Thank You, Murphy

Murphy was a Rat Terrier we got as a puppy. He died in October of 2017 when he was 10 years old.

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Thank you, Murphy.  Thanks for protecting the backyard from squirrels, birds, and neighbors doing things on the other side of the fence.  You would bark and protect us all.  Never once did a squirrel, bird, neighbor or delivery person harm us.  Thank you.

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Changes

I wrote this in September of 2013 and I was 49 years old, leaving an 18-year career with Microsoft and preparing to start work as a manager at AT&T. It’s an indulgent and heavy-handed write but I’m sharing it here for those who might find themselves in a similar career change and need some reassurance and more to the point, might try to do it alone.


Changes
By Mitch Lavender

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I knew the way and the path was familiar even though this was a new pilgrimage.

Corporations are treacherous catacombs, filled with dead-ends and devastating fates for the unwary.  Eighteen years, I have navigated these passages but too late, I realized I took a wrong turn.  All around me, peers and superiors told me otherwise and that the path was true, but I knew otherwise.  I knew, but it was too late.

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Don’t Kill the Dog (for authors)

There are places that authors fear to tread and rightly so.  Some things are taboo and off limits, even in the fictionalized place where we create our stories and taking a certain plot twist can completely lose a reader or worse, make them angry.

I have a tendency to write dark fiction and that is thin ice to tread.  It’s not hard to make a wrong move.  It takes scruples and sense of self to avoid it because when weaving a story (i.e., pantsing), it has a life of its own; taking a direction that almost seems to be beyond the author’s control.  The story is completely in the author’s control of course, but it can sometimes feel like it has its own personae and is making choices for itself, such as having your antihero become a predator on the weak, vulnerable or trusting.  Who would like Batman if he was a rapist or child molester?   Rapists and Child molesters, that’s who, and no one else.

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Sushi Go! Card Game Review

The first time I looked at Sushi Go! on the shelf in a game store, seeing the small metal box with cartoons of sushi with eyes and grins – kind of cute and creepy all at the same time – I passed it up. This happened repeatedly until I saw a review that said Sushi Go! was like 7 Wonders without the boring parts and that it played in about 20 minutes. That is a pedigree, indeed. I bought the game.

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Sushi Go! is a quintessential filler-game designed by Phil Walker-Harding, sells for about $10, really does play 2-5 players in about 20 minutes and is damned fun, odd theme about raw fish notwithstanding.

A Sushi Go! round consists of three rounds of drafting cards of various raw fish for your consumption. The goal is to build up the most points by collecting sets of specific card types. Players can go for instant points or delayed gratification, betting it all that they can collect a big set to cash out at the end of the round, or not. It’s an easy game to pick up and quick to play, with clear scoring reminders on all the different types of cards you can draft.

Each player has a hand of cards and each turn, they select one card to play and all players reveal the cards at the same time. Those cards go into the player’s individual playing area, and then they rotationally pass the hands of cards to each other and do it again. The idea is to build up sets of specific types of cards for points and it’s a fascinating and simple mechanic.

Luck of the draw plays a factor, but the game rewards players with points for some smart planning and push-your-luck risk taking. It’s a solid little game, whether you’re focused on collecting a long term set for a major point payoff or going for some quick points to round off your plate. Strategically using the chopsticks to get an extra card out of the hand at the right time feels good.

As each round winds down and the cards in each hand are fewer and fewer, the game takes on the feeling of a game of hot potato, where no one wants to be stuck with chopsticks or remaining cards that will not add up to any points. No one wants to get chopsticked on the last card, which is useless in the final turn.

By the same token, it’s great to pull off a big Wasabi dip at the end of a round or edge out other players for the big Pudding point swing at the end of the game. The game has some very satisfying moments and despite the chance elements, the endgame scores seem reasonably reflective of the players’ performance in the game.

Sushi Go! is a fun, light filler game and it’s $10!  Open your mind to the strange sushi theme and art and you’re in for a tight little drafting game that will be a frequently played filler for years to come. Just don’t let them make a Sushi Go! Love Letter game. For the love of all, please, not that!

So You are Gay

This is not something I thought I would ever write about, but since it’s been challenged by a friend in another forum, here it is: I don’t care if you are gay.

When I say I don’t care – it means I am not opposing the rights of gay people and I’m not marching in the street to lobby for gay marriage, either. It also means that I will be your friend regardless of your sexual preference, and if I chose not to be your friend, you are probably just a douche. Gay absolutely, 100% does not matter to me. Why would it? I’ve been married to the same woman for 25 years, and I love her more now than the day I married her. I’m secure in my sexuality. You should be too. We all should be. Yay us.

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What I fail to understand (and do not want anyone to explain), is why some people chose to define themselves by their sexual preference – gay or not gay.

You have a rainbow sticker on your car bumper.  Wow, you are such an activist.

There are so many things about personality that define you in meaningful ways, why would the gender you have sex with rank anywhere close to Top 10? To put it bluntly – your sexual preference is as interesting as your choice of bread at the grocery store.

So look – if you are gay, there will always be people who oppose your rights and label you. I’m not one of them. But do not let GAY be the only banner you define yourself by. Be everything that is you and that you care for, and I sincerely hope that means you love and share a special bond with someone. My relationship with my wife is the greatest reward of my life. It is not perfect, but it has amounted to a life I am very grateful to be living.

Maybe one day – we won’t be gay or straight, republican or democrat, white or black, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist,  Hindu or Atheist. Maybe one day, we will all  see each other as people.

BANG! The Dice Game – Table Top Game Review

BANG! The Dice Game by dV Giochi takes the basic formula from BANG! The Card Game, and provides a simplified and faster play experience.  Personally, I never played the card game, but almost universally, players and game reviewers have said BANG! TDG is so much better, they won’t play the card game version again.

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To start the game, players will be dealt a card with a character and a role with different victory conditions. Outlaw kills the Sheriff, Sheriff kills the Outlaws and Renegade, Renegade to be the last man standing; and characters have different special abilities.  Except for the Sheriff, these identities are concealed from the other players.

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On each turn, you get five dice, and three rolls, Yahtzee-style.  After each role, you have the option to re-roll any of the dice except dynamite, but whatever you have rolled at the end of the third roll must be kept.  Players take turns rolling dice and shooting at each other until one of the victory conditions is achieved.

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The different faces on the dice are:

Gatling gun – puts one hit on all other players if you have rolled three of them, and you get rid of all your arrows.

One distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Two distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Beer – heals a player by one (yourself or another player of your choosing).

Dynamite – cannot be rerolled and if three are rolled in your turn, immediately end your turn, causing one point of damage to the rolling player.

Arrowsimmediately upon rolling an arrow, player must take an arrow from the middle (you take wounds equal to your number of arrow once the arrow pile is exhausted and the Indians attack). 

The game sets up and plays fast. Things are always happening and games rarely last 15 minutes, slightly longer for more players. Unlike so many other games that utilize the Yahtzee mechanic of roll three times, keep the result, BANG! TDG has player interaction.

 

Consider Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, Roll Through the Ages, Dungeon Roll or any number of other games with this mechanic. They are single player games that can be played with others, but you are essentially taking a turn, waiting while other players play, and take your turn again. You do not attack, defend or collaborate with other players. BANG! TDG allows for attacks on other players, arrows which must be resolved immediately when rolled and quite possibly the rolling player doing themselves in. This was a welcome change, and one of the things that set BANG! TDG apart and gave it a fresh feel.

The rules are simple and after one play-through that takes 15 minutes, players understand the dynamics and options.

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As for the game components, they are excellent. The dice are large and brightly colored, the cards have cool artwork, and the counters are thick die-cut. The cards, counters and box also have a semi-gloss, linen finish, and the box has a molded insert to hold the various components. Instructions are a single sheet, and that is all that is needed. And all of this for under $20.

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Gameplay is involving because of the secret identities of the players and the randomness of the dice rolls. Because you are forced to use the dice, you can sometimes get away with shooting the sheriff and calling it an accident.  Not knowing for sure what the goal of the other player really is keeps the game edgy and has a Werewolf-like feel to it.

I will say that the roll you get matters. The Outlaw has an easier goal than either the Sheriff or the Renegade – to eliminate the Sheriff. The Renegade role is difficult to play because the goal is to be the last man standing, and the Sheriff is stronger than the other players, but everyone knows who has the Sheriff and they are an easy mark. In games of 5-8 players, there are also deputies who are concealed (even from the Sheriff) but have the same goal as the Sheriff – eliminate the outlaws and renegades.

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The other variable is the randomly dealt character cards, some of which have very powerful abilities, such as being able to reroll dynamite or only take 1 point of damage from arrows, no matter how many they may be holding. Certain combinations of these cards can result in some very imbalanced games.

All said, the game is big fun. Sure, this is a game of chance with a little strategy and cunning in how you use your dice and interact with the other players. If you attack the Sheriff at every chance you get, it’s pretty obvious you are the Outlaw. Play it crafty and spread it around, and you might fly under the radar. The fast play and interaction keeps everyone involved.

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I rate BANG! The Dice Game (scale from 1-5)

Ingenuity – 4 The fresh twist on a common game mechanic works very well, making the game feel familiar and fresh at the same time.

Strategy – 3 There is a lot of luck involved in this game, but there are also choices to make, and that helps offset the chance a bit.

Social – 5 The interactivity of play keeps players engaged, with actions being made that affect other players, even when it is not their turn.

Theme – 5 The Old West shoot-out scenario is supported perfectly, here. A shootout is fast and furious, and that is the way the game plays.

Fun – 5 We love this game. It’s become a go-to game for us when longer games are not an option. It’s also a good gateway game to introduce players to the hobby.

Components – 5 Everything in the box was top-notch, including the box.

Overall – 4.5 We’ll be playing this one for a long time.

Kickstarter Games I’m Backing

I think Kickstarter is a great way for startups to build capital to develop their project. Essentially, the consumer pays up front for an item before it’s actually produced. It could be a movie, book, game, device, service, event – really, anything.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the infectious ambition of entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I pay more for a haircut than I have backing any one Kickstarter project, and that makes it fun for me without risk, but there are some Kickstarters where the initial investment is over $100, and I do not play at those tables. That’s just me, but I don’t.

I usually back tabletop games because I’m a gamer and there are some really interesting concepts that pop up on Kickstarter. Someone comes up with a game idea and needs the funds to make it a reality. I get a copy of the game in return for my early investment, before it ever hits retail and often, they include stretch goals – bonus components when the project exceeds its goal.

Here are the recent projects I have backed on Kickstarter. Each link has the Kickstarter details, videos, images, etc. In some cases, they are over, successful and are now available in retail. I include links to the ones I know about.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

A 4X/Euro MICROGAME for 2-4 players! Do you have what it takes to create the greatest pocket-sized Kingdom!? Tiny Epic Kingdoms has all the strategy of a traditional 4x game without the cost or the long playing time. Tiny Epic Kingdoms is only $16 and takes only 30-60 minutes to play.

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2-4 players run tiny kingdoms with big ambitions. You want to expand your population throughout the realms, learn powerful magic, build grand towers, and have your neighbors quiver in fear at the mention of your name. The conflict? All of the other kingdoms want the same thing and there’s not enough room for everyone to succeed.

This game had a goal of $15k and is currently over $170k in backer pledges. 6 days to go as of this writing.

The Dice Tower – 2014 (Season 10)

The Dice Tower is one of the best gaming podcasts available, reviewing and demoing table top games. They do this for free – everything is on Youtube. I really enjoy the reviews and the goofy antics, and it was a no-brainer to support them.

Dice Tower had a goal of $40k, and raised over $134k. Clearly, I am not the only one who appreciates what these guys do for the gaming community.

Dice Tower can be seen, here: Dice Tower

Double-Six Dice

Six-sided dice do not roll well – they are cubes. There are even books available that teach you how to manipulate the roll of such dice. Double-Six dice are 12-sided, numbered 1-6 twice. They roll more easily and are far more difficult to manipulate.

I don’t play with any gamers that are trying to manipulate the dice roll (except when trying to use The Force, which is completely legitimate), and I use a handcrafted dice tower for rolling, anyway. Still, I love this concept and the price was right to buy in.

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This Kickstarter had a goal of $3,246 and finished with over #133k in backer pledges. I’m looking forward to these, and I already am seeing other games popping up on Kickstarter, offering Double-Six dice as components.

Coin Age – A Pay-What-You-Want Area Control Micro-Game

In Coin Age (published by TMG), two players attempt to control the land of Agea using a single card map and a handful of pocket change. Players take turns placing their forces (coins) on the map to control spaces, outmaneuver their opponent, and score victory points.

This Kickstarter has ended, but with a goal of $5k, it achieved an amazing $65k+, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

They even have a “Print and Play” version of the game for free, HERE.

