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Puppy, Week 2

We’ve had our puppy for two weeks now and we want to tell you about the second one. She has gotten to like us much better and is way more attentive. She loves playing with Coco, the dog across the street, but is scared of Josie the Great Dane. Piper has gotten bigger. She also has more of an appetite. She loves the liver treats and also she goes on some walks. We got her a bigger crate also. She is still the cutest thing ever. And she gives us delight. What else can a person ask for?

Introducing Piper

The latest addition to our family is Piper, an eight-week old goldendoodle puppy. We picked her up on Monday, June 15. Griffin and Maggie describe her like this:

We just got a puuuuuppppy!!!! She is a goldendoodle and she is a really great sweet dog. We named her Piper and she loves to play but doesn’t really like her crate yet. Piper loves outside, especially the bush. And she loves digging besides the house. She sleeps a lot and she rarely barks unless she’s scared. She is the cutest thing ever!

Piper’s phlox lair.

The “bush” that they mention is a clump of phlox at the edge of our yard; she likes to nap in the shade there, nearly invisible.

We had been idly considering a dog at some point in the next few years, but were in no rush. Like many people during the pandemic, however, we realized that the requirements of social distancing and a summer without many of our usual activities is an excellent time to focus our energy on a new project. Puppies are a lot of work, but we’re enjoying the journey so far.

Pictures from our first few days together followed by two short video clips:

Playing in the yard on a hot afternoon.

More backyard fun.

RPGs during COVID-19

My hobby, as anyone looking at this blog likely knows, is playing roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS. A game, however, usually involves a few hours of face-to-face time around a table with far less than six feet of separation between people.

Our last face-to-face game at the cabin on March 14 (on the cusp of Minnesota’s social distancing order).

After social distancing, most gaming has moved online. Last summer I tried using MapTool with some of my former players in California. It was ok, but required software installation and had some confusing elements. The lack of video chat made us all feel somewhat distant from each other.

After COVID struck, I decided to try Roll20, which is one of the most popular current platforms. A major advantage is that it is browser-based, so nobody has to install software or manage port forwarding. We found the built-in A/V to be buggy, so we switched to Zoom for video chat.

Here’s what it looked like at our most recent game:

Roll20 screenshot from our last session. Managing all of the graphical assets requires quite a bit of prep work, but it can create a fairly immersive visual experience.
We manage A/V through Zoom on a second window (or screen, for some).

We’ve all found it to be acceptable but not nearly as much fun as getting together in person.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to try another type of socially-distanced gaming. Some good friends of ours who live a few blocks away have been wanting to learn how to play a roleplaying game for some time. They asked me if I would be willing to run a family game for them, along with Griffin and Maggie. Just as we were discussing a date to get together, the social lockdown began. We had an initial video chat to discuss how to build characters, but it felt like running an actual game on Roll20 would be difficult. So we improvised. Griffin, Maggie, and I set up on the front porch of our neighbor’s house. Our friends sat in their living room, with more than six feet of separation. It worked, though the guy who mowed his lawn across the street might have the loudest lawnmower I’ve ever heard.

View of our first in-person but socially distanced game on May 16. I was GMing from the porch with Maggie and Griffin.

The game featured the following motley crew:

  • Alora — Gnome Bard (Isa)
  • HeathStar — Human Scout (Adam)
  • Iris — Elf Druid (Satya)
  • Melia — Faerie Dragon Wizard (Maggie)
  • Meow Meow — Cat-Folk Martial Artist (Megan)
  • Sir Yvor Gryffyn — Human Knight (Griffin)

I’m not sure how things will unfold in the coming months. The porch worked well enough that I think we’ll stick with that idea for the family game. It only makes sense, though, for two households. My main group consists of seven separate households, so I can’t think of a configuration that works in-person. We’ll probably stick with Roll20 until social distance rules are further relaxed.

New Hair

Maggie’s been asking about dying her hair for a long time. Sarah tried dying it at home last summer, but it washed out after the first trip to the pool. So we finally made a professional appointment. The choice of color was suspenseful. Last week she wanted it to be bright red. This morning, she was leaning toward “greenish blue.” The stylist convinced her that purple would work best with her natural color. 

Widjiwagan 2020

For the first time since 2011, I was able to go to Camp Widjiwagan this year as a chaperone for the week-long seventh grade trip. It was glorious to be back up north in the heart of winter.

The overall experience was similar to my first trip (as described in this post). I still enjoy cross-country skiing, but haven’t improved much in nine years; I still have a hard time managing downhill slopes where I pick up too much speed, panic, and crash. The sauna-dip experience involved much less trepidation, since I remembered it fondly from the first trip. It was just as good this time. For bedtime readings, I warmed my cabin up on Monday evening with one of my favorite creepy stories, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Cats of Ulthar. The next night, the students requested more, so we dove into The Call of Cthulhu for the remaining nights, wrapping up on Thursday with a few brave students managing to stay awake for the ending.

A personal highlight, as mentioned in my previous post, was our Wednesday DFRPG game with Sam doing a masterful job in the GM’s chair. It was the closest my beloved character, Zafir Abrashi, has come to dying, being nearly digested by a giant carnivorous plant!

I didn’t take many pictures, but the selection below provides a sense of things. (All of the following are my photos except for the chaperone group which was taken by Molly McMahon.)

Update: My colleague, Cheryl Wilgren, shared some additional shots from the trip: