October 2009

  • Situation Report: Fall 2009


    The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things…

    —Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and The Carpenter” (from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)

    There may not be a whole lot of activity here in my little corner of this here series of tubes, but life does not stop when a person fails to update his blog regularly. To wit:

    The Secret Lair

    The Secret LairThe podcast is still going strong, with a new episode appearing every few weeks or so, and a new installment of our webcomic appearing only slightly less frequently. In the most recent illustrated adventure, which I shall henceforth refer to as the Irradiated Arachnid Incident, the side effects of a spider-bite are not what you might expect. Meanwhile, Chris and I managed to convince our wives (yes, there was alcohol involved) to join us in a discussion of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, that book they made into that movie with that one guy. We also sat down with Mick Bradley, with whom we have had dealings in the past, to discuss that most mysterious and misunderstood style of roleplaying, the story game.

    Recent episodes of the podcast have featured staff reports from some creative (and incredibly generous) folks we are fortunate to call friends, those being Dr. John Cmar, Jay “Kingfish” Lynn, Natalie Metzger and Ken Newquist. These reports speak of schemes of ever-escalating complexity and crackpottedness, with a smattering of bizarre truth thrown in to blur the line between the real and the surreal.

    Game Night

    Approximately every two weeks, the gamers descend upon the International House of Johnson for one form of interactive entertainment or another. We’re currently in the middle of a Savage Worlds campaign run by Chris Miller, but last night we took a break from polyhedral dice and roleplaying to rock.

    Live at the International House of Johnson - Photo by David MeadArmed with fake guitars, fake drums and a very real microphone, we took to the virtual stage in Rock Band 2 on the Xbox 360. Four adults and the aforementioned fake instruments do not fit particularly will into the area around our “entertainment center”, but that didn’t dissuade us in the slightest. Some of the songs we rocked out to:

    •  “Re: Your Brains” and “Skullcrusher Mountain” by Jonathan Coulton
    • “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    • “Here it Goes Again” by OK Go
    • “Take it on the Run” by REO Speedwagon
    • “The Best Day Ever” by Spongebob Squarepants (featuring guest vocalist Kyle Abraham Johnson)
    • “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull (featuring Chris Miller on vocals and no one on the fake flute)

    After the out-rocking concluded, we gathered at the dining room table for Monty Python Fluxx, followed by Fist of Dragonstones, the latter of which I thought was woefully underappreciated.

    Olde Fartz

    After a bit of a late-summer hiatus, the Olde Fartz Distance Learning Center is back in session. Our favorite game of late has been Half-Life 2 Deathmatch, though we did return to our roots for an evening of WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos a few weeks ago. There’s also talk of playing some Team Fortress 2 and Dungeon Siege, and P.G. Holyfiend keeps yammering about Sins of a Solar Empire, too. Yammering, I tell you. Enrollment in the Olde Fartz has increased to the point where we have abandoned Skype voice conferencing in favor of a TeamSpeak server. If you’re interested in joining the fun, drop me a line and I’ll take your application to the admissions committee.

    Con on the Cob

    Con on the CobLast year I managed to attend all four days of Con on the Cob, a local gaming, art and general geek convention. This year, Laura and I only attended on Saturday, but we still had a lot of fun. We both bought new dice (practically a con requirement) and I bought Dominion, an excellent card game from Rio Grande Games. 1Laura and I have played several times since the convention, but the four-player limit means it’s tough to include at Game Night (when we typically have six or seven people). There’s one … Continue reading We watched a bit of the Iron Artist competition, then briefly fled to a nearby restaurant with Chris Miller and Rachel Ross for dinner, then it was back to the con for a couple of games of Dominion. Next year, I think we’re going to shoot for attending on both Friday and Saturday so we can do a little more gaming and maybe record an episode of The Secret Lair on-site.

    Alas, I have no convention photos to share this year, as the battery charger for our Fujifilm Finepix J10 went AWOL right before my sister’s wedding. 2Did I mention that my sister got married? And we drove to Chicago for the wedding? And that Kyle wore suspenders? And that the bride and groom were joined “by the power of the Internet”? … Continue reading A new charger has been purchased and will hopefully be delivered in time for Hallowe’en costume photos.

