A Gathering of Gamers

  

Six intrepid gamers (Mark, Stefan, Darlene, Charles, Roland and myself) gathered on a Saturday.  We pushed our luck seeking the most treasure in the mines of Diamant, struggled to cross the finish line first in Flamme Rouge, tried to make off with the most loot in Clank! In! Space!, worked to build the strongest foothold at the fringe of the galaxy in Empires of the Void II, screwed each other over with the storms of Category 5, and made and broke mad alliances to establish the most colonies in Cosmic Encounter.  Oh, and there was a bit of dice-throwing for good measure.

Click through for pictures and video…


Darlene and I also joined the local Scotts Valley gaming group a couple of times this month.  Early in January we had our first time run through the lovely fourth edition version of Fury of Dracula.  As Dracula, I was eventually tracked down and defeated but surely only because of the fact that I/we misinterpreted a few important rules.  Wait until next time…  mwahahahahaha!

In late January, we got together again and, as Long John Silver, I tried to keep my treasure hidden from four scheming pirates (Darlene included) in the new Treasure Island.  We also got in a game of Sushi Go Party before breaking off into two groups.  Darlene tried out Whistle Stop, while I had another go at evading the vampire hunters in Fury of Dracula.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time.

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Stormy Week in Tahoe

I went up to Tahoe last week (Monday through Friday) to catch a series of storms.  Monday night delivered a couple of inches on top of the old frozen stuff.  That made for some very rough and bumpy rides off of the groomed runs on Tuesday.  However, then we got a couple of feet Tuesday night but Wednesday was windy and gusting enough to keep the upper mountain from opening at Squaw or Alpine and eventually even closed the mid-mountain lift by noon at Alpine.  It was super wet and heavy snow too and way too tiring after the previous day so I bailed mid-day.  Resi, Troy and Aiden came up Wednesday afternoon and we got another couple of feet overnight.  Thursday proved to be fantastic and Troy and I spent all day making fresh tracks at Homewood until they started closing all the lifts on us.  Sheesh!  They stayed for another day but I had to head home to prep for the weekend.

Click through for pictures and video.

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December Gaming

Lots more gaming over December, including many more flaming balls of lava with Fireball Island and the Curse of Vul-Kar.  With the local Scotts Valley gaming group, we finally got to grow some trees with a full four players in the gorgeous Photosynthesis and we successfully terraformed Mars again in, of course, Terraforming Mars.  With Clay, Kevin, Rachel and Dan, we had a battle of alliances in the classic Cosmic Encounter; Troy joined me and Darlene for New Years Eve and a couple plays of Clank! In! Spaaaaace!, a lot of pushing our luck too far with Diamant, as well as a relaxing run of Tokaido.  Darlene got me a copy of Alchemists for Christmas which she quickly became so obsessed with that we found ourselves playing multiple games until the early morning hours.  That and she’s also hooked now on deck building games like Clank! and Dominion.  We also enjoyed some more dice puzzle solving in Sagrada, building out our fiefdoms in Bunny Kingdom and uncovering lost Mayan ruins in Tikal.

Unfortunately, I only sometimes remember to snag some pictures while we’re engrossed in the games:

  

      

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Home Theater Build Out in Tahoe

The Tahoe house has a large basement bedroom that was just crying out for a home theater conversion using my recently retired JVC DLA-RS55 projector and my old Sony amp/receiver.  This involved getting a full set of speakers for 7.1 audio, running wiring through the walls for speakers and the HDMI video, moving the badly placed heater vents and intake, painting the walls and ceiling a dark green, mounting the projector and adding power, building another seating riser and getting it carpeted, ordering and hanging a projection screen, ordering and setting up two rows of reclining seats and of course hanging movie posters!  The guest bed up front is a little weird and perhaps might make for some weird dreams of imagining an audience watching you sleep, but it doesn’t interfere with enjoying the big screen image or sound.  Just waiting on one missing chair now…

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A Bit of Snow in Tahoe

We stayed up in Tahoe for a week and a half up to Christmas and got in a few half days of skiing at Homewood.  Not a lot of snow yet, but skiable. Christmas Eve day was mostly rain, but it eventually turned cold enough to get some new snow for Christmas Day.

    

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Great Balls of Fire

Lots of fun first plays of games this month both at home and meeting up several times with the local gaming group at the Scotts Valley library.  Alchemists has you experimenting on yourself and your students to figure out the ingredients for magic potions and then publish for fame and fortune, Decrypto pits two teams of codebreakers against each other, Inis has several Celtic clans competing to elect a king across all the land, in Mechs vs. Minions you must continually program your mechwarriors to beat back the onslaught of minions and accomplish the co-op mission but lastly, via Kickstarter…

…it’s the silly, flaming marble madness of Fireball Island and the Curse of Vul-Kar:

 

Speaking of Mechs vs. Minions, check out the absolutely incredible components that come with this campaign-style co-op game:

We also got in some great repeat games of Great Western Trail (drive cattle to market), Whitehall (track down and catch Jack the Ripper), Flamme Rouge (bike racing), Bärenpark (design an animal/bear park), Azul (lay pattern-matching tiles), Sagrada (pattern matching with dice), and Arboretum (build out paths of different tree species).

