Tuesday, September 1, 2015

San Antonio with the Family

While Jonah and Athena were here we wanted to get out and do a small road trip with them. We headed down to San Antonio. It's about a two hour drive.

We wanted to break it up. Three teenagers packed into the back of the car was a little much. So on the way there we stopped at Tandy Leather in Austin. Robert bought some things with his allowance. Athena seemed shocked that almost everything in the store once used to be alive. It just boggled her mind.

After we left Tandy we finished the drive to Austin and found a parking garage near the Riverwalk. We grabbed the cooler out of the back to have a picnic lunch. We did not find a great place for a picnic lunch, but we did find this egret hanging out in a tree near by.

As we ate we watched the birds and the squirrels. One of the squirrels was trying to steal from the other squirrel. It was quite amusing.

After the lunch we put things back in the car and then headed out to the Alamo. It was a short few blocks away. Will really wanted to show it to them. Robert and I had already had the tour. Jonah and Athena both expected to be very bored.

One of the big selling points of the Alamo is that it is free. I love that. Unfortunately, they were not having any historical reenactment displays today. However, we got to walk the grounds with all the beautiful flowers, no matter how hot it was.

Athena was fascinated by some of the weapons displays and the age of some of the artifacts. Jonah found it as interesting as any seventeen year old in the digital age would. Robert was bored, but enjoyed it. Will loves history and enjoyed pointing things out.

Afterward we stopped in the gift shop. Robert got some candy canes and playing cards. Jonah picked up a coonskin cap, and Athena picked up a little pop gun. A few little souvenirs, nothing very expensive.

As we left the Alamo there was a gentleman playing Batman outside. Some younger kids got pictures with him first, and then we stepped in.

Will commented that this picture was proof that Jonah wasn't Batman. The comment came in response to Jonah's repeated growling of the phrase "I'm Batman."

After this we went walking on the Riverwalk. We walked along, taking frequent breaks under the various streets and overhangs. BabyH was getting to me. It was hot and I was slurping down water, but I still felt wiped out. However, we made it farther along the Riverwalk than we did last time. This time we got all the way out of the loop and into the larger section of the river. It was beautiful. Hopefully next time we can take BabyH and walk along some of the main drag of the river, and not just stay underneath.

Just like before there were ducks in the water. I got some pictures of a momma duck with her half grown ducklings. As we headed back along the river, Athena got up close and personal with some of the ducks.

No, she didn't touch them. She just got close while the rest of us took a break on the benches.

Our next stop was Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. We got a double feature - the museum and the 4-D theater. It was cheaper to get the two-for-one package than it was to just pay for the museum. Plus, I'm actually glad we did both.

We went through the museum slowly, letting everyone play with all the things. There were several different displays that revealed sociological history around the world. There were also displays of weird science and facts.

The picture to the right is the spinning tunnel. All three of them had fun in the tunnel. This is another of those places that I really wish that I hadn't been pregnant for. I would have gone through the tunnel. However, there were big signs saying that pregnant women, and people with bad backs should not go through. So neither Will nor I could go, but I got pictures of the kids looking dizzy inside the tunnel.

The 4-D theater was also good. It was down the street by about a door or two. They had showings every ten minutes, and they showed two different movies. The first movie was about some pigs that rode on four wheelers. We were another pig following along. They included sight, sound, movement, and touch. The only thing that was not included was scent. The second movie was sledding down a mountain with some snowmen.

After the movies it was time to eat. We went down to the mall that was on the Riverwalk and ate there. We chose to eat out on the balcony, where we could enjoy the cooling evening. However, it was not late enough. The pigeons were still out in force. They stood just outside of threat range staring while we ate.

It reminded us of The Birds, but after a single reference to it Will kiboshed that avenue of discussion. I was with him. We did not need to call Murphy to our table.

Then we hit the road home. Will did not want to stop in Austin after dark, so we drove straight through. The medicines and steroid injections seem to be working for him; he was not in nearly as much pain as he was the last time we made the drive to and from San Antonio in a single day.

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from Jonah and Athena's visit then please click on the album below.
August Visit

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Dragon's Demand, Part I

While Jonah and Athena were here Will wanted to run a roleplaying game. Since they were not averse to this, we did. Will ran through Paizo's The Dragon's Demand with us. It was short enough that there was the possibility to finish (we didn't), but long enough to give us some good play time.

This is the character journal (also known as my session notes cleaned up) for my character.

