Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where Have I Been?

Well, I've been a father by day, a computer software reinstaller by night.

Sera continues to amaze us each day. Her language skills are growing exponentially. She's forming sentences now, like "Shadow outside snow" and "Shadow outside potty." Shadow's our dog, and one of the most focal points of her attention each day.

She was into "Tee Tie" last week and the character Cyborg. This week, she wants to watch Teen Titans back to back to back. Yesterday we must have watched nine episodes, and whenever Cyborg came on the screen, she ran up to the TV, pointing at him, shouting, "Beeyah!" and laughing maniacally. She's calling Beast Boy "B.B." now, too, as the Titans sometimes do.

At night, I've been frantically digging through my software disks, trying to find the driver for my video card, because City of Heroes, the only game I play, doesn't look right with the newest driver that I downloaded from Nvidia. I did a little googling, and found that I was not the only one having this problem. Once I finally found the disk, I tried to uninstall the newest driver to put my original one back on, which was the solution put forth by the other people having the problem. Yeah, as it turned out, that wasn't the driver disk, just a utility disk, and when I rebooted, Windows wouldn't even start back up because it was missing a critical file. My buddy Rob went totally the extra mile to help me work it out but nothing worked. So, I took the whole computer back in today, where within an hour they had me up and running with the correct driver, and now everything is A-okay. Thanks, Nvidia, for providing a driver that doesn't do what it's supposed to do! You owe me $45 for labor!

I will get back to the business of posting tomorrow. I have a couple of game updates from our Mutants and Masterminds campaign to post!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Golden Hour

My favorite hour of the day is from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. This is my golden hour. This is the time I spend alone with my daughter. I get to see her off in the morning, and I sometimes get to pick her up from daycare. I'm always there for dinner, but Mommy feeds her. From 6 to 7, though, is Daddy Time.

My daily goal with Sera is to make her laugh. She has the most wonderful belly laugh I have ever heard. She laughs so hard sometimes that she literally cannot catch her breath and gets the hiccups. Tonight was one of those nights. I was giving her her bath when she flicked water at me. I jumped back like I was terrified and her eyes just lit up. She spotted weakness! She flicked more water at me and I feigned the same reaction. She started cackling. She repeated the action and so did I. More laughter. After about ten times, I thought she was going to bust a gut. Success!

After her bath, we retire to her room, where we watch an episode of "Tee Tie," also known as Teen Titans. She has the cadence of the theme song now. I sing the lyrics, "When there's trouble you know who to call," and she jumps in with "Tee Tie." It's adorable, trust me. She loves the show, and watches it transfixed from beginning to end. The only character she has shown an affinity for so far is Cyborg. She loves it when he says, "Booyah!" She repeats it as "beeyah!" When we were at my local comic book store last week they had Tee Tie---er, Teen Titans bobbleheads on clearance. When she spotted Cyborg and said, "beeyah," I had to buy it for her room.

Sera hasn't been patient enough to be read to...until now. We have tried on a number of occasions to get her to sit still with a book but she just couldn't hang on long enough. Reading to children is so important to their development that we have felt guilty for not doing enough of it to this point. Magi told me the other day that she let her read a short book to her, so I tried it out tonight. I started with Teen Titans Go #50, because I knew she'd at least look at Tee Tie for a minute. Surprisingly, she sat through half the comic book with dialogue and all! We have so many books to read to her, and I am so looking forward to sharing them with her during my evening time! My favorite book when I was a child was The Boxcar Children, and I can hardly wait to read it to her.

More later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in Black

Okay, so I didn't have all of my software reinstalled. As it turns out, I had to search for the registration number for Photoshop, find and purchase a decoder for my DVD drive, and install and uninstall drivers for my graphics card to make City of Heroes look right. It's still not right, but at least I can play it. Apparently, the newest driver for the card has errors for everyone who installs it. The errors are fixed by reverting back to an older driver, but wouldn't you know, my disc is buried in a plastic tote somewhere in the basement and I don't feel like spending hours to find it. I'll just have to make do with water surfaces and building faces that have stripes on them for no apparent reason until Nvidia fixes their driver.
I've said before that I don't like technology for technology's sake, but I do love what it can do for my quality of life. iPods, noise-cancelling headphones, love them! Call waiting, not so much.