Burgoo – A-Pay-What-You-Want game of Community Stews

Burgoo is a game designed by Dan Manfredini (produced by TMG) for 2-5 aspiring stew chefs which takes 15-30 minutes depending on the number of players.

Each cook (player) starts the game with 12 stew ingredients randomly formed into a mixing line (2 sets of 6 ingredients).  And a hand of ingredients that allow them to manipulate their mixing line, or add ingredients to the stew from every mixing line.

On a cook’s turn they may sample the stew, taking one ingredient of their choice from the stew into their hand.  Or they may spend an ingredient from their hand to divide their cooking line, gaining access to more of their ingredients, or to add ingredients from their line into the stew, but be wise because if you add an ingredient that other cooks are ready to add, they too can add to the stew on your turn.

This Kickstarter has ended, but it more than quadrupled its goal of $5000, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

Where Art Thou, Romeo?

Where Art Thou Romeo? is a nano-game in which 3-5 players take turns taking on the role of Juliet, who is attempting to find Romeo amongst the others players. Each card, other than Juliet, has two different roles from which to choose. Players holding these cards choose one of the two roles, which will subsequently make them want to convince the Juliet player that they either are or are not Romeo or perhaps point out who they think Romeo might be.

The game lasts 3-5 rounds depending upon the number of players with each player taking on the role of Juliet once. The player with the most influence points at the end of the game wins.

This game had a backer goal of as little as $1 to get a copy of the game, mailed. With a modest goal of $250, it raised $5723. I’ve gotten my copy, and the cards looks great. I haven’t played it yet.

HOST: The New Card Game From BROKEN PRISM GAMES

In HOST, the world has reached the first great apocalypse, You are either a brain munching zombie, an interstellar alien, or one of the few keeping them at bay… for now. Collect and trade matching cards to complete your mission for either an alien invasion, wide spread infection, or be humanity’s last hope, and cure them all. But every card you draw has a negative and positive value. Will you inadvertently let the enemy win by passing the wrong card? Deception is just as important as luck.

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I’ve received my copy of the game and want to play it a few more times before I review it, but I like it. It had a goal of $2k and raised over $4k in backer pledges.

The deluxe version of game can be purchased here: TheGameCrafter

Marrying Mr. Darcy – The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a strategy card game where players are one of the female characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Players work to earn points and attract the attention of available suitors. Our heroines do this by attending events and improving their characters, but advantage can be gained by the use of cunning. All of their efforts are in hopes of marrying well and becoming the most satisfied character at the end of the game!

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I backed this one for my wife, who is a huge fan of Jane Austen. I love playing games with her, and she’s played Zombies!!! and Talisman with me, so I guess I can play this once in a while, too. Apparently, there are no shortage of Austen fans as the goal was set at $10k, and it achieved well over $57k.

The Game can also be bought here: Marrying Mr. Darcy

Bocce Dice

Though Bocce Dice only takes a minute or two to learn, you will find yourself honing your skills and coming up with new strategies every time you play. The combination of skill and chance mean that, with some luck, even a beginner can challenge a master. It’s simple and adaptable structure encourages you to customize the game with your own rules.

Straight up, I loved this game concept and was so happy with the components when the game arrived. It’s a regular in our family game rotation. I did a full review of it HERE.

The game can be purchased here: Bocce Dice Game

Novel Excerpt: Find My Baby (Meeting the Dewdey Doctors)

This is an excerpt from a novel I have been working on for some time, Find My Baby.  it is a story about Zachary and Lucy Foxborne, an American couple attempting to adopt a little boy in Ukraine, but being menaced by ingenious and cruel Russian hackers who want something from Zachary.

This scene is from Chapter 2, early in the first act, while the Zachary and Lucy are still attempting pregnancy.

If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Excerpt from Find My Baby
by Mitch Lavender

 

Dark Find my baby cover-4They enjoyed the first eight years of marriage and eventually both took different jobs, Zachary working for Sentia Solutions and Lucy working in the safety consulting field. They travelled and enjoyed being together.

Each time Lucy would start talking about having a baby, Zachary would come home with a new kitten or puppy. This seemed to sate her maternal instincts for a while. Now with four pets, getting another started to look a bit like a zoo. So, after five years of marriage, Zachary and Lucy were seriously discussing the prospect of bringing a child into the world. After all, the trying was fun! Lucy stopped taking the pill and they  bought pregnancy tests at the supermarket.

She did get pregnant, but they lost the baby in a miscarriage after five months. They were devastated, but through the loss, they grew even closer, soldered by their sorrow, and slowly they healed. It wasn’t until three years later that they started trying again.

The first two negative results were dismissed with a, ‘Back to the drawing board’ and a roll in bed. Then, Lucy started feeling like there was something wrong. After the sixth pale blue minus sign, Lucy decided they should have this checked out.

At first, Zachary thought he was going to get away without having to do this, but he was wrong.  A semen sample was needed, and Lucy wasn’t there to help collect it. Still, he managed, leaving the sealed cup with the receptionist and hurrying back out the door, face blushing.

Tests came back and his sperm count was fine. Nothing was wrong with Lucy either, but at thirty-five, she knew the sand in her biological hourglass was running out. This meant stepping up to the next level. Enter: Dr. Dewdy. Or to be accurate, the Dewdy Doctors, as they were a husband-wife team.

The Dewdy Doctors were well respected and ran a fertility clinic, advising would-be parents and assisting couples with pregnancies. Dr. Benjamin Dewdy was a peculiar looking man, like a shaved ferret that had too many facelifts. That’s what he reminded Zachary of – a perpetually surprised, shaved ferret.

Dr. Heloise Dewdy was a kind enough woman with an empathic but firm demeanor. Women just naturally warmed to her maternal aptitude and men found her interesting and charismatic. She was in her early forties and had an elegant, sensual air about her. Zachary thought she was alright for an older woman, but all the same, he kept thinking that she sleeps with the surprised, shaved ferret-man. Those sort of things perplexed Zachary. He would see a beautiful girl, model material, really – model material. She would be with some dirty, redneck biker that lives in a trailer and smacks her around when he gets drunk, which was often. How does that happen? How was it that a woman of Lucy’s beauty was with him?

