A rare situation

The re-rise of Hork the Orc

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My favorite D&D character in college was a half-orc barbarian named Horknuth, who went by the stage name “Hork the Orc.” He was a gladiator-slave with an extremely low Intelligence and a penchant for fine shirts. Unfortunately I left the mini in Iowa when I moved to Kansas all those years ago and for one reason or another Hork hasn’t seen play since.

Recently my D&D group has started a second campaign in which the role of DM is shared between all the players. The PCs are employees at a detective agency which performs tasks structured to be resolvable over the course of a single evening. This way we can keep a semi-cohesive story but allow individual players to come in and out without complex-ish explanations (“Carl can’t play? Oh, um, I guess Dinkles the elf twisted his ankle. He’ll catch up.”).

This campaign seemed like the perfect opportunity to begin playing Hork again on a regular basis. I was having some trouble finding a mini figure so I decided to do some surgery.

Before: A stock figure from a D&D 4th Edition pack, “Male Goliath Barbarian.”

This guy’s got a ridiculously huge sword, odd colorations, hide pants, shirtlessness. That’s not quite right but the build of the character is close enough. An XActo knife and a bit of paint later and…

I realized belatedly that the haircut and short bold-colored pants make him look a bit like The Hulk. I don’t think it’s too bad for a first effort at modding and painting a figure myself 🙂

Written by Chris

March 17th, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in D&D,General,Photography

I can’t believe I almost missed it

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Happy Pi Day!


Written by Chris

March 14th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Posted in General

Our honeymoon to the Pacific Northwest, Part Three

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Part One

Part Two

After our hike through Portland we had some mediocre Indian food for dinner and checked out the very impressive Powell’s Books. The next morning we had breakfast at a Portland staple: Voodoo Doughnut. I’m a very boring man and only got a couple of cake doughnuts, but Courtney got a Voodoo Doll and an Old Dirty Bastard.

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Voodoo Doll: Raised yeast doughnut filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake

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Old Dirty Bastard: Raised yeast doughnut with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s and peanut butter

Next up was a stop at Por Que No, a (very) small taqueria. Their homemade tacos and salsa were extremely tasty and we’d recommend a trip to anyone who doesn’t mind being crowded.

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It got pretty cozy after a while

We went to the post office on the way out of Portland to mail ourselves home some laundry and then it was up I-5 to Seattle. We ditched the rental car at the airport and took public transit to our hotel at 9th and Pike.

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Right about here we got a little lazy with the chronology of picture taking but I’ll list the highlights 🙂

In our entire trip to the Pacific Northwest we only got sushi once at I Love Sushi in Seattle…

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We went to the Seattle Public Library…

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Events that take place in this gallery are hard to find and have terrible support

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On the fourth floor overlooking the third floor atrium

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Top floor looking out over the street below

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Top floor looking out over the same atrium pictured above

We flew to San Francisco where we stayed at the Hotel Triton just outside of Chinatown…

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The room was small but rather cute and done up entirely with bamboo wood

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Located very close to Chinatown

The hotel staff brought us champagne and chocolates for our honeymoon. The names are a result of Courtney making the reservations months before the wedding with her maiden name 🙂

We went to the Museum of Modern Art which has “Personal Values” by Rene Magritte…

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On the last day of our honeymoon we ate clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl for lunch, took the rail lines to the Pacific shoreline just to have a look…

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…and then flew home that afternoon.

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Somewhere between San Francisco and Kansas City, probably not Kansas or Nebraska

Next up: the terrible things my terrible coworkers did while I was gone!

Written by Chris

December 29th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Posted in General

Our honeymoon to the Pacific Northwest, Part Two

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Part One

I left off last post right at our arrival in Port Angeles, Washington. We immediately drove off on US-101, headed slightly west and then south around the Olympic National Forest.

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US-101: Pretty dang scenic!

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This picture is currently my desktop wallpaper at work. Courtney made fun of me for being entranced by the crystal-clear waters.

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Rollin’ top-down, y’all.

