Scary Haunted Box

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Fall Gaming

 

 

A busy season of gaming: we competed to infect our host without outright killing him in Viral, collect and steal the most treasure while evading the dragon in Drakon, try to score the most popular brews in Vivajava: The Coffee Game, battled each other under the sea in Captain Sonar, compete in the early industrial era in Brass: Birmingham, experiment on ourselves and our student “volunteers” to break down the magical ingredients in Alchemists, wheel, deal and swindle negotiate ourselves into the most profitable business locations in Chinatown, avoid causing too many time traveling paradoxes in Anachrony, interpret our vision dreams to solve a haunted murder mystery in Mysterium, be the quickest to work the marketplace in Istanbul, outmaneuver each other while working the Mayan calendar in Tzolk’in, make the most of our ingredients without exploding our potions in Quacks of Quedlinburg, vie for control over the meadow in Battle Sheep, escape the deadly maze in Room 25, race to the finish line in Flamme Rouge, fight the forces of evil in Shadow Over Camelot (only to be thwarted in the end by that unseen traitor, Richard!), build and shape the habitats and ecoystems in Ecos: First Continent, and lastly, to seek out and gather treasures in Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated.

Click through for more pictures…

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Gandalf and Galadriel for Halloween

Gandalf and GaladrielDarlene and I ventured out as Gandalf and Galadriel for Halloween this year. We spent the afternoon with Jon and Siobhan, who is recovering well from some complicated and unpleasant oral cancer removal surgery and associated tissue transplants.  As a hopefully amusing distraction, we took them on a little adventure playing Tales of the Arabian Nights. Let’s see, I think Siobhan’s character was crippled and driven insane, Darlene was imprisoned and repeatedly unable to arrange an escape, I was scorned for a while before under going a sex change and Jon stumbled into marrying a passing stranger and somehow into respectability and eventual success.

Later that evening, we joined Kathie, Dave, Kevin, Vanessa, Lisa and Rachel for more gaming while awaiting the very few trick-or-treaters who dared knock on the door.  We got in games of Welcome To… and Decrypto as well as a few rounds of Jackbox Games’ Fibbage XL via the AppleTV.

Alas, no other pictures for Halloween this year!

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Nom nom nom…

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Flexible solar panel durability/longevity test

tree-damaged roof/awning  damaged panels

The Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle (my LTV Unity RV) is going off for repairs tomorrow following the damage caused by the fall of a large redwood tree limb.  Besides the roof and awning damage, the tree limb also struck and dented one of my thin, flexible solar panels.  Some time ago, I also damaged one of the panels with a faulty adhesive installation.  So, this seemed like a good time to test whether either of these panels need to be replaced.  I cleaned all six panels (using this great waterless car wash spray) and then set about isolating each pair of panels to test their relative response to the mid-day, mid-November sun.  The six panels are wired up in a parallel-series arrangement: three parallel sets of two panels in series, to boost the voltage rather than the amperage, making use of the original wiring which is turn connected to my Victron MPPT controller that then converts the voltage to an appropriate level for the battery.  (Details on my installation here.)

One pair is the original 100W GoPower panels and the other four are the GreeSonic panels I added (which have an arguably superior EFTE surface material) and use efficient SunPower cells which are also known to perform well in overcast conditions.

Somewhat unexpectedly, it’s the original, undamaged GoPower panels that turned out to be underperforming.  The undamaged GreeSonic pair was producing as much as 7.7 amps (or 106 watts) and the other pair (with visible surface damage) was producing 6.9 amps (or 95 watts).  Since the Unity’s roof is slightly curved, the first pair was angled slightly towards the sun and the other pair angled slightly away from the sun.  So both GreeSonic pairs are really performing about the same.  Keep in mind that the sun’s position in the sky during this test in mid-November was fairly low at about 34 degrees above the horizon, or about 55 degrees off of the vertical of the solar panels. Meanwhile, one of the GoPower panels has failed out right and was showing voltage but no amperage – presumably there’s a short in there somewhere. The other GoPower panel was only delivering 2.0 amps (30 watts) when isolated from its failed companion – compared to one of the “damaged” GreeSonic/SunPower panels on the same sloped side of the RV at 3.5 amps (48 watts).

