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Lake Steam, work stuff, and a full social calendar [May. 15th, 2018|11:18 pm]
So two weeks ago I was feeling tired and creaky, and decided that I needed a massage. So I decided to follow the recommendations of various bears and try out Lake Steam. It's an old-school Russian/Turkish-style steam bath and sauna, and you can also get a good massage for a very reasonable price.

It was good. I first went down on Wednesday evening, but there had been a scheduling snafu, and I couldn't actually get a massage. I decided to go in anyway, and the attendant comped me the $20 entrance fee. The sauna was very hot, and the steam room was very steamy. Like, difficulty seeing more than 5 feet steamy. I enjoyed the hot tub the most, and spent a fair bit of time going back and forth between the hot tub and a cool/cold shower. I also rescheduled for Friday evening, and got a good 90 minute massage that cleared up a lot of muscle tension. Amusingly, I also randomly ran into people I knew on both visits! (Gene & Brandon on Wednesday, Noah on Friday.)

That Saturday I helped Gwen celebrate a birthday, joining her and several others for an escape room down just off 16th Street Mall, followed by dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. (Jerry was working and unable to join.) The escape room was fun; it was casino-themed and had some interesting use of tools and such I hadn't seen before. We beat it, so I'm 7 for 7 now, woo-hoo!

Work was kind of annoying last week because the high-performance systems were down all week due to power problems up in Wyoming, and the universe decided to fill the gap with lots of meetings and phone calls. And sure, they were useful and productive meetings, but I have a couple big tasks that I really need to make some progress on, and not being able to work on them all week does not help that situation!

Nevertheless, since Jerry had the time on Thursday morning, I played hookey and we went to see Avengers: Infinity War at a new (very nice) mondoplex down in Arvada. I enjoyed it! Rather more than I expected to, given that I knew it would be the grim chapter in the overall story arc. I'm just really glad that Marvel has figured out how important it is to mix some humor in with the drama and to have some variation in mood and tone to keep these things from being just unrelenting.

Mom & Larry were passing through on their way to go fishing last weekend, so that evening I met them and Dave and family for dinner at Cheddar's over in Thornton. And then went to games night at Chris's. And then on Friday we had dinner with Van & Ron (plus Jeff Stoner) at Wishbone before they headed out on their latest voyage.

The weekend before last we finished up Jon's Eberron adventure, and this past weekend I spent all day Saturday doing prep for running a session zero for the wilderness exploration campaign that Jerry and I are co-GMing for the bears. It went well. I think it will be fun!
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Birthday, Mom Visit, Spring Is Sprung [Apr. 30th, 2018|09:56 pm]
Ugh I am tired and creaky. Not sure if there's a reason for it (Getting to bed too late last night? Skipping breakfast for a blood draw this morning? Whatever's making the air all hazy today?) or if it's just the Olds, but okay, journaling now before I put it off even further.

So a week ago it was my birthday. Woo! I didn't really do anything on the day to celebrate, but it was really nice to get happy birthday wishes from people all day on Facebook. Responding to all of them gave me a moment to think about and appreciate each well-wisher, and that was a gift in itself.

My mom came out to visit last weekend; she arrived on Friday night and took off Sunday morning. Friday night Jerry cooked a tasty Japanese dinner, and Saturday was mostly downtime for me, but that afternoon we went and did one of the escape rooms in Broomfield (Themescape) with my mom, Neal, Kate, and the Ottems. It was a sort of Indiana Jones kinda thing, and it was good. There was a laser! (A terrifyingly bright laser. When turned on, you could very clearly see the beam in the air, and okay, yes, there was quite a bit of dust in the air, but still.) Afterwards we all got dinner at the kebab place in the same shopping mall, and it was a nice way to celebrate a numerically-uninteresting birthday.

Jerry and I also finally saw Black Panther and enjoyed it thoroughly. It deserves every penny of however many umpty-jillion dollars it finally end up grossing.

The usual other social stuff: boardgames with bears and others, a couple Star Wars runs, Unmunchkin, etc.  Jewel of India for dinner last night with David, who is borrowing our guest room for a bit.

I think the trees are blooming late this year. I'm seeing flowers all over, and it's late enough that I don't think we're likely to get a late snow that will kill them. The flower buds on the crabapple outside our house are just about to pop, and it looks like it will be glorious.
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The Prodigal Tongue [Apr. 25th, 2018|09:41 pm]
I've been reading Lynne Murphy's Separated by a Common Language blog for years, and I happened to see on twitter that she was giving a talk at CU-Boulder on Monday of last week. It was pretty lucky -- I'm not on twitter all that often, and it was only mentioned the day before. It was late enough in the afternoon not to totally disrupt my workday, so I decided that I would bail out early from work and go, what the heck.