The surprised, shaved ferret was a successful doctor and judging from the different Italian sports cars he drove, he had money as well. The Dewdy Clinic was a sprawling complex of building laid out on a beautiful landscape, located in Valley Ranch, an upscale part of a Dallas suburb, known because many of the Dallas Cowboys lived there. Heloise Dewdy was successful too, also being a Ph.D., so she wasn’t attracted to his success. And wow… she took his name: Mrs. Heloise (Surprised, Shaved Ferret) Dewdy.

Zachary and Lucy Foxborne’s first visit was a seminar, and Zachary and Lucy sat in a nice presentation room with about eight other couples. All the couples were in their late thirties, early forties, Zachary guessed.

A screen lowered and the Dewdys came out and introduced themselves. They took turns talking through a well-rehearsed, methodical speech that they have given many times before, no doubt. Dr. Heloise Dewdy began:

“Conceiving a baby seems like it should be the easiest thing in the world– but for many couples this is not the case. Having difficulty getting pregnant is more common than you might think, especially among women over the age of 35. We, at Dewdy Fertility Clinic, offer advanced fertility treatment that is one of the most affordable in the Dallas Fort Worth Metropolitan Area and can do so because of our outstanding pregnancy success rates.”

Dr. Surprised, Shaved Ferret took over. “Patients seek treatment at Dewdy Fertility because of our outstanding record of success and experience in treating some of the most resistant cases of infertility including those that have failed at other IVF centers. Our patients continue to be our best advertising as to our commitment to helping them achieve a pregnancy. This information we are about to present is designed to help those who are just beginning the process of starting a family or those who have discovered that having a second child does not come along as planned.”

With a professional smile, Dr. Heloise Dewdy added, “We’ve prepared a short video to familiarize you with the options that are available and how The Dewdy Fertility Clinic can help you fulfill your family needs.”

The room lights went down and a video started up on the projector. A pleasant picture of a lush meadow, mountains in the background. Words superimposed over this read, “Infertility. Why Me?”

“Oh brother,” Zachary sighed, but Lucy ignored him. She did say it would be a short video.

“At The Dewdy Fertility Clinic of Texas, Dr. Benjamin Dewdy, Dr. Heloise Dewdy and their staff feel privileged to help patients achieve their dreams.”

The presentation continued, a professional announcer’s voice read the PowerPoint slide. Pictures of a handsome couple, holding hands and looking pensively into each other’s eyes, obviously worried about the prospect of infertility.

“Often times you can have a complete fertility evaluation and all the test come back normal. This is very frustrating, but does not mean that there is not a problem. It simply means that at this time, medical means are not able to find a specific issue that is keeping you from getting pregnant. By increasing the number of eggs available at the time of ovulation, we are able to increase the success rate of pregnancy occurring.”

Zachary heard a woman’s voice from behind me whisper to her husband, “That’s just like us!”

“Today’s couples experiencing infertility should both be evaluated. We should not underestimate problems that can occur in the male. The initial test for a male is a semen analysis which is performed in our lab. A semen analysis allows determination of the volume as well as the number of sperm present, their ability to swim and morphology or shape of the sperm.”

Magnified pictures of squiggling sperm filled the screen.

“All of these factors are important in preventing a missed opportunity for a cause of infertility and will allow the couple to develop the most timely and cost efficient pathway to start or expand a family.”

The image shifted to an attractive woman’s face, worried and contemplative. Across her forehead appeared the words ‘Polycystic ovary syndrome’. The announcer continued, “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may well be the most common endocrine disorder affecting women of reproductive age. For some women, the disorder is easy to identify, with the classic signs of irregular menses, increased facial hair growth and infertility. For others, the signs are more subtle, making the diagnosis difficult.”

The words changed to ‘Blocked Tubes’ and the announcer continued, “Any patient, who has had a history of tubal disease, symptomatic or just on testing, should be sure that there are no residual blocked fallopian tubes that fill up with fluid and are called a hydrosalpinx. If a hydrosalpinx is present, your chances of success with IVF will be decreased by fifty percent. It is possible to clip or remove one or two hydrosalpinges thereby reversing this fifty percent decrease completely.”

Back to the image of the couple looking imploringly at the camera. “What treatments are available?”

Alright, maybe there will be a car chase, Zachary thought sarcastically.

“Clomid is an oral medication and is often used as the first line treatment for ovulatory disorders or unexplained infertility. Injectable gonadotropins therapy involves the use of medications that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple oocytes each month. Patients who do not respond to clomid often find greater success with gonadotropin therapy.”

Alright, so when we can’t explain why you aren’t getting pregnant, we give you a pill or a shot. Western medicine at its finest, Zachary thought.

“Intrauterine inseminations recommended for couples that have ovulation problems and are undergoing ovulation induction as well as having failed other treatments such as clomid.”

Bring out the turkey basters.

“In Vitro Fertilization involves stimulating the woman’s ovaries with fertility medications to produce many oocytes; or eggs, that mature and ripen, at which point they are retrieved while she is under anesthesia, and fertilized with her husband’s sperm in the laboratory. This creates embryos which are carefully monitored by an embryologist for three-five days, and then one or more are placed into her uterus with the hope that implantation will occur and establish a pregnancy.”

The announcer continued on, speaking in a helpful, hopeful tone:

“We at The Dewdy Fertility Center are proud of the pregnancy success we have achieved through our fertility treatments and want to share with you the wide range of state-of-the art techniques that have enabled so many patients to fulfill their dreams of having a baby.

When you are a patient at Dewdy Fertility Center, you can rest assured we will maximize your chances of pregnancy by providing fertility treatment under the safest and most professional conditions.”

The music swelled as the video ended and the room lights went up. Hazel the Surprised Shaved Ferret came back out and with his hands clasped in front of him, said, “We try to make your experience as easy and comfortable as possible. You can schedule a consultation with the receptionist on your way out. We completely understand that fertility care may involve weekend procedures or office visits. Therefore, we schedule care seven days a week and a physician can be reached twenty-four hours a day.”

Dr. Heloise Dewdy came out and took his hand. Turning to the audience of infertile potential paying patients, she said, “My husband and look forward to meeting with you and together, we will realize your dreams of adding to your family!”

And with that, they both departed the stage and exited through a door. If you want to talk to them, you really do have to schedule an appointment. Nice.

“Well, that’s that then,” Zachary said with a sigh. “Pretty sure we could have gotten this kind of info on PBS or something.” This earned Zachary a scathing look from Lucy.

“I like them.” And with that, she was up and getting in the line that quickly formed at the receptionist’s desk in the waiting room. It took a while to schedule the appointment and it was four weeks out, not at all what Lucy had hoped for.

