened to the radio show and thought they DJ was trying to pull a fast one and do some War of Worlds type hullabaloo.  So when I went home I went and got a box of old books out of the closet to easy my troubled mind that the books from my childhood were spelled correctly as The Berenstein Bears...but when I looked at the books from when I was a kid, they were spelled, Berenstain.  My mind reeled and I felt very odd and detached as the book in my hands was very different from what I remembered.  The world felt un-real to me in that moment. 

After gathering my thoughts, I went to my good friend Google and did a quick search to see I could figure out when it was changed and how on earth my books in the closet were switched out.  What I found quickly opened up a rabbit hole that I chased well past midnight that night.

At the link listed above I found  a website created and ran by Fiona Broom and it was a collection of stories about people from around the world who remembered people, places, and events differently than what was accepted as the "Real History".  I read and read all night long about things that appeared crazy, such as when did Nelson Mandela die...did he die in prison years ago or was he still alive?  That specific factoid is where the name of the one of the most popular theories was coined.  

The theory is that people, either single or in large groups have lived a past that has a shared history but at some point they crossed over into a parallel reality that is similar to their original reality but different in some minor fashion. This theory is used to explain why so many people all believe that the real children's book name is The Berenstein Bears  and not the one with ..stain... in the name.

I don't have any answers, but if you get a few minutes then check out her website and see if any of the stories hold true for your memories.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Long Dark, 4 Days of Night

I was drawn into The Long Dark well over a year ago when I found the game by Hinterland Studios on Steam.  The game is a sand box survival game set it the far north Canadian woods.  The game designers have been working towards a story mode release but in the mean time have opened up their world for us to explore and survive.  The game is really fun and has beautiful graphics, I often find myself exploring out of the way nooks just to see what it looks like.

I plan on doing a more involved review once the story mode is released but since Hinterlands Studio is doing a special Halloween event for the next few days, I wanted to take a few minutes and let everyone know about the event.  From October 28th - November 1st, the sun will not rise in the game.  You will attempting to survive in the arctic cold of the great north...with no day time!

The patch note also mention demon wolves...but I haven't run across any of those yet.  To help the players out the game light sources last longer and you can find fall/Halloween themed food that will help you stay warm and ward off the demon wolves.

I know it is a short event and game designers may not do it again until next year or they may not do it again at all.  So I encourage everyone who has played this game or thought about playing to give it try this weekend and check out the special event.

Have fun and I will be playing as well!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 Review

 I am a huge fan of Dragon Ball and all the continuing TV series aired on Cartoon Network back in the 90's and early  2000's.  I spent many an afternoon watching the adventures of Goku and friends and their antics to save the world.

Over the years I have tried out the Manga and found I didn't enjoy it as much as the cartoon though it does have its strengths.  I have also tried out several of the video games with Dragon Ball Z:  Budokai as my reigning least until Dragon Ball Xenoverse came along.  I enjoyed Xenoverse 1 so much that On December 25th, I found myself at the local game store picking up my copy of Xenoverse 2 as soon as it became available!

 Xenoverse allowed you make an original character the Time Patroller and then take that character to all of our favorite moments in Dragon Ball history and set right events that the mysterious villain had changed.  Not getting into any spoilers about the first game, lets just say with a little help from friends you save the universe and time itself!

Now in the sequel, you once again make an original character.  Toki Toki City has become Conton city in Xenoverse 2, and is much larger than the previous iteration.  Once you finish the intro mission and training you a lead to the center of town where you have the option to choose a character from your Xenoverse 1 save data to transfer over to Xenoverse 2.  You can't play the character but you can see them immortalized in a holographic statue in Conton City for their actions in the previous game saving the universe!  You also will gain the equipped abilities and clothes from that character.  So you may want to fire up Xenoverse 1 and make sure your character is equipped with the abilities and clothes you want to transfer.

After the intro and character transfer you then have an open sprawling city of Conton city to explore!  and like the first game you have your time patrols where you will travel in time to set right events that have been altered, you can also train with various masters, conduct parallel quest (think "what if") events in Dragon Ball history, and eventually open up the skies of Conton city for you to fly around.

The fighting mechanics are quick and fluid and once you master the controls you find that each battle will play out quickly...for better or worse.   One aspect I was hopping would get added to the game was a Ki battle.  So no using a kamehameha wave and having to battle it out once your attacked meets your opponents ki attack.  This game is more of a you shoot and they shoot kind of sequence.

If you didn't like Xenoverse 1 then you may not care for the sequel.  The game shares the same game set up and mechanics, though the opponent targeting option does appear to work better this time around.

I would recommend this game to any Dragon Ball Z fans and suggest that fans of the older video games give it a chance as well.  It is currently available at most retailers, Amazon, and Steam for $59.99.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Your character from the original Xenoverse is immortalized in Conton City as a hero for all to see!
  • You can transfer from Xenoverse 1 some of you hard earned abilities and equipment, choose carefully.
  • The portal between zone are easier to identity and use during mission than they were in the original.
  • I love getting to see all my favorite Dragon Ball Z characters and Vegeta is as much fun as I remember.
  • Multi-step missions are clearer in what you need to do and where you need to go than they were in Xenoverse 1.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • Having to get a license to fly around Conton City.
  • You get the impression that Xenoverse 1 was a test to get right some of the game play in Xenoverse 2.
  • The voice dubbing does not match up the animation of the character speaking, I know some people enjoy that aspect of dubbing to english but it has always gotten on my nerves.
  • No Ki beam or special ablity battles of strength.

Monday, October 17, 2016

This War of Mine Review

This War of Mine is a strategy survival video game by 11 Bit Studios.  I first found out about this game via Paul Soares Jr. on his YouTube channel Paul Soares Jr. youtube Channel.  I have been an avid watching of Mr. Soares since his early Minecraft how to Survive videos and have found him a terrific source of new games since he branched out and began play testing new tittles.  I purchases the game on Steam and have been enjoying playing though the story.

This War of Mine at first glance is a simple point click and move your character around a side-scrolling map, but has a much deeper game play that is apparent at first glance.  The game loosely based up the siege of Sarajevo during  the Bosnian War (Wiki says 1992-1996).   You play a group of civilians that have holed up in an abandoned home and must scavenge, trade, and/or steal to survive.

The starting characters are different with each play though and have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Such as a strong character will have more equipment slots to bring home scavenged materials but may be much slower in movement.  While a quicker character may be a better negotiator or stealthier.    These traits will help shape how you play the game and who will stay home each night to guard the house from bandits or go out in search of supplies.

Like I said you start off exploring your house and discovering some meager supplies and what locations you have available.  Eventually you will open up more parts of your home and begin to equip it with the materials (wood, metal, and maybe parts of firearms) and equipment (rat traps, water purification system, or a alcohol still) to help your characters survive.  Each day is broken down to daytime and night time.  During the day you can rest and work on your home, but during the night you can select who will rest, be on guard at home, and who will venture out into the war torn city and look for equipment and supplies.

When you go out into the city you will encounter different locations and people.  Some of these will be hostile towards you, while others are in similar dire straits as your characters, and will be will to trade or need your help.  I found that my choices would not only affect the moral of my characters but how other NPC's would interact with my characters.

