Tiny Tim

We just finished watching the Jim Carrey version of A Christmas Carol (a very odd and strangely scary movie–I didn’t much enjoy it). Like most all renditions of the story, the movie ended with Tiny Tim making his ageless declaration: “God bless us, every one!”

Brenna laughed. “That’s so funny,” she said. “They made Tiny Tim into a real boy instead of a frog!”

It took us a moment to understand, and then we laughed as well. You see, before tonight, the only rendition of this story that Brenna had ever seen was A Muppet Christmas Carol.

The house

Ah, the house. It’s been empty since Kristy and the kids moved up here to Wisconsin. It was on the market, for sale, for months. We dropped the price a few times, but had no bites. Other similar houses in the neighborhood were selling for $20,000 less (thank you, Atlanta housing market). Finally we took it off the market and registered through a property management company with the intent to rent out the house and at least recoup some of the money we flush down the toilet every month on the mortgage and utility bills.

Well, yesterday we approved a renter (based on her background and credit checks), and today she paid the reservation fee to the property management company. Assuming all goes well, she’ll sign papers and be an official renter as of 11:30 on Monday.

This great news, but when we purchased the house two years ago, it wasn’t our intention to become landlords. A lot happened that year that we hadn’t planned on (including me losing my job and then accepting a new position here in La Crosse, 1001 miles from Roswell, Georgia). Time will tell what happens to our “investment,” but this renter is definitely a breath of financial relief.

Of wikis and dragons

For several years now I’ve hosted a number of role-playing wikis on kuglerworld.com, one for each of the campaigns that I’ve run. Back when I started, I ended up choosing pmwiki, a non-database-driven wiki that met my needs. It was clunky in places and highly propriatory, but it worked.

Last weekend I installed a local copy of MediaWiki (the wiki platform that Wikipedia runs) on my website. Over the last week I’ve migrated the entire content of my existing wikis over to the new wiki, which sports a cleaner interface, better cross-linking, a true database-driven backend, and some nice bells and whistles, like the ability to export groups of pages as pdfs. I think I’m done with the legacy wikis and can delete them, and I’ve updated the role-playing link on kuglerworld.com to point to the new wiki. The impetus for this was the beginning of a new D&D campaign that we started last Saturday. I’m running our gaming group through the War of the Burning Sky adventure path, which should be a lot of fun.

Last night we flipped through our on-demand Netflix catalog and ended up watching Dragon Hunters during dinner. Neither Kristy nor I had ever heard of it, but Brenna wanted to watch it, so we did. It was a predictably bland plot (not bad, but nothing great either, which is a kiss of death in these media-saturated days), but the world-building–wow! The movie took place in a very stylized medieval world filled with floating landmasses, not unlike much of the Super Mario Galaxy games. What really cemented it to me was how evocative it was: the movie started out with green fields and plants, but swiftly transitioned into this deteriorating world of massive stone structures, crumbling and tumbling away toward the void-like end of the world.

The environmental art design was astoundingly evocative and reminded me of Minas Tirith in Jackon’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or perhaps the PS2 game Shadow of the Colossus. I’d highly recommend watching the movie just for the background visuals–I think a role-playing campaign set in a dying, sterile world like that could be a lot of fun.


Last night was our usual biweekly writing group. As usual, I’d submitted a chapter from the low-fantasy historical fiction novel I’m working on. I received some really good feedback, but clearly I need to work on my fantasy (or anti-fantasy, as it were) diction, as the readers were left thinking that one Punjabi character was a vampire and that my protagonist had the magical ability to slow down time. I can only laugh; they seem to be reading a much cooler novel than the one that I thought I was writing. Darn you, Phillip Hale, and your severe lack of superpowers.

