A Little Tour of Apple Park

Over a few summer weekends, Apple is allowing employees to bring friends and family to visit the new Apple Park campus and Stan invited several of us to get a little tour of this beautiful and amazing environment.  Thanks, Stan!!

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Butterfly Eruption in Tahoe

There’s a massive eruption of butterflies in Tahoe this week – there are swarms of them all over the place, including on the highways and the trails around Tahoe.  According to this news report, they’re the California Tortoiseshell Butterfly and there may be millions of them around the lake right now.

“It is pretty phenomenal,” said Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) Executive Director Will Richardson, Ph.D. “It’s exceptional. I have not seen a flight quite like this before.”

Here’s some video I recorded in slow motion while mountain biking the Sawtooth Trail near Truckee yesterday:

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Early Summer Gaming

 

Lots of gaming over the first half of the summer already: Darlene and I started Pandemic Legacy Season One in the early spring, and things were going pretty smoothly with my pilot/medic Hudson and Darlene’s quarantine specialist Zoe, despite the plot twists over the course of the game year.  Glenn and Michele even joined us for an episode, though Michele’s character turned out to be a traitor against all of humanity – we should have known – or at least Glenn should have warned us!  Anyway, despite the rioting in parts of North America and Eastern Asia, and the loss of some medical centers (including the CDC headquarters early on), things were more or less under control with no total failures… that is until October and November came around.  (Hence Darlene’s convincing sad face above.)  But ultimately, we persevered through December and the world was saved from ruin!

Darlene and I also enjoyed trying Memoir’44, the simple but engaging WWII battle simulation game and the new, deck-building race game of The Quest for El Dorado (safari hat not included).  I introduced Darlene to Suburbia and Suburbia Inc and we worked to partially solve the connected crimes in the second chapter of  the “Power Behind” scenario from Chronicles of Crime.

At Nacho’s place and the local library, we had an epic game of Cutthroat Caverns, a few games of the ever popular Quacks of Quedlinburg, the challenging Tiny Towns, the fantastic open trading game Chinatown, the surprisingly fun Wits and Wagers trivia-based betting game and I finally got Container: 10th Anniversary Edition to the table and it was well received – the huge container ships are amusing to move around but it’s just too bad that the artwork is so incredibly dull.  I was introduced to the very pretty bird-themed Wingspan, which I though was just okay – it seemed to lack an exciting build up or pay off to getting your game engine going.  Darlene enjoyed A Feast for Odin (which I have yet to try), while I taught classic Cosmic Encounter to Nacho, Dan and Elizabeth.

In mid-July, I joined Roland, Charles and Tom at Roland’s place where he introduced us to the great little brain teaser Century: Eastern Wonders and the gorgeous-looking Call to Adventure which turned out to be rather abstract pattern matching rather than much of a promised adventure.  I dragged them into a game of Chinatown and Charles and Roland stuck it out to face the zombie-infested, cooperative adventure Dead of Winter with me.

I was able to get in a few more games of Dead of Winter, including a two-player, pure co-op play in “difficult” mode with Darlene (we failed!) and a five-hour long epic play with five of us at the library meetup: we had to try to survive for eight rounds while stockpiling fuel, keeping the hordes of zombies at bay, feeding our growing colony of survivors, and managing one difficult crisis after another.  We lost a few survivors along the way and it was looking like failure toward the end but we just barely squeaked through with a win on the last player’s very last turn with minimum morale, food and supplies.  Fantastic!

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A Covey of Quail

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A Week in Tahoe

Bunches of pictures from a week in Tahoe with Darlene: hiking with Glenn and Michele along the old railroad bed from Donner Summit and through some of the tunnels, mountain biking with Mike up to the fire lookout at Martis Peak, kayaking from Sand Harbor to Secret Cove on the east shore of the lake, riding the Truckee River trail to Squaw Valley, watching the fireworks from the water’s edge at Kings Beach and, posted separately, soaring over Tahoe in a glider and saving the world from total ruin in Pandemic Legacy.