All in all, I am really enjoying the game.  right now the base game is available on Steam for $19.99

Pros (Things I like)

  • Random starting characters, I found myself starting a new game just to see which characters I would receive
  • The seasons and weather change, you may be warm one day and then the temperature plunges and you are in need of a furnace/heater in your home.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • the compressed time of day and night can be too short to get done what you would like to accomplish.
  • Some of the game locations are darn difficult to get around with out a fight, I know its portraying a realistic atmosphere but man, does it get hard at times
  • the game only saves after you have completed a full day, so you have to do all your day activities and then you night outing before you can save your actions.  that takes about 20 min. real time and is sometimes hard to work around with a toddler in the house.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

No Man's Sky - Review, Ongoing Experiences

I have to admit that after my first exposure to No Man's Sky I was a bit overwhelmed and didn't really know where to go or what to do in the game.  I remember having a similar feeling when it came to learning about and playing Minecraft several years ago.

The open open galaxy has taken some getting used to, and I love seeing the new worlds and how beautiful they are.  I frequently find myself stuck on a world having to go chase down resources so that I can power my thrusters or hyperdrive so that I can leave and find the next world that I am stuck on until I gather enough resources to get off world.

I am also following the path of Atlas and it is just interesting enough to keep me going and see what the next part will bring.  With me being busy out of town this month, it has been hard to make time to play any games, so this update is going to be brief.

I am going to continue my journey with No Man's Sky and will keep you all updated as I find more interesting things to talk about.  Oh yeah, speaking to alien races is fun and weird...I need a universal translator from Star Trek!

Pros (Things I like)

  • Space is really cool and it is amazing that you can go anywhere you want
  • The new worlds I have found have all been amazing, even the last one with its acid atmosphere!

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I quickly ran out of fuel when trying to speed to a a planet once I was in system.
  • Supply grind, I am stranded on each new world until I gather enough resources to move on to my next world...were once again I am stranded looking for supplies and materials.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Premier "Steps into Shadow" Impressions

I have been a Star Wars fan since the day I went to the drive in movies with my dad to see Return of the Jedi as a kid back in 1983.  Like a lot of other people I was enamored with the idea of a space opera and all the sights sounds of aliens, alien worlds, star ships, and the world that George Lucas brought to life on the big screen.  So dad and I went home from the drive in theater and it was all i could talk about...that is until he told me it was the third movie of a trilogy!  There were two more I movies that I hadn't even known existed!

Skip ahead several years and a few hundred times of having watched the original Star Wars trilogy and I come across the Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" in 1991 and boom, mind blown again!  Not only do I have the original films but a whole written universe that approved by Lucas himself.

My love for all things Star Wars has continued to grow.  Through the release of the prequels, various video games over the years, the animated Clone Wars Shorts, and eventually with the animated Clone Wars cartoon (which is fantastic!).  I was heart broken to learn that the old novels were no longer going to be canon after the Disney purchase...but found my spirits lifted with the announcement of new movies and a new animated series!

Now three seasons into Star Wars Rebels, all I can say is wow!  I know it sounds totally cliched and I have several friends who are not fans of the new series and feel they were betrayed by the cancellation of The Clone Wars series.  I understand the necessity of the change by Disney, but I miss the stories and characters so much!

Well Disney brought us one of our favorite clone troopers last season, Rex.  Then our favorite ex-Jedi apprentice Ashoka Tano was revealed to be in the show!  Now in season 3 we have one of Timothy Zahn's best characters brought back to Star Wars canon...Grand Admiral Thrawn!

Warning some spoiler below

We find ourselves some time after the events of the season 2 finale.  Ezra has grown and stepped up in a much larger role in the rebellion.  While Kanan has withdrawn and secluded himself from this friends and allies.  The team is conducting a prison break of our favorite scoundrel Hondo.  It looks a bit bleak as the prison break goes sideways, that is until Ezra breaks out some very disturbing force puppetry with the Storm troopers and walker.

I won't do a blow by blow of the episode but we are shown a darker Ezra who is willing to do what ever is necessary to safe/help his friends.  A Kanan who discovers a his lost sight..sort of.

I enjoyed the episode.  The physical changes in Ezra were a little jarring but by the end of the episode it didn't phase me anymore.  For me though the highlight was the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn!  He is finally part of the new Star Wars canon and I can't wait to see how his role plays out over the season.  We left of with a more upbeat ending but it was a bitter sweet victory and as the Empirials stated, The rebels fight so hard for such little gain.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

T.I.M.E. Stories Review

Since we have started playing more and more board games, I have been reading about various games online.  T.I.M.E. Stories has come up time and time again with each review singing its praises but remaining vague about the game itself.   Claiming that the persons didn't want to spoil too much for others.

Now having purchased the main game and its story Asylum, I understand what they meant.  The game intriguing and kept us on the edge of our seats as we worked through the story.  You are a T.I.M.E. agent in the future and you are sent back in time to specific location to find out what is causing an anomaly and then fix the problem.
The game comes with the Asylum story and you as the player are sent back into a vessel.  Its like, the TV show Quantum Leap.  You are occupying someone else for the course of the adventure.  So you have that characters abilities and drawbacks.  You then explore the environment and interact with characters in the game.  It is a who-dun-it, you have to figure out what is going on, who is involved, and how to stop it.  All this with only 60 time units for a 4 player game that can be spent.

The good news is that if you die, fail, or run out of time units you get to come back and try again.  The downside is that it is all set and you are faced with the exact same problem.  So the more you fail the better you should do next time, at least until you complete the scenario.

Once you complete the scenario you are introduced to the game mechanic where you gain a boon in the next upcoming mission.  The level of the boon is equal to how quickly and how well you competed the Asylum mission.

I would recommend you follow the instructions about how to handle each card.  It helps create the atmosphere and makes you feel more like you are in a fictional story.  Specifically that only the player that is attempting to inspect/look at something is aloud to read the game card.  Then they are permitted to relay the information.  For us one of clues was a picture and we had a fun time with the player describing what he saw!

We enjoyed the game.  It was new and exciting.  We did find ourselves frustrated with one of the riddles but eventually solved it.  With that solution we were ecstatic about finally finding the solution!

With the game game priced around $50.00 on amazon, it is worth picking up.  Just be prepared that it won't have a lot of replay ability once you complete the mission.  They designers want you to move on and get the next mission.  We have already pick up the next scenario:  The Marcy Case (1992) and can't wait to try it out.

Pros (Things I like)

  • A very good looking game, with a lot of different game pieces and markers
  • Plays very quickly and set up easy as well.
  • We were hooked early on.  The game is very engaging 
  • The game box is set up to "save" the game and keep track of who and what each player has received during the current session.  The instructions even have a labeled example of where everything goes.
  • We are looking forward to the next scenario:  The Marcy Case (1992)

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • The rules are very vague and leave much to be desired about actual game play.
  • Very little replay ability with each adventure.  One you finish a scenario you really can't play it again.
  • We were stuck at one point with one of the riddles in the game.  The mechanic to solve it wasn't very clear and took us just long enough to frustrate most of the players.
  • The instructions are not very clear about how to set up the board, at least beyond the game deck and map.  We used a youtube video to see how they set up parts of the board.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Timeline Music & Cinema Card Game Review

 Last Christmas a friend of mine brought over a card game to my mothers house while we were in town visiting for the holidays.  It was a small metal tin called Timeline.  The version he had was American History and we had blast.  The game is composed of a small deck of mini-sized playing cards that have pictures and the name of an event.

