Sunday, September 23, 2012

Better Board Games III: BSW

Alright, once again it's time to talk about board games (this is the final entry in the Better Board Games series...promise).

Now, I know many of you are out there thinking 'gee, I wish I lived closer to those hipsters in Oregon...they are always playing such awe-mazing games'. Yes, you're absolutely correct...we are totally hipsters. But I digress. Now YOU TOO can play board games with us through something called...THE INTERNET!

As I've stated before in the first Better Board Games post (which is practically required reading around here), we have a large collection of designer board games not found in the average American household. To reiterate, a better board game has the following characteristics:
  1. Most important, it has to be FUN.
  2. It should be EYE-CATCHING. Just like with great cuisine, the gaming experience is enhanced if it's pleasing to look at.
  3. It should require players to make CHOICES. This is what draws people into games. No roll-and-move games accepted here.
  4. It should be EASY TO TEACH in less than 5 minutes. Any longer, and most people will shut off their ears. True story.
  5. It must be SOCIAL. In board games, you're meant to have fun with other people. The best games promote conversation among those playing.
I listed five examples of such games in the first post and then five more in the follow-up post. Here are five more examples of great games that can be played online through a website called BrettSpielWelt (German for BoardGameWorld), or BSW for short. We play on BSW with many friends & family members already, but we're always looking to recruit new players!!! Email or Skype us for details if you want to give any of these games a shot.

This time around, I'll be using screenshots straight off of BSW instead of actual pics of the board games...


Truth be told, the online interface for this great game is a bit garish. However, the actual gameplay is wonderful. In Bohnanza, you're a bean farmer planting and harvesting beans you want and trading away beans you don't want. The really fun part about this game is that you are forced to trade away beans for your benefit so there's a lot of interaction that goes on. I've taught this game to dozens of peeps since 2007 - not a single person has expressed disappointment in it.

Power Grid

Power Grid is probably the best designed game I own. Everything just fits together so perfectly. The theme isn't terribly exciting (build power plants across the nation - woo hoo), but no one seems to mind once they start playing. The game revolves around auctions so this is another game where there's lots of interaction around the table. Power Grid has paper money and power plant 'properties' so I've long said that this is a game for people that like Monopoly but want a shorter game with better gameplay.

Stone Age

Uga Uga! Me Tarzan, you play Stone Age! Cavemen work together to build up their tribe. Stone Age is a 'worker placement' game, a type of game where you have a group of workers (the number of which can be increased) that are placed in various work groups each turn. For those of you that like dice, this is your game. It's not my favorite worker placement game (that would be Agricola), but it's definitely the most accessible to new players.


This is a cooperative game. All players work together as a crack team from the CDC to rid the world of four deadly viruses. Should they fail, the world will be overcome by disease and humanity will cease to exist...gulp. I have a buddy that hates cooperative games. I taught him Pandemic despite his objections. He now owns Pandemic. Need I say more?

7 Wonders

This is the newest game on this list. For those of you that have heard of Dominion, this game is similar. The concept is simple: you get a hand of seven cards. Take one card and play it, then pass the remaining six cards to the player at your left. Now choose another card from the deck being pass to you, and pass the deck again...repeat, repeat, repeat. The whole game is only 18 played cards and 15 minutes long, yet you go through the history of an entire civilization, build wonders of the world, go to war, discover sciences, trade with other city-states, etc. There's a surprising amount of depth here and very little effort needed.

So there you go. I've now detailed 15 great games for you to try and there are many, many more. Call us anytime you want to try a game in person OR online. We're totally open most nights and very anxious to share a hobby that has allowed us to gain many new friends and create lots of great memories. Just don't plan on beating TLC...she bites back.

Lego Land!

On to the main event! Here's our trip to Lego Land in a nutshell...

 So, like I said, I had some camera troubles this trip. Great timing, I know. My main camera was out of juice most of the time (and had a dirty lens) and I couldn't find my waterproof camcorder until after the trip. Oops. 

We did take some pics on our phones, but now that we've upgraded to better phones, I can't find the old ones! Someday soon I'm sure they'll turn up along with the rest of our Lego Land pics.

