Mother’s Day 2015

My mother passed away a few years ago, but I am lucky to have a wonderful step-mother to spend Mother’s Day with.

My wife and I drove back home in the morning to visit our mothers. I dropped her off and spent a little bit of time with my parents-in-law before going over to my parents’ house (they live in the same city).

My parents were out at the farmer’s market when I got there (a Sunday tradition for them). I played with their dog a little bit and puzzled over the mail I was receiving there. Apprently I now have a subscription to Car and Driver magazine for some unknown reason.

When they got back they announced a surprise, my best friend would be visiting as well! Apparently his parents were spending some time in the Netherlands so he’d been hanging out with my parents for company.

We chatted a bunch and made snickerdoodles. The cookie baking was a Mother’s Day activity so we joked non-stop about it. My friend and I got on our knees to be “children.” We pretended to mess up the recipe by adding “one and a half eggs.” The usual stuff.

The cookies turned out really good, obviously due to adding one and a half eggs.

We went on a walk up to “the dish.” Everyone in Palo Alto already knows what that is but I will explain for those of you who don’t know.

A lot of Palo Alto attractions are remnants of the two big owners of the land around there, Stanford and Coutts. Stanford owned a huge amount of land in the hills behind Palo Alto.

That land was never developed or turned into part of the college. Instead it is an open space preserve where you can go walking up in the hills.

At the top of one of the steep hills behind a chain-link fence is a giant satelitte dish, probably about 100 feet in diameter.

“The dish,” as everyone calls it, is part of the program to contact alien life. It sends signals out and listens for responses. Nothing yet!

We came back after the walk and opened presents. I got my step-mom a Ursula K. Le Guin interpretation of Lao-Tzu’s poetry. She likes Le Guin and both her and my dad are fans of Eastern philosophy. She seemed excited to read it and I hope it is as good as her expectations.

We hugged goodbye and I took half the cookies with me. My friend took the other half.

I went back to my in-laws house and picked up my wife there after taking some pictures. We drove back home through the heavy Mother’s Day traffic.

Happy belated Mother’s Day to everyone else’s mothers who I didn’t see yesterday!

-GoCorral

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My D&D Campaign: Cimmeria

I gave a brief description of my D&D campaign world previously, but have written nothing on it since.

I got involved in the Gurutama posts and I felt that writing about two different D&D worlds might get confusing.

The result is that there’s very little on the blog about what I actually do in my biggest hobby and that frankly seems a little stupid.

There are other reasons why I avoided describing my current D&D sessions besides the confusion between Cimmeria, the campaign world I use now, and Gurutama, the campaign world I’m building.

First, I’m not always the DM for my group. Sometimes my best friend DMs a campaign based in the Aegean where the other players and I oppose an evil conspiracy.

Should I be writing about those sessions here as well? Bringing a third campaign world in? Its already a little difficult for some of the other players to keep track of what’s happening in each campaign. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people who aren’t playing and taking notes on this stuff like we are.

Second, there is an immense amount of existing information for Cimmeria that makes it a little difficult to describe the sessions to a newcomer.

For example, there is an NPC called Astyanax in Cimmeria. He is a prominent member of the Alliance opposing the evil guys.

I say Astyanax and the players all know what I’m talking about because they’ve interacted with him in the past and with his father, Hector.

There’s a mythical parallel to Astyanax as well. The mythical Hector was the greatest hero of Troy who died defending his city. After Troy was conquered, the Greeks killed the mythical Astyanax.

The Hector in my campaign died just like his namesake, but Astyanax lived on. He is now the greatest defender of his city in his father’s place. He might end up dying like his father did as well.

So imagine that level of explanation for not only the people, but the places and objects in my campaign. Everything has a history and I try to DM in a way that makes that history relevant.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to write stuff here about Cimmeria, but I’ve got explain in a way that anybody can understand the topic.

Not really different than how anything should be written when you think about it.

-Mister Ed

Will and Testament

My wife and I met with a lawyer this morning to draft a last will and testament.

Most people our age don’t have wills. Nobody plans on dying, but that’s even truer for people in their early 20’s.

Most people my age don’t have a lot of assets to dispense upon their deaths either.

I do because I inherited some money from my mother when she died a few years ago. From a certain point of view its a second will for her.

Our idea for the will is pretty simple. If one of us dies, that person’s property goes to the other marriage partner.

If we both die, our estate is split between our parents.

If our parents are dead it’s split between our siblings.

I’d be shocked if the followup to that happened, but if both of us, all of our parents, and all of our siblings were dead then our estate would be split between our aunts and uncles.

We hadn’t planned that last one out, but the attorney we spoke with said it was the default law. We figured we’d go with that.

We’d previously talked about donating to charity if our siblings couldn’t receive the money. We still might go back to that as well.

For now, the attorney gave us a questionnaire to draft a health care directive.

A health care directive is a piece of paper with instructions for your medical care if you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to describe your own wishes for your medical care.

So stuff like, “Would you want to be on life support if you are in a coma?”

Or, “Would you want if you were in a permanent vegetative state?”

“Would you like to be cremated, buried, or something else?” (Taxidermied is not one of the listed options)

“Would you like to donate your organs?” (You should)

“If you are donating organs, which ones are okay to donate? All of them or just a few of them?”

So we’ve got to go over all of that stuff and then get back to the attorney at a different time.

It feels like a nice adult thing to do with my wife, but its also depressing.