      

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Fire and Smoke

Lots of wildfires in California lately and over 100 in the Santa Cruz area this year so they’ve closed many of the county parks to try to reduce the risk.  This one a couple of weeks ago (the Rincon fire) was quite visible from my place but happily they were able to get it under control in a couple of days:

 

After seeing someone test the air filtration of Tesla’s Model X and its “biodefense mode” against the heavy smoke we’re getting from our wildfires this month, I decided to pick up an inexpensive air quality sensor to test my home’s air as well as my Model 3’s more mundane filtration system.  (The Model 3 doesn’t have the Model X’s fancy “biodefense mode” or huge HEPA filters.)

With the PM2.5 sensor reading 150 μg/m3 (unhealthy) in the San Jose area (due to smoke from the Camp Fire that burned through Paradise, CA), I found that the Tesla Model 3’s air filter would bring things down to the 20’s in the cabin in just a few minutes when recycle air was turned on.  Later, I stopped and made a video to record it falling from 135 to 5 μg/m3 in less than 10 minutes. It climbed back up to the 80’s pretty quickly though when I turned off recycle air and let it bring in fresh air:


This video was even picked up by Teslarati (“Model 3 protects owner…“) and re-tweeted by Elon.  Hi, Elon!  But they didn’t pick up on my follow-up test to compare the Tesla to a Toyota:
I decided to repeat the test with my 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV.  This time the starting air quality wasn’t nearly as bad as my initial test but both the Tesla and the Toyota were able to filter the cabin down to a reading of zero from a start of 50 μg/m3 with recycle air turned on. At full fan speed, the RAV4 took about 10 minutes and the Model 3 was able to do it in about 3-4 minutes.

With recycle air turned off (fresh air intake on), the PM2.5 reading in both cars climbed up again. The Tesla was able to hold it around the low to mid 30’s but the RAV4 went up to essentially the outside reading of 50 μg/m3 again.  So the Model 3’s system does work better.

One other thing of note is that the RAV4 ended up with a much higher concentration of TVOC (total volatile organic compounds), even though the vehicle is five years old. Presumably this is off-gassing of some of the materials in the cabin.

Oh, and I forgot to turn off A/C in the RAV4 for the test – hence the temperature drop.

Here’s more detail in screenshots – RAV4 start and finish with recycle on:

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Model 3 start and finish with recycle on:

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On a subsequent four-hour drive to Tahoe in the Model 3, I encountered much worse air along the way (San Jose, Central Valley, Sacramento, etc). I’d guess the PM2.5 count was easily at least 150 μg/m3 and probably much higher in places, but I avoided opening the windows to test it. I kept the air on recycle and saw that the particle count held down around 20 but sometimes climb to the 30’s. Not bad, given how bad it was outside.

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Keeping Darlene Safe

 

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Vancouver and SHUX 2018

Darlene joined me for a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, last week to enjoy three days of board gaming at Shut Up and Sit Down’s very own, second annual board gaming convention (SHUX ’18).  I only discovered Shut Up and Sit Down and their most excellent and entertaining board gaming content last year.  I’ve since been hooked on their written and video reviews as well as their podcast. They’re also responsible for me being driven to buy a trunk load of additional games over the past year.  (As if my game collection wasn’t large enough already.)

We got to try out a bunch of games I’ve been meaning to check out, meet some new people, get to see Quinns, Paul, Matt and Pip live and even see a little bit more of Vancouver – including tooling around on some electric bikes for a few hours. It was a great trip and great convention, though I wish we had used our time a little more wisely and squeezed in a few more games as well as been prepared for the early closing of the game-lending library.  Also, would’ve been great to participate in one of the day-long megagames (if the convention were longer) or in a more involved version of Two Rooms and A Boom.  We only got to try the basic version with just a couple of people with roles.  We did get to try and got hooked on several great ones: Bunny Kingdom, Mystery of the Temples, Bårenpark, Great Western Trail, Sagrada, and Azul.  Not so great: Crows, Koi and Kodama: The Tree Spirits.  Terrible: Cat Lady, Nefarious.

I also wish I had thought to take pictures of all of the games we tried (and the folks we played with), but click through for the full gallery:

      

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Camping at Fremont Peak

A gallery of pictures here from a camping weekend (October 5-7th) with Erin, Greg, Merritt, Resi, Troy and Aiden at Fremont Peak State Park.  (Darlene had to skip it as she had just gotten sick.)  No campfires allowed but we got in a bit of hiking in this tiny little park and everyone enjoyed peeking through the telescopes on Saturday night.  Thanks for organizing, Erin!

Click through for the full gallery:

    

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Finally Got Our Teslas!