Sometime in here we stopped in Forks, WA, the home of the Twilight Saga. It was pretty much completely stupid. Every single establishment was flogging the advertisement angle so hard it was embarrassing. We stopped to pee in the city park and left as quick as we could.

We stopped mid-afternoon for a hike in some temperate rain forest at Lake Quinault.

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Awww 🙂

We stayed that evening in Ocean Shores, WA, a sleepy little seaside town that was decidedly in the off-season.

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The view from our seaside-ish hotel.

Our destination the next day was Portland. We went by way of, Astoria, Oregon, where we had heard about a fantastic fish-n-chips place. It’s an little old fishing boat that was parked on the corner of a gravel lot and filled bursting with fryers. They only serve what’s caught that day and for that reason may be closed at any given date. They were not closed that day 🙂

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I think I drove past this at least once without realizing what I was seeing.

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Step 1: go up steps. Step 2: order fish, chips, or some combination of the two. Step 3: pay monies. Step 4: go down steps and retrieve a can of soda from a cooler. Step 5: …

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Oh my god step five yessssss

We continued our trek to Portland where we stayed the evening in a fine hotel called The Inn at Northrup Station.

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We dug the eclectic decoration of this hotel.

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This is the folded end of the toilet paper roll from the bathroom. I’m not ashamed to say that we stole this idea with the embosser we got for our wedding.

That evening turned out to be an adventure. Courtney had gotten a map of a homebrewed walking tour of Portland from a book called Oregon Townscape Walks. The maps are all hand-drawn and the directions are all in LEFT and RIGHTs and were sometimes fairly vague in terms of landmarks. Over the course of 4.6 miles we experienced:

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A ridiculous change in elevation!

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A backyard bamboo garden!

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A forest preserve with narrow dirt paths along sheer drops!

Not pictured: wondering if we were completely lost because the map wasn’t clear about the exit from the forest into a medical center complex!

We were tired as heck when we got done but it was a lot of fun.

Here I will leave off until Part Three: What The Hell Is On That Doughnut?

Written by Chris

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Posted in General

Still more explanation (by a shameless shill)

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After my excursion into poetry last week – and by the way I have had the Fresh Prince theme song stuck in my head nearly constantly since – I received some questions about why my blog had the tagline “A rare situation.” Well hell if I remember the “why” of it but I can at least share the source of the words: Achewood, my favorite webcomic, from a storyline called “Slow Pitch Softball”

Achewood from April 26, 2007

If anyone out there likes webcomics and doesn’t read Achewood, or doesn’t like webcomics period, that’s fine and that’s good. If however you want to read a work of writing genius that became Time Magazine’s #1 graphic novel of 2007, you’ve got nine years of strips to catch up on. A good starting point is original storyline: The Party.

Written by Chris

November 16th, 2010 at 8:44 am

Posted in General

Our honeymoon to the Pacific Northwest

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It became a common refrain in the weeks leading up to the wedding:

“What are you looking forward to most?”

We’d been planning the honeymoon almost as long (if not longer) than everything else and both of us desperately needed a vacation. I hadn’t had any non-family-related time off since about 2004. We spent the wedding night in a hotel by the Kansas City airport then bright and early the next morning we were on our way!

We flew into Seattle, arriving in the early afternoon. Apparently the weather had been a little iffy earlier that day but by the time we left the airport in our rental car it was sunny in the high 50s.

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Heading north on the I-5 towards Canada.

This very fine day turned out to be a trend. The weather was actually amazingly cooperative most of the trip. We rented a convertible and had the top down fairly often, albeit with the heater blasting. People looked at us like we were nuts but saying “we’re on our honeymoon” excuses a good deal of peculiar behavior 🙂

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Our righteous steed: a 2010 Ford Mustang. Would’ve been more fun with a stick shift but what can you do.

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At the border crossing into Canada. The border guard was very nice and asked if we realized that it only gets colder as we go farther north.