I had figured out the previous week while attending a CWA talk that rather than trying to find parking on/near campus (which can be pretty awful), the easy thing to do is park at the shopping center at the bottom of the hill and just catch a bus, since I have a bus pass and they come every ten minutes or so along Broadway. So I did that, and managed to just barely miss the Skip. But happily, a lady who was waiting at the light saw me running for the bus and being ignored by the driver and pulled over to offer me a ride! So that was nice. And I actually got to my destination about thirty seconds before the bus did. Thanks, kind stranger!

The talk was at 4 and I had a conference call (video chat via skype) scheduled at 3, so I brought my laptop with me. I knew I'd have wifi (thanks, eduroam), so I just needed a place to take the call. I was prepared to find a quiet spot outdoors, but I figured if I went to the Linguistics department offices and asked nicely, they might have an unused conference room of some kind that I could make use of. And they did! So that was nice, also.

The talk was a lot of fun. Prof. Murphy has written a book -- The Prodigal Tongue -- about the love-hate relationship between American English and British English, and she talked about the main ideas in the book. Some of it was familiar from reading her blog, but she's an entertaining speaker, so it was well worth the time. The Linguistics department had some copies of her book available for purchase after the talk, and happily, I had happened to grab some cash that morning (which I don't normally do), and had just enough to buy one and get it signed! So that was especially nice.

Anyway, the whole episode was weirdly lucky, and I got a good book out of it. Yay!
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Anniversary, conference, parties [Apr. 8th, 2018|11:21 pm]
Last weekend was our anniversary! I mean, we now have a wedding anniversary in August, but we've been celebrating April 1st as our anniversary for long enough that we're not going to stop now. We decided to go do an escape room just the two of us, to see if we could pull it off. We did the pirate-themed Crimson Storm, and got through it in just under 35 minutes! It *was* the easiest room there, but it was still fun and an accomplishment. Afterwards we tried to go the Afghan place on 120th for dinner, but it was closed because it was Sunday, oh no! So we got sushi at Sushi Yume instead.

I dropped by Pyro's new place that morning for brunch and said hello to him & various others. And Douglas was in town and dropped by for the evening on Friday, so that was nice.

All of this last week I was attending the Software Engineers Assembly conference at work. Overall it was good; my only complaint is that it started early so I had to get up early, leave the house early, and deal with rush hour traffic, and that wiped me out pretty much all week long. I gave a well-received talk Tuesday morning. And the tutorial on Thursday showed some very cool capabilities coming down the pike for Jupyter notebooks that I am pretty psyched about.

Yesterday Jerry was off at the martial arts studio all day earning his brown belt (go monkeys!) and taking classes, while I got a haircut, ran to the store, and took two kinds of coleslaw to a potluck at the KumaGoGo's. Afterwards I went over to Tom Ottem's and played a boardgame (Elysium, sorta like MtG meets Greek mythology) with Chris & Joe.

We haven't been up to a whole lot otherwise; lots of being tired from work and weather and recovering from colds, mostly.
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15 years, a cold, colcannon, and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 [Mar. 25th, 2018|08:45 pm]
So it turns out that my place of employment has a celebratory dinner every year for long-term employees who have worked there for 15, 25, or 35 years. And I started at the beginning of 2003, which is 15 years ago, so on Thursday afternoon Monkey got to join me for a fancy dinner reception and I received a big engraved chunk of glass, suitable for use as a blunt instrument in a mystery novel. ("The Case of the Curmudgeonly Climatologist", probably.) I discovered that a number of my colleagues were in the same cohort, which I hadn't realized. I also tallied up the number of honorees in each group and calculated the half-life of a career at NCAR, which turns out to be about 7.54 years.

And then I came down with a cold, so I worked a half-day on Friday and cancelled Star Wars on Saturday when it was clear that I had no energy for it. (I went to the grocery store that afternoon and bought four things and felt totally exhausted afterwards. Yeah.) I did mostly nothing all weekend, and am feeling mostly recovered today. (We did head up to Boulder and pick up a treadmill from one of Jerry's former coworkers; that wore me out.)

Also, I apparently now get aches in my long muscles when the weather changes. WTF? This is Not Okay. I did not order this service and I would like to cancel it and get a refund, please.

