Let's talk about games

OK guys, it's nerd time. I'm going to share about some games that have been claiming my attention recently, and they may be relevant to your interests as well. I started writing this in my last post but once I start geeking out about games then it's hard to stop, so this gets its own entry.

Yomi is a card game that simulates fighting games like Street Fighter better than anything, ever. There's a reason for that. The designer, David Sirlin, is a champion Street Fighter player and did game balance on Street Fighter HD Remix. He also designed a game based on the gem-matching mechanics of Puzzle Fighter (the best puzzle game of all time). If any of that sounds interesting then you should definitely check it out. The physical game costs $100 which I truly believe is a bargain (and would make a great birthday present, hint hint). You can also play Yomi online for free and learn against the CPU.

For a long time I didn't understand it, then I learned that Facebook is for games. Now we're BFFs. The nature of the beast is that I only play most games for a week or two before the fun dries up and I forget why they were ever so compelling in the first place and then I quit. That's okay though. Jungle Jewels and Millionaire City are good for killing a few minutes at work.

Ogre is quite old compared to these other games, but it's new to me. It was described on an episode of Three Moves Ahead as easy to learn, quick to play, yet satisfyingly strategic. OK, I'm sold! Only problem is, it's out of print, and used copies sell for over $60 on eBay. So instead I created a full set of 76 game pieces with $15 worth of Scrabble tiles and hand-crafted token designs. Enjoy.

Winter wrap-up

Something about the winter inspires these bundled, infrequent posts. We're fully tucked in now after seven snowstorms in six weeks, so at least we can say it's going to be a very white Christmas for our first year in the new house. We've been busy little elves this December. I'll try to capture the highlights.

The chickens have fully adjusted to winter and are back up to peak egg production after a couple of touch-and-go months. I keep them cooped up all day with a 150-watt lamp and a heated dog dish (tucked safely away in the lower nesting box so they can't crap in it: it's a wonder how long it took me to figure that one out). I half expected they'd be frozen to death by now, but they seem totally unfazed.

Jenna's wedding ring was missing for a few nerve-wracking days. I got to be the hero and find it and return it to her. I haven't seen her that happy since the first time I gave her the engagement ring. OK and maybe our wedding too, but that's poetic, right?

This is the best police recruitment video ever. Seriously. When I'm feeling uninspired, I just play that and let the wailing guitar riffs lift my spirits. It has become the unofficial theme song of our office. The pace drags after the intro, but be sure to watch the end for the killer finale (complete with an exploding car and more laser sounds).

The cold weather hasn't stopped me from making ice cream. Right now in the freezer I've got peppermint, vanilla/blackberry swirl, and my newest innovation: mudslide. Why prepare mudslides in a blender--the "old fashioned way"--when you can make an ice cream with the liquor mixed in? Just add chocolate syrup and whipped cream, and enjoy! Next up, grasshopper.

Natalie is a big girl. Two years old is the best age yet. She's more prone to sudden displays of affection and just a lot of fun in general. I'm really digging on the dialogue that have together. Notable quotes:
  • On her weekly kindermusic class: "I go to musnic school and we eat cake and play musnical chairs. I hope you come with us next time. You should."
  • On Christmas: "I'm so 'cited! It's almost Jesus' birthday! We open presents and eat cake! Presents for everybody!"
  • On Santa: "He fly. And he have deer."

3rd Sunday of Advent

I planned to write a new post for each Advent Sunday this year but then, I forgot. So here's this for today. As the chaos of Holiday Shopping Time swirls around us, I hope you are having a calm and peaceful Advent season. Here are some thoughts from one of my favorite blogs about sharing the spirit of expectation and hope.
5 Powerful Ways to Share an Experience This Holiday Season
Shared experiences bring us closer to our loved ones and positively impact our own lives. And if we choose the right activities, we might even leave a lasting mark on our neighbors, our community and our world.
Veni Redemptor gentium ("Savior of the nations, come!")

What time is it?

As I get older, I find myself interested in traditional Christian practices. This year I've been particularly observing the liturgical calendar. When I visited St. John's Abbey during Lent, I learned what that season meant to them. Lent was followed by Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost; then the part of the year referred to as "Ordinary Time." Today marks the beginning of Advent, which kicks off the second major center of "Sacred Time" (Advent, Christmas and Epiphany).

