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Megafest 10.0

Started: 2011-09-18 12:03:35

Submitted: 2011-09-18 22:12:13

Visibility: World-readable

My major accomplishment in the week prior to Megafest 10.0, which Kiesa and I hosted over Labor Day weekend, was cleaning the carpets in the living room. The cleaning absorbed two evenings in their entirety but, once I was done, the carpets were obviously cleaner. (I think I need to institute some sort of regular schedule for cleaning the carpets, but I haven't quite gotten that far yet.) I also straightened up the basement, which no one ended up using, but I do appreciate having an orderly basement. (Under some circumstances we might have retreated to the basement for gaming, but we ended up playing all of our table games on the dining room table.)

I worked from home on Friday, 2 September, so I could watch Calvin during lunch while Kiesa went to her tai chi class. Normally Calvin would be in daycare during the day, but Friday was some sort of teacher inservice day, and Kiesa couldn't take Calvin to the rec center (the normal site of her tai chi class) for babysitting because the rec center was closed for late-summer cleaning, so the tai chi class moved into a nearby park and Kiesa didn't want to try to watch Calvin while trying to figure out the twenty-four forms of tai chi. My working from home, rather than in the office, caused a few minor logistical problems but I did manage to update some documentation that has been hanging over my head for the past two years.

The contingent from Lincoln consisted of Anya, Yanthor, Linknoid, and Humblik. They arrived late in the evening on Friday, after Calvin had gone to bed. (We moved Calvin into our room to free up his room.)


On Saturday morning, Kiesa took Calvin and Humblik to church in Boulder. The rest of us (Yanthor, Anya, Linknoid, and I) ate a leisurely breakfast, then headed into Boulder to Pearl Street. Yanthor offered to let me drive his new hatchback Lexus hybrid, since I knew where I was going and he didn't. The hybrid featured many of the control elements of the Prius (keyless start with a power button rather than a traditional ignition, joystick gear selection) but showed the hybrid info screens (battery status, power consumption) inside the dashboard indicators rather than on a separate LCD screen in the middle of the center console. When I parked in the city parking garage on 15th and Pearl I squeezed into a tiny compact-car space next to a concrete support pillar, I thought I detected the aura of apprehension and concern for the size of the space I chose.

We arrived on Pearl Street at noon and aimlessly worked our way westward. We stopped at a small shop I'd never visited styling itself as something of a a European general store and, when we emerged, Yanthor mentioned something off-hand about wanting suitable hardware to make loose-leaf tea. I knew just the place: Peppercorn, immediately across the street. I found the tea-hardware section, just inside the entrance, and Yanthor found the tea strainers he sought. Linknoid was enthralled: he's been working on his cooking skills and knew of no kitchen store in Lincoln that got anywhere near the variety, selection, and quality of Peppercorn's stock.

Kiesa, Humblik, and Calvin emerged from church in time to join us at Peppercorn, then retreated to the rocky play area in front of the store for lunch. Calvin got a blue balloon airplane from the balloon wrangler in front of Peppercorn and proceeded to fly it around (making suitable airplane noises), then tried to figure out how to pop the balloons.

Yanthor and
Calvin on Pearl Street

We dropped by the Boulder Bookstore, then headed back down the mall and tried to figure out who wanted to do what and in what order. Kiesa headed off to move her car; Linknoid and Yanthor went back into Peppercorn (Yanthor allowed himself to be talked into a high-quality chopping knife, and Linknoid stocked up on kitchen gear), and I took Calvin into a Tibetan import store on 13th where I picked up a small strand of horizontal prayer flags and a large strand of vertical prayer flags. (I've lived in Boulder [County] for twenty years, so it seemed that I ought to finally pick up some prayer flags. I still can't match the effect of the massed prayer flags I saw in Darjeeling, so I'll have to deploy them carefully.) Calvin got a kick out of the singing bowls, and the proprietor of the shop gave him a little bell with a blue enamel glaze. We ended up at my favorite tea shop, Atlas Purveyors, where I got a pot of green tea, Calvin got a bowl of cereal for a snack, and Yanthor discussed loose leaf teas and bought two black teas.

