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grand canyon, J and J

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re moving this month. And next. And maybe for part of December, too, I’m not really solid on that front at the moment. Basically the Navy is sending us to a new place (again) and the never-ending adventure continues. We just figured this time, as it’s our first move that doesn’t involve crossing an ocean and water-tight shipping crates, that we’d make the journey into an epic. This is the beginning of that journey.

We left San Diego on Monday, October 20. As of now it’s Wednesday, October 22, in Mountain Time-zone. I’m in Colorado. I’ve never been to Colorado before yesterday. It’s rather beautiful. But how did we get here in two days? All. Of. The. Driving. There have been plenty of amazing stops along the way; we try for at least one big Thing a day. Monday we stopped for lunch in Temecula before driving late into the night to reach…

grand canyon, under a tree

The Grand Canyon. It’s…. well, huge doesn’t quite do it justice. Monumental? Humongous? It doesn’t look real, I will say that. At least, not without hiking down into it I’m sure, and we didn’t have an entire week to tackle that. Suffice to say we’ve seen it and it is large and beautiful. As one of the US’s signature natural features, Grand Canyon National Park has been on my life-list for years.

Point of interest: We had lunch at El Tovar Hotel’s dining room and scored one of the best tables in the house overlooking the canyon. The hotel itself opened in 1905 and still has the old style and grandeur, plus the food was tasty and reasonable. I had the Navajo frybread taco, definitely recommend. Of course, I’d recommend anything with Navajo frybread… ~_^

From there, we drove on to Colorado and…

mesa verde, cliff palace

Mesa Verde. I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture since I was a kid, and it was amazing to actually get to visit these adobe cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in person. For some size perspective, you can see an archaeologist surveying the site in the above photo. This is Cliff Palace, one of the biggest sites in the area. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area between 1500 and 800 years ago. There are over 20 tribes descended from them today.

mesa verde, climbing out of cliff palace

Point of note: Getting in and out of the sites is tricky, and involves climbing wooden ladders. Between the steepness and the high altitude, this is rated as a “strenuous” climb and not for people who aren’t in at least descent physical shape. If you can make it down and back up again, though, it’s very much worth the trip.

mesa verde, spruce house

The other major site we visited was Spruce House, which is the best preserved of all the dwellings because it sits so far back into the crevice that it’s protected from the elements a bit more. Though access also involved hiking down and back up, there is a paved trail with benches along the way for catching your breath, and not a ladder in sight, which makes it a bit easier. I still got more winded on this one, though, simply because it was a longer trek. Altitude is rough when you’re not used to it.

mesa verde, trail to spruce house

It’s gorgeously autumn here, with the leaves changing and all, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. Cooler. Not cold. This is important, as I’ve got a whole heap of cold waiting for me at the other end of this trip… But that’s not for today. Instead I’ll leave you with this really cool monumental tower we passed today. Tomorrow we head south again, toward Petraglyph National Park. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) More when I have internet again.

mesa verde, nearby monumental view

meadow near El Capitan

Happy October! It’s time for another monthly roundup of stuff I did in other places. Yay!

Newsy things:
Heyheyhey, I got invited to join the staff of International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club as a “Ninja.” Whoop! Just means I’ll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff, really, particularly in January once I’m (theoretically) unpacked and a bit more settled, because…

This is moving month. EEP. The movers come in less than two weeks and I’m trying to clear things out (which is hard in a small space) and use up consumables and all sorts of things.. Expect not much posting between now and then.

For our last weekend roadtrip, we went to Yosemite National Park this weekend! I’ve got a ton of gorgeous photos to go through asap and try to get posted for you, but the photos in this post are a sneak peak.

Half Dome, overcast day

Things I wrote:
As usual, I’ve been posting stuff in other places. Over at IGGPPC, I’ve got two movie reviews, a Hobbit Day celebration, and an everyday cosplay post.
The Giver was excellent, and much better than any of the other dystopian teen world movies I’ve seen of late. It ought to be because the source material is fantastic.
The Maze Runner was enjoyable and I’m interested in what’s going to happen next. I like that we don’t have all the information going in, and that we learn things as the protagonist does.
Huzzah and Hooray, it’s Hobbit Day! We celebrated Sept 22 over at the site, too.
Everyday Cosplay: Some things happening this month and links to other articles. Just a roundup of stuff I liked this month.
I was also featured as part of the September Staff Picks, which you can check out over here if you like.