The focus of Advent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth. The traditional "Christmas season" does not actually begin until Christmas Eve. Advent is supposed to be a somber season that increases in expectation and hope with each day approaching the arrival of the Messiah that is celebrated at Christmas.

We gathered together all the Advent paraphernalia at home: the wreath, three different calendars (two of which are hand-made), and weekly prayers. I hope this will become a new family tradition. We explained Natalie's role to her last night. She is already excited to blow out the "birthday" candles!

Spider Dance

Natalie is crazy about this page on Pendleton Ward's website. It's just a simple animated walking sequence with a soundtrack of like six chiptunes. And yet she demands to watch it over and over again. This has replaced YouTube videos of Hello Kitty as her laptop entertainment of choice.

Snow day

This morning I woke up to snow on the ground. It's winter in the new house! Fall has swept through, stripping bare the trees that seemed to comprise a vast and secret forest behind our home, revealing tops of townhouses over the bluffs. Now the earth is wrapped in its clean white blanket and the trees sparkle with magical bedazzlement.

At two and a half years old I wondered whether Natalie would even remember this white stuff. I needn't have worried. As soon as she woke up, Natalie ran to the window and started shouting. "Snow! It's rainin'. It's a beach? Come on come on 'et's p'ay inna SNOW!"

She was excited about each item of winter clothing I draped on or pulled her into, and the excitement lasted until we got outside. "I can't walk," she announced, so I carried her. Then she got fibers from the scarf in her mouth. A couple of minutes later, when I was about halfway through building a snowman, she was cold and wet enough that it was time to go back inside.

"We've got six more months of this, kiddo," I said. "Might as well get used to it now."

Catch-up Thursday

What I've been up to in the past couple of months.

  • Baseball games attended: Twins vs. Blue Jays
  • Cities visited: Rochester
  • Ice creams made: Peaches, Rocky Road, Campfire, Strawberry Cheesecake, Pumpkin
  • Projects completed: garbage disposal installation, storm door repair, fire pit construction, new ramp on chicken coop, play kitchen
  • Books read: The Gunslinger, The Graveyard Book, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Augustine of Hippo, The Tipping Point, How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • Video games purchased: Minecraft
  • # of mice captured: 4
  • # of days our road has been under construction: over 9,000
  • Getting ready for bath time, Natalie looks carefully at my swallow tattoos, then looks down at her own chest. "Where my birds?"
  • Natalie is enamored with the hens. She loves to throw them food, check for eggs, "chase chickens" and try to "hug" them.
  • Natalie loved Halloween. She held out her bag and said, "trick or treat" and "thank you" very politely.
  • She calls me and Jenna "you guys."
  • She thinks that it's hilarious to call things the wrong name. "Good girl, daddy," she tells me. "You good girl."

The Season of Death

What's the best part about waking up to take out the dog when it's pitch black at 5:30 AM? Outstanding stargazing. Yesterday morning was exceptionally clear. I could see much more than usual, and I even spotted a shooting star! Yet another reason that I love living in the country.
I made another discovery in the afternoon that wasn't quite as delightful: a dead, dried-up toad, and a Cedar Waxwing with its guts squashed out in our driveway. On top of that, we've been trapping mice in the house and the last victim was caught by its paws in a neck-snapper. It left a bloody circle while it dragged the trap around trying to escape and ultimately I let it go in the yard instead of killing it. Give it a few minutes of freedom before it is snatched up by a hawk or dies from limb-smashing-induced blood loss.
Natalie is getting an education in the cycle of life. She was very interested in the dead bird and wanted to "see, see" while I picked it up with a shovel and dropped it into our compost pile. While I dumped some weeds on top of the body, she asked, "oh, you cover up? Bird go sleep?"
"Yes, Natalie," I said. "Being dead is kind of like sleep, but the bird will never wake up." I scraped the goo off the shovel blade and watched the gears turning in her head. "Do you understand?"
"Let's go," she said. We went inside and I showed her a video of what the Cedar Waxwing looks like when it's still alive. "That's so silly!" she giggled, and demanded to watch it again. Then she got bored with the video and went back to playing with her new kitchen. Check it out, didn't my wife do a great job?

