Friday, April 29, 2022

Secondborn Is Generous

Secondborn went on a field trip this week. As part of the trip, they were supposed to bring along $7 for a meal at CiCi's Pizza. (Or a packed lunch, but who wants a packed lunch on a field trip where there's pizza?) So the night before the field trip, I went by an ATM and pulled some cash. Per our usual practice in these cases, I handed him a $20 bill and he put it in an envelope so he could bring the change back to me. 

Well... he handed me back the change, and it was $6 rather than the $13 I'd been expecting. His friend -- whom I'm going to call Gawain, for reasons -- had been "a few dollars short". Meaning that, strictly by the math, Secondborn paid for Gawain's lunch in its entirety. 

I am so proud of him. 

So I told him so, and then I told him that if something like this comes up and it's less than $20 and he's already covered himself, he should just help his friend out and tell me afterwards -- as he just did. It's a new family rule. 

Me, at the top of my lungs in the back yard: "PARENTING!" (Okay, not really. But I kind of felt like it.)

Secondborn is generous, and his instincts are generally good. If he can help out, he will. And I want him to hold onto that, even while he figures out how to set boundaries and determine what he really has to offer. So now we have a precedent, and a general guideline. 

Plus, he lost another tooth. 

Parenting is difficult, often thankless, frequently draining, and surprisingly goddam expensive. But there are moments that make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

April Showers Bring May Horoscopes

Make time for self-care this week, and be sure to drink just a little more water than you think you need. An unexpected surprise will benefit you. If you hear the sound of unseen wings in the darkness, run.

Spelling and grammar in emails this week is super-important. Take time to proofread so you don't embarrass yourself. Make sure you're only eating fresh food, and if you find something interesting buried in the dirt, leave it there.

Expect new opportunities this week and keep an open mind... unless they involve skydiving, animal sacrifice, or exploring abandoned prisons and/or asylums. Get some extra rest early next week, and avoid sharp objects on Wednesday.

Focus on setting personal boundaries this week: set a bowl of milk outside your door, but do not invite gray folk inside. Be firm and clear, but keep your voice kind.

This will be a great week to do something about that critter that keeps getting into your plants. No, it's not a squirrel or a bunny. You're going to need rock salt, preferably loaded into a shotgun shell. Nothing else will break its concealments. 

Work is likely to be easy this week, so take the opportunity to mend fences and establish good relationships with your co-workers. You may be offered a quest to locate a mythical artifact; if so, take it. It'll do you good to get out of town for a bit.

Vehicles are nothing but bad news right now, so take extra precautions. You're likely to hear from an old friend; if you don't, pick one and get back in touch. The great beast calls to you from beyond the hungry stars, but if you ignore him he'll go away.

Learning new skills will be extra helpful right now. Also, you'll see lizards everywhere: on the floor, under your desk, skittering across the ceiling, hanging on the windows, staring back at you when you look into the mirror. Lizards.

The less you say this week, the better. Listen to what's going on around you, and pay careful attention to things you didn't know. There's something under the bed, but it only wants to talk to you.

Things are looking up this week, but be wary of frogs and unexpected golf balls. If you see a frog with a golf club, just apologize and back away slowly. Make friends with someone who values a good-quality port.

You're not imagining things. There really is something in the water, but stay out of reach and you should be fine. Shower; don't bathe. Eat extra helpings of vegetables; they're good for you.

A workable design for a cold-fusion reactor will come to you in a dream this week, but unfortunately for all of us you won't remember any of the critical details when you wake up. Avoid any sort of pizza, and don't get into any arguments about what qualifies as "pizza".

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Challenge: Can't Wait

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: Book, movie, or TV show you can't wait for

I'm having difficulty with this one, honestly, because here in the hellscape of 2022 I've pretty well lost track of what might be coming out and when. I preorder books that I'm looking forward to reading, and then they show up and I'm delightfully surprised at my good taste. Movies are very much catch-as-can. And despite my best efforts, I'm not much good at watching TV shows (though Beautiful Wife recently made me watch the first bit of Reacher, and since I know nothing about the books I'm really enjoying it). 

(But... I watch a new episode maybe every three or four days, when I have time or just lack the brain for anything else. I'm just not good at TV shows anymore.) 

I think the one I'm most looking forward right now is a book, and I'm pretty sure it hasn't been written yet; the first one in the series just recently came out, and publishing is slow. It will be the second book in the Sons of Ymre series by Lilith Saintcrow, and I'm dying to see what became of the Younger Brother.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Sol Povos: Paladins

(I'm filling this in because our GM is out of town and busy drinking a lot of port, so we aren't having the usual weekly game. Instead, you get some events that are happening in the background, probably somewhat after Evil!Party's current place in the timeline. As a result, the details are going to be a little vague, since this will have to slot into the actual history of the campaign as we establish it in play.) 