Tunnel View after storm

So that’s about it for September. Internet might be patchy in October, but I hope to have some fun things to share about the Great Moving Adventure. See you soon!

hobbit day, Bilbo's birthday party

It’s September the 22nd! That means it’s solstice day, or the official start of autumn (or spring, in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s also the 77th anniversary (plus one day) of the publication of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. And it’s Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday! Huzzah!

Hobbit Day began back in 1978 when the American Tolkien Society decided to celebrate the occasion. They start on September 17 with Tolkien Week, a chance to celebrate all things Middle-earth and beyond, and it culminates in the Birthday Party. Many people around the world do things in honor of Hobbit Day, from hosting movie marathons to having costume parties or even just eating a slice of cake and raising a glass to the health of the Bagginses.

Tolkien and the world he created have been enjoying a second renaissance, if you will, the last fifteen years or so. Ever since Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring was announced, there has been an interest in Middle-earth that hasn’t existed since the 70s. Whereas I knew no one (other than my mom) who’d read the books when I first encountered them in fifth grade, now almost everyone at least knows what “Lord of the Rings” is and has heard of “Hobbits.”

As a hobbit-loving kid, I didn’t have anyone to really talk to about the books, but I was that special kind of nerd who would still wish her friends Happy Hobbit Day. It’s no wonder I carried the “quirky” label as a kid.

If you want to read more about Hobbit Day, or my childhood memories of being a Tolkien fan, or find some fun ways to celebrate the day, here’s the post I wrote for Geek Girls Pen Pal Club. Happy Hobbit Day, everyone!

Capaldi Doctor Who Listen

Listen, here we are, four episodes into a new season of Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi is here to stay, and I have to say, I’m thrilled.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith’s Doctor, but I like the grumpiness and the alien-like qualities of the Doctor, and how much it hearkens back to the older shows. The beauty of a show like Doctor Who is that it has such a rich history and so many things to draw from to include in the stories, and yet can always bring something new.

The staple, of course, is that every so often the Doctor changes. Everything about him changes, from his face to his personality to his teeth, and all that’s left is his memory. This is traumatic for his companions, and it can be for the audience, too. Especially if you’re (to use the BBC’s phrase) fairly new to Who, it can be jolting to go from the actor and persona you fell in love with, established a relationship with over (especially in Tennant and Smith’s era) some emotional story arcs, to suddenly be handed Capaldi’s Doctor with a “Here you go, good luck now!”

But this is by no means new to fans of the show. Even those who have been around the TARDIS a time or two can go through difficulty accepting a new Doctor, not unlike the classic 5 Stages of Grief. So let’s work our way through this new rendition of the Doctor together, shall we?

Stage One: Denial
This stage is when you don’t want to believe the Thing That’s Happening is true. You find out that there’s going to be a new Doctor.
“Matt Smith is leaving? Don’t be ridiculous! I refuse to accept this! It’s just another rumor, or another instance of Moffat trolling* everyone. That’s it. It’s just Moffat again.”

Moffat Trolling

Stage Two: Anger
At this point, you suddenly find yourself irrationally angry that you’re getting a new** Doctor. The anger might be directed at Steven Moffat.
“NO. You CANNOT take away Eleven. You have RUINED this show! NO ONE ELSE WILL EVER BE THE DOCTOR AGAIN.”
Or you might be angry with Matt Smith.
“How DARE you leave us and go pursue your CAREER?”
Or you might be angry at other fans. I don’t know how your mind works. But you’re probably going to be angry.

Matt Smith Doctor shrugs

Stage Three: Bargaining
At this point, you’re trying to change the inevitable outcome. You want to make things go back to the way they were, or at least to some facsimile of how you perceived them to be. Bargaining may be with the person leaving.
“But Matt, if you stay we’ll be even more rabid fans of yours! We’ll cosplay with things other than your fez!”
Or the bargaining might take other forms. Sometimes it can involve roping other people into the equation in the hopes the person will listen to them.
“Jenna, can’t you make him stay? Just talk to him!”

Jenna Coleman Clara Doctor Who

Stage Four: Depression
By now, the loss of Your Doctor is making you feel very down in the dumps. You’re convinced the show just won’t be the same*** without Your Doctor, and that you’ll never love another Doctor as much as you did this one. Your Doctor was the Best Doctor There Ever Was and no one could replace him.

