Category Archives: Family

On Chocolate Sodas and Springtime

This post is an introduction to a project  I have wanted to do for over five years.  I’ve talked about it quite a bit and finally, this year, it’s happening.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

Here in the Midwest we are just a few days away from Springtime.  I have a ritual I perform every year about this time in which I summon the warm breeze and sunlight of Spring. I do not sacrifice a calf or make odd, occult markings and chant.  No, no, no, my ritual is simple yet powerful.

I get a chocolate soda.

“A what?  What is this? You put chocolate syrup in a Sprite or something?  That’s gross.”

No, I’m talking about a treat that throws back to old-time soda fountains and ice cream shoppes.  A place where soda jerks mixed up delicious springtime and summertime drinks. It goes by many names and from my research (yes, I’ve done actual research) in soda jerk lingo, this favorite ice cream treat could be called an egg cream float or a black and white soda.  And in Springtime they are particularly delicious as it reminds me that the cold winds are receding and warmer, sun-filled days lie ahead!

However, this ritual has become more and more difficult to do over the years as knowledge of what a chocolate soda is and how to make it has slipped away due to time and the convenience of bottled and canned soda.  I find this all very odd considering the simple ingredients involved and how delicious the final outcome to be.  And no, in case you are still making a weird face, it does not involve an egg.

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First Trail of 2016

FirstpicWith the February weather opening a nice window of sunny Spring-like weather over the weekend I took my wife and daughter on a long hike into the Hoosier National Forest along Lake Monroe.  This was a particularly special event for me.  All my life I’ve typically gone into the woods alone.  Due to my wife’s past fitness level, she had never been able to go with me this far down a trail.  This year was different because several months ago my wife started a fitness/weight loss program and stuck with it.  The result? I was getting to share my hiking and nature experiences and knowledge with her.  For the first time in our relationship, we were going on a day long hike.

Besides completing the trip, we had three goals. I wanted to have more than just a small hike. I wanted an afternoon and into the evening kind of day on the trail. It had been since December that I had gotten into the woods and I wanted a full day to reset my nature batteries! The first goal was to stop at mid-point, have lunch and just settle down for a bit to enjoy the energy. Since we were in a National forest we were going for a quick fire, some high quality hot-dogs and s’mores. A classic choice for sure.

The second was to try out our hammocks. My wife had purchased an ENO Singlenest for me as a Christmas gift two years ago. Though comfortable, it was not well suited for my height. At Valentine’s Day, she surprised me with a Doublenest hammock and then gleefully claimed the Singlenest as her own. For this trip I’d be showing her how to set the Singlenest up with the straps and she would get her first chance to try it out. I would try out my Doublenest and maybe catch a nap!

Finally, several Bald Eagles had been seen in the area we would be in and so our third and final goal was to hopefully see one of those majestic birds once we got to the lake’s edge.  Not much else we could do there except put ourselves in the right spot and keep our fingers crossed.

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Investing in Yourself

In my last post I mentioned the commitment and investment of working out and getting healthy.

What I’m spending financially in September on my health goals and personal training, once it’s all said and done, could do a lot of things.  It could get our family a new television, a new computer.  It could buy a new set of winter clothes.  It could help get our old car ready for winter.  I had to get my brain around spending that money on myself in order to get healthy, especially with the fact that I am not overweight or in poor health to begin with!

I wanted to discuss it further here because I think the idea it’s ok to invest money on our health while we are healthy is something which is not thought about or supported in our culture.   We are taught to consume and to play and to have fun, to spend millions of dollars on items we are told we “need.”  It’s even alright to spend money on fixing ourselves AFTER we have consumed too much; IE – food, movies, video games, etc.  Yet, when it comes time to spend that money on ourselves and improve ourselves, when there is no “obvious” reason why we should do it, the mind (and the minds of your friends and family) seem to take a stutter-step.  At least this is what I found mine doing.  Why is that?  What is it about our culture that teaches us to hesitate on our goals like this?