The four weeks went fast for Zachary but  dragged by for Lucy. When the day finally came, she was beside herself. She expected more… much more… than what the first visit turned out to be. This was just a planning session, and she did get a prescription for Clomid.

The Clomid made her emotional and sensitive. The least little thing would set her off. There are the jokes about fighting over the cap on the toothpaste or the toilet seat left up. These became a reality around the house. Zachary wasn’t used to this. Lucy has always been very centered, very much in control and level-headed. It was the hormones talking, he knew, but it didn’t make it make sense.

Lucy also became much more regimented about sex. Not just when, but how. She wouldn’t be on top, which Zachary loved. She would only do missionary, and she would stick her legs up in the air afterwards to let gravity help things along. She started buying boxer shorts for Zachary because she heard it was good for increasing sperm count. She took various herbs and drank horrible smelling mixtures that were designed to increase fertility. A book was always on the nightstand, “Getting Knocked-Up!”

*****

This was not fun anymore. They attempted In Utero fertilization two times with the Dewdys. Both times, it was unsuccessful. At this point, they had depleted the $7000 covered by insurance and they had a decision to make. Do they continue throwing money into the wishing well, hoping for a pregnancy, or do they consider alternatives.

Zachary had brought up adoption one time earlier. It was after meeting the Dewdys and Lucy was on the Clomid. She was… emotional. Saying that, “maybe adoption was something they should consider” sounded to her like “YOU ARE BROKEN! YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF CONCIEVING A CHILD! IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” The suggestion escalated into a full-blown argument that somehow tied into Zachary not putting the garden hose away. He didn’t give the dogs fresh water. The trash in the kitchen was full. He left his dirty shirt on the floor.

The rule Zachary and Lucy lived by was ‘do not go to sleep angry with each other’, and both had a deep respect for this rule. On this night, it meant neither of them slept. They fought into the early morning. Each time it would start to wind down, one or the other would say something wrong or in the wrong way and the argument was started again.

Finally, Zachary agreed to never bring it up again. He apologized for implying she was not capable of child-bearing, even though that’s not what he meant at all. He took a big plate of “I am completely wrong” and ate it with gusto. Sometimes, this is the cost of harmony and he hated it, but he hated arguing with Lucy even more. He told himself that in the scheme of what is important, being right didn’t factor in this case. It wasn’t even about being right, it was about being understood. It was clear Lucy didn’t have an ear to hear it the way he meant it, and that was all there was to that. He reminded himself that Lucy has done the same thing for him on other occasions.

They made up and then made love, but it was disconnected; not the usual, gentle caressing. It was a good lay but when they were done, Zachary rolled over and went to sleep. They always cuddled afterwards, but not this time.

Lucy felt rejected. She felt inferior and insecure. She felt unworthy and broken. As Zachary began to snore, she cried.

 

© 2013, Mitch Lavender

Thanks

Folks,

I am taking a short break from Life64, work and writing to completely enjoy my family and all that I have.  I’ll be back into the grind soon enough – December 4, 2013.  I’ll post a piece that highlights Ernest Hemingway’s recorded voice.

Thanks to all of you who take the trouble to drop by from time to time and especially for those who follow the blog.  I am thankful for all of you.

Life64-thankyou

Short Story–Scorched Earth

This is an unpublished short story, written from the prompt, unwelcome guest. 

If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Scorched Earth (War of the Worlds)
by Mitch Lavender

 

When I was seventeen, my hand was nearly ripped off. As I write this, that now mostly-dead hand lies limply on the desk as I write with the other. It’s not a story I’ve told before, but I need to tell someone.

It was a cool night in April of 1981, and my parents were arguing about what to do with the vacation cabin outside of Glen Rose, ninety minutes’ drive from our home in Fort Worth. Dad wanted to sell it and reinvest in his dumpy bar, and Mom wanted to fix it up and rent it out.

“I can fix the cabin up,” I said. “I’ll be out of school in June and I’ll live out there while I’m working on it. I’ll get it in shape before Deer Season opens in August.” I was so excited at the prospect of getting away, even if it meant a lot of work.

My parents fought into the night, and the outcome was that I would fix it up and they would rent it or sell it if renting didn’t work out. I would be allowed to live at the cabin alone as long as I was working on it, and my older brother, Desmond would check up on me to insure I was getting things done.

Desmond was twenty-three and bagged groceries at the local Albertson’s. He paid $40 a month in room rent and the cash left over was spent on weed, girls and his Harley.

I did not look forward to him checking up on me at the cabin. Still, I wanted some privacy very badly. In English class, we learned how Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden in a cabin, furnished only with a bed, table, desk and three chairs. I imagined this was my opportunity to write my Walden and was enamored with the idea.

The first weekend in June, I packed up my ’73 Ford Maverick with my clothes thrown in the backseat, my pale blue Royal typewriter and a carton of paper. I drove away on a Saturday morning without a single family member wishing me goodbye.

The cabin was in catastrophic shape. The white paint was peeling on the outside, and inside, the bare plywood floors were littered with dead June bugs and cockroaches. The carpet was removed when the septic tank backed up and hadn’t been replaced.

The land though, was luxurious. The river was only forty yards from the house and rushing water was an ever present sound. The trees, some of them magnificent and towering, shaded the house in even the most brutal Texas summer. There were no other houses around for almost a mile. Private.

The first day consisted of sweeping out the cabin and washing all the bed clothes at the laundry mat in Glen Rose. I fixed tomato soup on the old stove and ate it straight from the sauce pan. I then put the old typewriter on the kitchen table and loaded a sheet a paper.

While I aspired to write my Walden, I lacked the confidence and aptitude. I listened to the 8-track tape of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of Worlds on my drive to the cabin, and had finished the novel by H.G. Wells only a week before.

In this, I had a great story and an interpretation of it as an example to follow. That is what I would do – I would write my version of War of Worlds.

jeffwayne-WotWMy version rarely strayed from the original text, but it was liberating and as I wrote, my story slowly gained resonance and a voice of its own, departing from the original story. The narrator, Michael (nameless in H.G. Wells’ original), was now fleeing across the country with his wife. The Martian Tripods drew blood through needles in the bottoms of their feet as they stomped humans. The Red Weed was no longer benign and had vampire-like tentacles that also tried to suck blood from anyone in reach.