Had an excellent St. Pat's Day dinner at Chez Cinq Ours last Sunday. I always wish I could capture these events better, but I am terrible with episodic memory, so mostly it's just "we hung out with a bunch of great people and had a wonderful time being social and ate amazing food." Oh, and we introduced a bunch of them to Bridget & Eamon, since it was an Irish holiday.

Not a lot else. Nick came over Friday before last to visit and catch up; that was nice.

And I got on a weird kick and listened to about a dozen different performances of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 over and over while I was sick. There are some pretty cool visualizations of various classical pieces on YouTube. It took me a little while to figure out which piece I was thinking of, because Google is not yet smart enough to answer "what's the piano piece that goes buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buppa buh?" correctly. (Although amusingly, it will offer to autocomplete "what's that piano piece that goes" with "dun dun dun", and the answer is "Heart and Soul" unless there's a fourth "dunnn" in which case it's "Beethoven's 5th".)
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Escape Rooms, Arson, Oniry, Fizzy Kimchi, Clouds, and Suspicious Moles [Mar. 14th, 2018|10:46 pm]
Fun Stuff:

In celebration of Monkey Birthdays, we did an escape room last weekend and another the weekend before. Yay! Both at Denver Escape Rooms, over in an empty little office park at 116th and Huron. We did the first one (Pipeworks) with Jason, Gene, Bradon, & Jon, and the second (Grim Stacks) with Mel, Kate, Karen, and Jon (subbing for Thomas at home with sick kids). We were successful both times, and had a good time. They were good room; there was a finicky puzzle in the first one, but they used their hinting system when it was clear we had figured out the right thing to do and just couldn't get the thing to work properly. The second one was a bit more nonlinear in structure and had some good multi-stage puzzles in it that were very satisfying to solve.

Peter Frost had a gaming birthday party. There's a physical card game version of Spaceteam, which works quite well. Also, one of his friends is an arson investigator, which prompted the comment: "Wow, that's really cool! So how do I ask you about interesting work stories without sounding like an arsonist?"

We have resumed our game of Pandemic Legacy (me, Karen, Chris, and Andrew), although, orinically*, we've had to reschedule a number of times due to illness of one form or another...

(*I would say "ironically", but the social consensus seems to be that the word should be used only in its original sense of "an unexpected incongruity or contrary coincidence", not the obverse or Morissettesque sense of "an unwelcome but entirely fitting coincidence", which it is commonly extended to include. To maintain the fine distinction of meaning (an impulse I am entirely down with), I coin "oniry" and "orinic" as the obverse terms.)

We played a couple one-shot D&D sessions with the bears. Jason ran a quick off-the-cuff bust-out-of-the-dungeon thing, and we're halfway through a cyberpunk-ish Eberron noir mystery that Jon is running. Once that's done, Jerry and I are going to co-DM a wilderness exploration module, so we're spending a lot of evenings compiling random encounter tables and suchlike.

Bob & Jeff took us to dinner at Dae Gee last Friday to thank us for taking care of their cats while they were out of town. The kimchi that we got on the second round of banchan had fermented to the point of being actually kinda carbonated and fizzy, which I quite liked.

Less Fun Stuff:

The supercomputers (and associated systems) are offline all this week, which is really throwing a wrench in my plans for getting stuff done at work. Grumble.

Got a suspicious mole removed from my shoulder this afternoon. I have five stitches and a great big bandage. But I took the day off and got some much-needed downtime, so it's not so bad.

Had to do taxes early this year for some student loan repayment program stuff. The upside is that now it's done (well, the forms are all filled out, at least) and we are getting a substantial refund!

Lots of meetings at work, plus interviewing student assistant candidates; not as much getting things done as I would like. But I think my energy levels are starting to increase as the days get longer. Have I mentioned how much I hate the daylight savings time change?

I went to an all-day AWS cloud computing training session at the convention center last week. About half of it was useless sales pitching, but there was some useful overview stuff, and the really valuable thing was that I got to talk to some consultants and say "Okay, here's my problem, help me figure out how to do it in the cloud," and they had informative answers. (Plus, the eye candy quotient was pretty high.)
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Back-to-Back Concerts [Feb. 27th, 2018|10:25 pm]
Last week I saw Walk the Moon the Ogden on Tuesday, and Sabaton at the Gothic on Wednesday! This is what happens when you buy tickets for one show a couple months after buying them for the other show!

Neal came with me for Walk the Moon. We got dinner at a nearby poke place on Colfax, then hustled a few blocks through the single-digit cold in our light jackets to the venue. (We left the heavy coats in the car to avoid having to deal with them during the show.) We got there about 15 minutes before the opening band (Company of Thieves) and managed to find reasonable spots on the right-hand balcony.