I latched onto the idea of an investment.  This is my investment to myself.  However, it is also an investment for my family, for my wife.  By getting healthy I am insuring I am able to help carry items in my son’s move, to pick my daughter up for a hug, to go for a long, adventurous hike with my wife to see beautiful wilderness or to help my mother as she gets older to help keep up her house with outdoor maintenance chores.  When I go to volunteer, as I did last weekend for a food drive, I could carry more bags of food to the waiting car.  I could stand longer on the concrete and hand out flyers without my back or feet hurting.  The amount the investment will return on itself is incalculable because it does not focus entirely on dollars and cents.  It has a much higher payout down the road.

On the fifth week of my Spartan workout (my second 4th week because I repeated it) I had to do my workout later in the evening.  It was close to 9:00 PM, going on 9:30.   I had a full day under my belt and not much food in my belly.  I was tired.  When I took a breather I muttered, “Why am I doing this again?”  I laughed because the answer came to mind immediately.

Because, right now, I’m building the body I will grow old in.  As time goes by, do I want it to be strong and healthy or weak and problematic?

As I looked at our budget and what my wife and I are doing for ourselves, I shared this thought with her and she agreed.  Our souls may be fiery meteors of energy and life but our bodies are infinite and will, eventually, decline.  We, right now, are building those bodies as strong as we can so we can, hopefully, grow old in them.

And that, hands down, beats any kind of new television, clothes, laptop.  Besides, when I get in better shape I won’t need a car in winter, right?

I’ll just super leap over to my job!    Problem solved!


Was That Just 30 Days?

What a month it has been!  New job position, GenCon, my son off to college and finishing my Couch to Spartan plan.  As August comes to a close it feels like I can finally come up for a bit of air.  Let me catch up and get things to the present!

GenCon – WOW!  What a great weekend!  I’ll hopefully put something up on the game blog this weekend.  Personally, it was a huge success.  Having four days with my son, surrounded by gamers, games and old friends.  Well, it was like coming home.

Old Pals

           Ran into some old pals at GenCon.

Despite what Life and the REALLY creepy hotel threw at us, our workouts went off without a hitch!  The hotel, which was run-down and scary, informed us that the workout room which had been promised was “under construction” and we could have a free pass to Cardinal Fitness just down the road a few miles.  I asked calmly if they would be open at 5 AM or at 12 AM for me to do my workout.  With a sign, the clerk muttered, “Uhm, no.’

It was road work for us then and definitely a challenge to pack it all in.  The typical schedule ended up being all day at the Con where we walked about 3 – 5 miles then back to the hotel by 11PM.  Up at 4:30 or 5:00 AM to do a workout (except for Sunday morning.  I got in a workout after I got home that evening.) and then breakfast, shower and then back to the Con to find a parking spot by 7:30 A.M.   I was very proud of my son who, being new to this exercise stuff, ran it like a champ!  His diet was very restrictive and so he took portions of appropriate food with him in his backpack and ate on schedule throughout the time at the Con.  It was hardcore but it showed me that you really CAN get through a 4 day convention on $40 of pre-purchased food.  (More money for buying games, right?!?!?)

Workouts – Once GenCon was finished I came back to four very intense work weeks and to finish up my Couch to Spartan plan.  The workouts ramped up in intensity and the summer heat decided to do the same.  I was undaunted and pressed through a couple of 95 degree days.  During Week 4 I made a pretty crucial decision.  I decided to repeat the week.  This decision was different than before which had it’s roots in wanting to take it easy and not pushing.  The decision to repeat came from the simple fact my form was off and sloppy when it came to the exercises.  I opted to repeat the week, work on the form and then power into the final weeks.  It worked like a charm!  My form improved and so did my strength and I finished the plan strong and feeling good.

During this time I also decided to research what I needed to do for more bulk and discovered that, for my height and size, I was eating way too little in protein.  I changed that up one night by eating three hamburgers (no bun) and a huge portion of vegetables.  The next day, I felt amazing.  It seemed to activate some long lost, dormant metabolic rate within me and I feel that was when I started to REALLY see improvement.   Our grocery budget will, undoubtedly, suffer for it.