David Tennant Doctor Who crying

Stage Five: Acceptance
When you finally come to terms with the fact that there’s a new**** Doctor, you’ve reached acceptance. This usually happens some time in the first several episodes. For some, it happened when he dueled Robin Hood using only a spoon in “Robot of Sherwood.” For many of the fans, it seemed to happen with the most recent episode, “Listen.” (Some people got behind Capaldi much earlier, of course. We’ll come back to them.) Maybe some are still waiting for their “Oh, this IS the Doctor!” moment. But it’s coming.

Not every fan likes every regeneration of the Doctor the same. People have their affinities, and for many it’s the first Doctor they ever watched that is “Their” Doctor. For me, I might just be falling hard for Capaldi. I’ve been excited about the change since they announced who the next actor would be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Matt Smith and his silliness and affinity for children, but I like that with Capaldi we can go a little darker, a little more serious, and a little more alien. He seems a lot more like some of the classic regenerations (a lot of people reference Pertwee’s Doctor, but I see a lot of Baker in him, too) and it’s a very nice change of pace.

Matt Smith everything ends sometime

The main thing to take away from this is that this cycle happens every single time there’s a “new” Doctor. The first time it happened the show runners weren’t sure it would work, but for some reason it did. And it continues to work. That’s the essence of the show, and what keeps it on the air. Change brings a fresh start, and brings new fans and new stories and new monsters and the whole deal. It’s not bad. It’s the lifeblood of the show, and what keeps it from getting stale all these years later.

And y’know what? I’d bet that I can pinpoint the moment when the last main holdout decided this guy was all right. Here you go.

Doctor Who Capaldi once upon a time dad skillsDoctor Who Capaldi the end dad skillsDoctor Who Clara looks upDoctor Who Capaldi dad skills

—————————————————

*Steven Moffat is notorious for teasing hints as well as outright lies about the shows he runs, to the general frustration of the fan bases.
**To be clear, it’s always the same Doctor. He is the Doctor, just with a new face. Same guy. So Capaldi isn’t really the “Twelfth” Doctor, he’s just THE Doctor.
***It won’t be the same, but that’s the beauty of the thing, and rather the point, after all.
****Do we really have to go over this again? SAME DOCTOR. Just a new actor playing the SAME GUY. You don’t have to pick just one, they’re all the SAME TIME LORD.

teaser at Sierra.com

I’m a few weeks late to this party, but when I found out this week that Sierra, one of the premier gaming companies from my childhood, was making a comeback, I may have squeed in delight. They’ve restarted their website (with a brief teaser of…something or another) and at Gamescom they announced two games coming very soon.

For those not familiar, Sierra was founded in 1979 and was one of the gaming companies who thrived in the 1980s. My own connection was through their popular King’s Quest franchise, following the story of Graham, as he rises from knighthood to being the king of Daventry, and then the adventures of his children over the years.

kings quest ii screen shot 2
King’s Quest was one of those wonderfully simple and yet difficult text-based 8-bit games, where you were given almost no instruction and had to figure out how to beat the game through trial and error. As a kid, this often meant polling the audience, or in this case, bugging your classmates about how they beat this particular part. You had a giant map and you walked through it, finding objects and having random encounters, until you figured out the puzzle. It was all about repetition and logic and simply seeing what worked.

kings quest 7 screen shot
Over time the storylines and graphics got more advanced, until with King’s Quest 7: the Princeless Bride, we got animation. This was my first experience with what I’d call “modern” gaming, where you’ve got the toolbar and the items and whatnot. I loved this game. The player rotated between playing the princess and the queen, going through a ridiculous cartoon world trying to escape from an evil enchantment and return home to Daventry.

kings quest moe screen shot

The final installation was King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, which came out in 1998. You can see more screen shots of it here. This was two years after Sierra was sold to another gaming company, and the original founders and developers retired, and it definitely shows in the game. Though this one carries the King’s Quest game, it’s much more of a first person “shooter” (or in this case, first person sword-slasher). It wasn’t so much a logic puzzle as a check-off-the-quest-box type game, and though I enjoyed it when I played it, it was certainly different. I think Mask of Eternity was the stepping stone for me to console games like Fable and Baulder’s Gate and the like. But there it is.

