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Megafest 8.1

Started: 2009-10-03 12:30:00

Submitted: 2009-10-03 20:39:50

Visibility: World-readable

Over Labor Day, Kiesa and I hosted another Megafest. Which we've done plenty of times before, except never with a baby. We're pretty adept at taking care of Calvin during normal circumstances, and even dragging him halfway across the country when conditions merit, but hosting a gathering of friends where one stays up late and consumes junk food is not quite the same thing. (Our mantra, which I think I've repeated here several dozen times, reminds us that if we restricted ourselves to doing things we knew Calvin could handle, we'd never do anything ever again.) So we figured we'd give it a chance and see what happened.


Kiesa put Calvin to bed at his normal-for-early-September bedtime of 20:00 and went to bed herself at a respectable hour. I stayed up for the arrival of Yanthor, Anya, and Humblik; I unpacked the shiny new high chair and tried to figure out how to fit it into our already-crowded main level. The Lincoln contingent arrived late at night and, cognizant of the resident sleeping baby, tapped delicately at the door. Humblik claimed table real estate in the basement, and we launched into an early-morning game of Puerto Rico, which I managed to win by exactly one point.


Calvin got Kiesa up sometime early in the morning and they went to church. I got up at an hour more consistent with my early-morning bedtime and made buttermilk waffles for breakfast. (To my surprise, none of the Megafestors used the maple-flavored corn syrup; they used the real maple syrup instead.) Kiesa returned as we were cleaning up after breakfast, giving the Lincoln contingent their first opportunity to meet Calvin. Calvin was bright-eyed and fascinated to meet the exciting new people, and the Festors were equally fascinated by the geekling in their midst.

Calvin chews his fingers
Calvin chews his fingers

Zan Lynx arrived in the afternoon with several computers and snacks. I tried to occupy Calvin while the other Megafestors played Puerto Rico. This worked ok until Calvin decided he needed a nap but didn't actually want to sleep. I gave up on getting him to nap in his crib and took him on a walk around the neighborhood, which got him the sleep he needed.

I handed Calvin back to Kiesa, before the game was officially over, and started working on supper: an ambitious sushi dinner. I started with miso soup (having boiled dried soybeans the previous night to produce the umami base) and proceeded to prepare the sushi itself. Zan Lynx volunteered to help and I found plenty of things that needed chopping for both the sushi and the miso soup.

The one thing my meal lacked was a rice dish to augment the sushi and miso. I didn't really have much processing power left over while juggling my two dishes, so I begged Kiesa until she came up with some sort of peanut-rice dish that sort of worked. (This is when we learned that Humblik no longer eats onions, which seemed like an inauspicious time to announce new dietary restrictions.) I realized, much too late to do anything about it, that my edamame in the shell lacked sea salt; I cast about the kitchen and found the garlic salt grinder and dumped some of the unground sea salt and dried garlic on the edamame. This worked better than I had feared, and gave the edamame more flavor than I had previously experienced. Zan Lynx made green tea and I whipped up some wasabi (now! With real wasabi!) and declared the meal ready. Trying to do the whole meal may have been overly ambitious but it worked out in the end, and seemed to be well-received by the crowd.

Post-meal cleanup was non-trivial, since I ended up covering the entire kitchen in dirty cooking dishes. After cleanup, Zan Lynx drove his winged Subaru for a quick fortifications run, though he didn't really get the chance to show off his car to Yanthor, Humblik, or I. We played a game or two of Carcassone and I talked Yanthor and Zan Lynx into watching Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which seemed appropriate given some topic of conversation that I've since forgotten.

Humblik considers his next Carcassone move
Humblik considers his next Carcassone move


Kiesa took Calvin on an early-morning trip to the Bavarian Bakery for Danishes to supplement breakfast. I woke up at a more-reasonable hour and cooked diced potatoes for breakfast. Kiesa didn't think she could take on any meals with Calvin, and Humblik was more interested in post-meal cleanup, so We assigned most of the remaining meals to Yanthor and Anya. Anya headed off on her grocery run, and Yanthor and I headed into Boulder for It's Your Move on Pearl Street. Yanthor picked up Bang!, which proved to be amusing but not compelling. (I ended up playing the renegade, whose goal is to be the last player standing. Anya was the sheriff and managed to eliminate me to win the game.)

