Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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Four Fantastic Places visited on my Vacation

18 December, 2017

On my most recent vacation, taken with my lovely wife, we headed up to the Washington DC area and then down to Williamsburg, VA, for a brief stay.  These are the places we went that were both new to me and a worthwhile visit for just about anyone.  In the order we visited them:

Unusual WeaponsThe National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.  An amazing collection of weaponry and organized to tell how the firearm intertwines with the history of the United States, primarily through wars but also hunting, exploration, law enforcement and sports.  There is even a room with weapons that have shown up in movies and other media.  If you have any interest in guns, you will find things to interest you here, from Gatling guns to flintlocks, six-shooters to automatics, they are all in the collection.  Usual and unusual weapons, common and unique ones, a brilliant and fascinating collection.  Full disclosure, this museum is located in the NRA HQ but it is free, so visiting it is not a political statement (unless you want it to be).

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall which is impressive and still, a year after its opening, amazingly popular requiring reserved passes to get in (so check before you go, we only got in because someone else in line had spare passes).  We only had time to make it through the extensive history section (3+ floors!) before it was time to go, so we will be back.  The history section starts with the transport of enslaved Africans to the Americas and that is not a cheerful journey.  Then through the slave-holding era and the vast cruelty of that system and its end in the fires of the Civil War.  One ascends through the Jim Crow years to the triumphs (if still incomplete) of the Civil Rights era.  As mentioned, we did not even really even get to explore the culture section at all but we will.  The Restaurant here is quite excellent as well.

Filipino WeaponsThe National Museum of the Marine Corps covers the history of the US Marines from their founding during the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War (later periods are in process).  A short movie introduces the Marines through the people who have served, we arrived at a quiet time, so it was just Laura and I in the theater  The earlier periods have lots of good historical artifacts and interesting history, naturally with a pro-American, pro-Marine basis, but that is expected.  Once you get to the Great War, they start really using technology to give you a feel of some of the major events; A mock clearing and a video loop of advancing across the field into German gunfire for the Great War.  The Korean War area has a literal cold room to step into when they are discussing the Chosin Reservoir and the retreat from there during the bitter winter.  In the Vietnam section, you get to exit from a “helicopter” into a fire base.  All very effective for helping to imagine what being there must have been like.  Their are a few pieces on display for the -in process- modern galleries for Iraq and Afghanistan and the number of fascinating artifacts from buttons to tanks, backpacks to aircraft is overwhelming.  The onsite restaurant (and bar) is the Tun Tavern, styled after the birthplace of the corps, and serves excellent food.

Old CapitalOur last stop was Colonial Williamsburg where we did not have nearly enough time but we still managed to visit quite a bit.  The idea behind Colonial Williamsburg is to recreate the past through restoring the historic building and having people, well, roleplay as people from the colonial period many of whom have mastered skills of the time: wig-maker, silversmith, weaver, tailor and in all cases are well versed in what role their persona would have played in the colonial period.  So much to learn and experience from Colonial-era hot chocolate to watching a cannon drill, meeting flocks of heritage sheep and seeing a wig being made, just fabulous.  The College of William and Mary works with Colonial Williamsburg to build and maintain the skills, history and physical structure of the place.  For anyone interested in history, well worth the journey but try to have more time than we did, two days is probably sufficient, one is not.

So, a wonderful history filled trip.  All photos by me unfortunately the ones I took in the Smithsonian did not come out well.

Have you visited any of the places above?  What were your impressions?

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Looking Back at GenCon 50 (2017)

30 August, 2017

Well, I am mostly recovered from my experience at GenCon 50 and the trip back, so thought it was time to write things up before it all falls from my head.

Days -2 and -1 were travel towards Indianapolis, early morning arrival and working setup on the AEG booth in the exhibit hall.  Busy but not very exciting but we did get most of the setup done on Tuesday which was a great achievement.

Learning to play

Cat Lady in progress

Day 0, Wednesday, is the real beginning of the convention in many ways these days.  Had a few moments to wonder the halls, found  some of the Goodman Games crew bagging old Appendix N paperbacks for sale and we had a good discussion about Poul Anderson.  Also ran across and talked with author Marion G. Harmon, author of Wearing the Cape, a novel about superheroes (which I am currently reading and enjoying), and the FATE-Based RPG of the same title, which was fun.  We finished up setup and I had a chance to learn many, many AEG games such as Oath of the Brotherhood, Custom Heroes (from the designer himself), the Captain is Dead, 60 Seconds to Save the World and Cat Lady (better than it sounds, I promises).  Howard and I had our traditional Tuesday night meal in the Ram, which was good but not as good as previous years, which I blame on eating in the lounge rather than the restaurant proper but lesson learned.  Daniel Griego of Inner Kingdom Games dropped by my Shadowfist kickstarter rewards which are much appreciated.

Day 1, Thursday, works begins after some Bee Coffee.  Dashed through the exhibitors’ hall to grab a GenCon dice set for one of the other demo team members. then teaching Istanbul (not Constantinople), oddly, even though They Might Be Giants were performing at GenCon, no one made that comment all con.  During my break, off the get lost in the exhibitors’ hall and try to catch up with some people I know who might be there.  Visited Drew Baker‘s booth and checked out his new art, ended up buying a playmat which I cannot find a picture of at his site but L5Rish in theme.  Honestly, all a bit of a blur, but I did hit up the Catalyst booth for a Maria Mercurial Tour (an iconic rocker from the Shadowrun setting) t-shirt.  Then back to work, general helping then session 2 of Istanbul, yes, expect to see that game mentioned a lot over this. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Samurai in Georgia (USA)? Yes, Indeed

10 December, 2015

Go see it!The Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, GA, has a small but very impressive display entitled Samurai: the Way of the Warrior.  It features artifacts from the Florentine Stibbert Museum including multiple full suits of armor (four of which are staged with weapons as well, including a beautiful naginata), a dozen of so helmets, swords and bows, and more.  It is not a huge exhibit but what is there is very impressive and worth the time to view if you are in the area.