And then Sierra disappeared. In 2008, it simply stopped existing, except in very old copies of the PC games, most of which have become obsolete over the subsequent OS updates since. I’ve been occasionally playing on a laptop from 2000 that can still read the CDs I have (a “special release” at some point).

Until a month ago.

Last month, the new website went live, and they unveiled a new King’s Quest. It will be the story of King Graham’s granddaughter learning about his adventures, and hopefully going on some of her own.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, these games were made by a husband and wife team, Ken and Roberta Williams. Roberta is credited on every game, and she really was a pioneer for women in the gaming industry. Though there are many more women making games now, they are still very much the minority, and games based on story telling and logic puzzles aren’t in vogue the way first person shooters are. I hope this new chapter takes us back in that direction, toward the smart and well written challenges and away from the hack and slash that’s so common these days. Or maybe it can at least round out the choices a bit more. Let’s head back to Daventry!

Jo and J in Temecula, 2014

Well, it’s September 3rd. Where has this summer gone?

For starters, it’s gone to a lot of houseguests and fun things that we’ve done and Comic-Con and weekend trips and the like, but it’s also flown by because all too soon we’ll be leaving San Diego. There’s a road trip of epic proportions coming (and I’m not exaggerating). But more on that later.

For now, though, I want to savor September.

Monday was September 1, the day Hogwarts students board the Hogwarts Express and head north for another school year. My impulse to go buy school supplies and new shoes has mostly abated over the years, but I still get excited when I see the autumn decorations and Halloween things starting to appear. I walked through the craft store last month (craft stores are the only places allowed, by my mental checklist, to have fall things in the summer) and caught myself reaching for the cinnamon scented things and orange leaves.

Truth be told, it’s been looking like autumn here in southern California in a very bad way; the drought we’re in is the worst in five decades, and the trees are changing color because they can’t support their leaves any more. We need rain here, badly.

This is our last full month in California, and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. This past weekend we went north to Temecula and enjoyed the scenery with a little wine tasting along the way. We explored Old Town Temecula and ate some wonderful food and generally had a good time. This weekend I’m not sure where the road will take us, but there’s a brief outing to Yosemite planned for later in the month, plus a couple of last days at Disneyland.

I’m really going to miss California, but another adventure is fast approaching. So we go.

UPDATES AND THINGS.

As Seen On:
I published this early in the month not expecting to have anything else post before September, but I had an article go live for Paper Droids a couple of weeks ago. Here are 6 Geek Chic Travel Accessories that I think are pretty awesome.

You can also find me here, with IGGPPCamp, teaching a class I dubbed “Iggle Trek” that’s essentially an introduction to the very basics of wildlife watching. I also sat on the Everyday Cosplay panel (fair warning: that video is 1.5 hours because we had a LOT to say!) and had a little too much fun as a camp counselor…. I might have eaten all the marshmallows…. Oops.

Traveling:
We’re still finalizing our travel plans, but it should be part ridiculous and part fantastic so if you see a head exploding, that’s probably me. Updates will turn up as I have internet, maybe.

Other Stuff:
Well, there’s not much else to tell for now. We’re heading to Chicago at the end of our road tripping so things will get a little (lot) different after that. Lots of new things to see and places to explore. I hope you enjoy the trip. ^_^

 

Well here it is August and I’m not doing BEDA this year. There has been entirely too much happening in the last few weeks to manage that. I know, all the excuses, etc, but here’s what I was doing elsewhere just the same!

On Geek Girl Pen Pals:
Movie reviews, movie reviews, movie reviews!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: a really interesting movie, I particularly enjoyed the motion capture for the apes.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel’s biggest gamble to day, aside from the first Iron Man movie actually turned out to be quite good. I think they can now make any movie they feel like producing.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Good, the Bad, and the Michael Bay.

IGGPPC Summer Camp banner

And that’s really about it. There’s a lot coming up on IGGPPC because we’ve got online summer camp starting THIS SATURDAY, and as one of the five camp counselors I’m pretty stoked. I’m participating in the background of several activities, sitting on a panel about Everyday Cosplay with some folks I really admire, posting a basic wildlife watching course, and hosting a Doctor Who watch-along.

Y’know, before I wrote that sentence, I was going to say that I was mostly just hanging out and cheering on the campers, but I guess I’m doing a bunch of other stuff, too. Ha. It should be a fun (if slightly exhausting in the best way) week.

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