Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The High Kick

I've always been a fan of the "high kick" rock and roll move, so when I saw this picture of Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, I had to share it.

I've gotta say, at 59 years old, she's got one hell of a high kick. Go Chrissie. I'd been listening to the Pretender's greatest hits, and found the collection surprisingly enjoyable, when I started surfing around to learn more about them and found this shot.

"Foundations of Fantasy" series continues...

For those of my many readers (that is, Dad and Ryan) who don't get over to Gonen's World often, you might want to check it out. I've been doing posts on some of my favorite writers who have influenced modern gaming. Here's parts 1, 2, and 3. Two more are on the way, eventually.

I point this out simply because I can't think of anything to post today. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Real-Life Superheroes

Yes, they exist. Read all about them here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Playtesting, Shplaytesting.

Here's a quick entry with a new game my buddy Joe, known to Warhammer freaks as Zobeslaus, clued me into.

We Didn't Playtest This At All is a quick-play (one to 10 minute) card game with only a few simple rules: everyone starts with two cards. Then on your turn, you draw a card and play a card. That's it. Just follow the instructions on the card.

The goal is to win. By playing cards, you make other people lose. An entire game can be played in a few minutes.

The card text is all very silly. Cards range from rock-paper-scissors scenarios, placing "bombs" on the table (when a certain number of "bombs" are on the table, everyone loses), or ones that make someone else lose, but you too - that card is called "Spite."

I have not played this - but it seems a perfect companion to an evening of a tabletop RPG or a more complicated board game. Social, simple, and accessible to non-game geeks: that's what makes a successful game in my book.

So if they can release a game without playtesting it at all, I can review it without playing it at all.

Here's some mixed reviews from Board Game Geek.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Blogging Siblings

Just a quick note to show off blogs from my siblings.

My brother Darren is a fine filmmaker. Three of his short films are featured on his blog Cold Wet Blanket. "Lotawana" features me. Check it out.

My sister Shannon is an excellent artist. Her blog, The Word Represented in Art, features her inspirational paintings.

Then of course, don't forget my dad's blogs at The Adventures of Conley McAnally and Korea: A World Away, which features my Grandpa Ted's letters home to the family during the Korean War.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Road Trip, Part 6

The last day of our multi-generational vacation was a whirlwind. Connor and I are homebodies and the thought of spending a night on the road didn't appeal to us. We convinced Dad to hit Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Meteor Crater in one day - and then head back to Kansas City.

About 3 a.m., I regretted that. But first things first.

Connor and I both wanted to see Lowell Observatory. We're into Mars and telescopes. We got there way too early, but a very nice girl who worked there (Heather? Emily? Hannah?) let us into the Clark Dome, where Percival Lowell's telescope is. We got to move it around and pretend to look through it (nothing to see in the daytime anyway) and watch the dome move around, which satisfied us. They also had a Solar System walk there where every million miles was an inch or something like that; it really hammers home the scale of the Solar System ("what, Saturn's all the way over there?"). They also have a very decent hands-on museum in their visitors center, and Lowell's mausoleum is on the site as well (an interior shot of an awesome dome that overlooks his final resting place is shown below).

The observatory campus itself, high on a hill overlooking the town, is a peaceful, contemplative wooded environment and it was nice to just walk around there, and wonder why they had a bocce ball court in the middle of the woods. Flagstaff is a beautiful town, even though we got a little bit lost in it once or twice (I don't think there is a single straight line on that street map). If I ever moved to Arizona, I'd probably aim for Flagstaff. Here are some photos:

Then we drove north to the Grand Canyon. This wasn't originally part of our vacation plan, but when you're so close, why not? Folks who'd been there told me words couldn't really describe it, and they were right. These pictures don't really even describe it. You just kinda have to be there to "get it." One amusing moment is when Connor fed an animal cracker to a bold raven who walked up to our car. Later we saw a sign saying this is very illegal. We stayed about 45 minutes or so, gaping. I was very afraid near the edge. I don't do well with heights and it was really overwhelming. I fought the urge to grab Connor every time the wind blew. Here are some pictures:From there we drove to Meteor Crater, which isn't that far from Flagstaff. I've seen pictures of this many times in my life and, while it is not as overwhelming as the Grand Canyon, it has a power all its own, especially when you consider how it was made. There is also a decent museum here, but what we were interested in was the giant hole in the ground:

...this next photo is of me at the very bottom of the crater:

...actually, I'm lying. That's me in front of a mural in the museum that makes it look like you walked down to the bottom of the crater. After a long day of driving, that walk was not on anyone's agenda.

Then came the first leg of a very, very long drive. We left Arizona about 6:30 or 7 p.m. and got back to Kansas City at about 6 p.m. the next day. Maybe later. I don't remember. My brain turned to mush at about 3 a.m. In Albuquerque I got some 5-Hour Energy Drink which worked very well for about three hours. We listened to Coast to Coast A.M. for a while, until we lost reception. Then it was a brutal, pitch-dark drive through New Mexico. I'm not even sure when we hit Texas, but I do remember stopping somewhere in Texas, where my dad also imbibed the energy drink (a cop in Albuquerque recommended it, otherwise I don't think Dad would have taken it). These long, dark hours of monotonous driving were brutal. In the wee dawn hours, I stopped at a nameless trading post of some sort in Texas and got an off-brand of it called "Cowboy Up!" After that, I managed to get a few hours of sleep, and woke up in Oklahoma City. The rest of the ride wasn't too bad, and Dad managed to get a few winks in.

Then, of course, we hit I-470 in Kansas City just at rush hour. When we finally got home, I hit my bed and didn't get up again until 9 a.m.

Here's what I took away from our vacation:

I hadn't spent a lot of uninterrupted time with my dad in a long time. It was nice. I also got my first glimpse at a post-Connor world. By that I mean I have always dreaded Connor growing up and moving out because I couldn't see past it. What purpose could I possibly serve, if it's not to be his Dad and take care of him? But now I can see that there are lots of places to go and many other lifestyles than those I have known. Life can be pretty sweet when you get older, I guess, as long as you have your health and a little bit of money. My dad, who is retired, pretty much does whatever the hell he wants, when he wants, more or less, and that's something to look forward to. I was also glad Connor got to see so much of the country this summer (he went to Washington DC with his mom in June). We'll both remember the trip for the rest of our lives, and I do know that it's not my last trip to the southwest. I really like the stark nature of it. I loved Mount Lemon and want to go back and camp there.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Road Trip, Part 5

First of all, here's a photo of Connor on Mars.

That's actually from the space exhibit at Pima Air & Space Museum that I forgot to include with my last post.

Day 4 of our vacation, we visited Tombstone, AZ. It's very picturesque and the downtown supposedly appears much as it did back during the tumultuous "Gunfight at the OK Corral" days. We skipped the gunfight re-enactment because we'd have to wait too long for it. Dad says he's seen it and we didn't miss much.

The real highlight of the visit was eating at Big Nose Kate's saloon, where Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, etc. used to drink. Or so they tell us. I had perhaps the best bowl of chili in my entire life at this place. It was loaded with jalepenos - I got one in almost every bite.

I also ordered a "large" beer. I very rarely drink, and when they delivered the "Big Ass Beer" to the table, I couldn't even finish it all. It, plus the chili, put me into a stupor, and I stumbled through the rest of the visit. The other place we examined in detail was the office of the Tombstone Epitaph (being a newspaperman myself I was interested).

After that I pretty much fell into the car and slept. My dad decided to drive to Nogales and we stopped there to look at Mexico (we didn't go in). I had fallen asleep in the car - if my dad had woken me up and said I was in Mexico, and not just on this side of the U.S. border, I'd have believed him.