We drove up to Vancouver where we stayed at the Sunset Inn and Suites for two nights. The hotel is situated in downtownish Vancouver on the West End, a location defined by wall-to-wall ethnic food restaurants. We rented bikes and rode around Stanley Park, went to the Museum of Anthropology, and generally walked around and ate plenty of Asian food.

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The early morning view from our 10th floor room.

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Biking around Stanley Park (All pictures and a movie from Stanley Park).

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The Museum of Anthropology at University of BC Vancouver (All pictures from the MoA).

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We ate Thai (Thida Thai)…

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…Chinese (Han’s Wun-tun House)…

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…and Japanese (Benkei Noodle House).

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Two shawerma places right next to each other. We could eat here forever 🙂

We left Vancouver on the third day and took the ferry to Vancouver Island. We visited Butchart Gardens and then drove down to spend the night at Victoria.

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One of many wallpaper-worthy photos of Butchart Gardens (All pictures from Butchart Gardens).

The next morning, we took the ferry out of Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington. This was quite a bit harder than leaving the country in the first place. The customs line boarding the ferry took an hour and a half, and the customs agent on the other side didn’t believe us when we said we were on our honeymoon and that we didn’t bring anything back. USA #1!

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Goodbye Canada…

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This bird probably didn’t get grilled about his lack of declarations. Speciesist profiling, that’s what it is.

This is a good place to take a break – this post could get enormous and impossible to load. “Honeymoon Part Two: The Americaning” coming soon!

Written by Chris

November 12th, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Posted in General

By way of explanation…

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(with apologies to Will Smith / DJ Jazzy Jeff)

Now this is a story all about how
My site got twist-turned upside down
So I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I fixed this blog ’bout a situation rare

It’s been four months or more since a topic’s been raised
Getting married is how I’ve spent most of my days
Working some, gaming, spending time with my wife
Now the wedding is done so I can write about life

Then thirty thousand bots, they were hawking their sites
Started writing comments with lots of bytes
I tried one little upgrade and WordPress got frustrated
“There’s so much junk here, now your backup’s truncated!”

I cursed MySQL for its lack of transaction
But I thought for a second and calmed down a fraction
If work’s taught me anything it’s been “save data twice”
This recent SQL dump would make everything nice

I wrote some lines of script (about seven or eight)
And it cleaned out the spam not two seconds later
Re-imported the data and now I prepare
To write posts on this blog ’bout a situation rare

Written by Chris

November 10th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Posted in General,Music

Dungeons and Dragons – Homemade Minis

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It’s been some months since I started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with people in R&D at Perceptive. Everyone in the group has been getting into it and we’re having a great time.

My last post on this subject was about a homemade battle grid. I talked about the potentially high price tag of playing D&D with all the Wizards of the Coast-made accessories and such, and it certainly hasn’t gotten any cheaper since I wrote that. Instead of a potentially vast collection of little plastic miniatures to represent foes in the game I’ve been using a large number of 1″ glass beads that I got at a Michael’s craft store for seven dollars. This works out well for straightforward enemies but it doesn’t really give the players a sense of “oh shit!” when going up against a large or otherwise interesting creature. When the group faced a young dragon, I made one out of origami. It went over very well but there were two general problems with the idea: first, it pushed my origami skills to the limit and second, there aren’t easy-to-follow origami instructions for making most other creatures (like aboleths for example).

Then Courtney got a block of Sculpey and went to town.

Why, what’s in this box?


Shiyali (Courtney’s dwarven wizard character) and all her effects – a Flaming Sphere, a Cloud of Daggers, a Pinioning Vortex, and two Rolling Thunder tiles. The grid that the figures are standing on is 1″ by 1″ squares.

Shiyali from the side, featuring her orange mouse Gerard.

Courtney hasn’t only been making figures for her character. She’s also been making some minis for some of the more interesting combat encounters that we face. We haven’t actually had the encounter that will feature the following monsters, but they’re so damn cool I can’t not blog about them 🙂

A beholder and two dimensional mauraders.




Shiyali ruins the beholder’s day by conjuring a Flaming Sphere between it and its guards.