"Oh, no," said Anica, "Abyss and Hell, absolutely not. You two are not going off to get yourselves killed without me."

"It's just a quick mission--" protested Tarric, but she cut him off with a sharp glance. 

"--to burn out a nest of vampires. You know perfectly well how quickly that can get out of hand, even for the two of you."

Werendril held up a hand. Though all three of them were paladins, he was a true elf and a follower of Corellon Larethian; his companions were both human, and worshipped Amun. "We weren't trying to exclude you," he said, "but it's a week journey each way, and Rune is still very young."

Anica scowled, hesitated, and then frowned. "Fine. But you'd better not get yourselves killed. You see any sign that this is worse than they said, and you both come right back here and get reinforcements. It's too soon for you to leave Rune alone either."

"Agreed," said Werendril, and Tarric nodded. 

"Well then," said Anica, suddenly looking embarrassed. "Good luck. Burn them all out." She stepped forward, reaching out for them, and they stepped forward together. 

It would have been a lovely group hug, warm and reassuring, except that Anica raised her arms and banged Tarric and Werendril's heads together with a sudden, sharp gesture. "That's for trying to sneak off without telling us, though." She turned and strode away. 

Werendril rubbed at the side of his head where it had collided with Tarric's. "Is she always like that?" 

Tarric nodded. "It's how you know she cares."

Monday, April 25, 2022

It's a process...

So, I spent most of Saturday running laundry and sorting it as it came out, and most of Sunday morning running the rest of the laundry and sorting the clean basket into piles that could actually be put away. This, so we could finally resume the Youth D&D game, which -- despite having a couple of missing members -- went pretty well. The monster that I'd decided was a good match for a party this size was, in fact, a good match for a party this size. (Though... in retrospect, I probably should have played the thing strategically instead of following the monster manual description and rolling for what kind of attacks it would make.) It managed to charm one of the arcane spellcasters in the first round, and paralyzed the barbarian in the second round, and then died in the third round despite all that. 

Meanwhile, I'm pushing ahead on the current writing project, albeit in fits and starts. I have the plot and the characters just fine, it's the pacing that I'm still trying to get a grip on. It's coming though, and more to the point I'm making steady progress. Not fast progress, but this is so much better than the last two projects that I don't even care. I'll take it. 

I've also done what I can to push for proper recognition at work; now I'm being patient. I'm going to check on something tomorrow, and if everything is where I think it is then I'm going to give it another day or two before I push for more information. Apparently there are Changes Coming for our department, so hopefully mine will get included in that -- and hopefully it won't be quite the, um, catastrophuck that I'm afraid it might be. 

I'm worried that we may be trying to correct previous bad decisions by, well... not admitting that they were bad decisions and then making more bad decisions. I hope that's not the case, but... let's just say that past precedent has not exactly filled me with confidence, here. Also, I will repeat an earlier thought: if my workplace didn't want me pointing out that actually they kind of suck, then they should have taken care of me years ago when I started taking over additional responsibilities, and again more recently (but still years ago) when our assistant CIO dumped a bunch of his old responsibilities in my lap.

Just a couple of more years until my retirement's locked in, though of course I won't be in a position to actually retire at that point. But I will have more options. 

Some days you just have to keep cutting, and hope your opponent falls before you do. 

Second song in the writing project playlist: Lucero, with Have You Lost Your Way?

Friday, April 22, 2022

Music: Falling Apart

 Skylar Grey, who I honestly think is one of the criminally underrated current musical talents:

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Some progress

So I've been working and reworking the opening couple of scenes of the new writing project, which means I'm not moving as fast as I'd like but also that I'm pretty happy with what I've got down before I move on to each new section. I'm also avoiding writing anything detailed about the story itself here, since that seemed to become more of a distraction or avoidance than a help with the last project. 

Eh, we'll see. 

Meanwhile, I'm more or less recovered from camping trip, and Firstborn has tried out his first Judo class and seems to have enjoyed it. I also got to watch a vampire movie that I'd very nearly forgotten entirely, and... yeah. On the whole, a pretty good day. 

Work is still being work, but that's what work does. And working in IT is always weird; with all the projects I'm trying to work on, I wound up spending much of yesterday on the phone with a credit card vendor trying to sort out why so many of our transactions weren't being processed. It looks there actually is a solution in the works, which means I can focus on other things while I'm waiting for that to get finished up. 