The Success – Last weekend my wife and I went zip-lining at a place called Go Ape in Eagle Creek Park as part of a birthday celebration for her sister.  Being nervous about heights I was apprehensive but decided I wanted to do it.  What I didn’t know was that it was not JUST climbing up and then zip-lining down.  No, it was climbing up a rope ladder and then going through an obstacle course hanging in the trees 40 feet off the ground! (You’re attached the whole time.)  The zip-lining was the easy part.

The success came from having the strength to do the entire course without any real issue.  Though my nerves were a bit shot at the end I was delighted I had been able to do it all and feel strong throughout.  My wife felt the same way and we both agreed that 6 weeks ago we would not have been able to do it at all.   She would not have had the strength and my weak and injured shoulder would not have allowed it.  This was a realization for us.  It showed us that there is a world of adventure waiting for us out there to explore as we grow in strength and conditioning!

The Marvel Zone – I finished the Spartan program about ten days ago.  My wife had spoken with a few of her weight-loss trainers about my situation and what I was training towards.  They had suggested I come in and have a consult with the owner who was an obstacle race veteran and who had regularly worked with people who were trying to gain weight and strength.  I thought it was a nice way to transition out of the previous series of workouts and I took them up on the offer.  Last Monday, I began my free week with Next Generation Personal Fitness and went to my consultation.  After a great meeting where we both admitted to being superhero fans he began calling my plan “The Marvel Zone.”   How can I go wrong with a plan name like that?  (Though I’m still using the hashtag #bigdamnwookie)

hulkfitnessThe Plan = Starting on Monday I begin a nutrition plan for muscle and weight gain for 4 weeks.  It’s a daily plan with accountability.  I know quite a bit about eating healthy and even eating for weight loss.  I know very little about the concept of eating for healthy weight gain so I’m looking forward to it.  Along with the nutrition,  I’ll be working with a personal trainer to help me focus in on crushing any obstacle race that gets in my way next year!  In addition to my ongoing road/trail running I’ll also be hitting 2-3 fitness classes a week.

No, it’s not cheap but it’s a commitment.  It’s a commitment to myself and to my family.  It’s a chance to take it to the next level and really move forward on some goals I’ve had my entire life.  More on this later as this post has already grown longish.

I can’t wait.  More to come as things begin to settle down and I move forward.  Fall is right around the corner which means a lot more trail running and outdoor workouts to come!

Cheeseburger Day

Today is Cheeseburger Day!

The story of Cheeseburger Day starts with a very special dog that passed 5 years ago.  I wrote about him originally on another blog I had going.  The post was lengthy and, let me tell ya, it’s a real tear jerker.  I’m not going that route.   (I may re-post the other one later to have it in these archives.)


The dog’s name? Pooka Grasskiller.  He earned the last name due to a weird thing he would do when he became really excited.  He would kill grass, tearing into it and tossing it into the air.  He’d then look at you with that stupid, tongue hanging out doggie smile.

Pooka was my best friend for eleven years.  We were inseparable.

So much so that when I took over my old job of managing a game store he was allowed to come with me.  Every day he would come into work and hang out.  Of course, customers loved him.  He was, quite simply, “the best dog ever.”  Pooka began to earn quite the following and nearly every week (every day?) we would have customers come in just to see him.  He loved everyone and he loved the attention.

He also loved cheeseburgers.

This is from the previous post.  It sums up Pooka and cheeseburgers pretty well.

“He loved cheeseburgers.   It came about when we were on the road.  I once stopped for lunch at a burger place when he was in the car with me and he went nuts when I opened the bag.  Being a buddy, I ripped off a piece and gave it to him.  It sealed the deal for him and from then forward he’d get excited about the promise of another “snack.”

Then, there’s this story that sealed the connection between Pooka and Cheeseburgers.

“I once found out that a friend of mine had stopped at a fast food place and picked up a cheeseburger just for Pooka.  They knew I was, at this point, cutting Pooka back from “people food.”  As he aged enough was, after all, enough.  However,  Pooka’s subliminal mastery of the human mind was too much for some people.