The dinner Yanthor cooked struck me as an exercise in contrasts from my dinner the previous night. My meal was elaborate, nutritious, and balanced. Yanthor cooked a macaroni and cheese with a few token canned vegetables.

Yanthor and I entered into a "suicide pact" to play two of the less-popular games on the same night, Illuminati and Empire Builder. It had been years since I'd played Illuminati, but I got the hang of it, playing as the mysterious UFOs. Yanthor eventually figured out a way for him and Humblik to win together by buying Humblik's network of clients, giving him the money he needed to win and giving Yanthor the client groups he needed to win in one atomic transaction. It turned out that the single atomic transaction in fact took several moves to arrange.

We moved on to Empire Builder and Zan Lynx dropped out, content to watch the game from the sidelines. Humblik ran into trouble early on, without a clear path forward, so Yanthor and I helped him figure out how to use his existing route network (and a bit of my track) to move forward. At the end of the game, I was close to accumulating enough money to win when Yanthor hit the winning condition first.


Labor day -- and my twenty-ninth birthday -- dawned well before I drug myself out of bed in the morning. I amused myself during the day by putting together a list of Colorado's highest summits, (12,000 feet and above), based on the lists provided by legendary climber and guidebook author Gerry Roach (which lists the mountains, their official elevations, prominence, and rank; and includes unnamed ranked summits) and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (which lists the mountains and their geographic coordinates). I started to correlate the data in a spreadsheet, but I quickly realized I really wanted to be doing SQL joins, so I popped the data into my PostgreSQL database and started working on my first explicit SQL joins. (I've only done implicit joins before.) Once I figured out how to build my join clauses, I quickly ended up with an exhaustive list of Colorado's highest mountains, including the top ten summits in each of Colorado, Boulder County, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Indian Peaks Wilderness. (These top-ten lists constitute my (exhausting) todo list for the next several years.)

Humblik, Yanthor, and Anya at Megafest 8.1
Humblik, Yanthor, and Anya at Megafest 8.1

While I hacked my SQL statements, Yanthor put BBC Earth into his PS3, which he mostly brought so he could play his online football games. Trying to control the playback using the PS3 controller as a remote control proved difficult, especially since I was too lazy to look up the keys.

When Calvin needed his afternoon nap, Kiesa sent him out on a walk with Yanthor and Anya, who wanted the opportunity to try out caring for babies without commitment.

For my birthday, Kiesa baked a chocolate stout cake, which sounded a bit odd but proved to be rich and chocolaty. As we were cleaning up, I checked my Twitter feed and saw that ISS was scheduled to be overhead in approximately ten minutes. I announced this to the group (especially Yanthor, who is especially fascinated by space exploration) and invited them to join me in the back yard to watch the station. It was partly-cloudy just after dusk, and only a few stars were visible between the clouds and the suburban light pollution, but we had no trouble picking up the station when it appeared, right where it was supposed to be in the south-western sky. The night's flyover was one of the best in days; ISS flew high overhead and was visible for about five minutes, tracing a giant arc across the sky. It was easily the brightest object in the sky until it blinked out in Earth's shadow in the east.

Yanthor, Zan Lynx, and I played a game of Puerto Rico, which was the first game in which I effectively used the Factory to monetize my commodity production. I had momentum and was racing forward in victory points but ended the game too soon, giving Yanthor the final victory.

Zan Lynx packed up his computer, since he actually had to work the following day, and gave us a tour of Windows 7. Cat5 jumped up on his shoulders while we were hanging out in the basement, and he didn't mind, apparently content to play Honor Harrington (albeit without the padded uniform tunic) to Cat5's Nimitz.

After Zan Lynx departed, everyone else seemed especially tired, going to bed uncharacteristically early. I stayed up the latest (the dirty dishes in the kitchen were calling my name) and went to bed at midnight.