But in the meantime... writing.

Hm. Okay, I'm not going to talk about the project itself, but I might put up my playlist for it a song at a time. Let's see how much of it I can find online...

Song #1: Metallica, The Unforgiven

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Challenge: One Meal

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: One meal everyone should try

I can't think of any dishes that I'm hip enough to know about and other people might be missing out on, so I'm just going to plug Beautiful Wife's spinach bread, which is simple and delicious and amazingly filling (and also vegetarian). Basically, you cook up some spinach; then you take a loaf of french bread and scoop out the center. (Dinner rolls work too, if they're reasonably big.) Then you fill the bread with a mixture of spinach, cheese, garlic, and olive oil, and you wrap it in tin foil and bake it. 

And then you eat it. 

And then you eat more of it, because it was so good

Seriously, y'all. For a very simple recipe, this is great stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Sol Povos: Tarric and Werendril

"So you're really serious about staying here?" Tarric asked. 

Werendril nodded, though he was looking out over the balcony railing and down towards Caristhium and seemed lost in thought. "Does that bother you?" 

Tarric shrugged. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel a little weird, now that Tavros is dead. Like you were trying to take his place in our little trio."

Werendril glanced over at the human paladin of Amun. "I'm not. Or if I am, it's accidental rather than intentional."

"I know," said Tarric. "It's just that you're here, and he's not. That feeling... that's a me-problem, not a you-problem, if that makes any sense." 

"I think I see what you're saying, yes. And I'm still sorry, because I don't want to cause you any awkwardness or difficulty. I'm here because..." He hesitated. "Ruin and I hold no blood relation. But we were raised like brothers, and I think of the children as a niece and nephew. I want to know them, to help raise them."

"I know," Tarric repeated. "And it's still awkward for me, and that's still not your problem." 

"Would you rather I went away?" asked Werendril, turning to face him. He was honestly curious, now. He didn't know what he might do with the knowledge he sought, but he wanted to know. 

"No," answered Tarric, and something eased in Werendril's chest. "No, however strange or uncomfortable I might feel, it's better that you're here. Anica and Aesa both are happier-- more relaxed. And I think the children are going to need you around. I'll get over myself, given time." 

"Time?" asked Werendril, still looking at him, "Or shared experience?" 

Tarric turned his head slightly, regarded the True Elf paladin. "What are you thinking?" 

"I'm thinking that your Abbess is doing good work here," Werendril said. "I'm thinking she might have some assignments that you and I could undertake together: helping to get some elves to Duendewood, delivering copies of the Study and Conclusions that the scholars put together, something like that."

"Oh," said Tarric, and turned that idea over in his mind. "You know, she just might."

Monday, April 18, 2022


 There was camping. I am sooooo tired.

So, the campsite we got this time is about 1/3 of a mile from the parking lot. The parking lot is where the restrooms are located. I am here to tell you that if I had to walk 1/3 of a mile every time I needed to use the restroom and/or brush my teeth, I would be in ferociously good shape. 

Plus, of course, that means that we had to haul everything we wanted out to the campsite. 

There were four of us out there -- myself and another dad (who is the GozarTD of the GozarTD D&D campaign), plus Secondborn and GozarTD's younger son. The boys are about two years apart in age, but they got on splendidly and just generally had a good time playing on the lake shore or whacking dead trees with machetes. 

Anyway, GozarTD came up with a more efficient way to get the Cart o' Stuff out to the campsite: he puts on a day pack that has a rope attached to the loop on the back; the other end of the rope is tied to the handle of the wagon, so the wagon just sort of follows him along. I liked this so much that I actually ordered one of those training harnesses that they use for football players and did basically the same thing. 

It is so much easier than pulling the wagon by hand. Except... part of the trail to the campsite is covered in sand. Soft sand. And we made several trips in, and several trips back out. And the wagon sort of... drags, when it hits the sand. So right now my legs and calves feel like I've been, I don't know, doing a lot of squats. Or dragging something heavy while using a harness. 

Camping with another adult lets us trade off on the cooking, which is nice, and also gives us an adult to talk to, which is also nice. Also, since this was Easter weekend, we went ahead and set up an egg hunt -- but no candy, because candy is bad for woodland critters. Instead, the eggs contained either money (small change) or D&D miniatures. Plus, GozarTD has an inflatable kayak, which allowed us to go row around Murder Goose Island, with the result that yeah, my arms are sore too. 

Plus sunburn. 