That said, here's a new twist that my wife and I have added to our lives, and it's incredibly low-tech. Over vacation we both bought French presses. A French press is a carafe for making coffee that allows you to mix and filter the coffee right in the pot! Basically, you pour hot water into the carafe, stir in coarsely ground coffee, and let it sit for four minutes. Then you push down on the plunger/filter handle, which forces the grounds to the bottom of the carafe, leaving the coffee in the upper part. Pour it into a cup and drink. I swear it makes the best cup of coffee that I have ever had! It's smooth, not bitter at all, and it's simple! The cleanup can be a little complicated if you are in a classroom with no running water, but it's worth it. You do have to be careful about how you grind your beans, too. If you buy coffee already ground for drip coffee makers, it's too fine and will get caught in the filter. Fortunately most stores have grinders with a French press setting.
If you are a coffee drinker, you have to give this device a try. You won't regret it!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well, That was Fun

Sorry I haven't posted in a bit, but I was having computer difficulties. My virus protection had expired without my realizing it, and sure enough I got a virus. I took the opportunity to put a clean copy of Windows and Office on my computer. I've had them for a long time, but I was worried about losing my My Documents folder, which had 20 GB of photos and files. So I had the professionals at C&P Distributing do it. They have provided me with good service since the first time I went there. One of my old computers had been hit by lightning and they were able to recover a lot of my hard drive.

We have some errands to run today, and hopefully I'll be back later with something to say, now that I have all my software loaded again.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Eddie's Steak Shed

We were talking over dinner tonight, and I decided that Eddie's Steak Shed in Granger, Indiana is my favorite restaurant ever.

My favorite food is steak, and I've never had a better one than virtually any time I've had one at Eddie's. When we travel to the south, I always eat the seafood because my wife raves about it, and rightfully so. There just isn't any shrimp better than wild gulf shrimp, and that includes royal reds down in Key West. When we went to San Francisco I was crazy over Dim Sum and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. But when we're at home and I want my favorite meal, it's always going to be steak.

When we were in China adopting Sera, I tried steak about three times, all at really nice restaurants. It was awful all three times, somewhere between shoe leather and rawhide. The first place we went out to eat when we got home was Eddie's and they just plain do it right.

When we were at Callaway Gardens in Georgia last week, I tried to get a snack for Sera and me at one of the carnie food trailers they had set up beside the wagons they used for their Christmas light display. I went right for the roasted corn, because Sera loves corn. I wouldn't have fed what we got to chickens. It was tough, flavorless, and belonged in pig slop. My sister-in-law, Marcia, suggested that I shouldn't expect Indiana quality corn in Georgia. That really made me think. That's one thing I never appreciated about living in the midwest, and that's the quality of the food we produce.

I told Magi at dinner tonight that if anyone in our families ever visits us, Eddie's is the place I would take them for a taste of Indiana.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Twenty Years Ago...Dr. Dread's Fairy Tale

On New Year's Day, 1988, the Aegis gang got together for a marathon Champions session at Doug's house. It was an important day in the Aegis game. The third group of player characters had grown extremely powerful, and four of the players were set to replace them with new characters that they had created.

The adventure started with an attack in Aegis' base by a mind-controlled Ronin, who was romantically involved with the armored villain Dr. Dread's daughter, Blossom. After activating several teammates' mind control by using code words, Willforce, Prism, and Killshaft disappeared with Ronin.

Left with three other rookie heroes, Silverwing set about recruiting new heroes to do the unthinkable: invade the Chicago base of Deathcorp, Dr. Dread's legitimate front corporation and rescue the most powerful members of Aegis! News articles had recently reported the debuts of new superheroes in Baltimore, and the team tracked them down.

Quantum was a female construction worker whose exposure to radiation had given her a wide array of powers that could be focused one set at a time; The Gorilla brothers, Captain Dynamo and Colloid were also very versatile. Captain Dynamo could sense and copy the powers of other superbeings, while Colloid had a gelatinous form that could change shape at will. Demonbane was a researcher of the occult who read the wrong book and now stood eight feet tall and was covered with orange fur. Along with Thunderfist, Star Knight, Silverwing and Element, the heroes took off by jet to rescue the rest of Aegis.

Arriving on the scene, the new team used their past experience with Deathcorp headquarters and its undefeatable security systems to determine a plan of action. They would attempt a direct assault against one of the most powerful supervillains in the world. Thunderfist dove from the jet, reaching terminal velocity and landed fists first on the roof. He caved in two floors, ending up in Dr. Dread's throne room. He got an opening line out, and the collapsed. The rest of the new team followed through the hole in the roof and engaged the old team.

The fight was intense, but reasonably short as the more powerful members of Aegis were beginning to dominate the less experienced heroes. But when the new team figured out the code words that were keeping the old team enthralled (fairy tale names, hence the adventure title), the tide turned and Dr. Dread was defeated.