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot of great pics as a result. The picture above is the only pic we got of all five of us at Lego Land.

 One thing you've got understand about Lego Land is that EVERYTHING is made of Legos. I think they said there are 6.4 million bricks in the park. This statue is about 12 feet tall...I can't even fathom how much time it took to make some of these things. Even the mirrors in the restrooms had intricate Lego frames.

The park was absolutely perfect for Jordan and Carter, but there weren't a lot of rides for Davis. This plane ride was one of them though; we made sure that he got to ride many, many times.

Just like Disneyland, Lego Land is divided into multiple 'lands'. This is Adventure Land, an Egyptian themed area. One of our favorite rides was near this spot. It was an interactive ride where each passenger had a laser gun to shoot targets that altered the ride. The guns also kept track of how many targets you hit so it became a competition (Cynthia won).

There is a Lego TECHNIC area, designed for older kids, with more mature rides. We made the mistake of going there first and trying out the roller was...a tad bit too scary for us.

Our favorite ride, The Dragon, was located in the medieval-themed Castle Hill. The Dragon is the biggest roller coaster in the park and was so much fun for all four of us that we rode it all three days of the trip.

Right outside The Dragon, the boys found these cool knight outfits. Carter couldn't stop talking about them, so eventually we caved. We got a full outfit (shield, sword, sheath, and cape) for both of them for Halloween. 'Cause we're awesome parents. 

The heart of Lego Land is Miniland USA which has tons of real-world locations and a few Star Wars locations built out of Legos. There was a life-size Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and Darth Maul but everyone was excited to see the enlarged minifig of Yoda.

My favorite Star Wars location was Endor...

 ...though Naboo was probably the most impressive.

This HUGE model of US Capitol had a sign saying that if each Lego used in the Capitol was stacked on top of each other, it would extend 7 miles. Dang.

 They also had the full Las Vegas strip, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It was all really cool.

This 'Hydronauts' ride doesn't look impressive, but it was a lot more fun than it looks. The best part was underwater air cannons that would spray the riders whenever bystanders pushed a certain button. Hee hee.

This is a great shot from a fairy tale boat adventure that Davis was able to ride on. Definitely the cutest ride in the park, but I won't bore you with MORE pics of Lego people.

Then Davis started making out with Mommy while Jordan and Carter were driving go carts. That kid has the moves!

 It all came to a close too soon. We all had a wonderful time!


We finally decided to take a big family vacation this year. After 10 years of marriage, we figured we were due. The boys had been bugging us to take them to Lego Land for months and we finally caved. Traveling all the way down to San Diego gave us plenty of opportunities to see friends, family, and a few sites, so here are a few pics from the car trip.

In Gilroy we stopped to visit TLC's Aunt Elaine...

who took us to see redwoods on Mount Madonna...

where there's a whole flock of white fallow deer...

and big show-offs...

not to mention some beautiful and historical ruins...

and more show-offs...

and flying children.

What is it about boys and tree stumps?

On our trip back to Oregon, we visited TLC's Aunt Sharon in Ukiah. Uncle Carl took us for a scenic ride around town, taught us some new songs, and made us promise to come back. :)

Ukiah is WAY off the beaten path, but it was worth it to spend some time with family. This also allowed us to travel HWY 101 instead of I-5 so we got to see San Fran and drive the Golden Gate.

Oh...and Sharon? You were right...The giant talking Paul Bunyan IS in Northern Cal, not in Montana.

Hwy 101 is a wonderful drive...even in Oregon.

We also visited my grandpa in Garden Grove and saw the Bradshaws in San Diego but don't have a single picture of those visits (I had camera troubles this trip). Even with a solid week of free time we didn't get a chance to see other friends and family in Cali. I'm sorry we didn't get a chance - hopefully we'll make it down there again soon. But for those that we did get to visit with, thank you for taking time out of your schedules for us. We loved every minute.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Raingutter Regatta

I have a cute Cub Scout, don't I!? Jordan had a great year as a Wolf earning his Wolf badge, 4 arrow points, going on a week-long day camp, and ending the year with...