The Natalie Tree

Jenna's family has a tradition that I enjoy very much. Every time a child was born, her parents planted a tree for them. She and her two sisters each have their own tree in the yard where they grew up (and where her parents still live). This weekend we planted Natalie's tree.

Since we obviously waited a couple of years before planting our daughter's tree, Natalie was able to help. The top photo above is my favorite since she appears to be wiping her brow from exertion while I bend to the task of digging a hole in our nearly impenetrably rocky soil. In fact, she barely touched blade to dirt before sighing, "never mind," and dragging her shovel back to the garage.

Here she is posing while Lola stares hopefully at the snack in her hand. The tree is a dwarf North Star, a sour cherry tree (the sweet varieties won't grow outside in Minnesota). I'm hoping for pretty spring blossoms and pie filling. And now Natalie has a tree of her own. Will it stand alone or become a small orchard? We have a few years left to figure that out.

Clever girl

A recent bath time conversation. Natalie suddenly tosses one of her toy boats across the room. I pick it up and return it to the bathtub.
"Don't throw the boat, Natalie. Please keep your toys in the tub."
Natalie stares down at her feet, sullenly. I wonder if she is going to cry or mope but she seems to just be deep in thought. After a moment her faces brightens and she looks up again with a smile. "Play game!" she says.
"OK," I say, relieved for the change of topic, "what game do you want to play?"
"Boat throw!"

Home Sweet Home

"It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home"
-Edgar Guest
Jenna and I have different experiences of home. My family moved fairly often, so I can quickly adapt and feel comfortable in a new place. Where I lay my head is home. On the other hand, my wife grew up in the same house her entire life, and the transition is more difficult for her.
I think she was just starting to feel comfortable at our house in St. Paul when we uprooted and moved to the country. Personally I was getting sick of it and restless for a change!


Here's the story of how I built my little backyard chicken coop. I decided to use found materials as much as possible, which was probably a mistake in hindsight, as it ended up taking more time and not saving me all that much money. The frame was built with pallets salvaged from my office alleyway.

I sort of got the walls squared up and put some supports underneath. Just getting to this stage took much longer than it should have. I was figuring out a lot of things about the design as I went along and kept revising my plans. My inspiration came from online photos and the basic guidelines in my chicken book.

There was a bunch of lumber in our barn and I found these cool old tongue-and-groove floorboards for the coop floor. They fit together pretty nicely. Too bad you'll never see them because the floor is always covered in several inches of wood shavings and chicken droppings!

When I had the coop finished to this point, Jenna helped me carry it out of our garage and up the hill to its final resting place, beside the ramshackle deck. It was unbelievably heavy. The tiny legs I had used snapped right off so I put on more substantial treated 4x4s.

And here's the finished product, covered with the cheapest siding I could buy at Home Depot. I've been doing some tweaks ever since the hens moved in, but the basic shape is as complete as it ever will be. We cleared out most of the rotted wood planks and turned the old deck area into our new enclosed chicken run. It's not perfect but it was a fun project, and it works!

Weekend of Adventure

Last weekend was a nonstop adventure with my family! I came home early on Friday afternoon so that Jenna could set up for Nickle Dickle Day (she shared a craft booth with her mom this year). While she was gone, Natalie and I walked around downtown Chaska. I got a library card, she got a balloon, and we ate some delicious ice cream: raspberry Oreo cheesecake flavor!
On Saturday we all woke up early for the festivities in Waconia. I stood in line in the rain for the book sale to open and filled a bag with good stuff.* My parents came to the fair and sampled the campfire ice cream that I made with marshmallows we roasted the previous weekend. Then we prepared a bath of peaches ice cream. My dad had fun feeding the chickens, who learned how to escape their run, and we had to corral them back inside several times before I found and patched the hole.
We visited the Chaska Moravian Church on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, my parents and I drove to the Science Museum for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. It was such a fantastic collection that the actual scroll fragments at the end were a bit of a letdown. Still, overall it was an incredible experience. I could have stayed all day and wished we had more time to see the original St. John's Bible pages at the end.
*Mike Lynch's Minnesota Starwatch, The Glorious Qur'an, The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV w/ the Apocrypha 3rd edition, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual 3rd edition, The Dark Tower The Gunslinger, Watership Down, The Gospel in Dostoyevsky, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 3 books in the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening (Perennials, Vegetables and Fruits, and Foliage House Plants) (to match 4 other books in the series that I bought for a quarter each from a garage sale the previous weekend) and Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins.