Written by Chris

July 11th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Posted in D&D,Photography

Chris’s Indian Chili

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In the beginning of March my company hosted a chili cook-off for charity. I figured that it was a good cause (anti-cancer), so I might as well enter. There was only this one little problem…I’d never cooked chili in my life. Also I do not own a slow cooker. Whoops.

Even though I don’t know the first thing about chili, Courtney and I do know some things about cooking in general. We adapted a loose-meat sandwich recipe from 660 Curries into a concotion that I called “Chris’s Indian Chili” (thank god it wasn’t a creative writing-off). My entry didn’t win but nearly everyone who tasted it complimented me on it. Several people asked for the recipe and at long last here it is:

Chris’s Indian Chili (serves 2)


  • 12 oz ground beef (we used 93% lean)
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 lengthwise slices of fresh ginger, about 2″ by 1″ by 1/8″, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh green chilis, finely chopped (we used serrano and kept the seeds in)
  • 3 tbl tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 3 tbl cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbl canola oil
  • 3/4 c water
  • Freshly chopped scallions for garnish


  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and roast for 10-15 seconds. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and chiles; stir-fry for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste, garam masala, and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef and cilantro, cook 5-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in water and tomatoes (with the juice from the can), cover and simmer for one hour.
  5. Uncover and cook for another 30 minutes. Garnish with scallions and enjoy.

Right now you may be saying to your computer in the ever-present hope that I’ll hear you: “Chris, I think a chili recipe that serves two would make for a fine dinner, but a cookoff? How much more would a person have to make?” Six times more. Six. Twelve chilis, six cans of tomatos, four and a half pounds of beef. Take my word for it this was a sight to behold.

Oh wait you don’t have to take my word for it

All of the veggies and spices that go into a whole ton of chili

This is the biggest stock pot I have and it was still too small by a little bit


[half of] the end result

Written by Chris

April 30th, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Cooking,General

New in 2010: Dungeons and Dragons!

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Hello anyone who is still looking at my blog! Sorry about the four-month posting hiatus, I’ve been somewhat busy with life lately.

When I was in college I played Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends (forestalling the inevitable question: no we weren’t the group who dressed up as their players and acted out battles). It was a great time, but when I moved to Kansas I never found anyone who was interested in playing. A few months ago I started to gauge interest in the idea of a D&D group at Perceptive. There were a few people who wanted to play or learn but no one wanted to run the game. Well fine then. I AM STEPPING UP.

When a person gets into D&D the first thing they may notice is the price tag. The core rulebook? $30. A set of dice? $5. A miniature representing a character? I haven’t looked lately but as the game leader I would theoretically require many of them. The cost only goes up. I have three core rulebooks, something like six sets of dice, and a wedding in eight months that is exhausting pretty much all of my cash monies. How does a fellow in such a situation run a potentially expensive game?

Homebrew! Courtney and I just finished making a very nice homemade battle grid, which for the uninitiated is the board on which miniatures are placed and terrain is drawn to represent battles.

Homemade D&D battle grid
We bought a 22×28 poster frame with glass and removed the glass. Courtney marked off 1″ intervals and drew lines with a black paint pen. My job in all this was to hold the yardstick.

Homemade D&D battle grid
Lines are drawn the other direction for the 1″x1″ grids used in D&D.

Homemade D&D battle grid
For the next step, we set up our spray-painting station in the garage. Unused cardboard is something of a rarity in our house so my oil change mat got re-purposed.

Homemade D&D battle grid
The glass is laid out, painted-on side up. Rather than lay out a piece of colored paper between the glass and the backing board, we opted to paint onto the glass directly.

Homemade D&D battle grid
First of four coats of Rustoleum’s Ivory Silk (read: yellowish white).

Homemade D&D battle grid
Four coats later, the board is looking great and our brain cells would dying in droves if it weren’t for frequent breaks outdoors.

Homemade D&D battle grid
The end result is an off-white board with black lines that works great with dry-erase markers!

Written by Chris

February 4th, 2010 at 7:09 am

Posted in General