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Soaring Over Tahoe

For my birthday, Darlene bought me a glider ride with the Truckee Tahoe Soaring Association based out of the Truckee airport and we were able to squeeze in together for a 40-minute flight over the mountains between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.  It was, of course, a wonderful experience and we got to learn a bit from our pilot Pablo about the capabilities of gliders – like the ability for them to sustain 1000-mile flights up and down the Sierra Nevada range, riding the thermals. Both Darlene and I did get a little motion sick (no doubt partly due to trying to take pictures and video) but not too serious.  It was a little noisier in the cockpit than I expected from all of the air rushing over and around the canopy but we were easily able to talk to each other.

While we were aloft we were joined by two other gliders coming in from more distant locations.  One of them was just coming across Lake Tahoe fairly low from the direction of Carson City and we watched as they searched out some thermals to get themselves back up again to a more comfortable 11,000 ft elevation over the 8000+ ft mountain ridges around the lake.

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A Little Bit of the Tahoe Rim Trail

Darlene and I got a little taste of the Tahoe Rim Trail exploring west from the Tahoe house as far as Burton Creek State Park this past weekend.  I was surprised to find that there’s also a paved road that runs from Brockway Summit around to Burton Creek State Park, called the “Fiberboard Freeway” on some maps and apparently popular as a cross-country ski route.  We also wandered into the cross-country ski area that’s part of Northstar that I’d never seen before – including the “Caboose Hut”.

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Flying Around Mono Basin

This little road trip to the Eastern Sierra got off to a rough start as I experienced a breakdown in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle far from any service help.  I was on US-395 just past the intersection with CA-108 (still closed from snow on Sonora Pass) when I suddenly felt multiple and ongoing jerking motions from the transmission as it seemingly tried to jump between gears.  I was luckily right in front of a pullout (which are few and far between) and was able to pull off the highway and try to figure out what was going on.  I ended up waiting about four hours as Mercedes roadside service tried to find a tow service before I found I could get the vehicle moving and head back towards Gardnerville and eventually Reno to get the vehicle looked at the next day.  (For more play by play on what happened, see this thread in the Sprinter-Source forum.)  Anyway, after losing a couple of days to dealing with that and then another day back at the Tahoe house fixing the RV’s refrigerator (which had also started acting up), I eventually headed out again.

I was going to meet up with Hoan and his family in Mammoth Lakes but they ended up bailing out and so I spent a few days in and around the Mono Lake basin.  The first night was a little off road on the way up to Virginia Lakes after discovering the dirt roads any higher were still blocked with snow.  Still it was looking to be a lovely high altitude spot for star gazing with my telescope – until after setting everything up I realized I had forgot to pack my counterweight – making it mostly unusable.  D’oh!  Still it was a nice spot to fly the drone around a bit with Mono Lake visible in the distance.  And Pan caught himself a mouse. ;-)

  

The following day I dropped down into the Mono Basin and went off roading a bit to get near the Mono Craters to go exploring on foot and in the air.  (I wasn’t going to try take the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle up the slopes of the craters!)  My cross-country hike turned out to be much more difficult than expected as it was really tough just getting up a step or two without slipping back on  the steep scree slopes.  But my, such a lovely and fascinating view over the top by flying the drone!

 

The last day involved some more exploring and flying near Grant Lake – and I found myself pushing the vehicle climbing on some just barely passable rough dirt roads.  Once again, I’m really looking forward to downsizing to a much smaller and more capable off-road van.  After getting out of there without mishap, the return trip involved backtracking north on 395 to highway 88, Monitor Pass and Markleeville.  Tioga Pass was still closed and Sonora Pass and Ebetts Pass would be a really bad idea for a 25 ft. RV!  Carson Pass was lovely and snow capped all over on the way back though.

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Bunnies, Wizards and… Real Estate Developers

Lots of gaming this month, including several meetups at the local library.  After the second broken playthrough of the auction game Estates, I finally realized I had goofed a fundamental rule in teaching the game. Nobody could possibly come out ahead… next time let’s try playing it in the way that it’s possible for someone to succeed!

On the other hand, our first playthrough of Chinatown was really fun, though hard to keep our voices down in this wildly interactive, open trading/deal-making game. And it was fun to finally get Wiz-War to the table with a group of four – even though my wizard got killed off first!  D’oh!