My wife and I picked up Timeline Music & Cinema.  So you get cards that have everything from classical music all the way to recent top 40 hits on the radio.

To play the game you are dealt a hand of cards.  You win by getting rid of all the cards in your hand.  This is done my taking turns around the table placing your cards where you think they occurred on a timeline you set up on the table.  For example you deal everyone playing the game cards then you draw one card, we will use Star wars Episode IV A New Hope, with its release date of 1977.  Now the next player will place another card either before 1977 or after 1977.  Once the card is placed they flip it to the other side which has the same artwork and name but also includes a date.  If the player chose correctly the card stays where it is placed.  If they chose incorrectly the card is moved to the correct place on the timeline and the player draws a replacement card.  As you can see the game is easy for the first round or so, but as your timeline starts to fill up it quickly get more difficult.

As i wrote earlier, the winner is the first one to empty their hand of all cards.  The game is easy to set up and plays very quickly.  We had one game over in less than 10 minutes, my wife knew all the music dates she had in her hand.  While we had another game last 30 minutes, we didn't have any clue when Ride of the Valkyries was produced!

With the game being less than $10.00 on Amazon, it is relatively cheap, but be warned, you will find yourself wanting to pick up some of the other versions!

Pros (Things I like)

  • The artwork is simple yet very involved.  It invokes a lot of nostalgia for the movies and songs portrayed on the cards 
  • Plays very quickly and set up easy as well.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I know why they sell different versions, after several times playing, it become a bit repetitious and you find yourself remembering the dates and the games playing out faster.
  • You only buy one expansion when you purchase the game. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Story - My Dad

Star Trek 50th Anniversary Story

My father Joe Evans passed away several years ago.  One of the things that he and I did together when I was younger was watch Star Trek the Original Series re-runs on television.  Then we watched The Next Generation when it came on TV in 1987.  It was my job to record the episodes so that we could watch them on the weekend together.  I also remember him taking me to the drive in theater to watch the movies as they came out, and wow did I cry when Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan.  Dad said it would be OK, they would find a way to bring him back in the next movie.

Just the other day, I got a message from my Aunt (dad's sister), she was sharing a message she had received from a family friend.  The friend has been seeing the information about the Star Trek's 50th anniversary and it made her think of my dad.  I have shared her message below:

"This is (name removed), (name removed)s little sister.  Just wanted to drop you a message to tell you my most favorite Joe Evans story since I've been seeing commercials about Star Trek having their upcoming 50th anniversary next week.  We lived across the street from y'all then & y'all had a color TV which was a BIG DEAL to me.  I was 11 so Joe was probably 14 at the time.  He would let me come over & watch Star Trek in color with him.  Then, as I was walking back home, he'd let me get about half way down y'alls front sidewalk, & then he'd TURN OFF THE PORCH LIGHTS!  Of course I'd scream because I just knew the Star Trek creatures from that night's show were gonna come out from behind all those wonderful trees in your yard & just GET ME!  I can still hear him laughing.  Even though I knew he'd do the same thing the next week I still showed up, week after week. Just wanted to share this little story with you."

My aunt sent me a copy of the message above, it brought a smile to my face and made me laugh at my dad picking on her during her walk home after watching Star Trek.  It also brought back a lot of happy memories of sharing my love of everything Trek with my father.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Zombicide: Black Plague Review

During our yearly vacation, we try to play as many games as possible.  In our younger and child free years we played mostly RPG's especially Dungeons and Dragons (various editions) but as we have gotten older we have moved on to more board games.  They take up less prep time and we can jump in and play.  Last year we tried out Zombicide and found that we really enjoyed the game but it was almost impossible to win.  The reason we had so much trouble was that we were only using half of the provided zombie walkers.  Trust me it makes it much harder since you run out of zombies very quickly.

This year we thought that Zombicide:  Black Plague would be a fun version to try out.  Where the original and its expansion take place in a more modern setting this one is straight out of a Middle ages Fantasy setting, as evidenced by the Dwarf Warrior and Wizard on the cover of the box.  I really liked the variety of characters to choose from and the character card/tray is a big improvement over the original version of the character card that just had an XP slider on the card.

The game has you investigating the sudden rising of the dead and what these necromancers have to do with the zombie apocalypse.  We found that our group could easily handle fairly large groups of zombies and that we really only had to make sure we kept together and kept the zombie population on the board manageable.

Just like in the original version of the game, your number of actions and how you allocate them each turn in key to your survival.  You need to move, search, and find equipment so that your attacks are more effective and you are able to mow down the zombies.  As your character collect objectives and defeat baddies then you will gain experience and more bonuses and actions.  Reflecting how your character improves over time.


I do like how you can add the colored base to the model to make it easier to see which model belongs to which player.  The game played quickly and was much easier than the original version of the game.  We managed to take out a group of 15+ zombies with good use of spells and the dragons fire area attack.

the base game is currently available on Amazon for $63.00 which is not a bad price for a game with all the models and pieces that are included.  Over all we enjoyed this game but found it easier to play and more forgiving than the original Zombicide.

Pros (Things I like)

  • I love the fantasy setting
  • The character cards trays are well made and a big improvement over regular Zombicides character cards.
  • Since more attacks are melee attacks you are a mostly quiet group and only make noise to attract zombies when you break down doors or cast spells.
  • I played the Wizard character and loved the different spells available to use, invisibility was especially effective a couple of time.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I didn't feel like a zombie survival/horror story, but more like a dungeon crawl
  • The game played easier and quicker than the original Zombicide.  I missed the greater challenged.
  • I would like to see the main character models painted but that is on the game owner and something that we will finish up down the road.
  • The area dividers are a little harder to see on the tiles than the ones in the original Zombicide game.
  • We had to reference the rule book a few times and struggled to find specific rules.  The layout could be better organized.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On the Way to Allie's House, Part # 4

This time we found ourselves walking over to Allies house during the day on a Saturday.  It felt strange to not be sneaking over in the middle of the night and having to hide every time a care passed along the way.  Allies parents and some of her younger sisters were gone for the day, so she called and asked us to come on over and hang out.

Earlier that day an old friend Karl stopped by our neighborhood to visit and catch up.  He had lived next door to me when I was younger and we used to play together all the time, but his family had moved out of state and he been gone for over 5 years.  We thought it would be cool for him to come along and hang out with Allie.  All four of us spent the short walk to her house reminiscing and catching up and before we knew it, we were standing in front of Allie's house.

She met us at the door and invited us all in, Karl was very animated and excited to be hanging out with us as "adults" and by adults I mean that we were all 16 years old.  We all went downstairs to watch a movie and visit.  Sam was still dating Allie at this time, so Houston, Karl and I didn't have much to do but try to watch the move Diggs Town to keep ourselves entertained.  The movie was good but not enough to keep us completely out of trouble.  We started to argue about the movie and that lead to an impromptu wrestling match!  We each fought and rolled around the TV room until Houston got the better of Karl.  At that point Karl took off running up the stairs and into the kitchen.