    NaNoWriMo vs. NaBloPoMo vs. HoNoToGroABeMo

    I have no intention of attempting to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days come November, nor will I make any real effort to post at least one blog entry a day in the same time period. On the other hand, I fully intend to shave off my beard on October 31st and then spend a month failing to grow anything resembling a manly face-mane. That’s right, for the third year running, How Not to Grow A Beard Month will return. Mega-kudos once again to The Cynical Optimist for creating and maintaining the website.

    The Great Superhero Movie Project

    Despite a general dearth of new reviews, I have been watching and rating various superhero movies over the past few months. There are currently 112 movies on the list (with more to be added soon); I’ve seen about 90 of them, rated about 60 and reviewed a paltry 11. Yeah, I have a bit of catching up to do in the review department.

    1 Laura and I have played several times since the convention, but the four-player limit means it’s tough to include at Game Night (when we typically have six or seven people). There’s one expansion to the game (Intrigue) with a second (Seaside) on the way, both adding cards and allowing for additional players, so it might just grace the Game Night table someday soon.
    2 Did I mention that my sister got married? And we drove to Chicago for the wedding? And that Kyle wore suspenders? And that the bride and groom were joined “by the power of the Internet”? No? I should have. Sorry.
  • One of your more exotic Chinese dishes…


    Raccoon“What’s that?” Kyle asked.

    “This,” I said, turning the deep-fried wonton stuffed with cream cheese and crab meat over between my fingers, “is a rangoon.”

    Kyle turned to his cousin and exclaimed, “He’s eating a raccoon!

  • Thirteen Years


    Wedding Day
    Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the lovely day in October of 1996 when Ms. Laura Sperry became Mrs. Laura Johnson. Some of you were there and may remember the very day, perhaps even better than I do. To me, the day was a whirlwind of activity and I remember only bits and pieces; all of them good.

    So how have the last thirteen years treated us? Well, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I think Laura would agree when I say there have definitely been more of the former than the latter.

    In 1996, Laura was driving a 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. The little blue car left our driveway for the last time just this spring. Laura now drives a 2000 Pontiac Montana and I drive the MiniVan…of DOOM! (A 2002 Pontiac Montana, as it happens.) We also had an Oldsmobile Alero for three years, a car I believe Laura misses to this day.

    In 1996, we lived in Fairport Harbor, Ohio (my second apartment in that little town). Shortly after we got married, we moved to Mayfield Heights, Ohio, where we lived until 2001; then we established the International House of Johnson in Willoughby (yes, Ohio).

    In 1996, Laura was an assistant managing editor and I a computer sales associate. Our roles have changed to stay-at-home mom and systems engineer, respectively.

    In 1996, it was just the two of us in what amounted to a studio apartment. The first addition to our family was Sushi, an angry betta, shortly followed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two cats whose IQs have been steadily declining since 2003. Sushi lasted about two years before a combination of impotent rage and oppressive ennui caused his little piscean heart to burst.

    In 2006, we were joined by Kyle, who I often refer to as “my young apprentice”. We weren’t exactly expecting Kyle; in fact, we didn’t find out he was on the way until he had been simmering for about four and a half months. He arrived on Friday, January 13th and I daresay nothing has been the same since.

    Since 1996, Laura and I have attended a couple of high school reunions, umpteen weddings, and an unfortunate number of funerals. We’ve celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. We’ve taken two Caribbean cruises. We’ve traveled to Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois together. We’ve driven (or flown) back and forth to Upper Michigan at least once and sometimes two or three times a year.

    The police have been dispatched to our house three times; the fire department once. The only casualty related to any of those visits was our mailbox.

    There are certainly things I would change about the last thirteen years—times when the phrase “wedded bliss” didn’t always apply—but I wouldn’t change the October day that started it all, when we had no idea what the future would hold and knew only that we wanted to spend it together. I’ve seen part of that future; I’m looking forward to the rest.