Achievement Unlocked: Geek Dad Cred

I took the kids to Captain America: The Winter Soldier this past Sunday. You know it’s going to be a blockbuster when the theater is 75% filled at a 9:30 a.m. showing on a Sunday morning. I usually like to take the kids to the early showing as the theater is almost empty on Sunday mornings.

Warning: Minor Spoiler

Two thirds of the way through the movie, Natasha Romanova (Black Widow), played by Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Rogers (Captain America), played by Chris Evans, enter an abandoned military base with an ancient mainframe computer system. Natasha Romanova turns to Captain America, and asks in a monotone, “Would you like to play a game?” Right out of the 1983 movie WarGames. Zoe turns to me in the theater, her face all lit up, as she gets the in-joke, mostly in there for my generation.

We had just watched Wargames a couple months ago on Netflix, right before it was set to expire. (Alas, it’s still expired and not available for streaming.)

That was definitely a warm fuzzy knowing I’ve contributed to my kids geek credibility. Achievement Unlocked.

Cherry Tree Blooming in Kyoto, Japan

Winter never ends.

I just returned home from 10 days in Asia, with a weekend stopover in Japan, staying in Osaka with a day trip to Kyoto.

It’s cold, snowing and blustery in Minneapolis on April 1st, so here’s a photo of a cherry tree just starting to blossom in Kyoto, Japan. We were a week or two early to enjoy the full cherry trees coming in to blossom, but there were a few just starting. Enjoy.

Congratulations Wisconsin Men’s Basketball

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Arizona vs Wisconsin

Congratulations to the University of Wisconsin’s Men’s Basketball team on their victory over Arizona to win the West Regional bracket and advance to the Final Four.

Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal has an excellent article on what this means for Coach Bo Ryan.

The game was a nail biter, with the last 18 minutes of regulation being a one possession game before finally going into overtime and the Badgers pulling out a huge win. On to North Texas and a chance to play in the national championship.

Photo: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

XBMC 13 (Gotham) Beta 1 Out

XBMC, the best media center for home theater computers, has just released the first beta of the next release, 13.0 (code named Gotham) – go get it!

The feature I’m most excited about? After adding PVR integration in XBMC 12.0 Frodo, commercial skip is now available for those using MythTV as a PVR. That, plus the all new audio engine and and a new version for Android devices have me excited to try this out.

I know what I’ll be doing after work tonight. Sometime in the next few weeks I owe a blog post of my current setup – my last blog post from a few years ago is woefully out of date.

Why Dungeons & Dragons Matters

dice

40 years of using your imagination.

Ethan Gilsdorf has a fantastic essay up on Boing Boing: At 40 Years Old, Dungeons & Dragons Still Matters. As the original Dungeons & Dragons turns 40 this year, I’m guessing we’ll see many great tributes to the grandaddy of all role playing games, and Mr. Gilsdorf’s essay really resonated with me.

Along the way, D&Ders like me learned about stuff. We discussed hit dice and saving throws, ballistas and halberds. We studied, without encouragement from our parents or teachers, arcane subjects such as architecture, history, languages, and statistics. I learned how to draw and map. I learned battle tactics, how to bargain, how to empathize and negotiate with those not like me—be it undead kings or jocks. And a lot of introverted, socially-inept kids found friends and fellowship. I got socialized, and I learned how to be a leader. Bored and dissatisfied with my real life, I created a more exciting one, again and again, where I got to save the day and have agency.

The tools of D&D gave me permission to imagine a better me, and a better story for myself. They gave me the courage to imagine a different future. And taught me how to change myself. Not happy with lowly Level 1 Ethan, I worked hard to level up to my better, stronger, faster level 17 version today.

This is the key to role playing and I learned similar things playing D&D in the ’80s. I introduced my two youngest children to role-playing with rpgKids a couple years ago and this year we’re transitioning to Pathfinder. I’m hopeful they will learn the same things using their imagination to role play, and it helps to unplug them from their screens as well as challenge them mentally while encouraging them physically with the athletics they are involved with. Balance is good.

D&D is still my springboard into dreaming. Me and four other guys, all in our forties, embark upon these imaginary adventures on Sunday nights. How can I give this up? I leave my computer behind and dip into an amorphous, enigmatic current of magical thinking that humans rarely swim in: something epic and unknown.

I had the chance recently to re-connect with a friend from high school whom I haven’t talked to (or anyone from that period of my life) in over 20 years. He still plays D&D regularly with other friends from high school, including the one who introduced me to D&D. I find that I’m jealous of that; both the camaraderie of friends staying connected like that and the discipline of having a weekly gaming group with the chance, as Mr. Gilsdorf says, “[to] leave my computer behind and dip into an amorphous, enigmatic current of magical thinking that humans rarely swim in…” My oldest son regularly plays Pathfinder (and Magic: The Gathering) with his group of high school buddies and I like to think I had something to do with that. I’ll continue to play with the two younger ones and I hope they learn the same things Mr. Gilsdorf and I learned from Dungeons & Dragons.

Photo by Davi Silva under a CC-BY 2.0 license.