The house had two stair cases, one on either end of the basement.  One lead up to the kitchen and the other was near the front door and and came back down next to the TV room.  The basement was only partially finished and the TV room side stair case was only 2x4 studs for a wall.  So you could jump from the landing over the couch and take off running across the TV room.  This is exactly what Karl did as he came down the stairs at a break neck pace.  Houston quickly followed Karl and jumped over the couch.  It was at this point that one of Allies little sisters who was at home came into the TV room to see what was going on.

She couldn't have been more than 6 years old, and she walked right into Houston's path as he jumped off the landing.  He tumbled across the floor and she went down underneath him as well.  Allie screamed and jumped off the couch and away from Sam to check on her little sister.

Houston jumped up and turned to Allie, hurriedly pointing out that he was OK, he was fine!  Allie helped her little sister up, who was holding her head and started to cry.

"Get Out!" was her only response.  She pointed up the stairs and we all moved quickly and quietly up the stairs and out into the garage.

Sam turned to Houston and said "Way to go man."  After that the walk back to our neighborhood was long and very quiet.

Allie's little sister was fine but she did end up with a scar on her forehead from her collision with Houston.  It was fun to catch up and visit with Karl but all in all, not one of our better trips over to Allie's house.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

No Man's Sky - Review, First Impressions

I have been casually following the pre-release information about a upcoming game, No Man's Sky.  The game was being touted as a procedurally generated game universe similar to Elite:  Dangerous.  Basically you can explore in any directions and the game would have planets available to more fully explore on top of flying a spaceship around the galaxy.

The game is developed by Hello Games and initially scheduled for release on PS4 and PC on August 9th, 2016.  I don't own a PS4 so I was forced to wait until Friday August 12th since the PC version of the game was delayed.  I purchased my copy on Steam and have been waiting for it to be available to download and play on Friday.

The game is a action survival game.  You begin all alone on your own private world where your space ship has crashed and you must gather supplies to repair your ship and keep yourself alive.  When the game finally loaded and I was greeted with the sweeping view of the area around my ship, I was impressed with how pretty the graphics are for the world.  Bright vibrant colors with the light appearing to change depending on where I moved and how much shadow was being cast by the flora around me.

I struggled with the user interface at first and had to reference the controls section of the menu to remind myself what keys to what.  I also completely missed the part about holding down the key or mouse button for a couple of seconds to fully select the option I was trying to complete.  I was also a bit overwhelmed at first about where to start, so I just started walking around and around shooting things with my mining laser.

Eventually I fixed my broken scanner and started scanning items to add them to my personal library.  Once you have scanned something you can then upload it to some central library and they pay you credits for your effort and you get to name that object forever more!  Including the planet you are walking around on.  I had a lot of "Weed-00X" named plants.

After wandering around for about an hour and half, I got back to the important job of fixing my spaceship.  Now I just need to find more fuel so I can get off this rock and check out space!  I will keep you all updated as I get a chance to play more.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Beautiful Game
  • The world is big and kept me moving farther and farther out just to see what was out there.
  • You get to name things, including the world you start the game on!

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • I struggled with the interface at first but eventually caught on
  • how do you repair things??  Oh, you have to select an empty inventory slot and hold E to bring up the crafting menu, got it!
  • I found the run key after about 30 minutes of agonizing walking

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wearing The Cape by M.G.Harmon

You may not have been able to guess it, but I read a lot.  Sci-fi, fantasy, military fiction and even a bit of Stephen King, it doesn't matter I like them all.  Several years ago while traveling for work I found a copy of Wearing the Cape by M.G. Harmon.  His novel is a story of Hope Corrigan and her transition from regular every day college student to a costume wearing superhero.

The adult Superhero Fiction was something I discovered with  Wearing the Cape and now find the stories his and other authors very enjoyable.  I don't have a lot of time to invest into getting back into collecting and reading new comics like I did in my younger days.  /so this genre of fiction is much more portable and slides into my reading list very easily.

Last year Mr. Harmon announced that he was creating a role-playing game based up his Wearing the cape series.  He put our a request for play testers via Google+.  I read his request and thought, what the heck let me see if  he will take me as one.  A few days later he emailed me with the specifics  and accepted me into his Google+ group for play-testers.  Being part of the process and seeing the book come to fruition has been very exciting.  I can't wait for it to reach the kick-starter phase.  Mr. Harmon is a very nice gentleman and has been very open and personable when discussing the game and novel content.  It has been fascinating to see how a RPG game book comes into the world.

Mr. Harmon is self published author who  created a delightful cast of characters and world that is I have found enthralling.  I would encourage you to try out his writing and if have a minute, go check out his website:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

World of Warcraft: Legion - Demon Hunter Thoughts

Once along time ago I played World of Warcraft.  It may be better to say that I played WoW to the exclusion off everything else, which almost lead to me getting divorce.  I suspected that I may have a problem with the game taking up too much of my time and it was confirmed on a raid night when a coworker called me and needed help getting his car out of a ditch, and told him to call a wrecker...

As I hung up the phone, I realized that I was in a hurry to get back to the raid and just ditched him (haha pun intended!) so that I could play an MMO with a bunch a relative strangers.  The next day I canceled my account subscription and didn't look back.

Now, 5 years later I have renewed my subscription and started playing all over again.  This time with a careful eye on the clock and making sure that I don't get too deep into the game.  So no raiding this time around, not even a little.

By the way last and only warning that I will have a spoiler or two listed below for the Demon Hunters and their starting area.

Tonight I just spend the last two hours trying out the pre-release of the new Hero class - Demon Hunters otherwise known as the Illidari.  I rushed though the character making process a bit and wasn't over picky about how I looked.  So now I have a very horny night-elf Demon Hunter with glowing eyes and tattoos.  I think she looks cool.  The story picks up several years ago at the Black Temple in Outlands, you are being sent on a mission by Illidian while a small group of Heroes from Azeroth are entering the Black Temple intent on killing him.

Illidian says it all cool and he's got this.  So you go take care of your mission.  You and a few of your demon hunter buddies enter the portal he opens and get ready to go slay a few thousand demons.  My first impression was that the demon dimension was beautiful.  In a were on a floating island sorta way.  Then I ran down the hill and jumped...and double jumped...and my character grew demon wings and started gliding down the slope!  I found myself thinking wow, i mean wow, that is totally cool!  Did I mention that you start at level 98?

The Demon Hunters start out in a DPS build but you can switch it up to a tank build as well later on in the starting area.  You spend about 2 hours running around helping your forces defeat demons and recover the Maltese I mean MacGuffin, dang it I mean Sargerite Stone.  I think it will be important later in the over all expansion plot.  Finally after you complete your mission, you return to find Illidian dead and you are quickly captured for your crimes of working for the dude.

Time passes and they thaw you out of the green ice to help repel the people breaking into your prison to steal Illidian body.  Of course you jump in and start killing demons, its sorta your thing.  next thing you know the Alliance is taking you in and you uncover a demon plot to ruin a funeral.