Company of Thieves was not super my thing, but they had a good sound mix that sold me on a lot of their songs. I liked their cover of Dreams by the Cranberries. The lead singer reminded me a lot of Bjork.

Walk the Moon was great! They have a deeper catalog than either of us knew, and they had a lot of variety in their setlist. Of course they also played all the big hits we recognize, but there were also a bunch of songs I didn't know but enjoyed a lot. They had a big wall of light-bars behind them that could all spin and change colors independently, which they used to good effect. It was, as Neal and I commented to one another, literally spectacular as well as figuratively.

I took the day off work on Wednesday to recover (I worked from home on the Monday holiday instead), and was glad I did. (Feh to this whole "aging" thing, I say.) I thought about baking cookies for the band, but just did not have the energy; took a nap instead.

Doors were at 6:30 and the show started at 7:30. I didn't even leave the house until after 8. I knew there would be a local opener and that Sabaton would be playing last, and that's really who I was there for. As it was, I got there a bit before 9 and saw about half of Kreator's set (which was super not my thing; power metal yay, speed metal meh). But I managed to get an amazing spot on the balcony, just above the mixing boards and with two short people sitting in front of me to either side, but with a completely clear view of the whole stage!

As always, the show was fantastic. The band's fanbase in Denver is very enthusiastic, and it's infectious. I don't know if we're exceptionally enthusiastic of if that's the reception they get everywhere, but it's clear that they're always just delighted to perform in Denver. They had a great big video wall behind them this time, so it was also quite a spectacular show.

I think I managed to give myself a touch of plantar fasciitis, but I went easy on my feet for the next few days and it has cleared up. Whew! I guess pogo-ing on hard cement floors two nights in a row is a bad plan.
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New Washing Machine! (And much gaming) [Feb. 12th, 2018|10:20 pm]
Our washing machine had been gradually getting louder and louder when it runs. Friday Jerry had a repair guy come look at it, and he concluded that it would cost $400 to fix and not last all that long afterwards, and that we were better off getting a new one.

So, we were gearing up to deal with shopping for a new one, and then yesterday after Bear D&D we mentioned it and Gene said that they had a surplus washer and dryer (having consolidated households) and if we took it, they wouldn't have to deal with getting rid of it. So we loaded it up into Steve's truck, brought it home, spent an hour moving out the old one and getting the new one hooked up, and now we have a new washer! And we didn't have to shop, and we only spent a tenth what we were getting ready to. Hooray!

Anyway, that was a lovely way to cap the restart of gaming in that group. (A quick one-shot with pregen characters; I got to play a quarter-ogre fighter with an Int of 4.) Saturday I ran Star Wars, and the little mini-system I came up with for infiltrating a Star Destroyer worked and produced a lot of good game for little prep, so that was quite satisfying.

Work was boring and low-productivity last week, I think because the few weeks before I'd been doing a lot of fire-fighting (dealing with small but important items with hard deadlines), so my normal list of Stuff I Gotta Do got long and left me feeling overwhelmed. So I finally buckled down and spent a day just organizing and updating my to-do list, which generally helps fix that problem.

Finally got back to playing Pandemic: Legacy with Karen & Chris (David had to drop out) on Wednesday, followed by games night Thursday. An interesting Roman resource management game I can't remember the name of.

Jeff and Alice had folks over last weekend, which was good socializing time. Played a game of Betrayal at Baldur's Gate (which has some nice fixes to various problem in the original BaHotH) and one of Lords of Waterdeep. Talked to Joe about city politics and being on a municipal advisory board; he reaffirmed that it may be local but that's where change gets started, which was a good motivator.

Thursday before that Sarah came over and we played a game of Illimat and more importantly got caught up on what's been going on, which was nice.

Not a lot worth mentioning otherwise. Lots of short-lived very cold weather lately, the kind that's so overcast and gray it saps all my energy. But at least the days are getting longer.
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Hitting Things With Sticks [Jan. 29th, 2018|08:41 pm]
I went to a bo staff training seminar at Jerry's dojo on Saturday, and now I am soooore. Two hours of swinging around a six foot stick worked a whole lot of muscles that don't normally get all that much use, and yesterday and today they were complaining. But I was able to keep up for the whole thing, and I feel pretty good about that.

Although I should note that I mean "keep up" in the purely physical sense of continuing to move; in terms of learning, my brain filled up about halfway through. I could watch what everybody else was doing and follow along, but I couldn't recall the sequence of moves on my own. Although I did retain more than I would have before Jerry started teaching me stuff, so I guess I'm not as remedial as I used to be.