Knowing my stance, my friend called me over to a shelf of product and distracted me.  While I was talking to him and not looking he motioned to Pooka with the cheeseburger.  I’m told Pooka hesitated at first but then seemed to realize what was going on.  Pooka came up behind us and snagged half the offered burger from behind the friend’s back.  My friend thought it was hilarious.  Later, I found out this had happened more than once and Pooka was “in the know” quite a bit.  Like I said, a trickster.”


When he passed I received condolences from people I barely knew.  By being in that store for so many years he had gained a huge following.  I had left the job before he passed but still, two years after he passed, I was stopped on the street by an old customer who wanted to tell me they thought Pooka was amazing.  Even now I can mention his name to people and it never fails to bring a smile.  “Damn, that was a good dog.”

Pooka003On the first Anniversary of his passing, I was still grieving and my family created Cheeseburger Day as a way to celebrate him and to never forget him.  We went to a cheeseburger place and piled them high.  When I announced it over social media with a picture I didn’t expect anything.  I just thought it would be nice to remember him this way.  What happened next was a wonderful surprise.   I was amazed at the outpouring of love that came back and of friends posting pics of cheeseburgers.

It became a thing.  Flash forward to now.  For some reason, Cheeseburger Day got jostled around in my addled brain and I thought it was next week.  Besides, after 5 years, it was just a family thing, right?  Oh, nothing more powerful than the wash of time to ease the pain of grieving.  Out of nowhere, a friend sent me a message on Facebook and gleefully reminded my friends and I that we can’t forget the 28th is Cheeseburger Day!  I have to admit, I got a bit teary when I saw it.

So, lest none forget, today is Cheeseburger Day!  For me, it will always be about him and our connection, a once in a life time thing.  It’s about the people who knew him celebrating one of the most amazing shop dogs they ever had the pleasure to work, game, or hang out with.

Maybe you didn’t know Pooka?  It’s ok.   If you’re a dog lover than maybe you know a dog, or knew a dog, like Pooka?  If that’s the case then how cool would it be if Cheeseburger Day could be for them as well?   It’s about that connection with a gentle soul that always wants to be by your side, who always wants to follow you out the door no matter the weather or the time.  If you’re lucky, you could share a piece of that cheeseburger with your pal?

Regardless, for my family, friends and I, today is Cheeseburger Day.

Pile it high for my friend and your friend.  For the gentlest of souls and the laziest guardian of all gamer geeks everywhere!   For the Grasskiller!  For the Lord of Belly Scritches!   For the sneaky Cheeseburger Thief!  Pile it high and feast upon the burgers of cheese!

Pictures of said glorious feast to come…  😉


Full Swing Summer

BlueI never like it when I turn around and several weeks have disappeared.  It means I’m out of touch, not grounded.  Days go by in a swirl of family, work and personal quests.  It’s like a magic trick that seems to happen from time to time.  I turn around and “poof!”, it’s August!

Looking back at the blog and the preponderance of gaming posts it would seem I’m headed towards a gaming-only blog.  I hope to correct that with this and some future posts.  Gaming was never intended to be the only thing I write about here. Summer is in full swing here at the den and the curious thing is that gaming is the LEAST of what I’m doing these days.  (Well, except for some awesome sessions of X-COM thanks to a generous friend and the Steam Summer sale! ) What irritates me a bit with my own fool self is that Nature, it’s beauty, our connection to it, and what we can use and bring into our lives from it, is a very large part of my life.  Yet I find, looking back at the blog, I’ve written so little about those subjects.

I’m not really sure why that happens.  Perhaps it’s because I carry some preconception that I’m “busy” and that gaming is “easy” to write and my nature writing needs to be “deep” and “meaningful?”  I’m not quite sure.  I’ll figure it out one day but till then, let’s talk about Nature and see what happens?