The addictive nature of the game aside, I really like the story and how it built upon events that transpired 4 expansion ago.  The Demon Hunters are very quick, mobile, agile, and take advantage of the environment like no other class out there.  I don't know if its enough to jump back into the game but for the time being I am enjoying hanging out with some friends and killing a few extra dimensional baddies!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A good friend hanging out Cryptozoic

Check out @Cryptozoic's Tweet:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What are friends for

Many years ago I noticed a cricket had gotten into my car.  The odd thing was,it was a very hardy cricket and survived for not just a day or so, but for about a year.  Every so often it would chirp and when I stopped the car I would search everywhere trying to find the cricket so I could get rid of it. This process went on and on and eventually I sold the car to a friend of mine.  Now with my cricket problem was gone and I moved onto to a new truck.  One that wasn't slowly driving me insane with a immortal cricket chirping all the time.

Eventually I flew home to visit my family and let the same friend who bought the car keep my truck while I was away.  A couple of weeks later I got back from my visit with family, and guess what?  The cricket chirping was back!  This time it was in my new truck.  I thought I was loosing my mind.  I looked everywhere in the truck for that stupid cricket but I never found the cricket.

A couple of years went by with that cricket randomly chirping and making me cringe every time it started up.   I was never able to find it and some how it lived through two years of weather extremes in that truck.  After those two years the chirping stopped.  The cricket must have finally died or moved on to haunt someone else.  During this whole ordeal I never told a soul.  I knew they would think I was crazy since no one else had ever been in the truck to hear the chirping.

several years went by and I eventually got a job with that same friend I mention earlier who had bought my old car...and now the chirping was back in my truck again!

 I was surfing the web one day when I came across this item:

ThinkGeek Annoy-a-tron

It is a device that can make a cricket sound at random intervals.  I went immediately out to the truck and searched it again.  I still didn't find any devices.  The next Monday I confronted my friend and co-worker about planting this gizmo.  He denied everything, but after that day the chirping went away for good.

This was many years ago and to this day the friend denies any wrong doings or planing this device or a similar device in my cars.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Star Trek: 5 Year-Mission Review

During our vacation week we had the opportunity to try another new game, Star Trek:  5 Year-Mission, by Mayfair Games.  I had not heard of this game until my friend showed up at the house, pulled it out and said lets play.  It is a small box and only hold a few items;  two sided character templates, alert cards (blue, yellow, and red), two sided play mat, and different colored 6-sided dice.

The first thing you do during set up is choose either Original Series Enterprise and her crew or The Next Generation Enterprise and crew.  Once you have chosen your time period you then choose which crew member you want to play.  For our first play through we went with TOS and I choose Scotty as my character.  The only caveat to choosing characters is that one player needs to be either Kirk or Picard, the ship has to have a captain!

Once you have chosen your crew member you gather your starting dice and allocate dice to the ship play area.  Then you place a counter on the undamaged spot along the damage track on the ship play area.  Then each of the three alert decks are shuffled and placed out in front of the ship play mat.  The play area will look like the picture below:

The game begins by setting up the first blue alert card which is always "Five Year Mission"  Now the meat of the game is that each player must roll a pool of three different colored six-sided dice.  You then match up any of the values on the dice to a corresponding value listed on the Alert card.  If you match up all the required dice values, you complete the mission and either set it aside for scoring or discard and remove from play.

I will say that the most exciting part of the game is how they built up a sense of drama and urgency by introducing timed missions.  If you flip over a timed mission then you must use a provided 3 min hour-glass (I guess its a minute-glass) and then start the time.  You have until the sand runs out to finish that mission or it is failed.  The loose condition for the game is if you fail 5 missions then the game is over.  The other way to fail is if you have to draw a mission and i would place you at 4 active mission of a specific color then you fail the oldest one face up.  It happens pretty quick

The victory conditions must be agreed upon before the game starts, for example the Ensign victory condition is that you will complete two mission of each color and have 10 points total of completed missions (the point value may be mistaken, I can't remember).  What we started doing on subsequent games was to play until we failed and see how far we could make it.  One of our games we managed to get an Admiral Victory, and wow was that hard!

Pros (Things I like)

  • Easy and quick set up
  • The timed mission are stressful and exciting, you only have 3 minutes to complete and they make you use an hour glass!
  • Each round only takes about 30-45 minutes to play and we found ourselves playing a couple of games in a row
  • Except for the communications mishap card (see below) the game very much requires collaboration and team work to beat.

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • The victory win conditions are a odd and didn't feel like a real victory
  • Once mission started to spiral out of control the game went bad quickly
  • Communication mishap card...if that mission is active...then players can't talk to each other!
  • The dice are limited and if a player trys to hold on to his it can penalize other players

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time Review

I am a child of the 80's!  There is no shame or accusation in that exclamation, just the simple fact that I suffer form 80's nostalgia.  One of the those is the Back to the Future movie series.  One of my friends brought over his copy of the new board game Back to the Future:  An Adventure Through Time.   If you are not familiar with the original movies you may be a bit lost, I apologize for not going more in depth in regard to the movies, but trust me, take an afternoon and get caught up.  You will really the movies!

So of course we had to give it a try.  By the way that same said friend is the giving the box cover rabbit ears in the picture on the left.  With all this said, I was a bit dubious of how well you can make a board game of Back to the Future without crossing the "Too Silly to Fun" line or wow this is a bad game syndrome form the 90's.

I have to report that is far from perfect, but we did find it to be a fun game that meets my families current game requirements.  Easy to set up, rules that are fairly quick to learn, and a deceptive amount of meta-strategy.

The game consists of a deck of mission cards that have three names listed.  There is a short stack of 3 of these for 1955, 1985, and 2015 time periods.  The goal of the game is use the characters from the back to the future movies; Marty, Doc, Jennifer, George, Lorraine, and Biff.  To meet the goal cards and have those characters present in the correct time period.

You accomplish this by moving the DeLorean back and forth and assigning each character to the correct time period.  The playing deck holds character cards that are individual character, dual characters, have a time cost, and a ripple cost.

Each player has a print copy of the Hill Valley Court House Clock and will use that as their respective play areas.  You pay an energy cost to move the DeLorean between time periods  and then pay a time cost for playing your cards.  The cards then have a secondary cost as well called Ripple.  In 1955 the ripple cost is 2 cards that you must discard to play an active card in your play area.  Meanwhile the ripple is only 1 card in 1985 and 0 card in 2015.  This make it cheaper to play your cards in 2015 and more expensive the farther in the past you go.  On the flip side when you end your turn and draw new cards you draw 2 in 2015, 1 in 1985, and 0 in 1955.  Also as you finish Quest/Objective/Mission card in a time period you score points.  The point value go up the farther in the past you complete your mission.

This leads to some careful consideration of where to move the DeLorean and how to play your cards.  You play it easy with low cost and quick card play, but you may be helping your opponents as well.