I'm starting to think that I should schedule to do this like every other weekend, at least through the end of May. I'd be in much better shape, much more able to face actual sunlight, and also pleasantly woodsmoke-flavored. 

Secondborn by Firelight

Friday, April 15, 2022

Music: Crimson Gale

Diabulus in Musica with a lovely bit of symphonic heavy metal: 

I'm off with Secondborn on a (possibly somewhat rainy) camping trip, so wish me luck!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Spring Horoscopes

Credit card terminals are likely to be down, so keep some cash on you. Focus on personal growth; you will get taller if you want it badly enough. Beware of pigeons.

Today will be characterized by unexpected weirdness, so be ready to roll with it. Your car is not an alien robot, no matter what it tries to tell you. Do not look into the air vents; you don't want to know what's been staring at you from in there.

It's going to be one of those days where everybody you meet knows you from somewhere, and you don't remember any of them. A silver crucifix will come in handy. Do not sign any contracts.

The furniture is out to get you today, so watch your footing and always look before you start to sit down. Ducks are your friends; geese are not. Wear red.

Mercury is entering the influence of the moon, so you're probably going to receive some very weird horoscopes this week. Avoid neckties, dollar coins, and split pea soup. Carry a lizard in your pocket for luck.

Keep an umbrella with you to ward off bad weather. Animals may try to talk to you, but you shouldn't listen. The stock market is basically a giant scam. So is Capitalism.

Political disappointments abound, and your co-workers will keep giving you funny looks but none of them will say why. It's okay to feel anxious about this. Keep your paperclips to yourself, and don't let anyone steal your stapler.

Let go of your assumptions, and new understandings will carry you forward. Your boss is every bit as much of an ass as you think he is. Watch for spiders in unexpected places. Yes, I'm talking about your coffee cup.

Little things can make big differences in the coming week, so pay attention to details and keep some cold iron handy. Learning to use pivot tables could save your life.

There's really no escape, so don't even try. The squirrels are smarter than you, more determined, and far more numerous. Plus, they know everything about you. They even know what happened on that field trip in sixth grade.

You'll hear the voices in the flames today. You're not imagining them; they're really there. Do not, under any circumstances, agree to do as they ask. You were never meant to hold such absolute power.

Going to be a great day, really. Trust me on this. Everything will be just fine. Just keep your eyes on me and walk forward slowly. No, don't look behind you. There's nothing there. No need to hurry, just walk calmly this way. Good. Whatever you do, don't run.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Blogging Challenge: TBR

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: what's on your TBR list

I mean, it's more of a collection than a To Do list, but this sounds like a great topic and I can't wait to read everyone else's responses. 

1. The aptly-named four book (so far) fantasy trilogy This Trilogy Is Broken, by JP Valentine. I finished the first book and just started the second one, and I'm really enjoying them so far. (I'm a bit cautious about recommending it, because it falls into the LitRPG subgenre: fantasy tales where the heroes are aware of [and discuss, and are measured by] roleplaying stats like their character classes, hit points, abilities, etc. I enjoy that sort of setup in small doses, but not everybody does.) 

The setup is basically this: once every eight years, the Stones appear at each city, town, and village in the land. When they appear, everyone above the age of ten visits the stones and receives their Life Quest, and with it the character class that will allow them to (possibly, maybe) achieve it. Quests vary in difficulty; character classes range from common and mundane to adventurous and powerful. Evelia Green is sixteen when the Stone return, and she presents herself along with the other candidates from her village... and receives the quest "Purchase a loaf of bread at the next village over." Should be easy, right? Half a day there, half a day back, and her life's quest will be complete. Except this life quest has a Legendary difficulty rating, and working bakeries are starting to seem frighteningly elusive...

2. Scout's Honor, by Lily Anderson. Sixteen-year-old Prudence Perry is a legacy Ladybird Scout, born to a family of hunters sworn to protect humans from mulligrubs—interdimensional parasites who feast on human emotions like sadness and anger. Masquerading as a prim and proper ladies' social organization, the Ladybirds brew poisons masked as teas and use knitting needles as daggers, at least until they graduate to axes and swords.

Three years ago, Prue’s best friend was killed during a hunt, so she kissed the Scouts goodbye, preferring the company of her punkish friends lovingly dubbed the Criminal Element much to her mother and Tía Lo’s disappointment. However, unable to move on from her guilt and trauma, Prue devises a risky plan to infiltrate the Ladybirds in order to swipe the Tea of Forgetting, a restricted tincture laced with a powerful amnesia spell.