Now I just need to surreptitiously insert more instances of “the cat flew across the room” to really confuse people…

Far too long

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted. We drove the 860 or so miles to Alabama for Christmas with Kristy’s family and then made it back safely, arriving home just in time for dinner on New Year’s Eve. The kids had a blast with their cousins (though Jonas and Wesley were on-again-off-again best friends and mortal enemies). Jonas received a massive train table (Kristy posted a picture of it a few days ago), which now resides in our basement–he really does love all things train-related (he’s been sleeping wearing an engineer’s hat the past two nights).

Not all has been well, though. Brenna and I both came down with a nasty stomach bug while at Kristy’s parents’ house, and Brenna threw up more again this morning (here’s to hoping it’s just an isolated thing). I was rear-ended yesterday, though no one was hurt and the damage to the car was minimal.

I suppose the real news is that two different families are very interested in renting our house in Georgia. One has negotiated the price down somewhat, while the other has two large Labradors (the rental agency wanted to know if it was all right to ask for a pet addendum to the contract and then charge an additional security deposit). Currently both applicants are moving through the credit and background checks with the rental agency, after which we’ll be able to choose who gets the house. We’re excited for this up-coming blessing; we’ve been praying for renters for many months now.

Finally, it’s only two weeks until my one-year mark here with Kaplan Professional Education (which, as of Monday, became the Kaplan University School of Continuing and Professional Education). I suppose that means I’m technically now an employee of a university. It’s a good feeling to keep plugging along with the work here, and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey here in La Crosse. Well, most of the time I am–I rather dislike it here on the really cold days.

Wisconsin: The Other Arctic

After yesterday morning’s get-out-of-the-parking-lot fracas, I was quite pleased to come home last night to a neatly plowed parking lot. That meant that pulling out this morning was just a matter of not slipping on the ice, which really wasn’t too difficult. The real trick came right before that, when I was scraping the frost from my windshield.

I scraped, and then scraped some more. I didn’t seem to even be making a dent. Indeed, as I ran the scraper across the windshield, I encountered not the rough sheet of frosty ice that I expected, but instead a smooth, unbroken expanse of glass.

And then it hit me: the ice was inside the car. It was so cold last night that a layer of solid ice had formed on the inner surface of both the windshield and the rear window. I was not amused.


It snowed a foot or two over the weekend, and then high winds piled up three- to four-foot drifts. It took Kristy and me 50 minutes to dig my car out this morning, all in -4 degree weather. I’m really not sure why I moved here, though I do have a totally awesome wife.

Further reading shows that this weekend’s storm was officially a “blizzard,” apparently the worst for this time of year since the early 1900s.


I think we let the wishbone dry a little too long. It just shattered into four pieces, one of which has yet to be found.

The trend toward dark and gritty

Popular media tends to ebb and flow through various trends. Yesterday I read an article about a new “relaunch” of the Tomb Raider video game franchise. The article included a picture of Lara Croft’s new look: photo-realistic, with blood and grit ground into her face and her mouth twisted into a half-grimace that conveys equal parts pain and determination. In short, they made Lara Croft “dark and gritty.”

Ignoring Tomb Raider entirely (I don’t particularly care about the games or the franchise), I see this more and more in movies, video games, and even books. More often than not, protagonists are emotionally (and, often, physically) tortured anti-heroes who find no joy in life and–heaven forbid–never actually smile. Television shows of all genres are thinly veiled soap operas where everyone is miserable. Action movie protagonists are emotionless fighting machines, and video game heroes are much the same. Dramas are little more than stories about a bunch of people and how much they hate each other. Heck, that seems to describe most of television’s current offerings, actually.

I have no real desire to analyze the psychological and/or societal reasons for this trend; it just seems rather indicative of the direction that the world is moving. The world thinks that things are sliding down toward depression and misery, and I suppose that it makes sense that people would want their entertainment to reflect “reality.”

That said, it seems to me that what we really need is a movie, television show, video game, or book that is the darkest and grittiest of all. So, let me propose a title for this nebulous piece of entertainment media: “Midnight Sandstorm.” It just doesn’t get any darker or grittier than that, period, end of discussion.

