Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunday Parkways June 24

On Sunday, June 24, I decided to check out a program put on by the Portland Bureau of Transportation and sponsored by Kaiser Permanente called Sunday Parkways.  This one was the North route, their oldest and longest (at 9.5 miles) route.  For this event, the city blocks off several side streets and reserves it for people walking or biking the trails.  The trail itself winds through several side streets with stops at several small parks, where you could participate in other programs, or just relax and check out the vendors at the park (which included food vendors, bike repair stations, and some booths for local projects that were just trying to get their message out).

I drove into town and parked at a Park & Ride for the TriMet (which is apparently a no-no...the park & ride is only for riders of the TriMet), and biked to one of the starting points, Kenton Park.  There was a lot going on there, though much of it was geared toward children (like a bouncy castle, an obstacle course, and a splash pad).  I checked out the vendors, like the Royal Rosarians, and then headed down the path to the next park.

I honestly don't know what the next park was, but there were a lot more bikers and vendors there.  There was even a mobile Voodoo Doughnuts truck!  They did have the Maple Bacon Bars, but they didn't have any of the Memphis Mafia doughnuts, so I passed...  Although I admit I wanted to buy a Maple Bacon Bar, I had just begun my first 10-mile bike ride, so I didn't want to tempt fate.  I did hit one of the other vendors, though, and tried a free Clif Bar and some Vitamin Water before heading out again to the next park.  

Each of the parks had its own set of activities. from breakdancing competitions to yoga to Zumba to concerts.  If you really had the energy to spend a full day doing it, there were plenty of things to do to keep it going from 10am - 4pm before they opened the side streets to traffic again.  Of course, I wasn't really prepared for all that...I was just there for the bike ride.  Next time, I will prepare a little better and try to enjoy it more.  There will be a next time...this was the second Sunday Parkways of five, each taking place in a different part of the city.  I will definitely try to make it to the last three, if I can -- it helps to get to know the city a little better, gets me some much-needed exercise, and is fun!


The last park I visited was my favorite.  They had a large rose garden in the center of a fairly large park.  This park also seemed to have the most vendors, and the most activities.  I wandered around the rose garden for a while and checked out some of the vendors here before heading back to my car.





The pace was very liesurely, with plenty of stops along the way.  Families were out walking the route, or letting their children ride it...which sometimes resulted in them swaying into the path of oncoming bike traffic...but overall, everyone was very understanding of the slower pace, and worked around the pace and skill of the other riders.

By the end, I had gotten a second wind, so I took advantage of the downhill slope back toward the Park and Ride to push myself, and got the bike up to 25mph for the first time...hopefully, I'll be able to get into good enough shape that becomes a more regular occurrance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Father's Day Gaming Meetup at Rainy Day Games, Beaverton

Lately, I've really had a hankering to get out to a boardgaming event, so I joined the Boardgames In and Around Portland meetup group and signed up for the gaming at Rainy Day Games on Father's Day.

I got off to a little bit of a late start, but packed up a few easy-to-teach games, since there weren't many people signed up, and I wanted to have games that I'm comfortable teaching for that sort of setting.  Then I headed out to Beaverton for a day of gaming!

My first impression of the store was very positive.  It was well-lit, well-organized, and had a great selection.  I even found several copies of games that I was waiting on a reprint (Eclipse and Jaipur) to purchase.  After browsing around, I picked up a game timer and Alien Frontiers, then headed back to the gaming area.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed by the meetup.  There were two tables with board games out -- and both were playing the same game (Quarriors! Quarmageddon).  Actually, I shouldn't say they were playing...one table was playing, and the other were taking a break between games and chatting with each other. Each game had  a full four players, and it seemed they were together as friends, anyway, so I didn't feel like encroaching on their game and seeing if I could get someone else kicked out in order to try it myself.

In addition to board games, there were a couple tables set up for minitatures gaming...not really my thing, but I can appreciate the time they take in preparing the terrain and their units, so I watched the battles for a bit.

Finally, there was a table for the Dragon Dice reps.  They were very passionate about their game, and spent a good deal of time explaining how the game was played.  They volunteered to let me play a game using their dice, but I just couldn't bring myself to play...again, although collectible games and dice games are both of interest to me, the dice themselves and the pace of the game didn't really appeal to me.  I may still break out some of my older Dragon Dice to see if I can figure it out, but I'm guessing it will never hold a strong appeal for me.

Before I left the store, I spent a few minutes talking to the employees.  They indicated that they usually have around 20 attendees for their meetup (vs. 15 that were there), and the meetups happen every other week.  Since they knew I was looking to get into a game, they recommended I check with some of the regular customers (who were on the store side) to see if they wanted to game -- but  by then, I was starting to feel a bit antisocial, and decided it was a better decision to just go home.

Regardless, I'll give it a try again on a future gameday.  The store is nice enough to warrant the trip, even if I don't end up playing anything.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

MLG Anaheim Finals - PDX Barcraft



Major League Gaming (MLG) is one of the prominent professional gaming organizations in the world, and likely the most popular of these organizations in the United States.  While there have been a number of changes throughout its lifetime, in 2012, there are championships for several fighting games for PS3 and a couple real-time strategy games for the PC.  Of these, the most popular game on the tour is Starcraft 2, made by Blizzard Entertainment.

As a result, since the early Starcraft 2 tournaments two years ago, a small community of eSports fans have begun to meet in gamer-friendly bars to watch tournament matches, have a few drinks, and meet fellow gamers.  These have been dubbed "Barcraft" by the greater community -- and I finally had an opportunity to attend one!

This Barcraft was in celebration of the MLG Championships being held in Anaheim, California, on June 10.  The Starcraft 2 Finals were set to start at 1:30pm (although they did discover that was provided in Eastern Time, so we rewound and watched on a delay).  I arrived at the bar (Bistro 153) a couple minutes late, which seemed to be fashionable, since a few others joined shortly after me.  I sat at a table with a couple other gamers, and ordered some of the specialty drinks and appetizers created just for the Barcraft Event.


Eventually, we were up to about 20 attendees for the Barcraft (and another 10 or so just for the bar), making this a less successful event than they were accustomed to.  I was told there had been as many as 100 attendees at previous events, which would have definitely exceeded capacity.  A normal Barcraft event would be about twice as large.  As it was, it was very comfortable, and everyone was quite approachable.  In fact, the gaming on the screen was generally ignored in favor of conversation, with an occasional look at the screen as the announcers got excited -- and once when we noticed a sign in the crowd saying hello to PDX Barcraft!  

A nice touch to the event was that they had gaming sponsors, who were nice enough to provide T-Shirts (all sizes in Korean, so they just called them Korean medium...definitely too small for some of us), banners, inflatable hammers (really?  what did they expect would happen when you give gamers a bunch of hammers and alcohol?), and even a slick mousepad and mouse for raffles.  These were given away or raffled off throughout the event, with the more expensive prizes being saved until closer to the end of the evening.  Thank you Thermaltake eSports for sponsoring the event -- it definitely made it enjoyable.



After several hours of socializing, DRG won the championship over Alicia playing as Zerg.  The mostly-Terran crowd started to disperse after the second game of the finals, but it was worth sticking around to see.  The final game was actually started as a 6-pool (a strategy where a Zerg player only use the starting allotment of workers, in order to build your attack units earlier), which is generally not thought to be a top-level strategy, especially against Protoss.  Although the early attacks were denied, he recovered his economy and won the game and match.

I've been told that they try to have these events monthly, if they can (of course, that depends on the pro gaming schedule).  Specifically for PDX Barcraft, the best place to find the information is on their subreddit at http://www.reddit.com/r/barcraftpdx.  If you'd like to see about other Barcraft events in your area, the first place I'd start would be the subreddit http://metareddit.com/r/BarCraft.  Otherwise, it looks like TeamLiquid (one of the prominent Starcraft 2 communities) has a site specifically for finding Barcraft events, as well.  There are other places that you can find online, but they're quite varied, and often not updated as frequently as they probably should be.

I had a great time at this event, and would definitely attend again in the future.  The other attendees were great, the bar was cozy, and the bartender/owner was very friendly.  I wish it were closer to home, so that I could frequent it more often.  In the meantime, I definitely got the itch to start watching Day[9] and playing Starcraft again.  Of course, that was short-lived, based on the erosion of my skills...I'll wait and allow the upcoming expansion to rekindle my desire to play more.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ground Kontrol Free Play Night June 14

Sorry for picture quality...I had some issues with camera use tonight
In looking for things to do during the rare week that I'm in town the whole week, I found that Ground Kontrol Arcade had a free play night on Thursday, June 14.  That seemed like a good chance to get back in and try out a lot of the pinball machines that I had missed in my brief stop during my first Portland Adventure.

It was a good time.  They closed down between 3-5pm to set all the games up for free play, and reopened with an age restriction of 21+ at 5pm.  I got there a little later in the evening, though it didn't really start to get crowded until about 9:30pm.  For only a $5 cover charge, it seemed like a pretty good deal.

The DK Dessert Dog
I played a couple of the Tron games and a lot of Pinball (even scored a billion points for the first time, on the Mars Attacks game), and tried out some of their unique appetizers.  I have to say that the DK Dessert Dog (a banana with peanut butter, bacon, and honey on a hot dog bun) is as bad as it sounds (the texture was just off), but the King Hippo (basically a grilled cheese on flatbread with bacon and jalapeno) was actually pretty good.  Unfortunately, because the tables all glowed from underneath, I wasn't able to get good pictures.