Day One

After traveling with Silas Grib's caravan to Belhime, the merchant was found to be a smuggler and arrested. Unfortunately, suspicion then turned to us. Three other guards for the caravan fell under suspicion with me. Ismaen (Jonah) and Annalia (Athena) quickly convinced the local guards of their innocence. However. Vallen (Robert) and I were not so lucky. They did not believe our protestations of innocence, which is entirely unfair, because in this instance I was.

However, from our short association with the others, Annalia was willing to speak up for the dwarf. Luckily Ismaen spoke up for me. Ismaen's words went over really well with the guards, and I was cleared. However, Annalia could not convince them that the unusual looking short fellow was anything but guilty. For once my silver tongue did get to help someone else, and I convinced the guards to let him go.

However, the sheriff and his best deputies took Silas back to Cassamir with his illegal goods. This left us stranded and unpaid for our time. If I was a vengeful sort...

Being a small town there is only a single inn run by a man name Tally Orim. He named his place The Wise Piper. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but he was willing to offer us a few nights of free room and board. Ismaen just put his head down on a table, Annalia was hiding in a corner, but Vallen and I took up posts along the wall while he had a little food and tried to figure out what to do.

We did not get very far. As we sat in thought the inn shook, almost like a thunderclap that had rang too close, but it was a clear and sunny day when we came inside. The answer came to me rather quickly - it was a landslide. Annalia didn't handle it well, and ran around frantically informing everyone it was a landslide and not a thunderstorm, while the other two sat stunned for a moment.

I headed outside to see what had happened and if I could help, or perhaps profit. To the northeast there was a large plume of dust. Distance was difficult to tell as I had never been here before, but it was not so far away as to leave the town unendangered. As the first of the villagers passed by I asked what had happened. "The Witch Tower," an old fortification for the town, had fallen. Among the other rumors I encountered on my way toward the witch tower was the idea that the town was being raided by kobolds. I didn't see any on my way to the tower, and most people were heading toward it not away.

When we arrived at the Witch Tower a couple of deputies were examining the rubble. The tower had fallen, and here was the source of the rumors: a couple of kobold bodies lay amid the piles of stone and wood. The deputies aren't much help (remember the best and the brightest are escourting our previous employer back to justice), so I head to a visible manor house to inquire as to what happened.

The manor house belongs to a Master Hunclay, the local wizard. As we approach his door we can see a kobold body that had been headed toward the door. However, it is charred and blasted back off it's feet. Master Hunclay does not answer the door, and upon examination there are no other entrances. Feeling a little uneasy about the door itself, we elect to return to the rubble.

By the time we get there, the town leaders have arrived. Lady Devi and her son Arnold are looking over the mess. We introduce ourselves, and she offers the four of us five hundred gold to head into the collapsed ruin and find out what happened, and why the kobolds are in her town. While I was contemplating if that was enough money to get me on my way, Annalia asked Lady Devi why she tenses up when discussing the tower. Her husband disappeared into the tower years ago. The town presumes him to be dead, but no body or proof of death ever appeared.

Among the conversation is also the little fact that Master Hunclay was sick and tired of the tower. He wanted to tear it down because it "blocked his view." I'm not sure what view he wanted, or why this would block it, but he didn't like the tower.

Seeing no other way for us to garner enough money quick enough for us to be on our way, we accept the mission. The next step was for us to get into the tower.

Annalia and I climbed up the wall, while Ismaen, Vallen, and Muna (Annalia's leopard) climbed up the rubble to the top. Both ways were a little shaky, but luckily we didn't set off any further collapses.

A trap door, covered by a timber is our only entrance into the remnants of the tower. Luckily Ismaen and Vallen are able to move it and we head into the dark and start looking around.

We find nothing of interest in the first room, but there is another trap door that leads further down. As we drop through that one we find a bedroom with a "grotesque statue" in it. Vallen examines the statue, which turns out to be an Iron Maiden. As I approach the two ratty beds tucked away in a corner a couple of giant centipedes crawl out and attack.

"Well clearly there's only one thing to do. Run over and punch them," Ismaen says, and does so. He kills the one he punches.

I step into a flanking position and kill the other.

Muna and Annalia find some sort of silvered key knife, but we find nothing more. I tuck it away and unlock the next door. Vallen opens it.

The door leads to a hall which extends for awhile before turning left. We stop at another left hand door. Behind it, we find a wall of dirt. Apparently, whoever, or whatever caused the collapse did a lot of damage to the tower. It won't be reparable.