Pecha Kucha Night Mpls Video: Andy Krueger

Here's a video [edit: no longer available] of that Pecha Kucha presentation I did last year, "How to organize an indie craft fair in your spare time." I'm terrified to watch it. But you, go right ahead and enjoy.

Playing catch-up

I've been so wrapped up in MIX planning that I've been lax in other areas of life, like being a good husband and father, but most importantly blogging. Here are some highlights from the past few months that I want to remember forever and ever:
  • Wall up: Jerry and our neighbor Dwight came over with a backhoe this weekend and reassembled our rock wall that had collapsed in the storm. It looks much better now especially since they put the biggest rocks on the bottom this time, which, I'm no expert but I think will work out better in the long run.
  • Trips to the lake: we drove out to Alexandria for every 3-day holiday weekend this summer. Last weekend (Labor Day) we ate special mix-your-own-flavor ice cream, played at a water park, and visited a nautical museum. Water fun photos below!
  • Dog problems: Lola had a days-long bout of diarrhea that left puddles of poop all over our house and prompted a visit to the vet. They were concerned that she may have Addison's disease, but further testing ruled that out. She's been on special food for a week now and doing much better.
  • Garden neglected: I fell out of love with our little vegetable plot when I started my chicken phase, as is my wont. Luckily Jenna picks up the pieces when I start dropping balls and that's why she's the apple of my eye, the Jeeves to my Wooster, and the mixer of my metaphors. So we still got some food out of it, is what I'm trying to say.
  • Adam and Miranda Lu, friends who we have not seen practically since college seven years ago, made a surprise visit to our house! They cooked us dinner and it was awesome. Next we get to visit their new place in Rochester, which would be a beautiful drive in the fall.

Eggs, one-half doz.

1/2 dozen homegrown eggs vs. store-bought "large" whites
Once they got rolling, our chickens have laid at least one egg per day among the four of them. Today's running total is seven brown (two broke) and three blue. The brown shells come in a pleasant creamy tone, sometimes lightly speckled. The others are some kind of amazing blue-green Martha Stewart Living color.
After a few days they even learned to use the nesting box, just like the book said they would. In fact I've had a textbook flock so far. I should not be surprised but it is still delightful to follow instructions and see everything come out the way it was promised. This has not been my experience with for example, parenting books, by way of contrast.
I sort of don't want to eat the eggs. The first one tasted great, so I have no reason to hesitate on that front. It's just that they look so beautiful. Maybe I'll do them up all hard-boiled, and admire the shells for just a little bit longer.

Wildlife report

Our French doors have given us a whole new perspective on insect viewing. They seem to be a magnet for bugs. A giant grasshopper hung out there for a long time and I watched its spiracle muscles flexing for respiration. So cool!
Then there's the big fellow above. Jenna found this unicorn-horned caterpillar in the yard on August 15. It was about as long as her index finger, and so colorful. I'm convinced it's a Leafy Spurge Hawkmoth, based on the photos on that page. Any amateur lepidopterists out there can feel free to set me straight.
Moving from insects to larger things, I was driving through a marsh near our house in the early evening, and saw that it was full of egrets! They were everywhere! I have never seen so many together in one place. I guess they were all nesting down for the night. Super cool.