I banged the pages out, blasphemously rewriting a science-fiction classic. During the day, I would dutifully work on the cabin – scraping paint, spraying toxic mold-killer or scrubbing some hopelessly filthy sink, tub or faucet. Each night, I wrote, sometimes by candlelight or oil lantern, since electricity was sketchy. Finally, I replaced the wiring to fix this. I put down new carpet. I reroofed the home and repainted the interior. I found time to walk in the woods during the less hot mornings, but still, I wrote each night.

Then Desmond showed up. I heard him coming for ten minutes before he arrived, sitting atop his Harley. He had two cars and a Winnebago following his lead. I was splattered with paint, having almost finished painting the outside of the cabin.

Desmond got off his motorcycle as his friends drove their vehicles behind him. Pulling off his helmet, he swaggered towards me – me, still holding a paint brush in one hand and a can of paint in the other.

“Hey, Brother. Nice work.” Desmond surveyed the outside of the cabin. I said nothing and he went inside. The interior was already painted. The new carpet was cheap but fresh and unstained. Coming out, he was grinning. “Damn. Aren’t you just the worker bee?”

“What’s up with them?” I nodded to the nine people that piled out of the cars and RV, watching from a distance. A dog was barking from inside the Winnebago. I had a bad feeling about all of it.

“We’re going to do a little camping here. Time for you to go back home.” Desmond was grinning, and I remembered my father using the term, “Shit-eatin’ grin.” I didn’t understand it when my father said it, but I understood it now.

“No. This is my cabin, not yours. You are not welcome.” I thought back to the War of the Worlds, and the Martians invading England. My protest was as ineffective as the humans, battling the technologically advanced Martians. I dropped the paint and brush and curled my hands into fists.

“It’s mine now, Little brother. I’m renting it,” Desmond said.

His friends – some girls, some guys – stood back, arms crossed or thumbs cocked in pockets, watching.

The door of the camper banged open, startling me. A huge, black Rottweiler emerged from the camper. This was the dog I heard barking earlier, and I only glimpsed it before Desmond swung his helmet around and hit me under my chin. I felt my feet leave the ground and imagined wings, gently unraveling, spreading, flapping and me, rising up and up and up. My body went limp, ready to rise up and up and up. Then the ground hit me hard.

Laying there, almost unconscious, the hell-dog clamped down on my hand and demons surrounded me, cheering in excitement or screaming in horror or perhaps, both. With each shake and tug on my hand, the world came back into focus a little more.

Finally, the dog was dragged away from me, but not before it gave one last jerk that pulled my hand free from my wrist, except for some veins and muscles. My hand dangled by shreds of flesh. The spray of blood was horribly beautiful to watch.

My brother’s friend drove me to the local hospital, which was ill-equipped to deal with an almost severed hand. They did the best they could. My hand was reattached to my wrist, and I was lucky the primary veins had not been severed, but the connecting nerves and muscles were hopelessly detached. It was the best they could do.

In my version of The War of the Worlds, the Martians didn’t succumb to disease and illness as they did in the original. They dominated the planet and the remnants of mankind lived underground, in the sewers. The Martians completely decimated the planet, ruining it completely, and with no more resources to plunder, they moved on, leaving scorched earth to the surviving humans. That’s how it ended.

Now, it’s 2013. Desmond is out on parole and needs a place to call home. I hold the keys to the cabin on the Paluxy River – the cabin my father left to Desmond in his will when he died in 2008, but Desmond could not claim it because he was in prison for second degree murder of his girlfriend.

I give Desmond the key with my dead, scarred hand. He looks at me, past me – vacant. Inside, I wanted him to act like a brother, even though we are both middle-aged men, now. I desperately want him to become Wally on Leave it to Beaver – Gee, Beav. Thanks for the key. I guess I was just being goofy, after all.

Desmond says nothing and takes the key to a door that has washed away in the rainy season of 2010, along with the cabin. Most of the property had eroded into the river, but there was still dry spot or two left.  Desmond walks away and doesn’t look back, and I let him.