First of all, let me just say that I'm so glad we used the trimaran kits instead of the old crappy boat kit that sails much like a concrete slab with a rudder attached. The trimaran kits are incredible! SOOO much fun to put together and race on the big day.

Jordan designed every aspect of his ship and I think it turned out just beautifully. We spent a lot of time getting the runners just right and finishing it, but it was worth the sense of accomplishment in the end. We slightly modified the design by screwing the sail down to prevent it blowing in the wind - worked perfectly. Jordan had the fastest leg time by far, but was ultimately beaten when his boat got stuck to the side of the gutter. It was my fault - I positioned the boat (I was the MC) and I knew it was going to get stuck...but...c'est la vie.

I hope Jordan enjoyed time with his old man, because I have been released as an EQ teacher and will now be a Bear Den Leader.

Gold Star

Old news now, but I found out mid-July that I passed my final actuarial exam!!! That left me with just a 10 page paper to write before my actuarial studies were completed - graduation will take place in December if the paper is deemed worthy. Even two months later, this is still surreal. I never have to study ever again. Wow - what a paradigm shift after 8 years of non-stop studying.

Words on a website cannot convey how excited I am or how much this changes EVERYTHING in our family. No guilt from not studying or reading a book for enjoyment. Time to be with family. Time to enjoy life, take on projects, etc. More money is nice too...

A year ago, I wrote a depressing post about how this exam process was going on forever and I couldn't get the support I needed. I ended by saying that I need a "gold star or something"...basically, I was calling out for a shot of hope. A few days later I got a very thoughtful letter from our friends at KatieEveryDay, that included TONS of gold stars like the ones below. Still makes me smile - it was completely unexpected and a real lift-me-up. So many sincere thanks, Katie! Thanks to everyone out there for any prayers, well-wishes, help and support, etc. of any kind during this ridiculously long and arduous study process.

Now for the bad news...let's face it...I'll never be done studying. My poor brain can't stop learning. I'm already working on earning a FLMI (I'll explain later) and I'm studying for the GMAT (you can draw your own conclusions), and I'm considering earning a CERA designation (Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst). Marathon Tester, indeed.


...TAP TAP TAP....

...testing...testing..., two, three...

I think we're live again. It took a while to recover after my computer power supply went belly up as we were on vacation, but the ol' gal is running again. I still have to route CAT-6 cable throughout the house and setup a NAS, but that will come with time. I also swapped out our media console which looks oh so stunning. Now the last family room project is to stuff the A/V cables behind the drywall. I'm still nervous about that project as the wall is insulated. Even with the fish sticks, it will likely be frustrating enough to draw out a few cuss words.

Anyway, tons to follow this post. Lots to catch up on, etc. etc. As always, enjoy this blog with a healthy serving of toast and marmalade.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gourmet Century 2012

There's a guy in town named Chris King. Bit of a legend in Portland. Makes some of the best bike components on earth. Aside from a being cycle-head, Chris is also a major foodie. Great combination if you ask me! Chris combines his two loves each year for 300 people in the Gourmet Century ride.

For the ride, Chris assembled three chefs from up-scale restaurants in town and gave them a theme of "Farm Fresh". The Gourmet Century is only a metric century (100 km), but made up for the misnomer with large hills and incredible, amazing, jaw-dropping food. We were served breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I'd list some of the menu, but I can't even pronounce half of it! Most long rides you have to pace yourself to have energy to finish - this ride you had to pace what you ate!

I'd been looking forward to this event for a year and it did not disappoint! I convinced a large group of buddies to go with me and I've already got Gourmet Century 2013 on my calendar!

Note to Self: Peter, you've really got to train for these rides a little better. I know you've been busy with the house and your studies, but you've gotta think of your health! Sure, you loved the food and the experience...I know you'll tell everyone on the blog how much you loved it. But on this ride, you had severe hip pain with each down stroke for five miles because of your lack of training! Remember? You didn't even know if you would be able to finish to went really slow the final fifteen miles...and got really sunburned...yeah. Train a little better, man. Capiche? But I do was worth the pain!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What We've Learned as Homeowners

  1. Every project costs more than you expect.
  2. Every project takes longer than you expect.
  3. The water heater is always the first thing to go.
  4. Three spider egg sacs can fit behind one outdoor lamp!
  5. A compact fluorescent light bulb is the perfect size to stop a toilet.
  6. Two pairs of shorts are the perfect size to stop an air vent.
  7. Bamboo clippings are very itchy.
  8. Slugs love barbecue drippings.
  9. People care more about painting walls than maintaining their home.
  10. WE CAN DO THIS!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mt St Helens

Cross one more item off the ol' bucket list.