It does play quickly and only took us around 45 minutes per game after our initial play through to learn the game.  Which even that first time was only about 1.5 hours.  My wife, who loves everything 80's, love the game and I see us picking up a copy in the near future.  Regularly it is $34 on Amazon but right now it is on sale for only $23.52, so we may be picking up a copy fairly quickly.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Cool art work
  • It is based upon 1985's Back to the Future
  • Parts of the game are more difficult back in the past of 1955 and easier in the future of 2015.  Vice versa depending on which game mechanic you are using.
  • Play quickly, around 45 minutes per game

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • Lack of diversity in the art on each playing card
  • Clock tower is not made of the same card stock as the rest of the play token and areas
  • Instruction are a bit vague on some rules conflicts such as dual character cards, do they count as an Either/Or card or do you get t count both characters seperatly towards mission completion goals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vacation Plans

I have a wonderful wife.

With that said I shall elaborate as to whey that statement is true right now.  Every year I plan a weeks vacation on the third week of July.  This week is important since it is when I get together with my guy friends.  We get together and spend the week visiting, telling stories, drinking beer, and playing every game we can get our hands on.

Attendees will vary based upon everyone's work, schedule, and family plans.  We usually have 5-7 people here for the week.  With that said, my wife and I usually host the get together since we have the room for guests and my wife loves to cook for everyone.

This year has been no different and we just wrapped up our festivities.  As I have mentioned, we have been playing more and more board games in recent years but still manage to squeeze in a RPG or two during the week.  We played a lot of new board games this year and I want to share some of of game experience and give you a review or two in the upcoming weeks.

I know I have been quiet and appreciate the patience, but rest assured I have a few more stories ready to go and several game reviews prepped and ready for your reading pleasure!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Finding Common Ground

Once upon a time, way back in my call center days as as supervisor I was moved from one of the call center teams to another group that was known to be a group of malcontents and trouble makers by reputation.  As you can imagine I was concerned about the change and not really looking forward to the transition.

Mary Sellers was the name of one of my new agents.  She was no nonsense and not very happy about the change in leadership for her group.  I had been warned about her by a few of the other supervisors that she was "difficult" to talk to and work with or around.  I spent the first two weeks being fairly calm and letting things run the way they had been for the past year or so before getting more involved and make a few changes to how the group operated.

One of the few items that had never been in place was a monthly review for each employee by the supervisor.  So I set about rectifying that issue and doing an initial face to face with each of the team members.  It was a get to know you kind of thing, and an opportunity to explain who I am and how I operate.  I took it as chance to hear from each agent about what they liked and didn't like about the current work environment.

It all went well and I learned a great deal about my agents, until it was Mary's turn.  I could tell when she walked into the room that she was already on the defensive and didn't want to be there.  I attempted to put her at ease and get her talking about family and friends, but that failed as well.  So I dived right into the what to expect part of my face to face.  That quickly devolved into a heated discussion about behavior of the team and her in particular.

To this day I am still not sure how our conversation turned to a yelling match.  I realized that I had failed in my attempt to bridge the gap with this employee  and quite possibly created an enemy that would fight me every step of the way.  I calmed down and attempted to salvage the situation by explaining that we were on the same side and should work together.  She crossed her arms and simply stated "Are we done here!"  to which I nodded that we were finished.

She left the room and I was bewildered on what had just happened and how it had gotten so bad so fast.  The next day she was radio silent and kept to herself during her shift.  It was the next day she came to me and said "I think your right.  We should work together."  It as simple as that.  She quickly became my star agent.  I learned that she had forceful personality and the respect of the others on the team.  It wasn't long until we really were working as team and she became the driving force behind my leadership and kept all the wayward agents inline.  I hate to call anyone an enforcer but if any of my employees had earned the title it would be Mary Sellers.

I attended her wedding a couple of years later, had her and her husband over for dinner at my house  a few times, and to this day we stay in touch.  What started off with a rocky start turned into a good friend that I know I can count on, no matter what.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tokaido Review

My wife and I have been playing more and more board games in the past couple of years.  As I have stated before, with careers and a toddler running around we have found ourselves with less and less time for playing RPGs but can usually take an hour or so to play a round of a board game.  With no prep time, relatively quick play time, and easy clean.

Our newest addition to the board game collection is Tokaido by Passport Game Studios.  I am a member of a board games group on Google+ and keep a eye on what games are posted and discussed to help us decide what games we would like to branch out and try our hand.  I had seen several post about Tokaido and how much fun it was to play.  The descriptions were that it was a quick game, deceivingly simple yet had a deep strategy to play and win.

My wife and I open up the box and prepped all the pieces for play.  The game is a very long and fairly short board in height.  My wife and I sat side by side so that we could both read the board, which in hind sight was silly since all the writing was in Japanese and we had to rely on the pictograph icon symbols to decipher what each area on the board represented.  The player markers were fairly simple "Meeples" but you randomly selected two of the travelers to choose between as your player.  Each character has an ability that allows them to advance better in one facet of the game.  You place a colored drawstring bag marker in the round hole of the player card to match up your character with your colored marker on the  board.

If you are playing a two player game, much like my wife and I play, the recommended way of playing with a two player game is to have a third marker that is controlled by each player at different points.  This third character is there to run interference between the two players and makes sense for a two player game but I am not found of that mechanic.  I was also stumped by the initiative rule when I read the rule book.  It states that the character in the back of the road is the one that gets to take the next turn and on that turn you can move as far as you like until the next Inn location.  I wondered why you wouldn't just race to the end and be done with the game but it became evident that the designers wanted you to take your time and stop as often as possible to score.  This is in direct relation to the idea that you are traveling on a road and to enjoy the journey as much as the final destination.

The game represents the road connecting one end of the main island of Japan to Edo or what would become Tokyo.  You travel the road and meet strangers, buy souvenirs, eat fine meals, take a nice bath in a hot spring, and enjoy the amazing vistas along your journey.

Our game was about 40 minutes long and seemed to pass very quickly.   My wife and I saw that the game was simple to play but there is a lot of strategy to where you stop, to block other player and keep them from scoring certain types of rewards.  We both look forward to playing more in the future and figuring out the subtlety of play and how a larger player game will function.  The game wasn't available at our local hobby store so we picked up a copy from Amazon for $30.00+shipping and we are happy with our investment.  I would recommend the game to others that can gather at least 3+ players.

Pros (Things I like)

  • Beautiful game board and materials
  • The individual characters are unique and speak to more story beyond they presentation of the game.
  • The game movement mechanic and scoring create a take your time and stop everywhere feeling, as intended by the designers to reflect the journey across Japan.
  • Cost was low, only $30+ shipping from Amazon

Cons (Things I don't like)

  • We had to keep referencing the rules to figure out what special ability our traveler had.  This is was a product of our being new players and should improve with more play time.
  • The two player game using a third marker to run interference
  • I wish I had known about the deluxe edition.  The basic edition has "meeples" but the deluxe one has sculpted characters to match the player cards.
  • The game played very quickly, hopefully a larger number of player will increase the play time.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Help Weeding the Garden Box

If you have read any of my blog post you have probably figured out that when I was a teenager, I ran around with two other guys.  I have been calling them Sam and Houston to help protect their identities.  The three of us did a lot of stupid kid/teenager things back then but Houston would frequently take the cake in how "out there" his activities actually were.  Oddly enough, fire was usually involved.