© 2013 Mitch Lavender

 

~~~~~

For those interested, Jeff Wayne has produced another musical version of of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation. Details at www.thewaroftheworlds.comThere is a link to a music video of the song, Forever Autumn, (originally performed by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues), now performed by Gary Barlow.  The video features Liam Neeson and Anna-Marie Wayne.

 

War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells – Kindle Edition (free)

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds (Recommended)

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation

 

Let’s Talk About Bullies

Recently, a twelve year-old girl in Florida jumped to her death. Shortly after this, two girls (ages 12 and 14) were charged with felony-stalking\cyber-stalking the suicide victim. It is still up to a court to decide how much the bullying contributed to the girl’s decision to take her own life, but two girls were arrested and the parents of the girls have been charged with failing to monitor the girl’s online activity.

The finger of blame is pointing all over the place and the truth is – we don’t have laws for this sort of thing. Not yet, but we should.

This takes me back to when I was a freshman in high school, 14-years old. I was awkward and weird. I was 6’, 3” and weighed 112 lbs. On top of that, I have big ears that stick out, like windsocks on the sides of my head. If I turned my head wrong in a stiff wind, it would bowl me over. In short – I had zero self-esteem and was a target for bullies.

bully-project_320My bully took the form of a freshman football player with the inexplicable name of “Buddy.” Buddy would call me “Gay-Boy” or “Monkey-Man,” it alternated as to what particular aspect of himself he was attempting to repress. He made me feel horrible, but I gave him that power.  He would hit me in the back of the head or take my books, pen or whatever.  He never physically hurt me, but he did make me dread every encounter I had daily in school.

When I was 23 years-old and high school was a distant memory, I was still struggling and lived in a crappy apartment complex on Brentwood Stair in Fort Worth, Texas, taking classes at a community college at night. One night, I went into the office to pay my rent which was late, and who was sitting there but Buddy. I don’t know if he was a contractor working on the apartments, or if he lived there. I noticed his dirty jeans and workman’s boots, so it could go either way.

Now, for any person who has been bullied, this is something they long for. I wanted to be more accomplished than I was at the time, but so be it – fate dealt this opportunity now and I seized it. I clearly remember making a judgment call and deciding enough time had passed.

“Hi Buddy. Do you live in these apartments, too?” I said, acknowledging him.

He looked at me, stared for a moment to let it sink in and snorted, turning away.

Really. Mid-twenties now, and still a twat. Still playing the bully game, albeit less obviously.

In that moment, I saw him for what he was – screwed-up in a different way than me but nothing better than me. Just another broken toy. So broken, he must put others down to feel elevated himself.

bully.This moment that so many bullied kids dream about – I had. Closure occurred, then and there. Buddy was just a dick. No longer a threat or a horror, though he had been for the years up to that point. He was just broken.

The remarkable thing is, I felt sorry for him. Something happened to Buddy that made him so damaged. I don’t know what it was, but as a writer, my imagination is virile and I have loads of ideas… ones I am exploring in my writes as Buddy faces the drunken uncle baby-sitter with the candy in his pockets, or the overbearing mother who makes him wear dresses at home or maybe just his broken home in general. Abusive father? Mother? Grandmother? Priest?

The directions are endless. What doesn’t kill you makes great fodder for your writing, and Buddy is evident in so many of the messed-up characters I leverage.

As for that 12 year-old girl who saw no other answer to a horrible situation except to leap to her death – someone is responsible. I don’t know if the means to prosecute exist or ever will – but parents MUST care more. Accountability has to be squarely placed and applied.

Look, young adults are troubled. The pressures and adversity they face is very real. As parents, we have to pull our heads up and see what is going on. We’ve got to help our children navigate these treacherous waters.

If we fail, more troubled kids will die needlessly.

It could be your kid. It really could.

I encourage parents to watch this movie with their kids – BULLY. It is on Netflix or can be rented. It will help remove the blinders so you can see what is occurring every day in schools across America. Ignorance to what our children are doing is not a disclaimer. As a parent – you can be called out and possibly convicted, so if you don’t do it to help the kids, at least do it to help cover your own sorry ass.

In this way, we all work together to fix a significant problem.

Short Non-Fiction: Can We Talk?

This piece previously appeared in Pot Luck anthology by Static Movement in 2011, and again in Death Zone and Other Stories by Pantoum Press  in late 2011.  If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Can We Talk?
by Mitch Lavender

My eleven-year-old son came to me last night and said, “Dad, can we talk?”

“Sure son.” I turned away from the computer and faced him. Usually he climbs into my lap, but this time he stood there.

He put down his Nerf gun on my desk and produced a piece a notebook paper from behind his back and said, “I have some things to talk to you about.”

I see there are several items written in pencil on the paper, each numbered. This sounds serious. “You’ve got my attention. Fire away.”

“Number one,” He begins, “I always love you.”

This still melts my heart when he says it. “I love you, too, always and forever.”

“Number two: Can you please stop singing the ‘Get Your Butt Up Out of the Bed’ song in the morning?”

Grumpy-Cat-Waking-UpHe glanced up from his list to check my expression, which I kept friendly. The ‘Get Your Butt Up Out of the Bed’ song is how I have woken him up for years. I would barge into his room at 7 am, boisterously singing this in a happy, loud tone, sometimes drumming on his dresser with my hands until he would finally raise his head and say, “I’m up! I’m up!” I usually kept singing it until I actually saw him get his feet on the floor.

“It’s pretty annoying, huh. I can see that.” I dare say that if someone tried to wake me up this way, I would be inclined to do bodily harm to them. “Why don’t I just come in and say, ‘Wake up, Spencer! Wake up!’ But… if you don’t get up, I’m going to sing. Deal?”

“Deal,” He said and went back to his list. I see now that this is a list of grievances he has with current operating procedure in the household. I wonder if he has a similar list for his mom.

“Number three: Can you stop poking me?”

It’s a game we’ve played since he was two years old. We would sit and watch Spongebob Squarepants, and every time Spongebob would laugh that machine gun laugh of his that I find so annoying, I would poke Spencer in the ribs. He always laughed when I did this, but of course, I was tickling him.

“No more pokes. Got it.”

Number four,” he moved along. “Can you please stop telling me, ‘don’t poop in your pants’?”

This is another running joke that has apparently jumped the shark. Every time he would head off to school or go out to play, I would remind him jokingly, “Whatever you do, don’t poop in your pants!”

In earlier years, this would solicit a shocked response. “Dad! I don’t poop in my pants!” Sometimes, I would add, “And if you do poop in your pants, don’t sniff it!”

This always got a response, “Dad! You are gross!” or “I won’t poop in my pants so I won’t sniff it!”

“Alright, but if you do poop in your pants…”

“Dad, I don’t poop in my pants.”

He’s getting too old for such things.  “Point taken, I got it. No more reminders about pants-pooping.”

“Number five: Can we do more Nerf Wars?”

This kid had at least ten different Nerf guns that shoot little sponge missiles. On days we were home and Mommy was gone, we would sometimes have a war, running around the house and shooting at each other with these guns. Spencer picked the weaponry we used, usually handing me a single-shot gun while he had the Vulcan, a mammoth hunk of plastic that resembled a machine gun, belt-fed projectiles and all. It was always fun, and he wanted to do that more, and he wanted to do it with me.

“You bet! How about this weekend?”

“Sure!” he smiled brightly, folding up his list and putting it in his pocket. How I adore that smile.

“I can still give you hugs, right?”

“Sure!” he said and embraced me. As I held him close, I could feel him slipping away, growing up. Reluctantly, I released my hug.

“Thanks, Dad.” And he turned and walked out of the room, stopping in the doorway. “But if you want, you can still poke me sometimes.”

“I’d like that, but only sometimes.”