Kiesa nudged me awake at 06:00 when Calvin woke up. She went back to sleep while I changed and fed Calvin before the crack of dawn. I read to Calvin as the sun rose and put Calvin in his high chair to let him watch me unload the dishwasher. After two hours of one-on-one parenting, I changed him again, packed his diaper bag, and drove him to daycare. He fell asleep in the car on the short drive but woke up when I took him inside. I saw a hot air balloon land in the field north of daycare, swap passengers, and take off again, drifting to the south-east.

I picked up coffee at Starbucks on my way home and found the house more awake than when I had left. Our epic plan for the day was a Humblik-requested hike. I carefully considered my options and decided to visit Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Anya signed on quickly, and Kiesa waffled for a while before signing on. Only Yanthor stayed behind to hang out on the couch.

We drove through the stimulus-funded construction on Colorado 66 north of Longmont and got stuck behind a chip-seal operation on US 36 west of Lyons. Only slightly delayed, we drove through Estes Park and entered Rocky Mountain National Park without having to use my shiny annual park pass; they weren't collecting entrance fees on Tuesday morning. I ignored signs warning me of a full parking lot ahead and found space in the Bear Lake parking lot. We collected our gear and headed up the once-paved trail to Nymph Lake. I quickly realized that leading the pack was not an effective way to judge the exertion level of the flatlanders in the group, so I fell behind and managed to direct traffic from the back of the group. (There weren't many options for getting lost on the trail.) We passed Nymph Lake, spotted Hallet Peak through the trees, and continued up the valley to Dream Lake and finally Emerald Lake. Hallet Peak towered over the lake, and I studied the couliors on the south side of Flattop Mountain for snow ascents.

As we snacked at the eastern edge of the lake, a couple with two children (toddler and preschool) sleeping in their backpack carriers reached the lake. The kids barely stirred as their parents tried to set up family photos. I thought about being able to take Calvin out in his backpack carrier and wondered if he would be able to sleep as these kids had.

We headed back to the trailhead and returned home. I decided to avoid the construction on US 36 by heading south on Colorado 7 instead. I'm not actually sure I saved any time, but the route was a bit more scenic, passing directly in front of Longs Peak and the famous East Face, now shaded in the afternoon light.

I was completely exhausted when we returned home, having gotten only six hours of sleep the previous night. I took a nap and awoke, mostly refreshed, in time for supper.

After eating, Kiesa went to bed and those who remained cast a voice vote for the evening's entertainment. I tallied the votes (still by percentage) on paper and revealed that Settlers of Catan had emerged the winner. It was the first time we played the venerable game all weekend.

After the game, everyone else went to bed by 22:30. I was awake and bored, having napped that afternoon, so I watched 28 Weeks Later by myself when I failed to get anyone else to join me.


Kiesa took Calvin to daycare on the last day of the Megafest, providing the opportunity for one last five-player game of Settlers of Catan before the Lincoln contingent packed their vehicle to return home, leaving Kiesa and I to put the house back into order and prepare for the truncated work week that awaited us.

Themes, Analysis, and Discussion

The advent of the Calvin Era seems unlikely to entirely derail the Megafesting tradition, but seems poised to change it. Calvin made it impossible for the entire group to do anything together, since he still needs dynamic one-on-one parenting. Kiesa and I realized too late that we should have arranged for babysitting so we could enjoy games and movies with the entire group.

This Megafest featured no formal movie voting, only a token voice vote for games on the last night. (I suspect that, in general, we tend to see most of the movies we're really interested in seeing, and outside of those movies our tastes diverge sufficiently to make it difficult to pick moves widely enjoyed by the group. We did stage ad-hoc movie viewings, but even those seemed to be less popular than before. That also may have been a response to the strict cadence required by Calvin, or simply the latest manifestation of a larger trend. My general opinion is that I can watch movies whenever I want, but it's harder to get together a group of friends to play board games.) We seemed to play fewer games as well, but it's difficult to remember exactly what took their place in the schedule.

Regardless of the details, I enjoyed my super-sized long holiday birthday weekend and returned to work refreshed and rejuvenated, if not particularly rested.