Out and about once more

It’s not been great walking weather, but I got too impatient to wait any longer. I walked to work yesterday and from work today. My ears were pretty cold by the end each time! But I’m glad I did it. The birds are already out there in force.

Earlier in the week, I watched the anthology series Love, Death & Robots. I’ll try to get some thoughts up this weekend (and at least draft a few other posts I’ve been meaning to get around to), but the short version is that, save for a few of the stories, I really didn’t like it at all.

I’ve also been rewatching early James Bond films with my wife. I don’t know what triggered this for me, but here I am. We’re watching George Lazenby On Her Majesty’s Secret Service tonight, and it’s one of my favorites, mostly because Lazenby is my favorite Bond (most days, anyway–and I haven’t seen every film).

For what its worth, I don’t think Bond’s a “cool” character. He’s an asshole, a killer, a high-dollar thug. Connery’s version is basically a rapist. But I’m very intrigued by this incredibly flawed, incredibly broken man, who has excelled in his chosen profession through sheer luck, nationalism, and martial skill all while spiraling deeper and deeper into vice and addiction. I haven’t read many of the books, but that interpretation of the character seems more explicit there than in the films, which seem eager to cast Bond as suave and desirable. Still, I do enjoy viewing the films with my particular framing in mind. They’re still silly spy thriller pulps, but added nuance is produced this way–perhaps out of nothing.

Saturday Outing

My wife and I decided to go to the Indiana State Library and the Indianapolis Central Library today. We’d never been to either. Well, we still haven’t been to the Indiana State Library even now, because it was closed today for the Labor Day weekend. I swear that Google said it would be open when I checked yesterday.

Anyway. The Indianapolis Central Library is amazing! What an awesome resource. We explored each floor, I took some computer time mostly to look for catalog items, and we checked out some books. Just touring the building itself was lovely.

I’ve been to several other central Indiana libraries (in Marion County, the Southport and Haughville branches, and in Johnson County, the Franklin and White River branches and the Greenwood library), and of course they just don’t compare. But their function isn’t the same, either. I guess I should have expected the “Central Library” to be both an awesome repository of items and a rather extravagant architectural curiosity in its own right. But I was surprised regardless, and in a very good way. It’s in easy walking distance of us, and given its nonfiction and fiction resources and its solid collection of local historical and governmental documents (plus its microfilm and digital periodical collections!), I suspect we’ll now be back a lot more often.

On one of those future trips, maybe I’ll find a reason to get into the Special Collections room, which is for now an enticing mystery to me.

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Oh, the library also has some cool artifacts, some pertaining to local history and some rather random, like these molds from the Chinese Terracotta Army:

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This horse pleases me greatly. He seems like he just wants to be a friend.

We also walked to a Fever game (free tickets, so no reason not to go), and over the course of our walking around town throughout the day, I took a couple of architectural pictures that I’m happy with.

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Last but not least, I have one final image to share. The Power Rangers are real, and they train in Indianapolis:

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The Blue Ranger ran right past us on the other side of the canal, in full outfit. We were both so shocked and amused that we didn’t think to try to take a picture until he was already off in the distance. I don’t believe that any UFO is extraterrestrial in origin, but I certainly have sympathy for the people who only seem to manage to get blurry, far-off shots of UFOs (or Sasquatch, or the Loch Ness monster, or ghosts, or any other made-up monster or paranormal phenomenon). Documenting the shockingly unusual is the last thing on one’s mind at the time.

Gen Con Week 2017

I wanted to talk about what I really liked about Gen Con, and about this past week in general. But you’ll have to use your imagination a bit. Believe it or not (given the absurd number of blurry bird pictures I’ve posted here), I don’t really take that many pictures. I typically just try to enjoy the moment. So pictures from Gen Con are sorely lacking. No cool pictures of cosplayers, for instance. Then again, if you want pictures of Gen Con cosplayers, I’m pretty sure IndyStar has you covered.

As usual, my wife and I went to a lot of the panels and seminars, especially related to the Writer’s Symposium. It’s been refreshing that every year there is new and different programming; these events haven’t begun to feel stale or repetitive. Highlights this year included a discussion of tabletop game development with transmedia in mind and a fairly intimate panel with authors openly discussing their struggles with depression. As usual, there were interesting panels about diversity and about the writer’s craft, as well: my wife and I especially liked a session on the representation of Arabs and Muslims in tabletop gaming and an early panel on producing novel synopses for popular fiction. Outside of writing panels, I got a kick out of “Metal Church,” a mid-morning Sunday event that explored the intersecting history of heavy metal and fantasy roleplaying games.

Shockingly, one of my favorite events of the convention was the Glitter Guild’s “Nerdlesque” burlesque show on Thursday night. I haven’t really had an interest in burlesque, but my wife has an interest in things like burlesque entertainment and contemporary pin-up art (one of our big purchases from last year’s Gen Con was a massive pin-up print of Leia), and as I mentioned before, I like to encourage her to pursue her passions, so we went. Great show. I think I “get” burlesque more now, as a disinterested observer, than I did in the past. It’s very body-positive, welcoming of people of various ethnicities, body types, and genders. And it’s obviously exhibitionist, but it truly feels empowering to those on stage. Oh, also, it ended with one of the hosts doing a bit as the late great Carrie Fisher as Leia, and I lost it when she strangled an inflatable Jabba the Hutt on stage (okay, maybe you had to be there).