Later that night Dad took us out to eat at a great Mexican restaurant. I don't remember the name. I figured the food would be different than the Mexican food in K.C., being so close to the border. It was good, but I think there's good Mexican food wherever there are Mexicans, so it tasted like the fare in the better Mexican restaurants here.

Then Connor and I walked around the mall for a while. There's a good game store there called Game Daze. Prices were, on average, about $2-$10 more per item than what I see in my local game store at home. There was an awesome chess set based on the Crusades, but it was $219 so I gave it a skip.

Exhausted, we went to bed early and got up at 3:30 a.m. for the last day in Arizona - a whirlwind day of telescopes and giant holes in the ground.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Road Trip, Part 4

Day Three (part 2). After enjoying the vistas of Mount Lemon, we dropped off Grandma Jan and made our way to Whataburger. I seem to remember there being one in K.C. somewhere, but lost track of it. They have a guy who comes around to your table with little ketchup cups. Otherwise it's basically like a Burger King.

After that it was Pima Air and Space Museum. It was the most expensive thing we visited during our vacation ($14) but there's certainly a lot to see, and, in the opinion of well-traveled folks I asked about it, it is "Smithsonian quality." There were five hangars full of planes from all eras of aviation history (and brutally hot walks across arid gravel in between them). Again, I'll let the pictures do the talking. Here are some of my favorites:

After this, we were all hot and tired, and we enjoyed some time at the pool before going over to Grandma Jan's. Her boyfriend Kurt cooked some steaks for dinner. Then we drove out to the edge of town where it was really dark, got out Connor's telescope and found Saturn by dead reckoning (I spotted it, he homed in on it w/out the laser guide...which isn't easy). Then it was home for bed...

How can you beat a day like that?

Tomorrow: Tombstone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Road Trip, Part 3

Day Three (Part 1). We woke up early and drove up to Mount Lemon with Grandma Jan. This was Connor and I's first mountain. About 7,000 feet up we got out of the car and walked around for a while - it was an awe-inspiring view. I could have spent days up there, and in some ways it was the best time I had during the whole vacation. Words can't really describe it so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

I had a very special time up on this mountain and had a chance to do some thinking about life and stuff...which is what you're supposed to do on a mountain, I suppose. But I won't get into all of that here. It's enough to say it was a quasi-religious experience.

Well...that's a lot of pictures to upload at once so I'll save Day Three (Part 2) for tomorrow - stay tuned for lots and lots of pictures of cool airplanes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Road Trip, Part 2

Day two of our journey began with a visit to San Xavier del Bac, an old Spanish mission from the 1600s-1700s. This is where I first discovered the whole "dry heat" thing, as I drank about six cups of coffee before we left and was parched the whole time. I almost passed out climbing a big hill to get a good view. There was a cross at the top of the hill where Connor and I rested and looked around. The mission itself was in the full throws of a Catholic mass - we'd arrived on Sunday morning. On the way out of mass, Native Americans were rubbing some kind of reliquary and putting pictures of loved ones on it; it was almost pagan, but you could tell the people there had very strong spiritual feelings about what they were doing. Here's some shots of the place, which is truly beautiful. I wish I had more pictures of the interior - it was excruciatingly designed in Baroque detail. All I got that wasn't blurry was one picture of an angel, who I decided would stand in for Darius (Gonen's World folks know what I'm talkin' 'bout). Here are some pics:

Leaving the mission, my dad drove us to a scenic park so we could get our first good glimpse of panoramic scenery. We just hung out for a while and enjoyed the view. This was always my favorite thing to do on this vacation - just sit and look at the landscape.

That afternoon, we had a traditional Italian meal at my dad's girlfriend's mom's house. The meatballs were excellent but I had already filled up on pasta (they eat the pasta first, then the meatballs) and could only eat one. Then it was two rounds of desert...whew! I was slightly embarrassed that I couldn't eat everything that was set before me. We visited with Grandma Jan for a while (my dad's mom) and then rounded out the day by going to see Captain America. I even got a few hours in at the pool. All in all, a good day two. We slept like logs that night.