On further reflection, “Midnight Sandstorm” sounds like an awesome name for a heavy-metal garage band (a band whose lyrics are all about the dark and gritty futility of life and how miserable we all are, of course).

Dungeons & Dragons, Brenna-style

After days of Brenna incessantly bugging me to play Dungeons & Dragons with her, we finally sat down to play last night. Now, unlike the last few times we’ve played D&D as a family, this wasn’t some mini-adventure that I put together, where Kristy and Brenna controlled individual characters and fought monsters. No, this was Dungeons & Dragons, Brenna-style.

A year or so ago I bought Brenna a pack of D&D Minis, and she’s also acquired a few others (a fire elemental and a water elemental, I believe) from me as well. She now has ten minis (of which she is very proud–she displays them on her dresser). It was with these that she wanted us to play D&D. Kristy and I agreed, put Jonas down for bed (for the first of many, many times last night), and then retired to Brenna’s room to play.

Brenna had already decided that I was going to play the “bad guys,” whom she’d set up in various locations along one side of her room. I controlled four or five of her minis, along with the “boss”: a massive, three-headed dragon that she received for her birthday a month ago. Brenna got to control the good guys (five or six minis, including a mountain lion), while Kristy ostensibly was to control the two elementals that Brenna’s wizard could summon. Brenna co-opted control of the elementals, however, so Kristy ended up just watching. I think she rather enjoyed watching the antics that ensued.

Brenna’s idea of D&D was more like playing a fighting game with dolls or action figures than like actual roleplaying. There was no plot. There was no treasure. There was simply a battle royal between Brenna and her forces of good and me, with my forces of ineffective uselessness. The game boiled down to this: I’d march one of my bad guys out to the field of battle, where Brenna’s entire squad sat waiting. Brenna would then declare that it was “her turn” and would promptly smack my guy aside and declare him dead. This was repeated for the next few of my bad guy minis.

Finally I took some initiative and fought back, using my guy’s mace to knock over her mountain lion. Brenna promptly declared that the fire elemental used its magic to bring the mountain lion back to life. Yes, Brenna’s minis were literally invincible. Any of my attacks was met with “they have magic and come back to life” or “he’s too strong for that attack and is still alive.” A very one-sided battle indeed.

Finally I got a little more forceful and had one of my guys cast “Bigby’s forceful hand” and knocked her guys aside. It was all in the spirit of fun; I fully expected Brenna to declare that they somehow lived based on some heretofore undefined bit of life-restoring magic that her characters seemed to have an unending supply of. Instead, Brenna stood up and threw a fit. “You can’t do that!” she shouted. “That’s not the way to play the game. You’re not playing fairly, and you’re not allowed to play anymore.” With that, she stomped out of her room (waking her brother up in the process) and went to pout in our bedroom.

Kristy and I could only look at each other and do everything in our power to keep from laughing. From the other room came muttered declarations of “you’re not playing Dungeons & Dragons right,” “those aren’t the right rules,” and “your character can’t cast that spell.”

“It’s a real spell,” I said to Kristy in my defense. “It’s in the Player’s Handbook.”

Finally we coaxed her back into her bedroom, sat her down, and explained that we didn’t realize that we’d broken any of her rules, as she’d never explained the rules to us. Brenna took this in stride and matter-of-factly listed off eight rules (there were two Rule 4s, and at least one of the rules directly contradicted other rules). In essence, her characters were supposed to win and mine were supposed to just stand there and gleefully accept a sound thrashing and painful death.

It was bedtime about this time anyway, so I quickly let her pound the three-headed dragon into dust head by head (I think that the dragon was able to swing its tail at one of her minis once–of course, any injury caused by said attack was instantly nullified by epic Brenna healing magic). The game was over, Brenna’s concerns over fairness were assuaged, and we got her into bed.

Kristy told me that next time I’d better prepare the adventure, since Brenna-run D&D adventures tended toward a chaotic melee that only made sense in Brenna’s head.

Note to self: Brenna is a burgeoning power gamer.