Part of it is exciting to be planning something so important with her.

I’m not bummed out so much about my own death or her death when we talk about the will. Those both still feel far enough away that I can act like I’m immortal.

It just gets me thinking about my mother’s and my sister’s deaths a lot. My wife feels the same way about it too.

-Mister Ed

Father’s Day 2014

I went home last weekend for Father’s Day.

Unfortunately for you, my dad and I are not into taking pictures of ourselves that much.

Instead you get a picture of what I gave my dad.

My dad and I spend a lot of our time together watching movies.

One of the first types of movies we watched together were Japanese samurai movies (Chanbara movies in Japanese).

I don’t think I got much out of the samurai movies when I was a kid because they were subtitled and in black and white.

Now I really appreciate the genre. A ton of my favorite movies are samurai movies.

Some greats to check out include: Rashomon, Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Harakiri, Throne of Blood, and Chushingura.

One interesting thing about samurai movies is that they are often adapted for Western audiences as… well, westerns.

Yojimbo and Sanjuro were turned into A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars MoreSeven Samurai became The Magnificent SevenChushingura was made into an action movie called 47 Ronin instead of a western. Throne of Blood is actually a Japanese adaption of Macbeth. Finally, Hidden Fortress inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars.

What’s my point with all this? Well, because my dad and I like samurai movies we also like westerns.

I recently started listening to a lot of western themed songs.

The songs are like little mini western movies. Marty Robbins is a singer who basically only writes within that small genre.

I got my dad a mix CD of these cowboy songs along with a pair of movies that inspired two of the songs, High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is an iconic song of the genre. Here’s a link if you’d like to listen to it and get a taste of the genre.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

-Mister Ed

Sacramento Music Festival 2014

I went to the Sacramento Music Festival for a vacation this Memorial Day weekend with my wife and my parents-in-law. Here are some pictures of all the stuff that was going on there.

Here’s what our hotel was like.

The Governor's Inn where we stayed had birds named after the Reagans.
The Governor’s Inn where we stayed had birds named after the Reagans.
First time I got room service with my wife!
First time I got room service with my wife!

We went on a walk along the river by our hotel.

Here's a bridge in Sacramento by our hotel.
Here’s a bridge in Sacramento by our hotel.
There was this weird water thing in the river.
There was this weird water thing in the river.
An abandoned boat out in the river by our hotel.
An abandoned boat out in the river by our hotel.
The abandoned boat was an anomaly. Most of the boats were sailing around like this one.
The abandoned boat was an anomaly. Most of the boats were sailing around like this one.
The Rusty Duck Restaurant is quite rusty as it has been abandoned for awhile.
The Rusty Duck Restaurant is quite rusty as it has been abandoned for awhile.
An abandoned PG&E block building.
An abandoned PG&E block building.

And we went to the festival where my father-in-law was playing.

We were stuck in line for one of the music sets, but there was a polevaulting event outside to watch!
We were stuck in line for one of the music sets, but there was a polevaulting event outside to watch!
Here the girl is going over the bar.
Here the girl is going over the bar.
The girl did not make it over the bar.
The girl didn’t quite make it over the bar. She hit it on the way down.
A bunch of Hawaiian kids played some covers on the street to earn money for college.
A bunch of Hawaiian kids played some covers on the street to earn money for college.

The College Fund band that we saw on the street has a Facebook page. Here’s the link.

My father-in-law's band playing some 20's jazz.
My father-in-law’s band playing some 20’s jazz.

My father-in-law’s band is called the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra (RSJO). You can check out their website here.

And that was my weekend! Lots of music and lots of fun!

-Mister Ed

Hornblower

When I was a kid my dad and I traveled around in the car together a lot. We’d go to soccer practice or he’d drop me off at a friend’s house.

My family was lucky enough to own a second house about two hours away from our first home. My dad and I would go to the second home on weekends with our dogs and hang out.

On the drive to the second home we’d listen to books on tape in the car. The topics varied a bit. We’d listen to recordings of live storytellers, Greek classical history, mystery novels and a few other things. Our favorite thing to listen to was the Hornblower series by CS Forester.

The Hornblower series is set of adventure novels about a British naval officer named Hornblower who served during the Napoleonic wars. Hornblower’s fictional life is loosely based off of Lord Trafalgar, an English naval hero of the Napoleonic wars.

Hornblower starts off as only a midshipman, but by the end of the series he is a Lord with title and governance over a variety of places.

The Hornblower books are told from a limited third person point of view. The focal character is often not Hornblower, but Lieutenant Bush. Bush is initially Hornblower’s superior officer, but as Hornblower progresses through the ranks he eventually surpasses Bush. Hornblower and Bush become best friends during the series and chance places them together or they always request joint assignments.

In one of the latter Hornblower books, Bush goes off an a separate mission and supposedly dies. My dad and I thought for sure he was only thought to be dead, but as the book progressed it became clear that Bush was gone for good. He never reappeared in the subsequent books either.

As a present for my dad I’ve started writing a few Hornblower chapters for my own book. In my book, Bush survives the explosion that killed him, but went into hiding. He comes out of hiding for Hornblower’s help in a new endeavour.  Since it’s in vogue right now, I decided the new endeavour would be that Napoleon has risen from the dead as a vampire. Bush and Hornblower will team up to take him down!

I’ll most likely be posting a few of the chapters here as they are finished.

-Mister Ed