The other thing that's weird about physical movement stuff is that what's difficult for me does not align well with what's difficult for most people. Like, there's this one move where you drop down into a reverse dragon stance, swing the staff back behind you and up over your shoulder, then grab it with the other hand, pivot around, and bring it down in an overhand strike. And (as long as I got my feet positioned correctly going into it), I didn't have any trouble with that one at all, even though the instructor said it was the hardest move in the entire form. But there was another bit earlier on that amounted to "okay, now turn around and step forward" that I just had the worst time with and kept screwing up. Oh, and at one point we rearranged and started doing everything 90 degrees from the way we'd been doing it, and I was completely lost until we went back to the original orientation.

Anyway, I had a good time, and afterwards we spent the gift certificate we got as a wedding present from his school had a very nice dinner at Zolo Grill.
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This is a picture of my hand, which is on fire [Jan. 18th, 2018|10:59 pm]
[personal profile] christopher575 picked three of my icons he wanted to know more about:

For several years, [personal profile] kung_fu_monkey and I were in a triad relationship with our now-ex Greg. Somebody (Bryree?) dubbed us the "Triple Action Man Clan", and lo, it was a good name and it stuck. Our friend Josh drew a picture of the three of us, and I made into an icon for posts about the three of us. Now that the TAMC is no more, I never use it, but since I used it on many posts back in the day, it remains for the sake of posterity and preventing broken image links.

Rat stamp! The USPS put out a sheet of stamps for the Chinese Zodiac, and this is the picture for the Year of the Rat, in which I was born. I thought it was pretty. I use this icon when I'm talking about critters, and when I'm being in some way rat-like. Like, if I deliberately misunderstand a post to make a joke in the comments, that probably calls for the rat-stamp icon.

This is a picture of my hand, which is on fire.

As an undergraduate at MIT, I lived in a fraternity with a bunch of other loons. Every year, we would take a composite photo, that thing where there's a little picture of everyone in the house all tiled together behind a matte frame with the house crest and the year in fancy calligraphy. Well, it was a house full of weirdos, so we would always dress up funny and have a weird running theme between different pictures and so on. And a year or two after I got there, we started making them ourselves instead of using a company to do it.

Aside: I'm not sure if they just didn't like dealing with our weirdness or if they were just a lousy business, but they always took FOREVER to get our composite finished and delivered. The last year we used them, I got put in charge of nagging them to get it done, and after a while I hit on the tactic of simply calling them every. single. day. and inquiring, very politely, about the status of our composite. After about a week, the lady answering the phone snapped, and said "We're working on it as fast as we can. PLEASE STOP CALLING US." And sure enough, they delivered it not long after. But it was still super-delayed, and since we had a guy in the house (Probe, an architecture student) who was a good photographer and since we had access to computers with Photoshop that we could use to do all the printing and suchlike, we decided to save money and start doing it ourselves.

Anyway, once we were doing them ourselves, we could get REALLY weird. My senior year, the theme was apocalyptic imagery, and I had read about this trick you can do where you can light your hand on fire if you use rubbing alcohol because it burns off so quickly that it's gone before it starts to actually burn your skin. So I decided that my photo would be me, looking with an expression of shock and dismay at my hand, which was on fire.

So that's what we did. I had a big bucket of ice water there with me, and I stuck my arm in there until it ached. (I figured that pre-chilling my flesh would give me an extra barrier against getting burned.) I also coated my arm in a thin layer of vaseline to keep all my arm hairs from catching fire and acting like little wicks. I think maybe we didn't actually have rubbing alcohol handy, so we used something like Coleman white fuel instead? Which may not have been the smartest idea, but it still worked. We had somebody standing by with a fire extinguisher, too, so as not to be total idiots. When my hand was chilled, we'd towel it off real quick, then an assistant poured a little bit of fuel over it, I'd strike my pose for the photo, then another assistant would light my hand on fire, Probe took a few pictures of me looking appalled at the flames, and after a few seconds it would start to get hot and I would plunge my arm back into the bucket of ice water. We did it two or three times and it worked just dandy.

The thing was, when Probe developed the photos, whatever we used burned so brightly that it totally blew out the contrast in the photo, so if he developed it to the point that you could see me, it was impossible to tell what was going on with my hand, but if he developed it so that the flames looked good, you couldn't see me at all. So we decided to just zoom in on the hand and go for a picture of a hand with flames coming off it, because my hand was in a good position and in black and white it actually looked really cool. And for my name in the composite, I put "Beem-Ur the Destructor".
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