I’ve been waiting for a mid-size, long range, all wheel drive electric car ever since I got my first taste of EV’s at Nissan’s LEAF test drive event in 2010.  I was so taken by how it felt to drive electric that I ended up putting a reservation down for Tesla’s still-under-development Model S soon after since Nissan was no longer taking reservations for the LEAF.  As it turns out, I ended up snagging a LEAF in 2011 before even getting to test drive the first Model S in 2012.  I decided to pass on the Model S (too big for my tastes) but eventually brought home “half a Tesla” in the form of Toyota and Tesla’s joint RAV4 EV effort in 2013 – as did Darlene when I sold my old LEAF out from under her.

When Tesla finally revealed the prototype of the smaller Model 3 in early 2016 and opened up reservations, Darlene and I and Dave and 450,000 other “friends” all jumped on it – and began the long wait as Tesla started development.

Well, here they are – we both finally got ours this past weekend (and Dave got his a few weeks ago):

  

And, oh boy, are these amazing and fun to drive – over 300 miles range on a charge, access to Tesla Superchargers all across the country, over-the-air software updates, incredible “spaceship-like” interior design with lots of customization controls, among the safest vehicles on the road and blah blah blah… okay, yeah, yeah….

Anyway, here’s the obligatory “Tesla launch” video:

Custom “Stealth” Look

I decided to get some detailing work done to give mine a more custom look.  I had XPEL Stealth self-healing paint protection film applied over all the painted surfaces to give it a satin matte appearance, a speckled dark gray 3M vinyl wrap applied to cover all of the chrome exterior trim pieces as well as the gloss black interior console, a Ceramic Pro hydrophobic ceramic coating applied over the body, windows and wheel covers for easy cleaning, a mild tinting (Huper Optik) applied to the side windows to give a nice contrast between the body and the glass portion and the front and rear chrome badges painted black.  Elite Auto Films in San Jose did the work and while it did take a couple of weeks and several follow-up visits to finish everything up, it came out looking great.  The satin effect is fairly subtle, particularly in photographs, but it looks quite sharp in person!  Darlene also had Elite Auto Films do some paint correction work and had a Ceramic Pro coating on hers.

Click through for more pictures in the full gallery:

      

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Frie Family Visit in Tahoe

Darlene’s brother John, his wife Sandy, and daughters Joslyn and Carlyn came out to visit in Tahoe for a week.  We were able to finish up our road trip to join them for some activities including hiking, kayaking and climbing in the trees at the treetop adventure park in Tahoe Vista.

Click through for the full gallery:

      

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Colorado National Monument

Continuing on our way home from Wisconsin, Darlene and I came across Colorado National Monument just outside of Grand Junction and decided to have a look.  I’d never heard of this place but the scenery was gorgeous and there were fantastic views and rock formations in every direction throughout the park.  We ended up spending a couple of days to check it out and do a little hiking – click through for the full gallery:

      

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Passing through Colorado

On our return trip from Wisconsin, Darlene and I made our way down through Iowa and Missouri and across Kansas with one overnight stop and then into Colorado stopping off in Denver but failing to find anywhere nearby to grab a campsite.  (Ended up in a motel parking lot north of Boulder.)  We stayed a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking.  The long views weren’t all that great because the smoke from the huge California wildfires were filling the skies even in Colorado.

  

Heading south, we found a spot to camp for a couple of nights in national forest land outside of Winter Park and got in some high altitude (10,000′) mountain biking.  We visited Dave and Martha at their new home in Evergreen before continuing west on I-70.  We camped out a couple of nights and did some trail riding in the hills above Eagle and had to wait out the mud in the morning in order to get the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle™ safely down the mountain again.

We also took some time to ride along Glenwood Canyon and tried to hike up to Hanging Lake late in the evening but ran out of time.  We came across a mama bear and her two cubs climbing in the trees near the trail though:

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Minnesota/Wisconsin State Parks

Continuing our road trip out to Darlene’s mom, we hit up a bunch of different parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin – some on my own (with Pan and Hera) while Darlene helped her mom during her hip surgery recovery and some together both before and after.  We got in some mountain biking, kayaking and sightseeing all around as well as a two-day photo shoot for Carlyn’s high school graduation.  However, I forgot to take any pictures while camped out with the cats in her mom’s driveway for a couple of weeks!

      

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Badlands of South Dakota

Continuing our trek out to Wisconsin along I-90 and across South Dakota, we visited and hiked around a bit in the Badlands National Park and encountered some bighorn sheep.  The park campgrounds were full but we found dispersed camping (with lots of other folks) just outside the northwest entrance.

We weren’t able to visit some of the other interesting sites in the nearby Black Hills area (like Jewel Cave or Wind Cave National Park) because a severe thunderstorm and hail warning drove us north out of the way.  The next day I dropped Darlene off at the Rapid City airport so she could fly home to make her doctor’s appointment (she’s currently on medical leave due to a hip injury).

I continued on with Pan and Hera and visited the Minuteman Historic National Monument, which was well worth the stop.

Click through for the full gallery:

      

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