I've always had a certain fascination with Mt. St. Helens largely because it erupted days after my birth. A few weeks ago I finally had the chance to climb the mountain and see the blast zone for myself.

There's a small group of actuaries at my office that likes to mountain climb and they've scaled Mt Hood the past few years together. This year they decided to organize a much larger group to climb the substantially easier Mt St Helens. I wasn't thrilled with the risk or the impending difficult climb, but I couldn't miss a chance to see St. Helen's crater.

The idea was to wake up at 5:30 in time for a coworker to pick me up at 6am...but my alarm didn't go off. Instead Carter woke me up at 6 and said "Daddy...Kelvin is here". Needless to say, I wasn't as prepared for the climb as I should have been.

One guy was crazy nice enough to bring his 7-year old son. It took the adult group four hours to climb up and 3 to climb back down - glad I didn't bring any kids along for the ride.

Mt. Adams was visible almost the entire climb, which is cool because it's a difficult mountain to see from the Oregon side of the Columbia. We got to see five volcanoes from the summit: Mts. Ranier, St. Helens (duh), Adams, Hood, and Jefferson. 

There's Mt. Hood on the left side. It was so brilliantly sunny that day that we didn't require jackets at all. That was great, but it also meant that we got horribly sunburned and decent photos were impossible.

 Rose on one of our many breaks. The climb was 50/50 snow and boulders. Most of the time we had a choice of which terrain to take, so we largely switched back and forth to avoid monotony.

 (from left) Rose, Cori, and Bryan taking a break. My fear of heights was relatively calm during the outing, but this picture kind of freaks me out right now. 

It was about this point on the climb that I completely ran out of juice. I wasn't even sure I could climb that last 300 feet or so. The climb was *almost* as physically challenging as the century bike ride I did last year.

 The triumphant group at the summit...most of the group anyway. Four slowpokes took a bit longer.

The big payoff. This is the new dome (which is still steaming) within the crater of Mt. St. Helens with Spirit Lake and Mt. Ranier in the background. We even got to see a rock slide along the crater wall while there. Just an amazing sight.

I'm really glad I went, but I think my mountain climbing days are close to complete. This completely kicked my trash. I might take Cynthia some day on the same climb, but I have ZERO desire to climb the other peaks in the area.

So, the climb down was also difficult. I got more cuts and bruises going down than up. The worst part was when I slipped on a snow bank and rapidly started to slide toward a boulder. I leaned away from it just in time so that my backpack scratched the rocks but I didn't. But I kept sliding! I was headed toward another sizable rock that I couldn't avoid so I somersaulted over it and jammed my trekking poles into the snow to keep me from falling down an even steeper slope. Broke my poles, but I'm alive to tell the tale. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

(f)Ace of Cake

One of my favorite traditions is giving our kids their own cake on their first birthday. Davis did a great job attacking his cake and managed to get about half of it down before getting really bored with it.

This time I was able to get a full 20 minutes in 720p (thank you, technology!). Here's a 4.5 minute highlights reel that I just can't stop watching:

The Davis Show


 1 week

 1 month

 2 months

 3 months

 4 months

 5 months

 6 months

 7 months

 8 months

 9 months

 10 months

11 months


We are so in love with this boy. He has been an absolute delight the past year. When Cynthia first had an ultrasound with Davis, she called me to let me know the results. She let me know he's a boy then broke down in tears saying "he's perfect". Many months later, Davis has continued to be just that - perfect. 

As much fun as it is to have a perfect little toddler now instead of a perfect little baby, I'm reminded of a song...

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you're two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young (boy) going out of my door.

Time marches on too quickly.