My Pet Chickens

This chicken is the first one I named because she was the most curious. A few days after they arrived, while the others were hiding under the coop, Starbuck was peeking around corners to see what I was up to. I would glance up and there she was, staring right back at me! I love her coloring. It's hard to make out from the photo, but the dark spots on her feathers are actually tinted brown. And the grey legs... so cool! She's like a robot hen.
I don't know which bird is at the top of the pecking order, but Lacey is definitely at the bottom. She's the most shy and the other birds will put her in her place. Many nights when I go outside to tuck them in and all the other birds are lined up on the perch inside, Lacey is nesting on top of the roof like an outcast. I'm reasonably certain that she is a Silver Laced Wyandotte (thus the name).
Prinny is a Barred Plymouth Rock hen. Before these chickens came up free on Craigslist, I had planned to use this breed for my entire flock. I ended up with a much more interesting assortment but these are still beautiful birds! Rocks are supposedly docile, cold-hardy, dependable layers. I wonder if my first egg came from her?
This lovely brown bird is either a true Araucana/Ameraucana or (more likely) a mixed breed known as "Easter Eggers." That's what I think Starbuck is, too. In any case, they should both lay blue-shelled eggs. Cadbury is my prettiest chicken. Look at that tail! And that neck tuft! I love the color variation on her feathers too. Anyway, that's my whole flock.
"But Andy," I hear you asking, "didn't you say you got SIX chickens? What happened to the other two?"
Well I have good news for you, animal lovers, I didn't turn them into chicken soup. I originally designed the coop for 3-4 hens and there simply wasn't enough room for six to fit comfortably. So I drove them over to my coworker Greg's house where they joined his bigger flock of free-range chickens. They now share a spacious coop building with other happy hens. Here they are on the way to their new home:
Bye bye, birdies.

I got it egg time

Chickens laid my first homegrown egg today! I made it into three tiny crepes. It was delicious.

Anniversary 2010

In between days of MIX events, I took time away from that madhouse and from work to spend time with my lovely wife, for our sixth anniversary. We had a lovely time together. Natalie stayed home with her grandma while we went thrifting and visited Minneapolis. The shopping was fun without a toddler to constantly entertain. I forgot how enjoyable it can be to quietly browse and take my time at something. Jenna scored a sweet wooden play oven for only $6.

We had a late brunch at French Meadow, one half of an omelette each. The weather was perfect for sitting outside and watching the Uptown traffic go by. The less said about our lunch at Melting Pot, the better. Food was okay, service sucked. After dinking around on Nicollet for a while it was time to head back home and relieve our babysitter.

I learned "iron" is the traditional gift for the sixth anniversary, so I started shopping on Etsy a few months ago and found this awesome necklace (as you can see above!). It's a faceted piece of jasper-streaked iron pyrite, surrounded by a hammered sterling silver ring that was patinaed dark and hand polished to resemble the color of the iron in the stone. Very unique, interesting, and beautiful... just like my bride!

MIX 2010

2D Cloud Kids MiX 2010

The Minneapolis Indie Xpo was incredible. We got fantastic press coverage for a first year event. Four spots on Fox 9, interviews with me in Vita.mn and the Star Tribune, the Onion A.V. Club, and this great article in the Minneapolis Downtown Journal. Sarah was interviewed on Radio K's Culture Queue. The City Pages promoted us in their annual comics issue (which we helped organize) and put us on their weekly A-List. Most exciting for me, we got Boinged!

Precious Little Film Fest

The Precious Little Film Fest was a success. A good crowd came out and filled the theatre about halfway. I delivered a welcome speech along with my fellow MC Danno Klonowski, then we sat down and got out of the way. It was fun to see the animations on a big screen and this was the perfect audience for watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

MIX 2010: The Soap Factory Interior

I was the first to arrive at The Soap Factory on Saturday morning, which is just the way I like it. Sarah arrived soon afterward with Brian Heater of the Daily Cross Hatch, who manned the front table as a volunteer. Kevin and my dad helped for most of the day too.

One of the Soap Factory's front desk volunteers was my old pal Cali, who I used to work with when I served on the board of the Sibley Bike Depot. Former board member John showed up too. But the biggest blast from my past was college buddy Becky, who just happened to be visiting Minneapolis with her new husband!

the organizers!

After a mad rush getting everyone set up and settled in I spent most of the day reading awesome comics and making new friends. I met far too many amazing and friendly folks to mention here, but I want to give a special secret shout-out to all the artists who gave me free books! You are the awesomest. Just as the day was starting to drag and the heat of the building was gnawing at me, the show was suddenly over. The artists packed up and I spent an hour stacking tables and chairs until the building was cleaned out.