Kiesa, Yanthor, Anya, and Linknoid stopped by Longmont's closing Borders to take advantage of their fire-sale liquidation prices and ended up with an armfull of books. Humblik, Calvin, and I headed home on our own. Calvin fell asleep in the car on the way home, which proved inconvenient because it was late in the afternoon. I let him nap for half an hour before waking him up and letting him sit, groggily, on the couch.

Kiesa served pho chay for supper as part of our mission to expand the culinary horizons of our guests. I put Calvin to bed, we finished the meal plan for the rest of the weekend, and Kiesa went off for groceries. When she and her minions returned and unpacked, we staged a quick game of Settlers of Catan with Kiesa, Yanthor, Anya, and I. Kiesa managed to pull off a longest-road victory shortly before Yanthor would have (presumably) been able to win on his own turn.


I got up with Calvin, as usual on Sunday, and took him on a walk down to the end of our street. He was fascinated by the flocks of geese flying overhead, though he seemed to think they were too loud. I returned and showed Humblik the potato-grater attachment for our mixer for the hash browns he made for breakfast.

In something of a departure from recent Megafesting tradition, I managed to write a modest amount of code to solve a few nagging issues on my website. The most notable one was Calvin's website, which sprawled uncontrollably with every photo I'd taken of Calvin since he was born. I added back-end database infrastructure to group my photos by date, taking advantage of some powerful date-conversion functions offered by Postgresql, and broke Calvin's page into groups by month.

Linknoid reacts to being photographed
Linknoid reacts to being photographed

Kiesa arranged for our regular weekly babysitter (a local high school student) to come for four hours, from 14:00 to 18:00, on Sunday and Monday, to give us the opportunity to play games as a group. We staged a five-player game of Agricola with Kiesa, Linknoid, Yanthor, Humblik, and I (Anya sat out, watched, and tried to figure out what was going on). Yanthor seemed to have a strong position going into the final rounds, but he came in second behind Linknoid.

Yanthor and Humblik play Agricola
Yanthor and Humblik play Agricola

The board game took up the entire four-hour babysitting window. After supper I put Calvin to bed and came downstairs into a discussion of what movie to watch, from the small collection Yanthor produced. When asked, my only valid response was "mu", as I rejected the premise on which the question was based (namely, that I wanted to watch a movie at all; given the assembled crowd, I'd much rather play Eurogames (or convince a certain guest to create an RSS feed for his site, because RSS is my social network) than watch a movie). I was outvoted by a wide margin and stayed to watch The Adjustment Bureau. (I noticed some odd compression artifacts in which the moving components of a scene -- especially the characters' faces and mouths -- seemed to be somewhat slewed, as if the motion compensation wasn't quite working right. My ability to spot compression artifacts is something of an occupational hazard from the two years I spent in the digital video industry.) I did enjoy the movie, though I had to observe that, instead of exhibiting free choice, the characters were merely acting out an earlier version of their plan that hadn't been fully erased in the palimpsest.

Monday (Labor Day)

No one seemed especially interested in watching Louisville's Labor Day parade, being apparently content to allow the day to go otherwise unremarked. (I wasn't especially surprised, though I did point it out in the 'shore excursions' I proposed for the Megafest, but it occurred to me much too late that I needed a better voting mechanism to allow the attendees to vote, in advance, to signal their interest, allowing better advance planning.)