And speaking of sort of off-kilter events, as usual, the Sun King Wednesday evening street party before the official Gen Con opening was great fun. Dragon’s Delight, a “Belgian Golden Ale,” was an enjoyably smooth beer. And “Lez Zeppelin,” the (I kid you not) all-female Led Zeppelin cover band, was actually really good–more than anything else, your mileage may vary depending on how much you like Led Zeppelin to begin with.

Now, this is the third Gen Con we attended (we first went in 2015), and every year we’ve focused more on panels and events than games–even though it’s promoted as the best four days in gaming. That’s not to say that we avoid games; it’s a gaming convention, after all, and we are there because we enjoy tabletop gaming. But we have enjoyed focusing a little more on the writing/design elements of the convention. We always make at least one grand tour through the exhibition hall, though, and we always try to demo some games. This year, our favorite game was 1754, and we bought it after playing (though in full disclosure, I think this was the only game we played in full this year). Great fun, and it manages to capture some of the complicated politics and ultimate futility of the French and Indian War. Plus, it’s easy to pick up, and we already look forward to teaching some of our friends to play.

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Funny enough, we got to 1754 because we passed the Academy Games booth in the exhibition hall, and my wife was really interested in their Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal game. The guy at the booth sold her on trying it out and told us that we could demo the game over in the big game hall space with some generic tickets. So when we finally made it to the game hall, trying this game was our top priority. There was an opening when we got there, but we realized we didn’t have any generic tickets on us. By the time we had the generic tickets, there wasn’t a free game. But we walked around and waited and eventually 1754 opened up. We decided to try it out and loved it.

As usual, a healthy dose of whimsy can lead to exciting discoveries (we love the used roleplaying game store set up in the exhibition hall the past couple years because we always make some serendipitous finds). But on the flip side, we never actually did play Guadalcanal. We finally made a decision for next year. Next year, we’re going to be more proactive. Next year, not only will we get badges early, we’ll actually research some games in advance and sign up for some play times (and so will actually register for the wishlist and buy specific game tickets) so we can try out the games we’re most interested in and maybe play some games we already love.

Outside of Gen Con itself, I had some other fun, geeky things to be excited about this past week.

First, as some or many or most of you may know, Fantasy Flight is publishing a 30th-anniversary version of West End Games’ original Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game! Pretty cool! No, I didn’t play this game. The first Star Wars roleplaying game I got into was the Wizards of the Coast version; I still have mountains (or at least carefully exaggerated molehills) of those source books and supplements. WEG’s version was before my time. But it was such a monumental part of developing early Star Wars expanded lore and keeping the franchise alive between Return of the Jedi and Heir to the Empire (and of course it framed a lot of the lore of Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy). And what a great time for it to return, with the Star Wars universe still relatively fresh post-reboot. The only thing I’m disappointed about? There was a “30 Years of Star Wars RPGs” panel at Gen Con, with Bill Slavicsek, Sam Stewart, Sterling Hershey, and Pablo Hidalgo, and I completely missed out on it. I only became aware of it about an hour after it was over! So that’s another reason why I’m actually going to plan next year’s Gen Con itinerary out a little better…

Second, we live so close to downtown Indy that we just walked to and from the convention center, and this gave me time to play Pokemon Go with my wife. I actually haven’t played in a while. She introduced me to the new raid system, and I familiarized myself with the new gym battle and defense system. Both things are a lot of fun, and I think Pokemon Go is a lot better game now! Even the same tap-tap-swipe combat system feels a bit fresher, as lagging seemed a lot less significant, so I could actually get my combatants to respond to my commands in a timely and useful fashion.

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I sure taught that Magikarp a lesson! We’ve since done raids against Machamp and Cyndaquil, but no legendaries yet.

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Hall of Champions moment. Jesus loves me for this, the game says so.

Third, in related Pokemon news, my wife and I also tried out Magikarp Jump. My god. That game is so cute and so addictive. It’s just a clicky sort of game, no real skill involved, but boy, it can suck you in if you cultivate time and resource management techniques. The combination of feeding, training, and competing, cycling with random events and special encounters to regenerate your ability to do all three, can keep me going for a half an hour or more at a time. Not bad for a stupid little game like this. I had to turn off my notifications for the game so that I wasn’t constantly being tempted for “just a few more minutes” of training.

Fourth and finally, all the extra walking from the past week yielded a new bird sighting for me. A lot of little birds were freaking out with alarm calls, flitting all over a tree. Naturally, this caught my attention. Sitting up on a branch was what appeared to be a massive owl, just chilling out in the middle of the day. Frustratingly, I couldn’t get a great look at him, and the pictures turned out even worse. Like that’s going to stop me from sharing, though! To end this post, look upon this owlish majesty:

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So many pictures!

Oh boy, I have a lot of pictures I want to share. I have to restrain myself a little bit. I’ll begin with just a handful of the many, many pictures from a day trip with my wife last week to Turkey Run State Park:

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I have a lot. Way too many. That’s just a sample. So much beauty out there. And separately, still from Turkey Run, here’s another collection of shots of/around the covered bridge there:

Lastly from Turkey Run, here’s this guy:

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I was walking less the past few weeks because my wife very sweetly kept offering rides while on break from teaching, and it’s hard to say no to being dropped off right outside the door and spending a little extra time with my favorite person every day. But I still have some pictures that I think are at least interesting. Like so:

I also saw a beautiful double rainbow in Fountain Square after heavy rains, when going to a metal/punk show with my wife. You can sort of see both in this photo:

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And it wouldn’t be a photo collection here without some animal, and especially bird, pictures:

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Rusty blackbird? Brown-headed cowbird? Something else?

Those animal pictures include some truly atrocious bird pictures. Good luck identifying whatever these guys are:

Finally, just for fun, look how my little far-shore spot from my “adventure” was completely flooded by the heavy rains:

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That’s all for now, folks!

Under the Bridge

The Indianapolis Zoo’s Zoobilation fundraiser was last Friday, June 9. They shut down the pedestrian bridge and the common pathways in front of the zoo for the day of the event and the day prior. This was a little inconvenient for me because my path home normally goes over the bridge and through the promenade that I’ve mentioned so many times before.

Walking home Thursday evening, I came to the closed-off pedestrian bridge, zagged out of the park and to Washington Street, headed west, and then bent back into the park area on the walking path that runs along the west side of the river. Confronted with the closed-off area in front of the zoo, clearly indicating that there was no obvious way for me to take my promenade shortcut, and not quite willing to turn back and take the long way, I decided to experiment a little bit.

The area around the walking paths is open, with somewhat terraced sidewalks and stone that give way to rolling green slopes down to the water’s edge, which is studded with trees. The rolling grassy slopes arc away underneath the pedestrian bridge. But I had never thought to go under. There was no pedestrian path. What little insight I had into what lay underneath suggested that it eventually gave way to water pressed against the stone wall that formed one side of the promenade pathway.

Thursday I was stubborn, though. I had free time in the evening–really, for the first time all week–and I figured I might as well find out what it was like under the bridge and beyond.

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Once I crossed through, it was quick enough to confirm that there was no way that there were any steps or ladders leading up along the stone wall back to the promenade. But I wondered how far this strip of lightly wooded land went on. Could I actually walk all the way along the promenade, emerging back on grassy slopes once the wall receded?

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I pushed on.

20170608_174939.jpgIt was truly a fairly short distance, but winding between trees and carefully hopping on and over washed-up detritus and stacks of fallen branches while stopping frequently for pictures (many, many, many pictures) added considerably to the time. I felt unobserved and alone (but not lonely) down there; I had fun. “Frolicking” would probably be an apt word to describe me at the time. I felt twenty years younger, playing adventure in this little strip of riverside trees, somewhat hidden, but never really separated, from the city.

At last, I came to the end of the world.

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Well, it was the end of this strip of land, anyway. Beyond was only the White River. Nonetheless, I could see a big tree reaching out into the water just slightly down the curve of wall and water before me.

Normally, I would have just given up then. But normally I wouldn’t have gone under the bridge at all; normally I wouldn’t have walked this strip of land to reach this spot. I knew the river’s bad reputation with pollution, but I figured I’d be okay to walk out a little bit and wash off later. Frankly, I was just willing to accept the risk. I stripped off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants legs, and put my phone into my breast pocket to keep the electronic device a little higher up.

Then I stepped out into the murk, first nervously, then with some excitement. I enjoyed the squishing ooze of the mud beneath my feet, the quickly radiating earthen cloud that obscured the waters even further with every step. I crept past leafy shoots and a submerged tire, and I stumblingly lurched over fallen stone and cement blocks. The water rose higher and higher, above my shins, over my knees, up my thighs. I realized it would reach my groin, my waist, higher still if I kept going, even half-clinging to the wall at my side. It had been a fun adventure, but I was simply ill-prepared to go onward, especially with keys and wallet and phone loose in my pockets and with my sock-stuffed shoes dangling from one hand.

I turned about, and very carefully fished my phone out to snap a picture marking my distance from the shore.

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Then I scuttered back to dry land. My feet were washed clean as I reached the shoreline and then muddied even worse as I stomped through the soggy beach back up the rise.

My jeans, I realized, were soaked, having drooped back down over the course of my water-walking. I wouldn’t risk walking barefoot over the trash and dried wood and through the thick grasses, and I didn’t want to jam my mud-caked feet back into my socks. My jeans already thoroughly in need of a wash, I simply scraped my feet across the pant legs as I sat upon a tree root, then reapplied my footwear and headed back, quicker than I had set out.

The rest of my “adventure” is not quite as interesting, even to me; however, I did seem to get a sort of reward for my troubles (if the experience alone wasn’t enough). On the way home, I found beautiful yellow birds fluttering about some trees–American goldfinches, I believe, and certainly something new to add to my collection of bird photos.

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I had my adventure and received my gold at the end.