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And Then There Were Five

Our big excitement this weekend is that we added two new members to our feline household!

We’d been thinking about getting some kittens for a while. While we did already have three cats, Newton is elderly and Blackjack is slowing down due to his lymphoma. Roulette is 9 years old and still active, but she seems to be getting a little bored without another cat to play with. We know that integrating new cats into the household will take work, but certainly we would look at getting new cats if we ever got down to just Roulette, and it seemed to make sense to get Roulette used to them while she was still young enough to make the adjustment.

So Saturday we went to the Silicon Valley Humane Society. They have an amazing facility over in Milpitas (the outdoor dog exercise areas alone are impressive!). We weren’t set on getting kittens immediately, but we were open to it. We met a couple of 4-month-old brown tabby cats who were very nice, but the ones that won my heart were a pair of 2-1/2 month olds, who we ended up taking home that day.

We spent an hour in a whirlwind of activity preparing the library for them while they sat in their carrier in the bathroom, and finally we were ready to let them out into the room that will be their home for a few weeks. They’re both bundles of energy, and they spent an hour chasing each other all over the room when they emerged.

The boy with the gray tabby pattern we’re tentatively naming Jackson, although we’re still mulling over that one. He’s a very high-energy kitty, and is very snuggly when we first go in the room after some time away. He’s also quite meowy and has a loud purr motor which engages whenever you pick him up.

The white girl with the orange tabby markings I think we’re going to call Sadie. She’s a little more subdued than her brother, but only because I think she paces herself better and isn’t as aggressive. But she can still keep up with him and rarely gets overwhelmed. She enjoys burrowing under the blanket on the chair in their room.

They’re going to stay in their room for at least a couple of weeks. We put up a baby gate at the door to make it easier for us to get in and out without risking them dashing out (Jackson already tried to escape once before we got the gate). Blackjack and Newton have both seen and sniffed at them through the gate, but seem mostly uninterested. Roulette is quite agitated as she knows there’s something there, but I don’t think she knows what. We introduced her to them through the gate tonight, and she didn’t hiss, but she didn’t approach them, either. I think it’s going to take her a while.

It’s a big step for all of us, but it’s a step we knew we’d be taking eventually. And the timing works out because I’m off work for a week, and Debbi for half a week, and then we have Christmas break in a little over a month. So we can spend lots of time with them.

Wish us luck that this integration goes as smoothly as getting Jefferson and Newton used to Blackjack and Roulette did!

Return to Ravnica

Last night I got together with some people at work to play some Magic. What made this a little different is that I had never met any of these folks before. There’s been a mailing list for Magic around for a while, but it’s been long-dormant. A few newer folks joined it and organized a few games, and last night I went to join in.

Originally we were planning to do a booster draft, but one guy had not done a draft before, and another expressed a preference for sealed deck, so we decided to do sealed instead. We played Return to Ravnica, which I had already done one sealed deck game with my friend Subrata, and it was an underwhelming experience, mainly because our pool of cards was pretty lame. So I hoped that this would be a better one.

While we were opening our packs, I joked that I was opening rares that were useless in limited (like Grave Betrayal and Guild Feud, both of which I opened). Then I joked that it was time to choose the wrong colors for my deck.

I wasn’t too impressed with my deck when I built it, but it turned out to be an absolute powerhouse, winning all six games I played. Heck, arguably it was more my deck that won than me.

Here’s the 40-card deck I played:

# Cost P/T Card
1 2/1 Dryad Militant
2   Swift Justice
2 0/1 Centaur’s Herald
1   Giant Growth
1 2/2 Keening Apparition
1 2/2 Drudge Beetle
2   Sundering Growth
1 2/2 Precinct Captain
1 2/2 Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
1   Avenging Arrow
1 3/2 Selesnya Sentry
1   Aerial Predation
1 2/3 Sunspire Griffin
1 2/2 Azorius Justicar
1 5/5 Deadbridge Goliath
1 3/3 Skymark Roc
1   Trostani’s Judgment
1 8/8 Risen Sanctuary
1 5/7 Angel of Serenity
1     Azorius Guildgate
1     Hallowed Fountain
1     Selesnya Guildgate
1     Transguild Promenade
7     Plains
6     Forest
1     Island

This might not be the very best deck I could have built – neither Aerial Predation nor Sundering Growth are great cards – but it still worked very well. Even those two cards served their role, killing a flyer and getting rid of a few pesky enchantments. I did not get much use out of either the Populate or the Scavenge mechanics on my cards (I think I Populated once in six games, and never Scavenged), but the Azorius Justicar’s Detain ability was handy multiple times.

This is an aggro deck with a wonderful curve: I’m usually laying down serious beatdown by turn 4, and I often have options to kill my opponent’s creatures, keep him from killing mine, or just to play my creatures in the right order so I end up with my best stuff on the table by the time he runs out of removal. Precinct Captain is a beast which runs away with the game if left unchecked, and Deadbridge Goliath is just ridiculous in limited. Inevitably I just overran my opponents with my sheer number of creatures.

I splashed blue for Skymark Roc only because I had filled 21 of my card slots and was hard-pressed for the last card. I decided the Roc was just so much better than my marginal white and green cards that I would try to shoehorn it in. It only showed up once, but it was the all-star of that game.

The only change I made to my deck was I removed a Plains and added a Forest after my first game; getting my small green creatures out on turns 1 and 2 was critical, so I think that helped.

I’ve been running 18 land in my 40-card limited decks since I read an article a few years ago about why this is a good idea. I wish I could find the article, but the basic argument is that you lose more games by being mana-short than by being mana-flooded. Ironically, for aggro decks like this one where the majority of the cards are cheap (16 of my 22 spells cost 3 mana or less), hitting your land drops can be even more important since you want to make sure you put the pressure on early and don’t miss an opportunity. But 18 land also gave me the flexibility to play 2 spells costing 7 (and the Angel of Serenity won a game for me singlehandedly; I drew the Risen Sanctuary once when I could have cast it, but it was superfluous by that point).

Anyway, the guys I was playing with were a lot of fun too. It’s been a while since I’ve met a bunch of new people at work, so this was a neat change of pace. And it reminded me how much I enjoy playing limited Magic, especially when everything comes together.

Halloween Mobs

For Halloween night we got together with our neighbors to hand out candy as a group (and to have some yummy food one of them cooked). Our neighbors across the street have a nice courtyard in front of their house where we all hung out while trick-or-treaters came by. Debbi put signs on our door directing people across the street – they kind of worked, although when parents send their younger kids up, the younger kids don’t really understand the signs. But I think it all worked out.

Several of our other neighbors came by to say hi, including a couple we hadn’t met before. Mostly we just hung out.

And then the kids started to arrive.

A few younger kids came by before sunset. There were three of us handing out candy, which I think was a little confusing as we tried to route people around to all three “stations”, but we worked it out.

Sometime after sunset, the floodgates opened.

At one point I looked up and it seemed like there were kids and parents as far as the eye could see, out the courtyard and driveway, out in the street, across the street. It was nuts, for about fifteen minutes. We must have had a hundred kids come through.

Somehow, we still had candy left at the end of the evening. Yay for giant bags from Costco. Guess they get to go rot our cow-orkers’ teeth in the coming weeks.

It was a fun time, though. After 9 Halloweens at the townhouse, we’d almost forgotten what it was like to get trick-or-treaters. I suspect our block got a reputation among the kids for having good candy last year. After this year, I can only imagine what next year will be like.