   

Nacho started hosting some gaming nights at his place this month.  We did some finger flicking of race cars around a track (what was that called?), squeezed little miniature towns together in Tiny Towns and enjoyed lots of repeats: building amusement parks in Unfair, werewolf hunting with One Night Ultimate Werewolf, pattern matching in Sagrada, space conquest via Space Base and maze maneuvering in Drakon.

   

Besides a couple more rounds of Bunny Kingdom, Darlene and I finally started Pandemic Legacy: Season One at home.  We’re only a few “months” in but so far things are under control – which probably means things are going to spiral out-of-control soon.

Oh and I introduced Kathie and Dave to Quacks of Quedlinburg. Dave came out the clear leader – and the supreme Quack!

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Dan & Rachel’s Wedding

Dan and Rachel were married this past Saturday at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose:

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Fresh Powder in May

We got a couple more storms in mid-May along with a nice cold snap to bring fresh powder to the slopes… yay!  I was able to head up with the cats and hit Squaw the morning after each storm and even just happened to catch Granite Chief moments after it opened on Sunday:

  

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Marvin the Martian Lands in Tahoe

Darlene and Marvin the Martian joined Resi, Troy and Aiden for the closing ski weekend at Homewood in Tahoe this past Easter weekend:

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Dressed for Hamilton

For Darlene’s birthday we went to see a performance of the musical Hamilton at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco – in costume of course.  The smiles are mostly due to the very enthusiastic and zealous person who insisted on taking our picture for us afterwards!

 

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Joslyn’s Visit

Darlene’s niece, Joslyn, came out from Wisconsin for her spring break from school and I think we managed to fill her time here.  We visited Shark Fin Cove, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and saw dolphins while flying the drone from the sea cliffs near Pescadero.  We spent one morning to see the redwood trees at Henry Cowell State Park and a deserted Roaring Camp Railroads.  We introduced her to the sea otters at Moss Landing and got in a guided walk at Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals (lots of weaned pups at this time of year) and she and Darlene stayed overnight at the Monterey Zoo and fed the elephants.  Besides a couple of movie nights and several interesting board games, we also went up to Tahoe for three days so she could learn to ski – and she was careening down the mountain in no time!

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Gaming in March

Darlene and I got in another game of Great Western Trail – not withstanding Pan’s attempt to thwart us.  That picture was after having just finished setting up the starting game state – the first time.  We had to herd him away from the table mid-game a few times after that to avoid disaster.

Later, with my local gaming Meetup group, I tried out the cold war espionage, item-collecting game Covert (and cleaned up like a super-spy! ;-)

At another gaming meetup, I finally got the hidden traitor game Dark Moon back to the table again and incorporated some of the Shadow Corporation expansion into play with six players but it went very strangely.  All of our dice rolls were so lucky that we completed all four events in just one round and a half of play – without really any intrigue of trying to suss out the infected players.  Lame.  Will have to try again.  Meanwhile, others were engaged in a multiple-hour, six-player, three-stage bike racing series championship with Flamme Rouge. Darlene and I were introduced to the dice-rolling Space Base game and we introduced others to a quick three rounds of Cheaty Mages.

  

On a Wednesday night, five of us attempted to summit K2 (via the board game, K2) and alas, one of my climbers and somebody else’s were caught up top in a blizzard and died.  Very sad.  Kat came through though with maybe just a little frostbite to win the game.

At a Saturday gathering, I introduced the group to Quacks of Quedlinburg, in appropriate costume of course! Several of us managed to max out our potion-brewing cauldrons – but then I did forget a rule about when you’re allowed to use the neutralizing agent.  Oops.  After that I tried a game of Whistle Stop for the first time – that one was interesting, but a bit slow with five players.

Darlene and I also introduced her niece Joslyn to some board games while she was here for a week visiting from Wisconsin.  Besides Quacks of Quedlinburg, Bärenpark and Evo, we made a first run on the new spin on cooperative, crime-solving detective games, Chronicles of Chrime.  This game uses an app to allow you to explore a crime scene and related locations in virtual reality and has you prompting characters with the various bits of evidence you find to gather more clues and eventually piece together a solution to the criminal mystery – all while consuming in-game time that allows the situation to evolve.  Pretty cool!

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Sun and Snow in Tahoe

I was able to join Jon at Northstar and Bill and Kat at Heavenly for three days of skiing mid-week last week – and we had lots of sun and snow to play in.

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