Aside

A Post-Thanksgiving Ramble

Hello all!  My brain is still in vacation-mode coming off of Thanksgiving, so I’ve yet to regain any motivation to write a “real” blog post this week.  I’ll try to put something out in the next few days, but until then, here are some stream-of-consciousness rambles about my extended holiday weekend:

  • I had a wonderful Thanksgiving (and hope you did too!)  Had dinner at my cousin’s place, watched the Bears-Packers game (As a born and raised Cheesehead, it was pretty depressing), and played some Bang! and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  Overall, it was a great time with my immediate & extended family.  I love them all dearly and was happy to spend time with them all on Thursday!
  • For the next few days, I stayed over at my brother’s apartment in Chicago.  We watched movies, played Rock Band 4, and just lazed around.  It was fantastic 🙂
  • While my brother played DOTA 2 at various points throughout the weekend, I read through several Image comics I had picked up recently:
    • Lazarus (Vol 1-3) – I had only recently heard of Lazarus, but it had been highly recommended and sounded to be right up my alley.  And boy is it!  I’m still very much a comics noob, but this series is already one of my faves.  The worldbuilding is just so great.  I’ll probably do a review of the series thus far after the fourth trade comes out in January as that book will finish up the first main story arc.
    • Saga (Vol 1-3) – I re-read Volumes 1 & 2 to read Volume 3 since it had been awhile since I first picked them up.  Saga is all the rage right now, and justifiably so.  Everything about it is fantastic.  I’ve been taking my time reading this series since I’m so far behind and a trade-waiter anyway 🙂  Can’t wait to get my hands on Volumes 4 and 5.
    • I Kill Giants – I picked up this graphic novel at the recommendation of the Image Comics subreddit. (I haven’t posted anything on that thread as of yet.  But nice try, would-be cyberstalkers!  😛 ) I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I definitely enjoyed it.  A truly unique and interesting read.
lazarus2

Forever Carlyle from Lazarus  (Art by Michael Lark.  via Greg Rucka’s blog)

  • My siblings, cousins, and some friends have our own Turkey Bowl each Thanksgiving weekend.  We’re all pretty out of shape, but it’s still a lot of fun.  We played on Sunday morning, and as of today (Thursday morning), my leg muscles are still kind of sore.  I seriously need to exercise more 😛
  • Saw two movies in theaters this weekend and both were fairly disappointing.
    • The Good Dinosaur – As far as Pixar films go, this was one of their weakest entries.  It all just seemed so rote and color-by-numbers.  There was apparently a lot of trouble behind the scenes during the movie’s production, and it shows.  Though it tries really hard to convince you that it does, the film just doesn’t have that Pixar heart.  On the positive side, the visuals were stunning, and I liked the hints of the western frontier theme.  Now I wish they had doubled down on that and made a cowboy dinosaur movie.  At least that would’ve been something new instead of the bland film we got instead.
    • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 – aka Speeches: The Movie.  I swear, at least a third of this movie was spent by characters pontificating.  I remember enjoying Part 1, but haven’t rewatched it since.  Still, I imagine Part 2‘s failings could’ve been avoided by keeping Mockingjay as a single film.  But them’s the breaks.  Definitely the weakest of the series, which is a shame since it ended the movie franchise on a low note.
  • Watched the early-released pilot episode of The Expanse and loved it!  I’ll write up a formal review when the show formally debuts on SyFy in a few weeks.  But I just wanted to say that the show does not disappoint.  I loved Leviathan Wakesand the television adaptation seems incredibly faithful and very well produced.  (Also, they included a Belter version of Tighten Up by The Black Keys.  Amazing.)
  • I ate sushi twice this weekend.  I love sushi 🙂

Now I’m back at work, and with this post, gradually easing back into writing.  Alongside making progress on some other creative endeavors, I hope to get some more blog posts out by week’s end.  So until then… See you, space cowboys!

On Dice, Dogs, and Mother’s Day

Well, I already messed up the planned MWF posting schedule!  Once the A-to-Z Challenge had finished, I reveled in all the free time I had, which, in typical Wise the Simple fashion, lead to me squandering said free time instead of working on new posts.  So let’s say that that first week of May was just a hiccup — a trial run, if you will.  I hereby promise to post three times a week from now on, even if a post is just to say that I have nothing to say.

I hope you all had a marvelous Mother’s Day! I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with my mom, dad, younger brother, and older sister — the whole gang! Unfortunately, my brother-in-law was out of town, but it was still fun to just have the immediate family together.

