Since I didn't make it down to St. Charles to visit my brother Mike and his family last summer, I really wanted to make the trip this time. Mike works for IBM and his main account is GE in Waukesha. Since he had a meeting there we worked out a pickup. I would be at my parents house and he would stop by after work for dinner. Then I would ride down to his place with him. Shannon had convinced everyone in Madison to drive down to Chicago on the weekend to attend the American Idol concert there. The arena it was held at is near where Mike lives. They were planning to spend the night before heading back to Madison, so I just had them swing by and pick me up on the way back. I am getting pretty good at bumming rides.
After dinner at my parents (Polish Spaghetti, of course) Mike and I rode down to St. Charles. We had a good conversation. He had just finished reading two books on cosmology. I had just finished a cosmology course from The Teaching Company. So we got to talk physics for two hours. Apparently serious nerdiness runs in our family. He even passed on one of the books to me. It was "Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang", a book on theories of the multiverse. Looks good but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.
When we got home I got to meet the newest member of the household. Cutter is an Australian Shepherd. He is a beautiful dog and very friendly. Being a puppy he was full of energy but seemed to be basically a good dog. They are planning to send him to obedience school when he gets older. Cutter was still in the process of being housebroken and they were working out all of the procedures for where he was allowed in the house and who took care of him. One evening while I was there the project was to put up a gate to confine him to the kitchen and den on the first floor. It was one of those baby gates and had a section that swung open. But since it wasn't that high I just stepped over it. And since the directions weren't very good I got to watch Mike struggle with putting it up.
I spent two days and the visit was pretty relaxed. Mike was able to take a day off from work. He did have to go into court for a short time. He and his wife own an apartment building and he was in the process of getting someone evicted. He has lots of horror stories about being a landlord. It didn't sound like fun at all to me. But he is getting to know the judges at the county courthhouse.
One evening we all went to see the Kane County Cougar baseball team play. They are a class A minor league team, the same level as the Boise Hawks. Mickey does much better as the mascot than their guy did. The visiting team was the Great Lakes Loons. Now that is a cool team name. I wonder if their fans are "loonies". They probably have cool tshirts. The game looked to be a laugher as the home team scored five runs in the first inning. But the Loons gradually battled back and tied the game in the top of the sixth. After that the game blew wide open and the home team won 17-10. The two teams had 39 hits! Some good hitting, some slopply plays, some really good plays. Minor league baseball is fun to watch. I noticed that Kane County had a player named Jamile Weeks. Sure enough, when I checked he is the younger brother of Rickie Weeks, who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The next day I dragged Mike and his son Jake to visit a Games Plus, a local game store. I had searched on the web and found one that had several comments by people saying it was really worth a visit. It was less than an hour drive so Mike was willing to make the trip. In the Chicago area that's in the neighborhood. And it lived up to it's billing. The store had one huge aisle just for wargames. They probably had more wargames than Paradigm Infinitum, the game store in Singapore, has games in total. The bad news for Mike and Jake was that I spent about an hour going through them all and trying to decide what to get. I finally settled on Russia Besieged by L2 Design Group (could I not get an East Front game?) and >Saratoga by GMT. Mike was feeling nostalgic looking at all the wargames. When we were kids we used to play lots of the old Avalon Hill classics. He wanted to get The Battle of the Bulge, a game that we had played a lot. He was discouraged when he found out that not only is out of print but the company that made it has been out of business for twenty years. Oh well, that's what eBay is for. But I did recommend Axis & Allies if he wanted to get something that he and Jake could try. He picked up the revised edition and that night we spent two hours going over the rules and playing through a turn. I showed him TripleA, the open source PC version of the game. Since then he and I have been playing a game via email. It's a lot of fun. That's wargamer speak for I'm winning.
On the way home Jake wanted to stop at the Guitar Center. Jake plays the drums and said he needed to get some new drumsticks. Mike asked why since he had gotten some recently. Jake explained that he had broken them all. This puzzled Mike since he claimed that in all the years that he played drums he never broke a stick. "I play differently than you do, Dad" Jake explained. I guess so! But the Guitar Center was an impressive place. I have never seen so many instruments in one place. They had a whole room just for drums. There were multiple demo sets that you could try out. Of course Jake wanted to test them all. And I thought it was tough getting me out of the game store. Jake is a pretty good drummer though.
Later we met Mike's wife Kathy and daughter Brittany and we all went to see The Dark Knight. That was Jake's idea and it was a good one. I hadn't been to a movie in over a year but I enjoyed this one. As you probably have heard everywhere, the character of The Joker was well done. For a change the villain in a Batman movie seemed scary rather than silly. But the story was stupid of course. And they smashed up a Lambourghini, which was painful for me to watch.
At home Jake showed me his drum set and some pretty good technique. Brittany showed me her guinea pig, Winter. We hung out at the pool for a while. And we played with Cutter, who really is a nice dog. I think they made a good addition to their family. And being a puppy, he was racing around, slipped, and went flying into the pool. Didn't seem to bother him a bit though. I also got to learn about Kathy's job at A. C. Nielsen (yes, the company that does the television ratings). They do serious marketing and CRM data acquisition.
Next morning Sandy and Shannon and Lynn and Colleen stopped by to pick me up and we were off to Madison again.