So, in terms of durability, these flexible GreeSonic panels held up great to the impact of this quite large redwood limb – and the roof and awning didn’t fair so well.  As for longevity, the original GoPower panels are probably about 4 years old while the GreeSonic panels are about 2.5 years old.  (The Unity has been parked in full sun when not in use since I acquired it a little more than three years ago.)

I’m about to sell my Unity (I’m downsizing to a van conversion done by Van Haus based on a 4×4 converted Ford Transit) but I’m going to go ahead and replace the GoPower panels now with some similar, SunPower-based flexible panels – once I get the Unity back from the roof and awning repairs.  I’ll likely go with flexible panels for the van conversion too.

Here’s the pictures of these solar panel tests:

roof and panels  panel test results   GoPower panel  damaged panels

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Big Trees, Missing Arms and Falling Limbs

Darlene and I joined Resi, Troy & Aiden and Greg, Erin & Merritt for another camping weekend, this time in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Besides some hiking among lots of giant redwood trees, we got in a couple of games, Decrypto and Quacks of Quedlinburg, and we got to experience the spooky, night time reenactment of Big Basin’s last lumber mill owner’s fateful encounter with a grizzily bear and the subsequent haunting of his missing arm!

 

The weekend ended with a true scare though.  This was another weekend of hot and dry winds, setting off wildfires despite PG&E’s efforts to shutdown large portions of the electric grid across many California counties.  Just a minute or two before we were to drive out of our campsites, several redwood tree branches gave way and came tumbling down just in front of our vehicles in the roadway.

Before that dust had settled, I heard another large crack directly overhead as I was still standing in our campsite, just outside the RV, about to climb aboard.  I ran off towards our adjoining campsite where everyone had just got into their cars and spun around to see a large 20-foot long limb, maybe 8 inches in diameter, come crashing down onto the back of the RV, right where I had been standing – and where we had been hanging out in our camp chairs much of the weekend.  Darlene was inside the RV and was startled into a scream at the sound of the crash and rushed out to see what had become of me.

Everyone piled out of their cars to quickly clear the roadway so we could make an immediate departure and get the heck out of there.  Later I was able to pull off the road in a clearing and survey the damage: the edge of the roof was busted open, exposing some wiring, the awning was crushed and bent and partially torn from its mount and a couple of solar panels were damaged.

So, both lucky that no one was hurt and that it didn’t come down while everyone was sitting around camp or in their tents and unlucky that we didn’t leave just a minute or two earlier and avoid the whole mishap.

Click through for the full gallery.

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Vancouver and SHUX 2019

Darlene and I returned to Vancouver, British Columbia last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s third annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’19) after enjoying ourselves so much last year at SHUX’18.  Once again we got to meet a bunch of new people (as well as bumped into a friend local to the Santa Cruz area) while learning and trying out many different games.  As always, there’s also lots of other gaming-related stuff going on all around the convention hall but we pretty much stuck to the game library and play area for the whole convention this time.

 

We dove in deep starting with the viking-themed, “worker placement”-style game A Feast for Odin.  It’s good but I’m not sure I really want to play it again, and it’s also really time-consuming to teach to new players.  (Luckily we found someone who already knew the game to teach us.)  We moved on to try the tableau-building Valeria: Card Kingdoms (not great), before getting transformed into mice trying to battle and escape our rat guards in the story-based adventure game Mice and Mystics (very cute!).  Then we tried playing classic Disney villains in Disney’s Villainous with just the two of us – and then tried it again when the first game ended rather abruptly.  I give it a pass – you’re pretty much at the mercy of your card draw, with little decision making to do each turn.  The card decks do wonderfully capture the spirit of the feature films though.