But old monster-slaying habits die hard and Prue finds herself falling back into the fold, growing close with the junior scouts that she trains to fight the creatures she can’t face. When her town is hit with a mysterious wave of demons, Prue knows it’s time to confront the most powerful monster of all: her past.

3. Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, by Charlie Jane Anders. It's the second book in the Unstoppable series,  and I'm very much looking forward to it. While technically YA, the first book was eminently readable for adults and features a group of teens who pull together to try to save the Universe from very evil adversaries -- in spite of the fact that none of them are quite what the aliens who recruited them were expecting. 

So those are my next three. What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Evil!Party: Death of a Baron

 We search over the temple and find miscellaneous equipment, and after a while we find some caves back into the mountain. That’s where they hid all the stuff from the castle. Notably, the magic items include a Bracelet of Friends. We decide to keep that one. It’s a ton of money: 100K GP worth of loot.

Meanwhile, Forkbeard and the militia are stationed by the town when Master Fedoku shows up, running with the Baron under one arm and his wife under the under arm and kid clinging to his back. As soon as he focuses on them, he Dimension Doors on past. The remaining monks and priests (such as they are) charge Forkbeard and his troops. The priests destroy about half of Durest’s undead troop, and drive the other half away. 

The militia forces drop arrows on the first group of monks, taking out two of them; they continue their advance and throw shuriken at Forkbeard. The battle is engaged! The monks tear into the militia, but Forkbeard is holding his own on the front line. The clerics come in much more slowly behind them, but the monks are mixing it up and the right side of our front line is starting to fold. The back line drops crossbow bolts on the monks, and the front line holds. The monks keep whittling down the front line. The first two groups of monks take out a lot of militia before they get annihilated. Forkbeard turns to attack one of the clerics as the last two groups of monks reach the front line on the left end. 

The back line fires crossbows at the nearest priest and injures him. The priest responds by using Searing Ray on some of the front line troopers. Forkbeard pulls back and switches to crossbow, injuring the cleric further. The monks are down to one group of three, but the priests and their spells are still going to be a problem. Forbear continues attacking the nearest priest at range, and two other squads take out two more of the monks with their crossbows, 

The last of the monks goes down, and the militia turn their fire on the nearest priest, who is still picking people off with searing light. The cleric pauses to Cure Critical Wounds on himself, and immediately gets a flight of crossbow bolts for his trouble. This repeats, until he runs out of healing and goes down. The remaining three priests are still moving in, and the militia are still using focused fire on a single priest at a time, to wear them down. A second priest goes down. The last two are carving up the front line, but now the nearer of them becomes the target. He goes down more quickly. The last priest is still trying to get past, but the militia is still in decent shape; he elects to kill Forkbeard and heal himself. 

The troops are still feeling the confidence of their numbers, though, and they keep tagging him with arrows. He does his best to carve through, but he dies. By the time we return, our forces are down to 81 out of our original 181 troops. 

The troops greet Jenny with breakfast tacos the next morning. Durest casts Raise Dead to bring Forkbeard back. 

Once he’s had a chance to recover he goes and gives a little speech to his men. Chuck steps in to rebuild their morale, by collecting vampire spawn with an eye towards opening his own house of ill repute. He’s basically setting up From Dusk ‘Til Dawn but with a tent. 

Durest and Jenny head over to the estate where Master Fedoki calls a challenge to Jenny, demanding single combat, and Durest steps back as they square off. Fedoki moves in first and hits her with a Stunning Fist. She ignores it and hits him back, and he unleashes a full-round attack and stuns her. 

Nobody bothered to set terms for the fight, so Durest sends his wraiths off to kill everyone in the house. 

Master Fedoki attacks again, hitting Jenny a bunch and taking her down. Durest immediately casts fly and goes 40’ up in the air. Master Fedoki chases after the wraiths and attacks one. Durest drops back down and casts Heal on Jenny. 

Fedoki immediately zips back over and tries to hit Jenny with a Stunning Fist. He misses, and Jenny rages and attacks from the ground, hitting him. Durest rises back up into the air and tage Fedoki with Dimensional Anchor, so Fedoki can’t leave. Fedoki pounds the crap out of Jenny but this time fails to take her down. 

Jenny attacks again, hitting twice. Durest drops down and Heals Jenny again; Fedoki slips away and uses Wholeness of Body on himself. Jenny gets back to her feet and shoots him with a longbow. The wraiths attack him but miss. Master Fedoki sprints away at inhuman speed. 

