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.


Yesterday was my first–and last–ward council meeting. It seems that, over the weekend, the Church revised some procedures and, as part of these changes, eliminated the ward activities committee as a standing calling. Now “one-shot” committees are called on an as-needed basis for individual activities. Kristy and I will stay on through the completion of the ward Christmas party, but we’ll be released after that.

Brenna and Tutankhamun

Saturday morning Brenna and I ended up talking about archeology real treasure. I painted florid descriptions of what is likely the most famous discovery of “treasure” in the last hundred years or so: the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. We talked about what archeologists were and how they studied the past to learn new things.

I told her all about how “King Tut” had died thousands of years ago and been buried with incredible wealth. We discussed how mummies were, in fact, real, but they didn’t really go around like monsters, trying to catch people. We ended up hitting my computer and browsing through a few galleries, and she was utterly fascinated by photographs of Tutankhamun’s funerary mask (solid gold!) and even photos of his unwrapped mummy being CT scanned.

We left the house to run some errands and ended up browsing through the semiannual book sale at the library. While there I came across the perfect find, a treasure in its own right: a book detailing, in full color, Tutankhamun’s treasure. I bought it for Brenna (it was less than a dollar), who was nearly squealing, she was so excited to have this book for her very own.

Yesterday we sat down and read the book together. At the beginning was a section that detailed the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Professor Carter in the early 20th century. Following that were over 50 pages of full-page photographs, each of a treasure from the tomb. Brenna was blown away, to say the least. We had a lot of fun discussing the importance of the vulture, cobra, and scarab to ancient Egyptians. She really liked the gold funerary mask and the various necklaces, especially one shaped like a falcon.

The book also contained quite a few black-and-white photographs taken by the original photographer back when the tomb was first opened. It was neat to see how disorganized everything was (as the tomb had been robbed twice, thousands of years ago).

Really, what was most special was showing Brenna how should could learn about anything she wanted. With books and the Internet, she really can learn about anything that interests her. She’s asked that we study the pyramids next, so hopefully we can find some good materials on that topic.

Push the button, Max!

We just finished watching The Great Race. I’d forgotten what a fun movie it was. Kristy was bored through the first half, but she seemed to enjoy the second. I think my favorite part is still the Great Leslie finally, after two-and-a-half hours of pristine untouchable-ness (a real word, I’m sure), getting creamed by a pie. I also rather liked Professor Fate glowering all the time. The actors must have had such fun making that movie.

Tumultuous happenings

It’s been a crazy few days. The weekend was anything but relaxing, which Halloween activities, Brenna’s party, Brenna’s actual birthday on Sunday, chores, and at least a dozen other things that just seem to pop up when least convenient.

At least last week turned out all right. It cost a pretty penny, but I was able to recover most of my lost data and ended up losing only a few days’ worth of work rather than two months’ worth. Unfortunately I did end up losing a bunch of comments from writing group and most of my plot notes. It’s still baffling how both my primary files and all backups (all of which were on separate drives) could simultaneously be deleted, with absolutely nothing else affected. I’ve increased the number of backups, and hopefully the root cause won’t crop up again. I find writing to be difficult enough as it is; recreating something from scratch after it’s been deleted is nothing short of discouraging.

Now work is changing in odd ways. I’m not sure if these changes are an odd shift in a neutral direction or if they’re the first quiet portents of further changes (for good or ill). I really hope that the powers-that-be will provide answers and clarify the situation.

It’s done

I think I’m finished writing. I’m tired of fighting things out of my control. I’m tired of being frustrated. I thought that I really wanted to excel at this–outside of my family, the only thing I really wanted was to see my name on the shelf in a bookstore. Now I can see that I simply didn’t want it enough.


Jonas and Brenna woke me up at 6:30 this morning, so in response I conquered Rome.