We both loved playing the soon-to-be-released Ecos: First Continent and I immediately put in a preorder for it.  Next up was trying Lowlands, a classic euro-style game with the added twist of having to decide whether to give up some of your precious turn actions to work on the community dike holding back the rising seas.  We liked it… but not as much as Istanbul that we tried later in the day.  I’ve had that in my wish list to try for a while and playing it with a group of five turned into an immediate purchase.

Richard joined us for the bizarrely themed and misrepresented Lords of Waterdeep after somebody we met earlier in the day insisted we try it.  It was okay, but it was really just a totally abstract cube-exchanging affair. However, from there we moved on to finding a group to try laying out a suburban neighborhood together in the puzzle-y “roll and write” game Welcome to… – and yes, the third purchase as a result of SHUX this year!

 

We joined up on the last day with another couple to figure out how to play the intriguing time travel-based cooperative mystery adventure game  T.I.M.E. Stories – which turned out to both not be so straight-forward without giving ourselves any story spoilers and reminded me why it got some less than stellar reviews.  The problem is that the game intentionally sets up the story to play out in such a way that you’re going to run out of your allotted actions and fail multiple times and then “get” to experience going back in time again to try again with your new knowledge.  However, unlike a well-scripted time travel movie, it’s not that fun to have to go back and repeat previous sections to gather needed equipment again.  We ended up cheating a bit on the second go-around only to be forced into a second failure anyway where we decided to quit without seeing the first story through to its end.

We didn’t get to finish the last game of the weekend, The Ancient World, with yet another couple before the convention closed down.  This one started out rough and afterwards I discovered that there’s a newer edition of the rules which would have avoided much of the confusion and outright invalid actions we were taking.  Maybe we’ll try it again sometime somewhere.

Darlene had to take off super early Monday morning to teach a class by noon, but I hung out for the day in Vancouver and ended up going for a walk to Stanley Park and spending the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium.  Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Ren Faire 2019

Darlene and I managed to make it out to the local Renaissance Faire last Sunday (near Casa de Fruta). Click through for a handful of pics:

 

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More Summer Gaming

Lots of more gaming time through August and September, including introducing Jon and Roland to the popular tile-laying game Suburbia as well as my newly-arrived copy of Bargain Quest, where you act as shopkeepers trying to sell supplies to the adventuring heroes on their way to vanquish the dragon.

 

With the local library gamers group, I got in a couple more games of Bargain Quest, we enjoyed wine making with the “worker placement” style game Viticulture, we unsuccessfully hunted Darlene as the great white shark in Jaws, wheeled and dealed in the trading game Chinatown again, and vied for success across the industrial age in the fantastic economy game Brass: Birmingham.

 

At Nacho’s, we swapped gems in the engine builder Century: Golem Edition and pushed through Clank! In! Space! trying to keep Nacho from getting away with all the glory.  Back home we had more bewildering adventures in Tales of the Arabian Nights and up in Tahoe there was more Clank! and Splendor and Darlene and I introduced Mark, Eve and Matt to the tasty fun of set collecting in Sushi Go! Party.

 

As usual, I forgot to snag pictures of several other game sessions (like with Greg & Erin, playing For Sale while camping at Pinnacles), but click through for the full gallery.

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Camping in Pinnacles

Darlene and I met up with Greg, Erin & Merritt and Resi, Troy & Aiden for a very warm weekend of camping at Pinnacles National Park this past weekend.

Click through for the full gallery:

(And sorry guys, the first batch of photos are pretty messed up by my not noticing until our hiking snack break that I had left my camera set at a very high ISO.  Just think of it as an old-timey filter…)

   

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Another Weekend in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden joined us for the weekend in Tahoe, including an afternoon at Kings Beach and a hike from nearby Watson Lake to find another excellent view of Lake Tahoe.

Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Glenn’s Sore Feet

My brother is currently embarked on a 500-mile walk across northern Spain.  Glenn’s following the Camino de Santiago, taking pictures, making friends (furry and otherwise) and blogging about it as he goes – it’s an entertaining read if you’d like to follow along: https://www.glennssorefeet.com

   

And here’s Michele’s take on Glenn’s solo adventure: “Smell ya later!”