We had a pretty relaxing weekend with no major plans. My parents had just gotten back from a trip to Mexico, where my mom attended a work conference. I picked them up at the airport on Saturday afternoon, and my siblings arrived shortly thereafter. Once everyone had gotten settled in at my parent’s house, we went out to dinner and caught each other up on everything going on in each of our lives.

After returning to my parents’ house, my father (a pastor) excused himself to work on finalizing everything for the following day’s church service while the rest of us sat down to play some boardgames. We started things off with some Escape: Curse of the Temple, a current favorite of the Simple family. I’ve played Escape quite a few times now, but our third game on Saturday was the absolute worst game I’ve played.  We lost in the most incredible fashion.  By the time the clock ran out, we still had a generous stack of unexplored temple tiles and had yet to find the exit.  We had only recovered a few gems, and had each lost three dice from our individual dice pools, leaving us with a mere two dice each.

After a few games of Escape, my mother (still feeling a bit jet-lagged) decided to head off to sleep. Left to our own devices, we siblings chose a slightly heavier game – Seasons. This was my sister’s first time playing, but my brother and I (being the cruel, competitive siblings we are) threw her into the deep end and made her participate in the card drafting phase called The Prelude even though she was unfamiliar with the game. I was actually very proud of my strategy during this particular play session. Although I love playing boardgames, I’m actually not that great at them.  But this game, I was able to draft both Necrotic Kriss and Sealed Urn (as well as Runic Cube) giving me a lot of extra points by the end of the third year.  Tallying up the scores, I was pretty confident that I would take the victory.  But as it turned out, my brother and I ended up finishing in a TIE!  Unfortunately, the tiebreaker was the number of summoned power cards and, given the Necrotic Kriss/Sealed Urn combo I had going, I had sacrificed all of my familiar cards, leaving me with far fewer cards than he.

On Sunday morning, we all attended church.  My brother, sister, and I helped to lead worship.  It was a lovely service, particularly because we took time to honor our mothers and mother-figures and pray over them. There are a lot of wonderful people who attend my father’s church, and I am so glad that I have gotten to know many of them throughout the years. There are many amazing women, in particular, who are incredibly strong in their faith, and are spectacular role models for me and the other young women.

After service, my family took my grandma and aunt out for a Mother’s Day lunch at a Japanese restaurant for some sushi, tempura, and hibachi.  It had been awhile since I had some good sushi, and it was all super delicious!

We rushed home after lunch since my dad said that he had a special guest visiting for Mother’s Day that afternoon.  While waiting around for the visitor’s arrival, the sibs and I started a new session of Seasons.  (After the previous night’s game, my sister said, “We need to play again now that I actually know how to play!”)  However, our game was cut short as the special guest arrived — A PUPPY!!

Our visitors were some folks who attend my father’s church. Their oldest son, who was moving to a new apartment, just found out that he couldn’t keep his newly-adopted four-month-old chocolate lab in his new place. Thus, the Simple household gained a new family member! My parents already own a ten-year-old dog, a German Shepherd/Chinese Shar-Pei mix. The rest of the afternoon was spent socializing the two dogs, and getting them used to each other’s company. By the end of the day, the two had become the best of friends. It was all very exciting and super adorable; puppies are the greatest!!

All in all, it was a very fun and relaxing weekend. I love my family so much, and it was wonderful to be able to hang out with all of them. As my siblings and I have gotten older, moved out, and began living our own separate lives, it has become more difficult to arrange times for us all to visit one another. Sure, we get together with the extended family during the larger holidays, but there’s something special about just the immediate family spending time together. I have always been incredibly close to my parents, my brother, and my sister, and feel so blessed that they continue to be a major part of my life.

M is for Mahjong

There are certain sights, sounds, and smells that remind me of childhood.  The smell of autumn leaves, the taste of blue moon ice cream, the exciting flurry of a first snowfall.  One of these sensory memories is the clattering shuffle of mahjong tiles heard over the laughter and cheerful conversation of relatives and family friends at parties held when I was young.

Mahjong is game that originated in China, but now has many variants.  The gameplay is similar to rummy in that a player needs to get sets of matching numbers or suits.  Filipino-style mahjong, the way I was taught by my lola (grandmother), is a much simpler form of mahjong than other variants.  In Filipino mahjong, only three suits are used: bamboo/sticks, stones/balls, and Chinese characters.  All other tiles are considered “flowers,” and are taken out of play as the game progresses.  (I’m sure anyone who plays any other form of Mahjong is shaking his or her head in bewilderment and horror right now.)  The goal of the game is to complete five sets of three matching or sequential tiles and one pair, or seven pairs and one set of three.