The rest of the GMoA’s collections are pretty neat as well and the museum is free.  So, if you are out Athens way, drop in and take a look.  The exhibit runs through 3 Jan.

Photo from the GMoA site and used without permission.

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GenCon 2015, My Experience

15 August, 2015

AEG booth in progressAs is usual, AEG contacted me about working their demo team for GenCon and equally as usual, I accepted.  So my friend H, who also works GenCon for AEG, and I headed up when the time was right.  So, as we were required to help with setup starting on Tuesday, we left Monday, and drove to Cave City, spent the night and then into Indianapolis on Tuesday morning, arriving safely at the Crowne Plaza (conveniently located almost directly across from the dealers hall).  Dropped our stuff off in the room and then met up with the rest of the team and the mad setup began!  It was kind of fun but tiring, assembling displays, tables and shifting boxes and products for about seven hours.  Fun Fact, the convention center does not turn the air conditioning on in the dealers hall until Thursday.  Then, dinner at the Ram where they had War Machine-themed menus, cider on tap and delightful fish and chips.  I have tired to eat at the Ram for the last two years and I will make it back some time as I really enjoyed the experience. Read the rest of this entry ?

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GenCon Adventure 2014, Part the Second

11 September, 2014

Part 1 here.

Day 2

Up early for shower and breakfast before my first game, at 1pm in the afternoon, but I had gotten my schedule mixed up and thought that I had a morning game so I suddenly found myself at loose ends and so, back to the dealers hall I went.  Which gave me a chance to drop by and say hello to my artist friends Drew Baker and Talon Dunning (who was selling commission like they were going out of style) and picked up a print of I’m the Villain from NEN (who also did all of the art for PostHuman Studio’s new Shinobi Clans game).  I also had the chance to learn how to play the Furoticon card game (NSFW link here) which was quite fun and surprisingly deep play mechanics given its framework.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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GenCon Adevnture 2014, Part the First

27 August, 2014

Day -1

Writing on the wall

What was it trying to tell me?

Headed out towards GenCon, we break the trip up into two stages as we have to be there in the early Wednesday afternoon.  Stopped in Cave City, our usual transit point, ate dinner at Cracker Barrel (where there were some interesting light effects that looked like runes on the stones of the fireplace, got some poor pictures thereof).  Then chatted online with Laura while watching Face/Off, which has become something of a tradition as we did it last year too.  And then for my last really full night’s sleep until after GenCon.

Day 0
Safely arrived in Indianapolis, dropped our stuff of at our rooms and then off to help with setup.  The dealers hall was full of various venders getting ready for the big show.  Setup went pretty well, with AEG’s new expanded booth area including an actual enclosed area to store stock in, very useful.  Lots of people queuing for their badges.  At some point I hung around on the fringes of Fred Hicks’ circle, listening to some fun and crazy stuff.

The AEG demo team dinner was held, at usual, at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  Not a good experience this year.  We arrived before 8pm, were not seated until after 8:30pm and we left directly after finishing our dinner around 10:30pm.  Yes, there was a passel of us (~50) but that was no excuse for the painfully slow service, we did not even get drinks before 9pm!  Disappointing but at least it was decent food, when we finally got it.  Then off to bed.

Day 1
GenCon begins!  Excellent breakfast at the Embassy Suites, where I was staying, walked over to the dealers hall with some of the other demo team members before looping back to my first (of seven) L5R RPG sessions!  This was the introductory action-adventure game with five players, four of whom had played in one of my games last year!  Everything went well, some of the choices made by the characters caught me by surprise so had to rewrite some of the end scenes of the scenario on the fly but it worked out well and everyone had fun.  As usual, we were in with the Heroes of Rokugan group, so at times a little loud but as they were having a good time there is no reason to complain.

Then a quick dash to the dealers room, which is staggeringly huge this year, so only got to see a bit.  Say a hardcover (POD) copy of the L5R Strongholds of the Empire book that I had worked on, which was very impressive, at the DriveThruRPG booth.  Did find a really nice dichroic glass amulet in the shape of the Star Trek symbol from Moon Drenched Glass Art as a gift for Laura during that time though as well as picking up an East Texas University T-Shirt.

Then back for my second game, the first of the advanced intrigue games.  I had defaulted back to a murder mystery rather than my initial thought of something more political due to the limitations of the convention game format and I wanted something that would be self-contained and resolvable in four hours.  Six players, two of whom were returning from playing in one of my 2012 games, and it ran quite well, though occasionally we had to pause or repeat things as the room was some times very noisy.  But the murderer was revealed and the honour of the Moshi family was saved!

Then back to my room for a quick shower and to head out to meet up with my friends from the Hollow Throne online RPG forum games I play in for dinner.  Most of these are people I have known on and off for years, one of them since the first Winter Court play by post back in 2007, but only online.  Of the ten, I had only met two of them before in person, at previous GenCons, so it was really nice to get to talk with them in person.   Eventually the meeting broke up and we dispersed.  I returned to my room for some much needed sleep.

To Part 2.

My few photos from GenCon can be found here.

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Trip to Washington, DC, and Alexandria, VA, 2013.

10 September, 2013

Back from vacation, so things should be a little busier here, sorry for lack of posting while I was on vacation but . . . I was on vacation.

Another trip that started with a long drive, Athens to Alexandria (a shorter trip than across the Mediterranean though) and ended with us falling into bed at the end.

Monday, Labor Day, always a fun day to go into DC as all of the government offices are closed but not the Smithsonian Museums. Read the rest of this entry ?

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