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Sunset Dinner on Kayaks

Darlene and I met up with Nanci and Mike on Labor Day to take our kayaks out for a sunset paddle and dinner from Sand Harbor on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.  Being late in the day, the water was pretty choppy but we successfully navigated around from the beach side to the more protected cove.  And fried duck chicken for dinner!

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More Tahoe Trail Rides

Mark and Eve came up to the Tahoe house ahead of the extended Labor Day weekend, joined by their friends Matt & Lindsay for some excellent Tahoe area mountain biking.  Mike and Nanci then joined us on Sunday.

Here’s the video montage I put together for all four days of riding:

On Thursday, Mark, Eve, Matt, Darlene and I hit up the Incline Flume trail starting from highway 431.  We continued with an out-and-back on the classic Marlette Flume trail before Eve and Darlene opted to take Tunnel Creek Road down to lake level and the rest of us climbed the Incline Flume trail back to the cars.

  

On Friday, Darlene opted out and Lindsay joined us for a one-way ride from Watson Lake (above Tahoe City) on the newly completed Big Chief trail down to Sawtooth Ridge, outside of Truckee.  The upper section of Big Chief is rated expert/”black diamond” and is filled with lots of big drops – much more than what I’m comfortable with but the lower, intermediate section was fun and includes a long flow trail section too.  We finished up with Matt and Mark taking the west ridge, rocky portion of the Sawtooth Loop while Eve, Lindsay and I took the fast, flowy eastern side of the loop.

 

Matt left on Saturday, but the rest of us ended up trying a loop climbing up and around Incline Lake from the Incline Flume trailhead.  This was a mixed bag of very steep unrideable portions of trail to get up there but with some fun singletrack once we did.  Might be better to take the Old Mt. Rose Highway dirt road to get up there.  (Mike has a suggestion for another route that he uses that we’ll try sometime.)  For our return, Mark took the Tyrolean Downhill trail while he sent us to try a new trail through some recently logged terrain.

 

On Sunday, Mike and Nanci joined me and Darlene on part of the Emigrant Trail between highway 89 and Stampede Reservoir.  This trail turned out to be a lot of flowy fun through varying scenery with some nice long ascents that turned into great descents on the return.  Unfortunately, Nanci wasn’t feeling well and so she and Darlene bailed out early.  We’ll be trying this one again soon though!

Click through for the full gallery…

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Early Morning Bear Patrol

Video from my front camera at the Tahoe house early yesterday morning catches a bear checking the car doors of both Mark and Lindsay’s cars in the driveway.  Unfortunately my video stops short of showing how they try to pull on the door handles.  Lindsay noticed somebody’s car down the street appeared to have been opened up and searched by a bear that morning.  Matt went out the previous morning to find both of his passenger side doors wide open but nothing ransacked.  Last year, Troy found all four doors of his extended cab pickup truck open in the driveway with dirty paw prints over everything.  Looks like even if you don’t leave any food or trash in your car, this bear goes around checking for unlocked doors!

And on a related note, the Placer County Sheriff recently helped this crying cub bear get out of a trash dumpster:

 

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Sunshine and Hail in Desolation Wilderness

Darlene and I headed into Desolation Wilderness from the Meeks Bay trailhead on Lake Tahoe this Monday for three days, two nights of backpacking.  This turned out to be a pretty easy going climb and less than five miles to the first lake (Genevieve) and a few more miles to where we camped at Stony Ridge Lake for both nights.

On our layover day, we continued on up to Rubicon Lake and then set off cross-country to reach the saddle to the southeast in hopes of a nice view overlooking Emerald Bay.  Unfortunately, thunderclouds started coming in and we had to bail out before we could get to the overlook.  On our way back down, we were caught in a surprisingly heavy hail storm and then had to dash down off the heights in the rain as the thunder and lightning approached.  We returned to camp pretty soaked and moved everything a few hundred feet to a better location to wait out the storm.  Happily the rain let up before the sun set for the day.

Fantastic night skies too, with no moon!

Click through for the full gallery:

     

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