He ran out of the room and was gone. I turned back to my work and sighed. After a few seconds of deliberation, I put the computer on hibernate and grabbed the Nerf Gun. I think it is time for a Nerf war. Ambush!!!

A video of Spencer, demonstrating some of his Nerf Guns. Spencer was 9 years old at the time this was recorded.

Red-Blooded Redneck

This piece appeared in Best of Writing4All 2010 by an Irish publishing company and also in Death Zone and Other Stories by Pantoum Press in 2011. 

If you enjoy it, please share.

 

Stereotypes are funny to me. For example, I live in Texas and have all my life. Immediately, stereotypes for Texan come to mind. Programmed ideals of a cowboy hat-wearing, gun-toting, oil-well drillin’, spur-janglin’ fellow, riding the range, herding cattle and doing sing-alongs around the campfire like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers or some other archetypical cowboy are envisioned.

I do not own a pair of cowboy boots or a cowboy hat. Jeans, polo shirt and loafers are common attire for me. I do not ride a horse on the range. I drive a Nissan Altima in rush hour traffic every day. I don’t own a gun or oil wells. I live in a suburb. I work in an office building. I shop at regular stores like almost everyone else who lives in Texas, but there are some exceptions. The few. The proud. The Redneck.

Redneck is not so much a choice as it is a birthright, and it is a badge that is worn with pride by its members. I won’t go into all the details of stereotypes for Redneck, but they include wife-beater t-shirts, pickup trucks and living in trailers. Some of that is true and some isn’t, but the really colorful thing about Rednecks is the way they talk; the colloquialisms used are imaginative and even genius, in their own inelegant way.

It don’t take a big man to carry a little grudge.

Never try to teach a pig to dance. You’ll just waste your time and annoy the pig.

Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.

Now, I have some Redneck in my heritage. My father’s side of the family was hopelessly Redneck, and so I grew up listening to these amusing sayings and hick-philosophy. I can remember several conversations with my grandfather.

“I can tell you a thing or two about a thing or two.”

“What can you tell me, Grandpa?”

“Oh, a thing or two.”

“Such as?”

“Oh, something about a thing or two.”

I was less than enlightened by these conversations. To say a girl was prettier than a mess of fried catfish was a compliment? Really. In time, I stopped asking for explanations and just accepted it. I grew up, despite all predictions and threats during my childhood that I would be wupt within a frog’s hair of livin’, I attained adulthood, and eventually took a job working with computers. This was a distance and then some from my mostly blue-collar family. Oh, they were proud of my ability to earn a living, but perplexed as to why I was not hanging around much, and when I did, I was quick to find an excuse to leave.

He ran off like his feet were on fire and his butt was catchin’.

There was a reason I wanted to limit my exposure to them, but it wasn’t a reason I could expect them to understand. I wasn’t ashamed of them. I was just ‘in training’. I did technical support for a computer company and talked on the phone all day long. I talked to professionals and educated people from all over the country. Speaking Redneck in a hick-twang was a disability, and I was training myself to speak as evenly mid-western as I could. No Redneck, no colorful metaphors, no wise-ass sayings. Part of this training meant limiting exposure to people who spoke that way. As my career advanced, I found myself doing training and speaking in front of groups of people, and my adopted mid-west accent served me well. Most of the time, it served me well.

Last week, one of my engineers called me for help. He was working with a customer who had apparently picked up a very damaging computer virus on his server. It had caused cross-linked files and a number of other issues which rendered the machine unusable. My engineer is in India, and has been politely trying to explain to the customer that he’s looking at a full reinstall if he did not have a good backup to restore. Basically, there was no salvaging the operating system.

“Sir, he is having a server which does not work. He is very obstinate. I told him we must reinstall.”

“What did he say?”

“He is not ready to agree, Sir.”

“Ok, let me talk to him.”

As soon as I had the customer on the line and heard him speak, I had flashbacks to my redneck upbringing. I checked the phone number and the area code was familiar to me – Dallas.

“Your boy here, he’s tellin’ me he can’t fix my computer so I want someone who can! He’s just dumber than a box of rocks! He’s out like a fat kid in dodge ball! No offense.”

No offense? As if saying that makes it alright to be rude. I blow it off and let him talk for a while. Everything he is saying is emotional; how frustrating it’s been having the machine down, having to call technical support, having the engineer ‘waste his time’ trying to fix it and then being told it couldn’t be fixed. I empathized. I am sorry the experience has been so exasperating. Still, I have to hit him with the bad news, and my Redneck past bubbled up.

“I don’t want to lead you around by the horns and you’ve spent enough time on this as is. The server is snake-bit.” I paused to see the reaction.

‘Snake-bit’ is just a Redneck way to say there was no saving it. I guess it goes back to having your horse bitten by a rattlesnake; there was no way to get the poison out.

“Snake-bit,” He repeated the words back to me and I immediately recognized that we had an understanding. I went through the things that the engineer had done on the case, and the findings in the reports. I spoke with him about the value of backups. He concurred, and I put him back on the phone with my engineer who proceeded to help him save his recoverable data and reinstall.

As I sat there in my cubicle another saying occurred to me. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

So true, and I was about as sharp as a cue ball for thinking otherwise.

Formula D – Hi-Octane Cardboard

Since my son, Spencer loves racing cars, I hit BoardGameGeek.com and did some research, coming up with an interesting game called Formula D. Coupled with the review on Table Top with Wil Wheaton, I was convinced to pick up this box of cardboard and plastic and give it a whirl.

Formula D is a high stakes Formula One type racing game for 2-10 players where they race simulated cars with the hope of crossing the finish line first. This is a re-release of Formula Dé with several changes from the original format.

Formula-D-1We’ve only played three games, but it is fun. I like the simple concept of shifting to higher gears allowing the player to roll a higher-sided die and potentially go faster, coupled with the challenge of the corners where you must end your movement 1, 2 or 3 turns to avoid damaging your car or crashing.

The causes a lot of upshifting, downshifting and braking to meet the criteria to not crash, but if too much damage is done to a particular component such as tires or brakes, you could potentially crash and be out of the game.

The game captures the feel of car racing without having to be a gear-head to enjoy it. I don’t even like car racing, but enjoyed playing this game. The concept is easy to grasp and has a decent strategy to chance ratio. Play it too safe and you’ll lose the race, but go too fast into a turn and you’ll crash.

WP_000544Then there is the Danger Die. This is what Wil Wheaton called it in his review and I like the name, but let’s face it – it isn’t that dangerous. Any time a car ends its movement next to another car, there is a risk of collision. The player must roll the d20 Danger Die, and if they roll a 1, there is a collision and take damage. That’s a 5% chance of collision, so happens rarely. When it does occur it causes 1 body damage, which is not that big a deal

Danger Die, indeed. More like Mildly Concerning Die That Isn’t Very Dangerous, but whatever.

Honestly, I thought the game was fun and liked the choices I had to make each turn and the pace of the game is lighting fast. There are options to make pit stops to replace tires and such, making multiple lap games possible and increasing the risks.

Formula-D-2So, we’ve only played two games with three players, but I’d love to try this more players and more laps or the street racing rules, which have great options for characters and even police to start pursuing in the middle of a race. There are several expansions that include different tracks and I will be picking these up as I can. The game components are a lot of fun, too. I dig shifting gears on the little dashboard and when moving my car around the track, I can’t help making car noises.

All in all, this is a fast-playing, accessible game without a lot of intimidating rules. It even has a basic rules version (which we skipped) that make it simpler, still.

I rank this game up there with games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan or Roll Through the Ages. It’s a great game to play with non-gamers and is still fun for hardcore types. It’s a worthwhile addition to any gamer’s collection.