In our afternoon babysitting slot, we set out to play Eurogames again and tried to optimize the games for our six-person group. We had only two games that could be played with six players, Settlers of Catan and Cities and Knights of Catan, but a full six-player game of either could expand to fill the entire four-hour babysitting slot, so we decided to split into two groups of three. (I wanted a voting mechanism in which each participant would vote for his or her choices, and the system would optimize the happiness of the entire group by selecting an optimal mix of games and player assignments.) We ended up running concurrent games of Agricola (played by Humblik, Linknoid, and Yanthor) and Cities and Knights of Catan (played by Anya, Kiesa, and I). Kiesa won our game, and both games finished at roughly the same time, so I shifted to Agricola and Humblik joined Puerto Rico and tried to remember how to play the game. Linknoid suggested that, instead of the simpler family-game variant we had played to date, we play the full version with minor improvements and occupations. I spent very little time pursuing minor improvements, and ignored occupations entirely, but did manage to execute a few minor improvements as secondary actions, thus mostly avoiding the opportunity cost of certain improvements. Yanthor figured out how to combine his minor improvements and occupations to get 7 points for cards and 14 bonus points, giving him a commanding victory over Linknoid and I.

After supper, the consensus choice was to watch Prince of Persia, which I chose to ignore.


My guests seemed interested in two shore excursions in Gunbarrel: a tour of my office and a tour of Celestial Seasonings. (With Calvin in daycare, we had six adults and needed two cars. Before the Megafest the thought crossed my mind to rent a single vehicle large enough to fit the entire group but the thought did not linger long enough to actually do a feasibility study.) We arrived at my employer at noon, I signed in my five guests, and took them on an ad-hoc tour of the office. We started in the lobby, with the mementos off in a display case in the corner (including the deal toy from the IPO that, when she visited, Bethany thought was sufficiently exciting to merit a picture). I showed off the lab with the development boards and prerelease versions of shiny new smartphone operating systems, then showed off my window office, though the sky was overcast so I couldn't see Arapaho Glacier.

After a quick chat with my team lead and line manager about a new opportunity I learned about late the previous week (I wasn't working, but wanted to talk to a few people while they were at work), I led my group around the corner to Celestial Seasonings. We arrived a few minutes too late for the 13:00 tour but got tickets for the 13:30 tour and got to spend the intervening half-hour tasting teas. I've taken the tour more times than I can count in the two decades I've lived in Boulder [County], but I still get a kick out of smelling the tea room, feeling the mint room infiltrate my sinuses, and seeing the robotic palletizer and the rest of the production line.

After the tour, and a GDP-stimulating pass through the gift shop, the weather turned to mist, so we decided to scrub the proposed Boulder Creek Path walk and head home. After a leisurely afternoon, Kiesa picked up Calvin from daycare and we headed to Denver for supper at Watercourse Foods. Zan Lynx met us there, and we enjoyed the dizzying specter of having to choose from the entire breadth of the menu rather than the tiny vegetarian section at the bottom.

Back at home, we played two games of Carcassonne. The first game was won on a massive-farm strategy, so most players (myself included) opted to try to duplicate that strategy in the second game and succeeded mostly in letting Humblik win.


On the last day of the Megafest, I took Calvin to daycare and stopped on the way back at Starbucks. We finished breakfast at 10:00, with enough time to play one last game of Settlers of Catan in the two hours before the Lincoln Contingent wanted to leave. I managed to get a good spread of resources but failed to get the numbers 5, 6, or 8 on any of my resources. Kiesa managed to eek out a narrow win, closely pursued by both Yanthor and Linknoid, by reacquiring the longest road at the right moment.

Kiesa departed for tai chi, and the Lincoln Contingent backed their car into the garage so they could pack it without exposing themselves and their stuff to the rain. I saw the trash truck come by; I'm normally at work when it picks up my trash so this may have been the first time in six years that I've actually seen the truck. It drove right up to my trash can, stopped on a dime, grabbed the can with a large mechanical arm, dumped the trash in the truck, put the can back on the ground, and drove off.

The Lincoln Contingent left on schedule, leaving me to clean up the house and prepare to return to work for a short, two-day work week.