After the battle, Willforce, Killshaft, Prism, and Ronin resigned from the team to pursue other interests. The new heroes were invited to join as probationary members of Aegis.

Now bear in mind that I took no notes in this adventure, but I did record it with audiotape and listened to it several times during the next few years. I can't locate the tapes and haven't heard them in over ten years but I sure do remember how that day went. I have never felt closer to a bunch of friends. We played at a dining room table for something like six hours that day, and it was a lot of fun. What's even more fun for me is that I'm still friends with every one of the guys at the table. We don't see each other as often as we used to, and I sure miss the weekly gathering.

Next week, I'll have one of my favorite Aegis pictures on display with a story behind it!

The Case of the Hard Light Armors

Here's the newest installment of the Mutants & Masterminds game I am playing in:

Nightwatch Issue #2
December 16, 2007
“The Case of the Hard Light Armors”
Gamemaster: Lowell Francis

Anima, in his secret identity, was being invited to a campout when he heard an alarm sound. Making what has to be one of the best excuses to protect a secret identity ever, Anima said that he had to pick up a prescription for his sister and made his getaway and put on his mask.

Finding that the alarm belonged to a jewelry store, Anima faced off against a pair of thieves, a woman in green armor and a man in steely armor with robotic arms. Anima was unsuccessful trying to reach their minds with his powers, but the attempt was noticed by the female. Grabbing a velvet rope, Anima missed the woman, but the male figure fired his hand like a rocket at the hero, blasting him through the front window of the store, through a car, and into the True Value hardware across the street.

The pair of armored thieves followed Anima out into the street. After Anima shook off the effects of the attack, he grabbed a sledge hammer from the hardware store, promising to bring it back, and rushed out into the street. In seconds, he was flying back into the hardware store after being gang-blasted. This time, the thieves made their escape.

In his secret identity, Metalhead was asked to hire “broads” to sing at a police convention. Some of his bands had mysteriously canceled for New Year’s Eve.

Dr. Necropolis was contacted to investigate a bombing of second floor apartment. leon de la Sombra met him there. Dr. Necropolis noticed that one of the bodies had been crushed and burned. An elderly man, dying, whispered “The infernal machine,” before fading. Dr. Necropolis pried a domino from his hand.

Back at the abandoned movie theater the heroes had chosen as a meeting place, they shared information and split the duties for investigation. Anima began looking into the armored robberies, while Domino researched the thermite used in the explosion. Spectrum started digging into the background of the victim of the explosion.

Later when they reconvened, the heroes admitted that working together made sense, and they agreed to a formal relationship. Thus, Nightwatch was born!

Splitting up again to spread out the investigation, the team started digging. The man in the explosion, Dumas, was said to be a charming man who left home in the morning and came home at night like any ordinary man. The team found that the explosion was directed to do the most damage to his apartment and left nothing intact, not photographs, not books, not even a computer. The team also discovered that someone else had been in the apartment after the police. Then came the bombshell: The man had worked for UNCLE (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement)!

Shortly after the investigation, there was a report of armored villains at a nearby mall. Quickly arriving at the scene, the team discovered that all five reported armored thieves were there, knocking over kiosks and stores. Spectrum, who can fly at 500 miles per hour, arrived first and attacked in all his dazzling glory. He aimed at the female villain in the green armor, but when his blast missed, a mall kiosk exploded. Ochosi arrived to help with the green armored foe, but the steely villain fired his hands at him, narrowly missing. Anima grappled with the green armored villain, but she was able to escape his grasp. Spectrum changed into microwaves and blasted the green one again, this time successfully, and she vanished, leaving behind a small metal object which clattered to the ground.

Sparked by the success, Spectrum unleashed a wide-range microwave pulse, which hampered the other armored thieves’ movements and progress.

A few of the villains tried to take the mall’s Santa Claus and his elves hostage, but Dr. Necropolis and Domino saved them. Hearing a suggestion to hit them with water, Domino pushed the guy in red armor onto the icy skating rink the mall had put up for the holiday season. The armor began to heat and melt the ice, and then Dr. Necropolis threw the gold armor onto the red. Metalhead transformed into an iron anvil and dropped on them both.

Quickly, the rest of the armored villains were disabled, shorting out and leaving small metal projectors behind. Trying to be surreptitious, Domino put up a law-and-order front for anyone watching but tried to pocket one of the projectors before the police arrived.

Later, a mysterious man explained that Dumas had sent him a message regarding THRUSH, an old enemy of UNCLE’s, and that Dumas had discovered information about an auction of old high-tech materials and that there would soon be another auction.

To be continued…