Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hiking with Gracie

Grace wanted to go hiking with Daddy, and it was a beautiful day with no particular plans, so she and I headed off into the Woodlawn Tract (now part of the First State National Monument) and did an easy 2.9 miles of walking in the woods.
Hike in Google Terrain from

We started in the same parking lot we often do because she had heard me tell of a cool old ruined farmhouse farther down a different branch of the trail than we had done on a few previous trips.
Hike in Google Hybrid from

The area is spiderwebbed with trails, and I know we've been all over this area, but apparently hadn't done the one little stretch of main trail that this old building was on (at least not with her).
Curly pigtail hair day

She wanted to take our good camera (Canon EOS Rebel T3) and take pictures on her own. [All pictures are taken entirely by her except the one she is in]

She very much enjoyed looking for flowers, pretty scenes and interesting plants to take pictures of.
The old ruined farmhouse

The picture taking time made our 2.9 miles over 1.5 hours a stroll at best, but the point wasn't to put in miles.
Old fieldstone retaining wall

We found purple flowers.
Purple flowers

And white flowers.
White flowers

And more white flowers.
More white flowers

On the way back to the car, she asked if we could go out again tomorrow, hike a different trail, and take more pictures. It's a definite possibility...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Impetus Refresher - Germans vs Italians

We couldn't muster up enough people for a D&D game last night (a Friday night leading into Memorial Day weekend), but Ryan and Josh were available, and Josh had expressed an interest in playing historical miniatures, so that's what we did. When setting up the game (and trying to remember the rules) it occurred to me just how long it had been since I had played anything. Or painted anything. Going back through blog posts, it was probably the Impetus solo game that I played last November.

With little time to prep anything new, the game we played ended up using the same forces (and little cheat-sheet unit cards) from that game. Feudal Germans vs Communal Italians fighting in Italy circa 1250.
Forces close on each other (Germans at left)

In order to be able to start with the simpler rules (movement etc) and explain as we went, I set up a basic meeting engagement with no terrain other than a few hills and roads, and some decorative fields and hedges. The hills were decent sized, and flanked an open valley in between. In all pictures, the Germans will be on the left/far side and the Italians will be on the right/near side.
Contesting the Center

One of the main things I like about Impetus is that the rules are simple enough to remember fairly well from one playing to the next, but present enough choices to make the game-play interesting. It turned out to be a very good set to teach a new person. By the end of the evening (7 turns I think), Josh had a pretty good grasp of the basics.
Forces meet on the eastern hill

As for the battle itself, it was a straight-forward move ahead and meet in the middle fight, with attention paid to the high ground on either flank.
Fighting for the hilltop

In general, Ryan (the Germans) rolled very well for initiative, but rolled poorly in combat. Exceptionally poorly in many cases. He was especially good at failing Cohesion Tests in cases when all he had to do was roll anything but a 6. And then invariably rolled a 6...
End of game

By the end of the game (7 turns I believe), the situation had been decided. Out of three leaders per side, the Germans had lost one killed and one captured, and the fighting had largely gone against them. Some good things had happened, but not enough to keep the Italians from clearly having the upper hand. The Germans lost 5 units to the Italians 4, but the types of units lost and the relative position (and condition) of the remaining troops on the field made it extremely likely that the balance would continue to tip further in the Italians favor.

It was a fun evening, and Josh seemed to to enjoy himself (there was no doubt Ryan would, as he has played with us many times before). Impetus, as always, provided a fun game.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Thrill is Gone

Sad to see that B.B. King, the "King of the Blues" died late last night at the age of 89. King's place in the history of blues guitar, and his impact on guitarists of all kinds is incalculable, including such luminaries (and personal favorites) as Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. As a matter of fact, I think I will go pop in the CD "Riding with the King" (2000, Clapton and King) and listen to it for about the hundredth time.

King's trademark style is reflective of his belief that he didn't want the music to distract from the story that the song was telling. Because of that, he rarely played and sang at the same time, but used guitar licks, chop chords and single notes to serve as point/counterpoint throughout a song. As I saw it written once, he was having a conversation with his guitar "Lucille", and I think that is the best description of his style that I have read.

The Thrill is Gone. 1993. Pure brilliance.

And again with Eric Clapton.

Rest in peace.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Garnet Valley School Nonsense...Cough Cough

It looks like we had a "sick out" this morning at my daughter's high school. As the email from the school district put it, they had more teachers call out sick than they had substitutes to cover for them. So a bunch of teacher-less classes gathered in the auditorium to do...I'm not sure what. Presumably not learn much.

Or it could just be a coincidence on a beautiful sunny warm spring day. I guess.

Our teachers have been without a contract for a year or two, and are getting more vocal about their dissatisfaction. Both the administration and the teachers association are sending out letters and emails leveling almost identical claims at each other (unwilling to negotiate in good faith, etc). The teachers' association recently informed the parents that they will henceforth be working "by rule", which means that they will not participate in anything extra (i.e. anything for which they don't get paid).

I'll freely admit I'm not privy to much of the detail of what exactly has been going on, but I do know that the teachers wanted an independent party to come in an evaluate the situation. That occurred. The independent party basically said that the district's offer was fair, at which point the teachers (who called for this in the first place) then rejected the independent party's findings. OK.

From what I have heard, one of the main sticking points is that the teachers are upset at what they see as declining health benefits, and being asked to pay more for those benefits. I hate to say wake up and smell the crappy state of employer-sponsored health benefits that exists everywhere in the workplace today, but...wake up and smell the crappy state of employer-sponsored health benefits that exists everywhere in the workplace today. Spiraling out of control healthcare costs are what employers everywhere are facing, and they don't have much choice but to pass some of that expense along to the employees. I think you would be hard-pressed to find many places where health benefits are getting better and/or cheaper. So do I feel for the teachers? Sure. Have much sympathy? No. We're all in the same boat.

It will be interesting (not in a good way) to see how this continues to escalate. We have great teachers. We have great administrators. We have great facilities. We have terrific, involved parents. Our district has an awful lot going for it compared to many. As the music teachers commented from the stage during a combined middle school and high school jazz concert a week or two ago, it is great that we are so fortunate that at a time when so many other districts are cutting back on music and the arts and all sorts of other non-essential programs, we get to have high school jazz bands, middle school jazz ensembles, classical guitar groups, and all sorts of other non-mainstream musical activities beyond just "band". And this is true of the sports programs, theater, and many other clubs and activities.

The teachers have a lot to lose. The administration has a lot to lose. The kids, of course, have the most to lose. Let's hope we can all keep the stupidity to a tolerable level.