This story does include fire and starts out with me trying to get out of the house on a Friday afternoon to go play basketball with my friends.  As I was running out the garage door mom yelled "Make sure you pull the weeds in the Flower box next to the garage before you go!"

In typical teenager fashion, it was the end of the world.  I was ready to go and have fun but Mom wanted to me pull weeds in the 2' x 2' garden box next to the garage door!  So for a job that would have taken all of 20 minutes, Sam and Houston decided to help me get done faster.  Houston said "We always burn the weeds around the fence posts when working on my buddies farm."  So that was that, we would burn the weeds and not have to get our hands dirty.

I got the lawn mower 5 gallon gas can and dumped about half of the full can of gas on the flower bed of weeds.  Houston began instructing us that we need to let the gas soak for a few minutes then we could light it and it would burn all the weeds.  The house would also be perfectly safe since it was a brick home and bricks don't burn.  I turned away from the garage and headed inside to warn my sister not to smoke around the side of the garage, since this was her favorite place to sneak smokes. when I hear a loud WOOOSH and Houston started yelling while Sam let out a shrill scream.

I turn around to see Houston running around the drive way with his pant leg on fire, the garden box consumed in flames that rise up the brick wall of the garage and are wrapping around the eaves and onto the roof of the house.  All the while Sam stands about 10' from the fire and continues to scream and alternate pointing at the house on fire and Houston still running around with his pants on fire!

I quickly ran around to the front of the house and grabbed the garden hose and drag it back to the garage.  By the time I get set up and start putting out the garden fire, Houston has remembered to stop drop and roll (and the gas on his pant leg had all burned off as well).  In just a few minutes we had the fire out and were catching our collective breath.

"What the H**L happened?" was my first question.
Houston turned to look at Sam and said " Well...I saw a spot of gas had dripped on the drive way.  The ant that was crawling across the drop looked like he need to a barbecue.  So I used my lighter and flicked it to see if the drop of gas would catch."  he finished sheepishly.

About that time a mini-van pulled up in the drive way and Houston's Mom got out.  She looked around and said that she saw the fire from her house up the street as she was getting home from work and knew Houston was involved and came down to help.

Lessons learned:

1.) Never go to Houston for advice on how to weed a garden box
2.) Fire is never the correct answer to the question of how to get work done quicker
3.) Sam does a very convincing damsel in distress scream
4.) Mom will make you repaint the eaves of the house if you attempt to burn the garage down
5.) You can't play basketball if you are repainting the eaves of the house
6.) The fire did get rid of all the weeds

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On the Way to Allie's House, Part # 3

Once again we found ourselves at Houston's house waiting till it was late enough to sneak out and head to over to Allie's.  We were playing Street Fighter II Turbo on Houston's Super NES and getting our butts kicks by Sam playing Chun Li.  I really hate that whole impenetrable wall of kicks that she can throw up when ever she wants.  Its bit off topic but thought I would share my distaste of the video game character some 20+ years later and how it is just as strong today as it was back then.

This time we were getting ready to shutdown the Nintendo and head out when there was a quiet tapping on Houston's window.  We quickly investigated and found my younger sister hiding in thee bushes outside the window and looking at us urgently as she tapped away.  a quick glance at the clock showed that it was almost 3am and way past my 12 year old sisters curfew and bed time.

Houston went over and cracked the window so that he could see what she wanted.  She leaned in close and asked if we had a smoke that she could have?  My little sister had taken up smoking recently and would bum cigarettes when ever and form whom ever she could.  Houston kept her talking and getting her worked up by asking why she was up so late looking for a  cigarette and why did she sneak out of the house.  Meanwhile being the responsible older brother that I am, I called down to the house and woke up my mom and step dad and asked if they knew where my sister was at 3 in the morning.

I got off the phone and walked back in to Houston's room in time to hear my step-dad from down the street, yelling my sisters name and telling her to get her little butt home right now!

As an adult I feel a little guilty about what happened.  I realize that we busted her out and my parents came down on her pretty hard for sneaking out to get cigarettes, but as teenagers we laughed and laughed at her plight.  We talked about it the whole way over to Allie's house that night.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Runequest Classic Kickstarter

I am still pretty new to the this whole "Kickstarter" thing.  If you read my earlier blog post about the Ghostbusters board game, it came from a Kickstarter campaign.  A couple of years ago I missed a one campaign for a two volume Glorantha compendium.  I have since tracked down copies of those compendiums but I hate the fact that I missed the original campaign.  Runequest Classic was an early RPG that I discovered in an old musty basement.  Here are my copies of those books and as you can see the main book is well worn.  I have used it to play Runequest off and on for over 20 years.

Here is the link to the Runequest Kickstarter:

Kickstarter Runequest Classic Edition

Once the Kickstarter was complete they publisher made the digital down loads available for each item that was included in the Kickstarter.  Those were fantastic and it was amazing to have copies that had been reworked and were of very nice quality.  Then a week ago the new hard bound leather rule book with its nice color dust cover arrived!  I am very excited to have another copy of my old book and one that is in much better shape.

The only downside to this process is that it takes some time upon completion of the Kickstarter campaign to get the hard copy of the books.  This is due to time or processing and allowing the printer to complete the order and then arrange shipping, and in this case, it was international shipping as well as domestic.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy 4th of July

I would like to take a few minutes away from my beer, burger, and fireworks to wish you all a happy 4th of July!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Afternoon Ride on a Dirt Bike

One day Houston decided that he wanted to go calling upon Amada.  She was one of the girls who rode our bus to school but lived several miles away from our neighborhood.  Even farther away than Allie’s house.  Houston was grounded from driving his truck at the time and since he was the only one of us who had driver’s license it looked like he was stuck paying basketball with us guys.
Houston, not being one that is easily deterred asked Adam if he could borrow his dirt bike to ride over to Amanda’s house.  Of course Adam said no, but he offered to drive him over there if Amanda would put in a good word with her friends.  Once again I was not involved with this short adventure but heard all about it and saw the results once they got back to the neighborhood.

A couple of hours later when they pulled up into the circle where they rest of us were playing basketball they were both cut, scraped, and bruised everywhere.  As the recounting of the story went the 12 mile drive down there went fine.  They stayed on a few less traveled roads and got to Amanda’s house and as she promised her folks were gone to town for the afternoon.

The trouble began as Amanda and Houston where messing around in her room and her parent’s car pulled into the drive way.  Adam ran to the window to warn Houston and said he saw much more of either of them than he had ever wanted to see.  Houston started pulling on his cloths and started for the door, but Amanda pushed him back to the window and said he had to climb out or her dad would see him!  Do with his socks and boxer shorts on he promptly and gracefully fell out the window into the bushes where Adam was standing.

The two of them rushed as quickly across the side yard to where they had left the dirt bike, Houston scrambling to get dressed and move quickly while Adam barked at him to hurry in a hushed tone.  They walked down the road pushing the bike trying to use the trees and bushes to shield the view of them from Amanda’s house.

They were almost back to the main road and crossing the set of railroad tracks that paralleled the road home when Houston thought he her a car coming from direction of Amanda’s house.  The two of them decided to ride the bike down the tracks and avoid any potential encounters with Amanda’s father.  Both Houston and Adam agreed that the tracks were way too difficult to ride on quickly and was shacking them fairly severely.