We check the house and find that there was an escape tunnel. Durest sends the wraith down it, and then he and Jenny follow. Jenny moves ahead to a portcullis, and promptly sets off an explosive trap which collapses the tunnel, leaving us pinned under rubble. Durest uses Dimension Door to get loose, and pops outside to find that the wraiths have brought back the baron and his wife and child. He calls for Bob and Ferroustopher to dig Jenny out, and sends one of the wraiths to go get Chuck. 

Chuck arrives just as Ferrous is dragging Jenny out of the house. 

Jenny executes the Baron and his wife with Bob’s old axe, while Chuck pretends to bite the child but instead sets her aside for ransom. Except… she’s not the heir, so she isn’t worth anything.

Laroche shows up the next night and agrees to send the child back to Wellfort; meanwhile, we’ve sent the wraiths to kill the local brother at his winery, leaving only one remaining brother to be the heir. That guy’s up in Falshire. 

Laroche is disappointed that Fedoki escaped – as are we, honestly – but he’s more interested in what we want to do with the city. He’s thinking it could be turned over to the Iron Lion (the mercenary leader from waaaaay back in the campaign; Durest knows him by reputation) or the Ogre chieftain. 

Laroche had brought presents for us. A tiara of Health +6 for Jenny, plus improved natural armor; Durest gets a better ring of protection and a Mitre of Health +6. For Chuck, some scrolls to help tide him over until he gets to higher level spells:

1x Weird

2x Horrid WIlting

4x Prismatic Spray

6x Chain Lightning

Next town up the road is Flowerhedge, but it’s behind enemy lines. That being the case, they want us to hold here for a while – and it may be a couple of months. Flowerhedge is a key city; we’ll need to destroy the defenses and sack the town, but we’ll also need to destroy the bridge. They’re likely to defend the bridge and possibly pull in Solari from nearby towns. They might be able to pull the army out into the field, leaving us free to destroy the bridge. 

Once we get through Flowerhedge, Brightland starts to meet up with the main thrust of our attack; If we can take Brightland, they will share with me the secrets of becoming a lich. 

We take advantage of this downtime to, um, do stuff.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Short Week

Early last week, we excavated Secondborn's room. This weekend, I started running laundry: all day Saturday, and all day Sunday. I have done essentially nothing this weekend that could not be done between moving laundry loads through. (Which also means no writing, but I'm working on that. Some D&D Sunday night, at least...) I still haven't gotten back to the main laundry baskets; I'm still working my way through the pile of stuff that had taken over his floor. 

Fortunately, this is a short week -- even if this coming Monday has been reclaimed to make up for our snow/ice days. The boys are off Friday, and I've taken it off so I can take Secondborn camping. 

Which means that a lot of the time between now and then needs to be spent in cleaning and prepping , so that we have clothes to wear while we're away, and room to wash them again when we come back. And that's not mentioning the other little things like food and water that will need to be arranged. 

The weather, at least, looks like it's going to be lovely: partly cloudy, but with a relatively slight chance of rain. 

All things considered, I think we could be doing a lot worse. How's the week looking for you, my friends?

Friday, April 8, 2022

No, really nothing.

Still basically just trying to pull my shit back together, with somewhat mixed results. Maybe some progress at work (and I did get some real help with that, which was a relief). I did go back and look at that web comic I was working on a couple of years ago, and it... wasn't bad? Like, I had a lot of fun re-reading it. Amazing how much work it was and I don't think I could go back to it unless, like, Hasbro wants to give me a three-figure sponsorship and full access to their toy lines, but even so... that was fun.

I guess for today... more music? More music:

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Blogging Challenge: Unique Talent

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: a unique talent you have

Not the sort of thing I normally think about, but all right. I can think of a couple of possible answers for this, but I think the one that comes closest to unique is this: 

I can explain esoteric computer stuff in a way that makes reasonable sense to normal people. I can take "I looked at the logs and the stacktrace says that the connection failed with user XYZ at 8:06 a.m. on file folder/other folder/ThatOnePage.aspx and error Unable to Connect" and call someone back and say, "Yeah, it looks like the website lost connection to its database for a couple of minutes there. No database, no information. And the website stops working if it can't get the information from the database."

It's not really on the level of the sort of Vast Supernatural Powers that I'd like to have, but it's awfully useful when it comes up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Evil!Party: The Fall of White Mountain Temple

 We teleport into the Third Trial. Teleportation isn’t blocked, and nobody notices our arrival. Durest settles in to start Unhallowing the place, and Chuck assumes gaseous form and  drifts through the sewers, looking the place over. The challenge seems to involve finding your way through the doors, which Chuck is basically ignoring by being a mist. 

