Archive for August, 2006

Wanderlust and Acquisition

August 16, 2006
For over a year, Evelyn and I have been talking about moving out of our apartment and into a condo. Our Master Plan is to be free from the Rent Hole and into the Equity Hut by the end of the year. We’re aiming for a townhome, but we’ll settle for a clean garden-level condo. We have finally taken the first step of meeting with a realtor (from Long & Foster) who was cooperative to us Saturday walk-ins, and she showed us a couple of condos in our price range. I had an idea of what we’re getting into numberwise, but I’m stil worried that the condo fees/homeowner association fees are going to take a big chunk out of our budget and diminish the field of what we can afford. We plan on meeting some more realtors and visiting some more candidate sites in the coming weeks. If you have any advice on house-shopping in the Washington DC area, I’d be glad to hear it.

We took a walk through the neighborhood on Saturday. We stopped by the Long Branch Nature Center (which closed before we got there), took a peek at some nice condo groups near home, and found the nearest library (a task I’m surprised I haven’t done sooner) which had a quaint community garden around it and a solar-powered gazebo. But the most curious part of our pedestrian trek was as we passed a Baptist church. They had piled several boxes of free books by the curb which we eagerly rummaged through. I felt as though I was acting out the play of an unseen ‘Garage Sale’ card from Ferrball’s Mansion! Most of the books were Christian related, on how to pray or how to be a good missionary or how to offer psychological advice to congregants. But hidden in the pile was a Hebrew Old Testament, two books on Hebrew grammar, and a pair of classic novels (Balzac and R.L. Stevenson). For want of shade, we also salvaged a parasol that was decorated with famous literary quotes. There was also, I presume, an entire set of the 1990 Encyclopedia Brittanica. I passed it up since I’ve got Wikipedia instead; if you hurry, that set might still be there!

I’m also happy to report that I went kayaking for the first time in two years! Evelyn and I loaded up my bright green boat and drove out to Mason Neck State Park. She used one of the rental kayaks. The water was smooth and sheltered, which is a vast improvement over the fatiguing chop of Long Island Sound! We had a picnic lunch on the water, floating in the shade by the inlet shore and watched the fish fry swarming in the shallows.

Last week I purchased some wargames from a local gamer who decided to cut some unplayed dead wood from his collection. For a dollar each, I gave a good home to Cold War, Dawn Patrol, and Dark Crusade.

Also on the gaming front, Warriors Online v0.90 has been released, and my boss is playtesting Ferrball’s Mansion with his family.

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: the Republic of the Rio Grande

Music of the Moment: "Mushroom Hunting" by The Seat Belts

What I’m Reading: "Wahoo" by Richard O’Kane

Honeymoon (part 2)

August 1, 2006
In this fluid age, when families commonly diffuse about the land, it is harder to get everyone together for special times. I am from Indiana, and my wife is from California, and now we’re living on the east coast. As a consequence, most of our loved ones are at least several hundred miles from us. The time and cost of traveling such a distance kept our envisioned 100 person wedding down to 35, an issue that caused some stress during our wedding planning. Then we had a breakthrough realization… if they can’t come to us, we’ll come to them! That’s when we drafted our Whistlestop Tour. My wife and I, as newlyweds, would visit the areas of the country where we have significant pockets of family and friends: Indiana, California, Missouri, New York. Family at each destination would plan a meeting of those who want to greet us, and we’d just have to arrange the traveling aspect. By spreading these whistlestops over a year or two, we could visit everyone we know, and enjoy a series of mini-honeymoon adventures.

Last week we began the first major whistlestop, my hometown of Middlebury Indiana. My parents arranged for a meeting place, organized food and drinks for all, and even placed notices in the local newspapers. For our part we brought our wedding attire and collections of our favorite wedding and honeymoon photos. Dad even kept the meeting location a secret, giving us only the GPS coordinates for the site (I could read the numbers through the envelope, but it didn’t really change anything).

First we drove to my Uncle Dan’s new house just southeast of Indianapolis. He and Aunt Lorainne had just built a large two-story house, with custom modifications to help care for Christopher, who is paraplegic. But before it was even finished, Bad News made itself an unwanted houseguest. The contractor had bungled a measurement, and the house lists by four inches, making it a long-term liability. Dan’s family had barely moved in, and now they’ll have to try again. Fixing the house would make it temporarily unlivable, but because of Chris, living anywhere else is not an option. Until another house is built, they’ll stay where they are. Besides all that, we had a delightful visit! Lorainne kept us stuffed to the gills with food, a veritable cornucopia of snacks, tasty dinner, and pineapple uside-down cake! For the next two days, I didn’t want to eat! I also heard that my widower grandfather is dating again, for the first time over half a century!

When we arrived in Middlebury the next day, we checked into the Country Victorian Bed & Breakfast, a charming abode that’s across the street from the grade school I attended for five years. The CVB&B was everything we’d hoped a B&B could be… knee-weakeningly comfy furniture, antique style, jovial hosts, and delectable breakfasts. We didn’t want to leave! Later that evening, we got to meet my brother Neil’s new ferret, Slinky, an active young mustelid.

We spent Saturday at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair, one of the largest county fair in the nation. The fair had been a large part of my life. I spent 10 years in 4-H, concentrating on Bicycle Club, candlemaking, and modelbuilding. Neil was an active 4-H’er too (Media Club, Cat Club, Bicycle Club), and my parents did lots of volunteer work there. The fair took up 9 days of my life every year for over a decade, and I wanted to share this major piece of family history with my new wife. If she only learned one thing, it’s that there are a lot more kinds of chickens out there than she realized! Mom also dragged Neil and I to Walmart for a photo. She said that getting Neil and I together is rare enough that there better be photographic evidence of it!

Our Big Meeting was set for Sunday. At the instructed time of noon, we opened the envelope and followed the coordinates to our party site, fully decked out in our wedding clothes. The coords led us to a brand new pavillion in the downtown park. But instead of throngs of wellwishers, we found another envelope stapled to a post addressed to us! Ha ha, Dad! He tricked us with a clever multi-cache! The envelopes guided us through various sites in Middlebury until we arrived at the final waypoint… the very B&B we were staying in! It was all a conspiracy to keep us out for an hour so Mom & Dad could set up; even the innkeeper had been clued in to help keep us in the dark! Guests began to stop on by… my Mom’s friends Marcia and Gail, my dive instructor Dave, my drafting teacher Mr. Berkey, my grandfather and his sister-in-law, my great-aunt Mary, my grade school gym coach Mr. Schmidt, some of Dad’s friends from UU, and even my barber Paul who cut my hair since I was a boy. It was wonderful to see so many old friends, and to hear many warm wishes for my new marriage. Thank you all for visiting me!

On Monday we set out for the Indiana Dunes. Dad used to be a lifegaurd there 30 years ago. My parents used to take Neil and me there when we were younger, and I hadn’t been there in at least a decade. The weather was perfect, and we scaled the heights of Mt. Baldy, a towering sand dune that offers a view of Chicago (if the weather cooperates). Lake Michigan was frigid at first, but we quickly became relaxed in the water (Evelyn really liked the freshwater). Dad tried to tame some gulls, and Martie found some nice crinoid fossils. Happy birthday, Dad!

We made the drive back to Virginia in near-record time… only 13 hours!

Just when you thought sidewalks couldn’t get any cooler, they start making them out of rubber.

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: the Amero

Music of the Moment: "Limelight" by the Alan Parsons Project

What I’m reading:
"Wahoo" by Richard O’Kane
"The Secret Agent" by Joseph Conrad