I look back to the days of yore.  When the wee, young Yote gallivanted through the rolling ridges and woodlands, rambled through creeks looking for crystals, fossils and artifacts and honed his fly fishing skills against the finest bluegill and bass minds to be found.  (Ok, so that was just last week but, well, you get the idea…)  During those days there were always 4 to 6 weeks that were miserable; the hot, humid and nasty days of late July and August.  The days where, even inside, all the paper gets a bit damp from humidity and the nights are spent with only a thin sheet to cover you.  Those days when sometimes three showers and a hose down were just not enough to keep cool.  Late Summer in Indiana when the time in the great outdoors is reserved for the cool morning and the long evening hours.  When, during the scorching, middle day hours, you always have  water handy and constantly seek relief from the nearest shade or shadow from the sun.  You remember those days around here?  And, to add to it, the last few years have been particularly grueling with high heat waves and scorching drought.  Do you remember this time last year?  It was brown.  Life was brown.

Everything was brown and the world crunched when you walked on it.

And then, we have this year.

MorningGloryThis year has been an anomaly which I’ve not seen the likes of since, well, ever!  The nights are cool.  The days are staying, at the most, in the high 80’s.  The rain has been steady.  Our garden has not needed watering once since we planted in late May and June.  The flowers and the green have been startling in their brilliance.  I swear, there is a house on the way into town, it has a flower garden right near the road.  I’m amazed there’s not been more wrecks there this year.  The amount of color exploding outward is a massive distraction.  Seriously, someone needs to call the city or something.  They should put up a sign, “Caution.  Distracting Color Ahead.”


LunaMothThere have been mornings when I get up to walk the puppy and I think I’ve been transported to my favorite summer vacation location, Upper Michigan.  Fishing along the shores of nearby Lake Monroe one recent morning, I had an honest-to-God flashback.  One moment I’m casting into a small swirl on the water’s surface and the next I’m standing on the shores of Lake Superior wondering if I should be looking over my shoulder for black bears.  (For the record, we need bears back in Indiana.  It would be awesome!   I’m serious.)

And what’s up with the weather?  I’m seriously missing my quality time hunkering down in a basement and listening to storm sirens.  The storms, when they have arrived, have been perfect.  Full of rain, thunder, lightning, and very little in the way of destruction and chaos.  I’ve fallen asleep twice this summer to the rumbling, far off artillery sounds of heavy thunderstorms.  TWICE!  And without a siren to be heard…

JulyCloudsOh yeah, another question, who ever heard of going back inside to get an over-shirt for a morning walk in late July in Southern Indiana because you are “chilly?”  That word doesn’t exist in Southern Indiana in late Summer.  I looked it up.  It says so in the manual.

Final evaluation?

This summer has been beautiful.  Drop down, million dollar, super star, deluxe model, limited edition gorgeous.

I guess it sort of explains where the past few weeks have gone, eh?

The Summer Arkham Twitter Log

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, my family reserved an afternoon and evening and busted open our copy of Arkham Horror with 2 extra expansions.  As an experiment, I started running a live-feed Twitter log of the gaming fun.  The game ended up being a total grind and lasting 9 hours.  The first tweet occurred at 2:28 PM and the final game win was announced at 11:22 PM.  We had two extended breaks in there as we had to break to stretch our legs as well as dealing with our jealous puppy who did not understand why he could not play as well. I’m betting, when you figure in the breaks, it was only 6 hours of game time. Snacks were consumed, walks were taken and, in the end, Yog-Sothoth was held back from coming into our reality.

Below I present, in order from first to last, the twitter log that was generated.  I enjoyed seeing it all together more than I thought I would and it really does work as a journal of the experience.  I see places where I wish I would have added more and ways I’ll improve it should I do something similar in the future.

Anyway, I present it here for your reading enjoyment including the pics taken and posted as part of the log.  I also removed the overly repetitive #SummerArkham hashtag I used to organize it all on Twitter.


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Summer in Arkham

Due to the awesome amount of free time my family has due to the holiday, we have reserved this entire afternoon and evening for a game of Arkham Horror.  We are starting in just a few moments (my son set up the board while I was working this morning) and in an attempt to out-geek my own self I plan to do a series of live tweets of my character and the gameplay.