Mahjong tiles

I love playing mahjong.  My older sister, younger brother, and I were all taught how to play by our lola and our parents.  As such, the game is more than just a fun activity, rather, a piece of our cultural heritage passed down.  It’s also just a great reason to sit around a table together and have a relaxing time talking and having fun.

No blog post of mine about tabletop gaming would be complete without me going on about my love of components, and mahjong tiles have to be among my favorites.  I love the sound they make when you stack them together or shuffle them around on the table.  I love the weight and feel of them in my hands.  My lola (who, even in her 80s, can still beat the snot out of anyone in a game) can tell what tile is in her hand without flipping it over to look at it.  When she draws a tile from the stacked wall, she merely grazes the pad of her thumb over the etching, and can figure out what it is — it amazed me as a young girl and continues to do so to this day.  I suspect magic. 

Filipino-style mahjong is relatively easy to learn.  But it is still an excellent game of decision-making and strategy.  For me, it is also something more than that.  It is a game learned from family and for spending time with family.  When I hear the clacking shuffle of mahjong tiles, I’m reminded of my childhood, of my loved ones, of home.

J is for Jeopardy!

A: This television program created by Merv Griffin has aired on and off since the 1960s.

A: This game show has been hosted by Alex Trebek since 1984.

A: An IBM computer once won a tournament against two human champions in this game.

A: Wise the Simple’s family would watch this together ever day after she got home from school.

A: This game show instigated much competitiveness in the Simple household as family members raced to answer trivia in the form of a question.

A: Wise the Simple has had both a cousin and a college co-worker appear on this game show.

A: There have been several PC game iterations of this quiz show; all of which have been purchased and ranked by Wise the Simple’s family in order of most authentic gameplay experience.

A: Wise the Simple and her siblings have taken the online test in hopes of auditioning for this trivia contest, only to be humbled mid-test by how much they do not know.

A: Despite being a game show, this remains one of Wise the Simple’s favorite television programs of all time.

Q: What is “Jeopardy!”?

E is for Easter Monday

Happy Easter Monday, everybody! I hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday!

As a Christian, Easter is a particularly special time for me and my family. On Good Friday, my home church had a special evening service. I’m such a mess of a human being, and it is always humbling to reflect on the sacrifice that Christ paid for even a fool like me. I don’t deserve His love, and am so completely wonderstruck that He chooses to give it to me unconditionally anyway!

On Saturday, I attended a Filipino cooking class at the local cultural center. Both of my parents are from the Philippines, but I was born and raised here in the US. So it’s always fun to learn more about my cultural heritage. After that, I went shoe shopping with my mom. I absolutely hate shopping. I don’t like crowds, and I’m not too interested in fashion (I would wear tennis shoes, jeans, and a t-shirt every day if I could. Curse you, social conventions!!). But I ended up getting a few new pairs in preparation for spring. I spent the rest of the day just hanging out with family — watched some tv, played some games (tried Hanabi for the first time; it was fun!). After that, I got some reading in before bed time (As to the book’s title, I’ll tell you this much: look for my review when we get to the letter O…).

Sunday was, of course, Easter. I helped lead worship at Church with my brother. He played guitar and I played bass. It was a good service; lots of new faces as regular attendees brought family and friends. While Easter is often associated with springtime and candy, to those who follow Jesus Christ, it is a reminder of our Lord’s resurrection and His power over death.

O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?
O Church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead
He’s alive! He’s alive!
– “Christ is Risen” by Matt Maher

After church, we went to my aunt and uncle’s house. We had a potluck style meal complete with ham, pork, salmon, egg rolls, macaroni salad, rice, vegetable soup, and more. It was all so delicious, and as per my own personal custom at holiday family gatherings, I over-ate.

I have a very close-knit family with many cousins, and we always get into some kind of foolishness whenever we get together. Our Easter tradition consists of double elimination, tournament-style foam sword fights and several rounds of Ninja. Did I mention that we’re all in our 20s and 30s? Yeah… Once we all get together though, we revert to our eight-year-old selves. We’re all such geeks. I love them so much!

Once our rapidly aging bodies decided we had had enough physical activity for the day, we went inside to play some parlor games. This year we mainly stuck to Celebrity (We play a three round variant where round 1 is any clue, 2 is a three word clue, round 3 is Charades only) and Telephone Pictionary/Telestrations.

All in all, I had a wonderful weekend with my family. I am so incredibly blessed to live so close to my parents, siblings, and most of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I love them all dearly and treasure the wonderful times we share!

How about you, dear blog friends? How did you spend your Easter weekend? Any fun family traditions?