We continue to the left, down a slanting hallway around to a doorway on the north wall. The door is standing open and leads to more hallways. This one has a few skeletons left trapped in cells. They are old enough there is no way to tell how they died, though Annalia tried. Ismaen looked around, but there was nothing of interest or value. Nothing to tell us what happened or why, either then or now.

We retrace our steps to find the next unexplored area. Here we find more cells, until we come upon a closed door. Amusingly neither the strongman nor the dwarf could open the door, but the tiny timid half-elf managed it. Without warning Vallen walked into the now revealed torture chamber and sat in one of the torture devices. Why he would chose to wound himself, I'm not sure, but it wasn't good.

A plaque on the wall reads "Confession cleanses the soul," there was more to it, but that was all I got at first. A raven was talking at us, trying to get us to sit in the chairs, and hurt ourselves. It was sort of distracting. A talking raven wanting our life's blood isn't a good thing. I shot a dart at it, but the bird vanished before I could actually wound him.

However, it gave us a chance to call Vallen out of the room, while Ismaen and I watched for the raven or any other problems to crop up. Annalia just kept trying to reason with it.

After stepping out of the room Vallen searched for an oil flask in his bag, and the imp attacked attacked him. Annalia attempted to entangle the imp, but she ended up entangling the dwarf instead. Muna attacks the imp, the imp attacked Muna. Both Ismaen and I missed the imp.

Ismaen actually managed to connect with the imp, who attacked him in return. Annalia shot at the imp, but missed. The leopard attacked, but does no visible damange despite connecting. Vallen healed himself while still entangled.

Annalia shoots into the melee again, but misses. She's too scared of hitting one of us. Enraged over being wounded the imp misses Ismaen. Ismaen hits back. Muna, not being any help in the actual fight, goes over to break the roots around Vallen, but failed. I miss again, and Vallen failed to extricate himself from the wiggling roots.

Come back in a few days if you want to see how the fight ended. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Slow Recovery

The pic we took right before security
Last Sunday we took our visitors back to the airport. We got to relax a little bit, because their flight wasn't until the evening. This last trip had a lot involved in it, and will be getting it's own post down the line. However, for now, suffice it to say we got home late and the other two had to get to school and work in the morning.

Monday morning Will returned to work, and it was Robert's first day of school. I took it as a mental health day and got nothing done. Both Robert and Will came home exhausted.

Tuesday I started to get back on track, but I still didn't get back to what I wanted. Will continued his work. We had to pull Robert from football practice early, because he still needed to do his Scout Master Conference to get his Star Rank. Will was also on overnight duty, so his streak of tired just got to continue.

Wednesday was a fairly normal day. I continued to make progress toward recovery, but still not back to where I want to be. Also, the house is still a mess. Will should have been able to spend the day sleeping and relaxing. However, he had part of his yearly physical to get done smack in the middle of the afternoon, which meant that he didn't get any sleep in the morning. A friend was kind enough to take me grocery shopping, because there were a few things that we needed.

Thursday morning, we knew that we could not go to Robert's game. The away game was at a high school that was an hour's drive. No way for us to make it in time to see his game. Also, Will and I decided not to "adult" that day. It's too bad. I was almost caught up with the dishes. However, that was all the progress I was making. I've made more progress since then, so I think the "no adulting" day was a good choice.

Will, myself, and a friend all headed to the SCA for the evening. It was nice to get out there for a third week in a row.

We returned home well before Robert did. Robert did not get home until 11:30 pm. He also came home disappointed: they lost their game, both JV teams lost.

We discussed his day and then crashed.

This made Friday really hard. No one had had enough sleep.

Robert went to school. Will went to work, but at least had a short day so he could come home and relax. We did not go out that evening as had been planned for two reasons. The boys needed to relax. Robert wanted to go to the varsity football game, which gave Will and I an impromptu date night. That was nice, I hope he goes to more home games.

The freshmen both won their games, as did varsity. Only JV lost theirs.

This morning Robert had popcorn sales for Boy Scouts. He also had to drop off his new JROTC uniform pants to be hemmed. We still need to get Robert new shoes. His old ones have holes in the toes, and we need to get him new cleats. Those things should stop the blisters on his feet. In addition, I need to drop my books off at the library.

Tomorrow there will be no alarms, and everyone shall have all the sleep they need.

Upcoming Blogs...

Most of my blogs are not written for the week, because I spent the week relaxing and recovering. However, here is the schedule I hope to keep up for the week.