As we’re in the process – Unhallow takes about 24 hours – a monk swims up through the pool of water. Jenny promptly murders him. He has some scrolls on him - including a congratulations note from the master granting permission to attempt the third trial. Jenny tries to fix the body up and hides it in the water. Jenny has also taken enough bodies apart that she adds Heal as a class skill – for any cases where she cares enough to use it.

We hear voices from outside. They’re concerned because Disciple Cletus has not come out yet, but the master notes that some people take as much as a full day. 

Late in the day, we see a disturbance in the water; Ferroustopher our iron golem grabs the monk and just holds him still under the water. The monk manages to slip out of Ferrous’ grasp and starts swimming back. Bob jumps in after him but can’t grab him. Jenny dives in as well and comes up beside him. 

The monk has obviously done this before. He’s swimming for all he’s worth. Bob is still following, but he’s basically just walking on the bottom. Jenny is swimming, but not really gaining on the guy. 

The monk makes it to the lake and climbs out. Bob stops below the edge of the lake, then Jenny motions him back. Jenny also turns back and wakes up Chuck while the monk runs off to do alarums and excursions. Durest needs about six more hours to finish Unhallowing the temple. 

A couple of hours go by, and then we start hearing some clanking and whatnot upstairs. Durest starts feeling a competing force gathering upstairs. Chuck does his Invisible Mist trick and tries to check the upstairs, but finds nobody in the antechambers of each trial. He checks around and finds another entrance into the chambers behind the test chambers. He finds a very fancy-looking priestess and some guards; he also notices a trap door down to the inaccessible area on the lower floor, and sees a group of monks and whatnot gathering down there. Which means there’s probably a secret door down there that will connect with our area and give them the element of surprise. 

Chuck decides this is the perfect opportunity… and departs to go after the Baron. He flows in through a window and finds himself in the training room. Two things happen immediately: he notices that this building is hallowed, and also an alarm goes off. Chuck heads up to the next floor, where he finds four monks guarding a door. 

Unbeknownst to us, several of the Solari teleport back over to the other building. Chuck, meanwhile, drifts out over the training floor so he can look at the third-floor through the balconies. He spots the baron, but the Baron is now surrounded by Solari. 

The priests cast Detect Evil and immediately locate Chuck. He immediately drifts out through the wall. 

One of the priests throws the shutters open and tries to Turn Undead, which Chuck distinctly is. Chuck is driven away, and flees at top speed. They throw Fireballs after him, but don’t manage to take him out. After a bit he he pulls himself back together, and is ridiculously irritated about it. He comes back to fuck with them again. And again. And again. 

Durest finishes his spell, and the Temple of Trials becomes Unhallowed – and applies Silence to anyone good inside it. The Priestess manages to keep her voice, but none of the rest do; Chuck returns to the rest of the party and explains the situation and how he valiantly kept them distracted. He also points out the secret door, which Jenny promptly knocks on. When nobody responds, she calls on Ferroustopher to kick the door open. The door shatters, and we’re looking at the raiding party. Chuck tosses a Fireball into the room, tagging everybody inside. Durest follows up with a Flame Strike. 

As the fire drops several of the enemies, Durest feels the Hallow that was being cast upstairs suddenly gets dropped. This is… probably not a good thing. The high-level Priestess is probably now coming for us. Several of the monks tumble into the room and attack Jenny. Two of them hit and attempt to stun her; they manage to… um… do a very tiny amount of damage. Jenny is not impressed. Or stunned, for that matter. 

The High Priestess comes down through the trap door and drops Mass Cause Critical Wounds, tagging Durest and Jenny. Chuck responds with another fireball, tagging the priestess and the fighter. Ferrous kills one of the monks. 

One of the Solari, a bow specialist, lets off a bunch of arrows at Jenny and, um, nicks her. Jenny kills two of the three monks around her. Durest drops another Flame Strike, and takes out the archer. Bob finishes the final monk. 

More priests and a Solari barbarian drop down; the barbarian starts charging forward. One of the priests throws Searing Light at Chuck, damaging him. Chuck: “Oh fuck guys, we gotta take these sun motherfuckers out.”

A Priestess throws a Flame Strike and takes Bob down. He’ll return in three rounds. The big priestess moves up and speaks a Holy Word, which paralyzes Chuck and deafens the rest of us. Ferrous moves in on Master Fedoki and attacks, but misses. A bunch of other Solari teleport in.