My Twitter link is over there on the right and I will be using the hashtag #summerarkham when possible to catalog the tweets.  I’ve always wanted to do this and I’m curious what kind of document will be created when it’s all over.


The Summer Fields of Terror.

Follow along with the fun if ya want!

GarageCon 2013

Whenever I am at the beginning of something, whether its a birth or a wedding or, in this case, a bunch of gamers having fun, I get all smiley.  Last Saturday I was privileged to be with 90+ other people at the start of something pretty awesome.

I was able to attend Garagecon 2013.  If you’re not from Bloomington I don’t expect you to have heard of it.  Heck, even if you’re from Bloomington you probably didn’t hear of it!  Jordan Acres, responsible for putting it all together, is a friend who I met while working my last job.  He’s a self-professed game fanatic and game designer.  He recognized me from my days running the Game Preserve and we bonded as gamers do when they find one another in a non-gaming setting. (This included a shot at trying to play Lost Worlds and yelling maneuver pages over a crowded Saturday afternoon.)   Running into him a month or so ago, he told me about a project he was working on.  The recipe was simple.  One garage, a wall of games, several plastic folding tables with chairs to match, a nice summer afternoon, scheduled game demos and then, stir in gamers.  Splash with “Free Attendance” and .50 cent soda drinks.  Simmer all afternoon.

When the day of the event rolled around I can’t express how happy I was to be able to fit it into my plans.  The weather looked to hold most of the day and not be too hot and humid for an outdoor event.  A chance of thunderstorms was present but not expected.  The extra bonus for me was a chance to take my son who also loves all things gaming.


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Firehouse Follies : Radio Sounds

Follies_RadioSoundsIt’s the morning after the show and I’m beat!  During the cast pizza party afterwards I turned to my wife and said, “Man, I’m glad it’s Memorial Day tomorrow.”  She agreed.  It’s odd how some shows can take it out of you.  You have no way of really knowing how much mental energy your expending in rehearsals and going over lines.  I guess the better way to say all of the above is you have no way of knowing when your brain is sweating.  You’re just suddenly drained and tired.

The show, from this side of the microphone, seemed solid.  The overall word used by the cast I talked to afterwards was “consistent.”  I would have to agree.  It just flowed along, from music, to skit, to special guest and then back to a skit.  Joel Mabius was fantastic.  His song called “Touch the Wall” about Vietnam and the memorial was extremely powerful.  On the other side of things, “Poison in the glass” was hilarious.  When checking in with my teenage girl after the show (she had stayed home with her brother to watch Oberon) she was practically begging me to buy the album to have that particular track.

Every one from the actors to the musicians came out with their best stuff.  This show in particular, due to the demands of our sound effects Genius Tony Brewer, was a bit more demanding.  What I noticed though was that this crew is becoming so fluid we didn’t even realize it was a challenge!  Like I said, consistent.

My wife and I were able to be in a skit together where we played Bonnie and Clyde.  It could have been called “Bonnie and Clyde: The Elder Years.”  I LOVE being able to act with my wife on stage and her version of an older Bonnie was spot on.  The only problem I had with the skit was that I was having so much fun it was over before I knew it.

My other large part was a purposeful over-the-top rendition of  Shakespeare.  It was part of the river boat vacation skit.  I think I worked on it harder than I did the Bonnie and Clyde skit.  The most memorable part for me regarding it was audio theatre guru Richard Fish, the director, coming up to me after I’d performed it for the cue-to-cue.

“It’s good.  Just remember though, we’re going down a river in a boat and we’re expecting YOU to go overboard.”

I wrote it on my script so I wouldn’t forget.  I underlined “overboard.”

Speaking of forgetting something.  I took several pics of the rehearsal before the show but I forgot the SD card.  So, since I don’t seem to have a working data cord to retrieve them, the pics are stuck in the camera’s internal memory.  If I manage to find some sort of digital lever to get them out out, I’ll post them up.  It’s frustrating too because there are some good ones in there.

In case you missed the show, the link for the full show will be up sometime in the near future.  I’ll make sure to post it here so you can have the chance to download it and listen to it.

The next show will be on September 8th so save the date!