Sunday, I want to post about the role play that we were doing with the visitors.
Monday, I will wrap up the Starman Jones posts about the last three chapters.
Tuesday, the San Antonio trip will go up.
Wednesday, I already have a sonnet ready for Granny's Birthday.
Thursday, I have a sonnet for Labor Day.
Friday, I have an essay about a topic from Starman Jones.

Remember, I don't have most of these written. So, I'm apologizing in advance if they do not go up as scheduled. However, since the visitors are gone, and routine is slowly taking over again, I will probably revert to every other day on my blogs once I feel that I have caught up to reality. This means that events are getting posted the day or two after they happen rather than a week or more.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Day at the Pool

One of the things we did while Jonah and Athena were here was to take them to a water park. The Summer Fun Water Park is just up the road, and offers a good discount for our family. We hadn't been there before, but it is definitely somewhere we want to return to.

I did not want to take my regular camera along, so we grabbed a couple of disposable waterproof cameras to get some shots.

I got underwater shots of everyone as well as several different shots of them.

The park had four major things going for it.

First, you can bring in your own coolers. That's nice because we can bring lunches without having to pay waterpark prices for a full meal. We knew we would only be there for about four hours, because Robert had to go back to football practice. So, we didn't take advantage of this. However, we did grab some snacks while there.

Second, they have a set of rings to jump between at one end of the pool. All three of them took turns trying to jump from one ring to another. Here they are lined up to take turns to jump out onto the first ring.

All three of them managed to get a hold of that first ring, but none of them made it all the way across. They didn't have the technique or the practice, but it looked fun anyway.

Third, they have several slides of various sizes. The kiddie pool had a couple of very small slides. Right next to the rings there was a slide like one would find in a regular park. It gave kids that were too old for the kiddie slides, but not ready for the big ones somewhere to go.

Across from the rings they had a couple of enclosed straight slides that were a little longer. Finally, they had two adult sized self-slides, as well as a single tube slide.

Robert loved the slides. Athena worked her way up to the adult slides and really enjoyed them. Jonah did not find them as amusing. I really wished I could have gone on them, but at least both Jonah and Will could keep me company while I watched.

I tried to get shots of them coming down the slide, but did not manage to capture a good shot of that.

Finally, they had a lazy river. Will and I spent a lot of time on that one. It wasn't very deep of course, but it gave us a little bit of quiet that wasn't to be found in the larger pool.

Jonah also spent time with us in the lazy river while Robert and Athena climbed stairs repeatedly to go down the slides.

We did keep ourselves sunscreened up. We put it on before going into the park, and we put it on again twice while we were there. We still walked out a little pink on the faces.

The trip was a lot of fun, and it is close enough that I really hope that we can take Robert and BabyH there next summer.

However, I did learn lessons. First, make sure that I have snacks when around water, even when I think I won't need them. Second, I can resist temptation. Third, I can keep track of the clock. Fourth, and most important for the blog, if I want to do water pictures again I need to get a waterproof digital camera.

If you want to see all of the pictures from the water park, and the whole time that we had visitors, then click the link below.

August Visit

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Starman Jones 16-18

Chapter 16

When Ellie discovers that a nearby planet is habitable she takes it upon herself to name it. She just assumes that everyone will go along with her. It ends up being named “Charity,” which is what she picked.

Captain Blaine is there when they make the landing. However, Max thinks that he has aged ten or fifteen years.

Once they land, they announce the open secret to the passengers. They are lost. Mr. Walther urges them to form a colony, even though they do not have enough people to maintain one.

Some of the passengers corner Max about how long it will be until they get home. Max explains that they will eventually figure out where they are. The problem lies in finding a safe, timely path home. Even if they know where they are, the ship would have to travel for more than two hundred years to find the closest translation point. They won't be going home.

Points on the Monomyth

This chapter was much more of a layover chapter. It does include some small trials, but it is the calm before the next storm.

Chapter Seventeen

The passengers form a colony, which they call Charityville. The colony starts out hopeful. It's a lot of work, but they are putting it in cheerfully.

About one of the most elegant passengers, the book says, “Maggie... had put away her jewels, drawn dungarees from ship's stores, and chopped off her hair. Her nails were short and usually black with grime. But she looked years younger and quite happy” (pg227).

This quote raises the interesting question of “What is happiness and where does it come from?”

Mr. Walther does permit some of the stewards to leave the ship and join the colony. However, when Max approaches him about leaving the ship to become a farmer, Mr. Walther denies it. It is denied because Max has a valuable skill that the ship cannot fly without. However, Mr. Walther does say that it should not stop Max from marrying if that is what he should want.