Donut Cooperative donuts! And donations

I joined Sarah, Brian, Will Dinski and Top Shelf's Brett Warnock for a celebratory dinner and two pitchers of Surly Furious. Then we all headed up to Altered Esthetics (after I accidentally took Brian on a brief scenic detour towards St. Paul) for the official after-party. I hung out for a while with some deeply appreciative cartoonists but all too soon it was time to head home.

Time to start planning the Craftstravaganza!!!


I got chickens!

I started building a little coop basically the first time I had a free minute at the new house, and I've been working on it scattershot ever since. This Sunday by some miracle I was at home all day long, and I poured all my energy into completing the project. I got really close. On Monday morning the Craigslist post appeared: free, six laying hens. It was a sign!

I took the wire dog kennel from our office warehouse, crammed it into the back seat of the Saturn, and drove down to Cannon Falls to pick them up. Within a minute of arrival, their previous owner was stepping out of his shack with three pairs of chicken legs clutched in each fist and the dazed birds dangling below. Then I was on my way to the farm supply store with a car full of cluckers scattering feathers everywhere and relieving themselves on what I suddenly realized was a small rug and not a solid cage floor.

Natalie was thrilled when I got home and squatted down in front of the kennel to talk at the birds. Lola didn't know what to make of them and started barking and running around so we put her inside where she howled her displeasure. I was outside until 9:00 to put the finishing touches on the coop and Jenna helped me mind the door while I moved my chickens into their new home. Photos and more chicken stories to come!

Go fast

As an illustration of how quickly Natalie is growing up, I've already had to re-write this blog post three times in the past couple of weeks. First it was about her favorite game, which was to pull me into the bedroom, "run 'round circle" and "fall down." But then that changed to standing in opposite corners of the room, while she counts down "ready set... GO" and then toddling towards each other at full speed. After a few passes I tackle her to the floor and tickle. "No," she giggles, "stop."

I stop.

After a moment she smiles and whispers: "More." And I tickle a few seconds more before she sternly commands me to stop. Then, ever so softly, "again." And so it goes, until she's all tickled out. And now with her language skills rapidly developing, she's moved away from single words and on to descriptive phrases. Instead of simply ordering "no," she calmly explains, "all done game."

Big Girl

I love how Natalie is metamorphosing from a helpless baby into a real little person. She is enthralled with grown-up stuff, copying everything we do and say, especially when we don't want her to. She always wants to "help daddy" and "see, see!" She's asking "oats dat?" about things she doesn't know the name for yet. And she wants to try everything "a-self!" before she lets us help her. I'm continually amazed by how many things she actually can do by herself, like climbing into chairs, fastening buckles, and new skills every day.

The last time I made pancakes, I decided to get her involved. I stood her up on a stool in front of the mixing bowl and handed her measuring cups full of ingredients to pour in. She was thrilled at this magical process and very upset when we finished and I wouldn't let her add any more. That frustration was quickly forgotten once I wrapped her little fingers around the spoon and helped her stir.

Natalie seems like a big girl most of all when she initiates reverse play, like when she decides to put me to sleep. She instructs me to lie down, folds a blanket over me, and imitates the same process I use with her at night: patting my back, shushing, and quietly singing her rendition of "twinkle diamond sky."


Ever since we moved to the country, I keep finding ways in which life is just like my favorite farming simulation game, Harvest Moon. Fans of the series will be familiar with the concept of the typhoon day. It's an event where the weather is so bad that you are not allowed to leave your house. When you go outside the next morning, you find sticks and boulders strewn all over your field, destroying crops and requiring serious effort to clean up.

We had a typhoon night this week. All night long the rain bucketed down and the sky flashed with lightning. When I slept, my dreams were nightmares of destruction. And in the morning when I walked outside, I found this:

luckily I didn't plant on this plot yet

That used to be a wall. A massive landslide swept the rocks down into our yard and mud into our basement. For scale, the hill at the point of collapse was as tall as me.

a view of the destruction from above

Our neighbor and Jenna's parents rallied to our aid. They erected a temporary wall at the top of the hill and connected a long hose to the gutter drain to divert water away from the hole. We are thankful that it wasn't any worse. Well, gotta go... we have work to do!