The barbarian Solari charges Jenny, who attacks him as he comes in. He attacks with his elvish two-bladed scimitar, but misses. Jenny immediately murders him, and cleaves at the High Priestess, smacking her hard, then attacks her again and also hits her hard. Durest fills half the room with a Fire Storm, taking out the wizard that brought the other Solari in and damaging a bunch of people. 

Jenny attempts to get their attention and draw their fire. The other bishop charges over towards Jenny, who attacks him but misses. She  touches Jenny and casts Harm; Jenny shrugs off the worst of it, and gives her a sultry growl. The priests that are silenced retreat; the other two try to cast Searing Light at Jenny, doing more damage. The other monk moves over and attacks the golem, which proves unwise as he misses completely. 

Master Fedoki moves in Durest and attacks, hitting him three times. Durest: “Ferrous! Stop the monk!” Ferrous drops Poison Gas on the newly-arrived Solari, then grabs the monk who attacked him. Jenny lays into priest beside her and kills him, then attacks the High Priestess again. Durest casts Mass Cure Serious Wounds to bring himself and Jenny back up. 

The lesser priests are still trying to tag Jenny with Searing Light, since they brought a lot of those expecting us to be loaded with undead. Master Fedoki is still trying to take out Durest, who calls for Ferrous to slap Master Fedoki with his fellow monk; Ferrous promptly does this. 

The High Priestess has healed herself again, and Jenny lays into her again, almost taking her down. Durest slips back and casts Anti-Life shell. 

And Bob reassembles himself and stands back up. One of the priests is busy healing himself. The other two are also still trying to Searing Light Jenny; Master Fedoki, unable to reach Durest, attacks the golem instead and actually does some damage. Ferrous pins the other monk, and prepares to finish him. Durest uses Harm to restore Chuck. 

Jenny goes after the High Priestess again – she’s furious because the Priestess keeps healing herself. Bob steps over and finishes the other High Priestess. The two priests behind her look frightened, but shoot Bob with Searing Light, damaging him badly. Master Fedoki tumbles over and attacks Bob. Bob promptly collapses again. He’ll be back in four rounds. 

Chuck throws a fireball at the two priests. Ferrous finishes the monk he’s holding and drops his body in the water. Jenny charges and takes out one of the two lesser priests and nearly kills the other. 

Durest drops a Cure Moderate Wounds to bring himself and Jenny back up a bit; the priest steps in and hits her with Harm, dropping her to one hit point. Master Fedoki assesses the battlefield and blinks back out. Chuck fires off some Scorching Rays at the priest who’s been quietly healing himself in the background, and Ferrous stomps over and whacks him as well. 

Jenny murders the lesser priest, and Durest drops his protection and tags her with Heal. Chuck finishes the other priest, and we rush out to finish the Baron. 

He is, of course, gone, along with Fedoku and the remaining Disciples and a few remaining priests. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Adventures in Camping

So... Secondborn slept in a tent last weekend, and then we had High Winds situation early in the week and the tent was trying to blow around the yard, so Beatiful Wife collapsed the tent and set something heavy on top to keep it in place. Unfortunately, she didn't look inside the tent first -- too busy getting it to stay still -- and we had a solid night of rain later in the week. So when I went to try to clear it out/break it down last night, I found: 
  • A pillow
  • A blanket
  • A sleeping bag
  • An entire outfit including shoes
  • The box for the Nintendo Switch, without the Switch but with a number of games

 All of which had been stewing in a couple of gallons of water (held in place by the waterproof floor of the tent) and two slices of week-old (and thoroughly soaked/half-dissolved) cheese pizza. 

So, I have now explained to Secondborn the Two Iron Laws Of The Tent (which, honestly, I probably should have gone over with him earlier, but I don't generally worry about raccoons and bears in our back yard): 

  1. No food in the tent.
  2. No electronics in the tent.

In the interest of preemptive safety, I should probably also cover #3, which is No Fire In The Tent; I'll do that tonight. 

All of this is in part because a friend and I are taking our younger boys camping in a couple of weeks. I'm actually looking forward to that, but... y'know... cautiously. At least with two of us we can split the cooking, which will be a huge load off. 

In other news, I'm still writing on the latest project, I'm finally finishing some of my more recalcitrant projects at work, and I'm sort of maybe getting my sleep schedule back under control. Trying, anyway. We'll see how long that lasts, but the more energy I have to work with the better off we all are. The weekend was busy, but fun: a night out with friends, the youth D&D game, the weekly D&D game I play in, and a bit of writing and other things. (I'm still studying Spanish and German in Duolingo, for example.) 

I am... cautiously optimistic about the next couple of weeks.