Max's exchange with Mr. Walther brings up two different topics. The first is “what does Max want? To serve on a space ship? Or to marry Ellie and be a farmer?” The second question raised is what would happen to the colony in the long term.

Ellie and Max run into each other outside of Charityville. She is mad at Max for blowing hot and cold. However, they go together for a little walk looking for some of the local wildlife that they've called centaurs. During their walk and talk, Ellie reveals that she has a boyfriend back home, and Max reminds her of him. Eventually, the pair finds the centaurs, but they are captured.

Points on the Monomyth

Ellie and the opportunity to be a farmer again represent a temptation. In some ways, it is also part of a refusal to return because he wants to get away from the ship rather than stay.

Chapter 18

This chapter is a hefty chapter, but we're far enough into the book that I'm going to try not to give you too many spoilers. This chapter is where things begin to change.

There are three salient points or questions to raise for discussion:

The first is that during their captivity Max thinks that Ellie hasn't had enough sense knocked into her, because her life has been too soft.

The second question is “What is a man?” How do you define it, and how do you determine who belongs to the great overarching ideas of “mankind”?

The final question is “Why do the scavengers kill the old centaur at court?” What does this mean about their society?

Suffice it to say that at the end of the chapter they are still captive, and in just as much trouble as they ended chapter seventeen with, but they are farther from the ship now.

Points on the Monomyth

More belly of the beast, because they have completely changed societies again. Also more trials, because they are captives rather than guests or up and coming stars in their fields.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Across the Fake Green Grass

They stare across a field of fake green grass.
They stand there, one small inch, so tall and strong,
With patience. Gods will come to lead in mass
Attack on men who stare back, distance long.

When battle then begins the blood does flow
From dice possessed with death for all the men
Which cross their path with gun blasts after blow.
No longer, "Will they die?" Not if, but when.

As smoke clears, dice are put away in loss.
Each army was defeated. Clearly seen.
But Victory! The table there across
The aisle, reveals such death, a bloody scene.

And next time armies cross paths, different,
New outcomes will be had. It's time well spent.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Errand Running

Although Will is on vacation, and both Athena and Jonah are on vacation, there are some things that must be done. One of these is grocery shopping. Another is the irregular appointments that are necessary to keep the kids in the military support system.

Wednesday is our regular grocery shopping day. Will and I took Athena and Jonah while Robert worked on a football fundraiser. I had my list like usual. Athena decided that she wanted to push the cart. Jonah just sort of tagged along. Will helped by keeping them from drawing my attention in too many directions.

We made it through about half the store with only a few problems. One was that Athena complained about the weight of the cart. Will offered to take it over, but she insisted on doing it. However, about halfway through the store, both of them were getting bored and aggravated. Neither was used to this style of shopping trip. I made sure we weren't hungry before we left, and we had a list that should carry us through most of the week.

They tried our patience, but we all hung onto our tempers. It was a small triumph.

We haven't had many outbursts with the kids. However, grocery trips have historically been trying for all three of us that live here regularly. I think it's the fact that we are all introverts and people in grocery stores with shopping carts behave weird.

Thursday was a different story all together. We had two stops to make. We needed to get their IDs updated. They had expired quite awhile ago, and without current IDs they can't make doctors' appointments or get access to other on post advantages. We left later than we wanted, and ended up eating lunch out. However, the wait for the IDs was not bad. We sat and chatted about various things, no one even cracked open the quiet activities they brought with them (including me).

After the pictures we needed to head to the education center to check on one of Will's classes. They started the following Monday, and we had no idea what textbook he needed, but we knew he needed one.

This stop was a little more hairy. The consult for his college was unavailable, but one of the counselors was able to see us. While we were figuring out the problem in her office, the other two were sitting in the hall. I had to go out to referee a squabbling match, but it wasn't that big. Just not the right venue for the discussion that needed to be had. Will eventually figured out what he needed and we headed home.

We later headed out to the SCA with some picnic dinners. Athena and Jonah had a good time on the playground equipment while Robert, Will and I sat and chatted with the others.

One of the regulars brought his scale mail out to try on. Both of them tried it. Both of them got their hair all snagged in it.

I tried to help with a headkerchief that Will brought me from Kuwait. That didn't work. It snagged on the kerchief. I won't be letting it get used for that purpose again.

Since Robert was the one with the early morning - football practice at 7:30 - we let him decide when to leave. He chose to pull us out of there about 9:00. That way he could take a few minutes to relax before sleeping. He's been very busy.

Yes, if you noticed, Jonah's piece does have Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on it.