As anyone who has ridden a dirt bike knows, they can be very loud especially if you have “reworked” the muffler like Adam had done.  They were jarringly riding down the tracks when Houston thought he heard something and started to look around… that was when he saw the train engine about 100 feed behind them and closing.  He yelled a warning into Adam’s ear.

Adam turned to see the train engine.  He quickly tried to jump the bike off the tracks and found that he could get it leave the area between the tracks!  Houston said he tried 4-5 times to jump the tracks before he decided to abandon the bike and Adam and jumped clear, right into a patch of blackberries!  Adam final was able to get the bike off the tracks when Houston’s weight was gone from the bike, but he also wrecked into a creek shortly after getting clear of the tracks and train which was now passing them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

An Evening with Mark

Mark is the step dad of my friend Sam.  It has been many years since that statement was true.  I believe that Mark and Sam's mother are separated now days.  That part isn't important to the story I want to tell today.

I was not present for this story, just wanted to make that clear before I get into the events that transpired.  Once again we go back to when I was a teenager running around with Houston and Sam.  It was a Friday night during the summer between my freshman and junior years of high school and Houston and Sam wanted to go hang out and a few drinks.  I can't remember why I turned them down that night but I know I was tired and decided to head home around 9:00pm and get some sleep.

The next morning, I was up early and took off out of the house to head over to Sam's to see if he was up and then we could round up Houston and see what kind of trouble we could get into...little did I know the trouble was all over by this point and I had missed everything.

I ran up to Sam's window, which was about eye height when I stood in his mothers flower garden in front of the house.  Sam would usually keep his window cracked so he could smoke in the house and blow the smoke out the window.  I first noticed his window was cracked any and was reaching to knock on the window when Sam's mother, who I had not noticed, said from the from the front porch swing "Sam is grounded.  He won't be coming outside for a long time."  I nearly jumped out of my skin she startled me so bad.

"Uh, ok..." was my very eloquent response as I stepped out of the flower beds.

"Tell him I am going to head over to see Houston, please."  was my next attempt at small talk.

"Oh, I don't think he will be going anywhere for awhile either."  was her reply.

I quickly thanked her for the information and took off to Houston's house to find out what the heck happened last night.

I had a little more luck with Houston't parents who at least let me in to talk with him so I could find out what happened.  Houston recounted the previous evenings events.  After I took off for the night he and Sam went back to Sam's house to get a couple of things before returning to Houston house.  The plan was to play video games and sneak out to Allie's house around 2:00am,but when they got to Sam's his stepdad Mark was laying int he middle of the front living room listening to his old records and well into his way through a 5th of whiskey.

Mark asked Sam and Houston to have a couple of drinks with him and check out his old rock albums.  This went on until the 5th was empty.  At which point Mark declared it was time for a alcohol run!  Of course my friends were eager to tag along and free booze so they all piled into the family mini-van and took off to town.

It has been many years since I heard this story but I think Mark bought them some Vodka, Crown Royal, and a pack of Jolly Ranchers.  Then bought himself another 5th of whiskey and they all started drinking on the way back home.  As you can expect a very inebriated driver on a Friday night quickly lead to blue flashing lights, right across from the country club in town and still 25 minutes from our neighborhood.

Mark quickly failed a sobriety test and was escorted to the back of the police car.  The officer then returned to the car and ask Sam and Houston if either of them had a drivers license.  Sam told the officer he has is permit but Houston had his license.  The police officer in his infinite wisdom let two teenage boys who had been drinking leave in the family mini-van.  Sam and Houston had a heated conversation about how effective Jolly Ranchers were at covering up the smell of alcohol and if the head light were on or not in the mini-van.

When they got back to Sam's house they parked the van, which they had spilled the bottle of Crown Royal in the back seat in the drive way and took off to Houston's house to finish up drinking.

The next morning the phone rang at Houston's house, it was Sam's mom who wanted to know where Ralph was and why her van smelled of liquor!  Sam left to go home and explain that Mark had was at the police station and the events that lead up to his arrest.

After Houston finished up the story, I was asked to leave.  I was really bored with out my partners in crime and as I learned "any time soon" means about 2 weeks of time to be grounded.   In hindsight, I am happy I missed out on this adventure!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A New General Manager

During my tenure at the call center I saw several different managers and general manager come through.  Most of general managers were not very impressive but a couple did stand out.  We found out that a new general manager had been hired and would be starting in a about a week.  The only information that was shared with us the supervisors was that he was part of a new program where the company was hiring retired military officers directly into management as they left the military.

For this blog we will call him Mr. Michael.

My first encounter with him was on a Saturday morning.  At the time we were open for a skeleton shift on Saturdays and Mr. Michael wanted to come in and meet the poor souls working on the weekend.  I didn't know what I expected  but Mr. Michael turned out to be a great guy.  He was personable and attentive to his personnel's needs and wants.  I found myself liking him immediately.

On the wall of the production floor we had a painted mural that depicted the four pillars of our companies beliefs:

I.) Increase Profits
II.) Client Satisfaction
III.) Customer Satisfaction
IV.) Employee Satisfaction

It was common knowledge that only the first pillar mattered to the upper management.  So one of the first things Mr. Michael did was take down the mural.  He also started doing leadership classes with all the managers, project managers, and supervisor each week.  These went along way with helping us learn how to better at our work,each other and, our employees.

Here are a few examples of how "Out there" our new General Manager really was:

My immediate supervisor came out of his office one day with an exasperated look on his face, with Mr. Michael following closely behind him.  My boss said the he had been trying to get back to his desk for an hour so that he could get some work done, but things kept coming up.  Mr. Michael chimed in and said "I know!  I have been waiting under your desk to surprise you for 45 minutes!"


*Harry Potter Spoiler Alert*

Ok, you have been warned!

When Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince came out my wife and fought over who got to read the book first.  As you may have guessed, my wife won that fight and started reading the book.  Two days after the book was release I went into our morning meeting at work and Mr. Michael stormed into the meeting and slammed his copy of Harry Potter down on the table and said "I can't believe the B***h killed Dumbledore!"  All of us who cared immediately were thrown in to a state of shock!  He looked around at us all and honestly was very confused why we were all upset with him.  To this day I still can't imagine why he he did that!


Finally, for Halloween Mr. Michael dressed up as a large furry monster.  His costume covered his whole body including a hood/monster face.  So when he was fully dressed you couldn't tell it was him.  I heard this next part from the recruiting staff, Mr. Micheal went up to the Recruiting waiting room before it opened at 8am and laid down in the floor.  He stayed completely still laying in the floor for over an hour while potential recruits came in and started filling out paperwork.  Apparently they just thought he was some kind of Halloween decoration.  At least until he had a room full of potential new hires and he  suddenly jumped up and roared at the top of his lungs.  As the story goes, the potential new hires all screamed and ran from the room.  Some went out the front door, never to return and a few ran into the building to get away from what ever just happened in the waiting room.


All in all, Mr. Micheal was fantastic GM and we all hated to see him go but he moved onto a bigger and better job!