All in all, it was definitely worth the $5 cover charge, and I would go to future events there.  In addition to the free play evenings, they have comedy shows, gaming trivia challenges, karaoke, and guest DJs sprinkled in to keep things interesting.

The only down side to my evening was an education problem.  Because I stayed downtown so long, I ended up missing the last train back to the park and ride that I stopped at, and had to walk a few miles at almost midnight.  It was good exercise, the weather cooperated, and I never felt like I was in a bad part of town...but for a work night, it definitely extended the evening longer than I had hoped.  The schedule has been noted, and I definitely won't be making that mistake again.  I've even gotten a pointer on a better park and ride for future trips, just in case.

Grand Floral Parade - June 2012



The weekend of June 9, I made my way back into Portland to check out the Rose Festival.  This is an annual event that, if you go to the website, has many different components.  I initially had big plans to check out as much of it as possible, so I signed up for the Grand Floral Walk and headed down to the Riverfront early to get my participant number and a goodie bag (you got a T-shirt, a bag, and a pin, and there were vendors giving away other assorted goodies -- I picked up a balloon and a yo-yo for entertainment purposes along the way), and then headed to the start line.

The walkers have gathered







We started at in the Rose Quarter, and walked through the Rose Center Arena.  Of course, that meant that we had to give up our balloons, due to ventilation concerns, before we got started, but they gave them back on the other side.  Still, it was a very interesting entrance -- I knew that we were going to be walking along the parade route, but I didn't realize that the route would already be populated with people waiting for the actual parade!


Fortunately, the parade announcers and the parade-watchers were very supportive, and clapped and waved for us as we walked along the route.  Some people who had obviously done this before had bags full of candy to throw out to the children in the audience, and there were a few local celebrities (like mascots for the Trailblazers and Ducks, local politicians, and even a couple of the players from the Trailblazers) to make it interesting for the people in the audience.

The walk itself was four miles, and was done at an extremely liesurely pace.  When we reached the end, they gave us some water and some snacks -- and great seats for viewing the parade at the end of the route!



The Grand Floral Parade is in its 100th year this year, and the theme was Rock and Roses.  As you can imagine, that meant a lot of the floats were based on floral arrangements and/or were influenced by 50s rockabilly themes.  

The Spirit Mountain Casino float was first, since they were the largest sponsor.

There were a lot of smaller vehicles decked out in floral arrangments

Some Mrs. Rodeo winners from the area


The Rose Parade Queen

This one is for my sister-in-law, who teaches twirling to the younger generations.  Show them this to show that they'll be using their skills forever!
4-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser...

...and his sled dog team


Alaska Airlines float, sponsor of the sled dog teams, as well.




I could not imagine riding that little bike the whole 4 miles of the parade route.


The first double-decker bus in the city

I always liked the look of the Union Pacific trains, even the mini versions.


Packy was the Grand Marshall, but wasn't able to attend in person due to health concerns

Packy was an elepahant born in the Oregon Zoo



Even the Red Baron attended


As you can imagine, the Royal Rosarians had a very rose-centric float.
















There were representatives from all of Portland's sister cities across the world

Some of the sister cities even sent their own representatives
One sister city sent their high school marching band.
I didn't even think that they'd have different instruments in their band.





The parade itself took two hours.  By that time, I was fairly exhausted, but I still wanted to check out the rest of the goings on.  There were two things by the water that I wanted to see.  Part of the Rose Festival  was Fleet Week, which brings a few large boats from the Coast Guard, US Navy, and Royal Canadian Fleet up the river, and allows you to get a free tour of the boats.  The other was Dragon Boat Races, which sounded like fun, but would have been coming to an end by the time I got there, so I didn't even try.

I did make it down to the river to see the Fleet Week boats.  However, the lines were fairly long, and I was really starting to feel like I needed to go home, so I elected not to take the tours.  Incidentally, I did hear a bunch of people talking about the boats, and it isn't as popular with the locals as I would have thought.  Apparently, the large boats coming inland really affects traffic, since the Willamette has several drawbridges that made crossing the river difficult.  Likewise, additional security and crowds in the area made it difficult to get around.  It wasn't bad for me, but I definitely heard my fair share of grumbling from the locals.



All in all, it was an enjoyable day, and I got a decent amount of exercise.  The weather really cooperated, with the sun poking out, but the temperature staying cool enough that I didn't overheat during the walk.  I am really looking forward to the summer now, to see what other interesting events like this I may be able to find.