Tag Archives: Virginia

Visting the Udvar-Hazy Center,29 Dec 16

Since we aren’t currently on a Cruise ship in the Carribean, sipping sugary rum drinks and wondering how the hoi polloi get by (this is a subject for another post, perhaps– we had to cancel our cruising plans) we decided to go visit the Udvar Hazy museum of flight and aeronautical technology near Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA today. I took about 109 pictures, which I’d love to embed as an album on here, or even a slideshow. Sadly, Google’s move from Picasaweb to Google Photos makes identifying single albums in Google Photos next to impossible. So it goes. Below are a few links to many pictures of aircraft. The slide show works, but you won’t be able to read my comments. Mass adding of photographs also eliminates captioning somehow, so if you want to read my reverant, sometimes snarky, sometimes awe-struck commentary, you’ll have to go directly to the album, below.

Click here for SLIDESHOW

Click below to see the album

Enjoy. We had a blast visiting this museum.. it always has something new tucked away in a corner I haven’t seen yet.


The End of a (long) Era. The Game Parlor store (Chantilly VA) to close permanently

  1. image from the Game Parlor website, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Long term residents of the Northern Virginia/Suburban Maryland area who are involved in the gaming hobby will recognize the Game Parlor retail store, a game and hobby shop that has endured in the same location (Sully plaza, in the back hinterland of strip locations) since 1991  The shop was started by Rob Weigend, a local attorney, and his wife Cindy.  The store catered to virtually every classic gaming hobby during its existence, and had many tables set up for playing games– roleplaying games, the popular collectible card games, miniature gaming, and other pastimes.

The massive, MASSIVE collectible card sales display. You can find some of the earliest collectible card game here, going for full price..

Back in the 90s, if it was related to a popular gaming trend, something could be found for sale at the Game Parlor store.   More importantly, the Parlor has served as a hub spot for most gaming in Northern Va, more or less.  Magic the Gathering leagues would hold contests there, clubs would meet there regularly and all sorts of activity would schedule routine events– including Northern Virginia Gamers (NOVAG), which would hold their semi-annual game days at the store, which would (generally) make the store more money as gamers would stop and take a break to shop.  There was, for about a decade, a second location in the Potomac Mills area, but that closed as rents increased.

Looking back at the miniatures tables, from the “recent releases” rack.

The shop persisted through the 2000s, but signs of trouble started cropping up.  Inventory, which had been a huge attraction in 1991, almost never rotated by mid-2000s, and it was not uncommon to find something from that era stickered full price in 2007.  Indeed, a casual perusal of stock the night I took these pictures turned up an illustrated military diary from the year 2000 going for full price.  Of course, there’s the classic story of the Super Nintendo going for full price (its 1991 price that is) year after year after year until a mad collector ended up buying it, vindicating it taking up the shelf space for more than a decade.

A fantasy game, designed by Brian DeWitt, being run the night I visited.

Inventory started to become an issue in the mid-2000s or perhaps earlier.  The shelves have always been crammed with older, somewhat out of date stuff (or “Classics”, depending on whom you ask).  The explosion of popularity of both the newish boardgaming hobby and informational websites about gaming that started in the late 90s and and shot off like a rocket in the 2000s seemed to pass TGP by.  The store buyers would certainly know of Boardgamegeek.com “hotness” list, but  not order more than a few of any selected “hot title”, leading to frustrated would-be purchasers to special order, a process that took a long time and with little guarantees (unlike, say, just ordering it from Amazon, which would have it showing up at your doorstep in three days or so).  An oft-repeated comment about special ordering was something like “dang, I WANT to give The Game Parlor my money, I really do.. but they make it so hard!” was heard from the late 2000s onward.

Gradually, I stopped buying stuff new OR used at the Game parlor store.. the old stuff was mostly picked through years ago and was never put on sale, the new stuff never lasted long and once the preliminary fuss was over, would never show up again.  It was so much easier to purchase stuff online.   The store itself, which seemed incredibly modern and swank in the 1990s, became more well worn and gone to seed by the late 2000s.  When the carpet was almost destroyed after the Mongolian restaurant next door flooded into the Game Parlor store, the owner put out a contribution jar to help defray the cost of a new carpet.  From his customers..  I was willing to donate, sure.. but I remember thinking: “Isn’t this the price of doing business?”

One feature of the Game Parlor experience that remained attractive to everyone over the years was the encouragement of regular gaming in the store itself.. many many tables and 6 giant miniatures tables were open to everyone.  As the fortunes of the store declined, table fees were initiated, to no one’s particular surprise.. and to no strong objection.  At least we could support the store after a fashion.   Gamers were willing to put up with a storefront gone to seed and table fees to have a place to go week after week.  That would never change, right?

In response to seeing a rumor online of the store’s closing, I visited last Friday night.  The rumors are true. After 24 years of constant operation, the Game Parlor store will close forever on November 26, 2015.   The reasons appear to be “retirement” (see the signs).

I find myself possessing mixed feelings.  On the one hand, the store had not marched with the times all those years and it seemed a minor miracle that it had lasted until 2015.  On the other hand, the Parlor was a fixture in the life of all DC area gamers.  Everyone knew where it was.. it was our place.  When it closes its doors, an era of good times, an easy location to socialize, and a big outlet for generations of geeks will finally come to an end.  I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss it, and miss it a lot.

Could the store have been managed better?  Certainly.  The inventory issue was always a killer– more than one person has offered to assist the store in setting up an Ebay shop to unload all that embarrassing dated stuff on the shelves, but it was an ebay shop was never initiated.  The store could have been better informed about trends and purchased accordingly– it’s not helpful to find a stack of ten expansions for the big hot game and not find the original, for instance.  With all that said, The Game Parlor store filled a very important role in the history of gaming– not just for the surrounding community of geeks, but by creating a new tier of game store and a new approach for retail gaming.  Maybe a store like this doesn’t fit in the modern market, maybe it does.  I’m just glad I was around to see it happen.  Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Weigend, for running an enterprise that was an important part of life as a gaming hobbyist in the DC area.  We’ll all mourn the loss of the “Parlor: in the years to come.

(apologies for the use of the definite article “the” in front of GAME PARLOR in previous draft.  I was falling back on traditional usage; we have long referred to the store in question as THE Game Parlor, even though this isn’t strictly correct usage, as one commentator generously informed me.  As for misspelling “Weigend”, that I do feel a bit abashed about.  I just never saw it in print much.

First Draft (PEL v.) Guidebook for HISTORICON 2015 is ready for downloads.

Greetings, HISTORICON 2015 convention attendees!

As I do for all the HMGS Inc shows (and other conventions), I have created a Guidebook App for you to download and use as a sort of electronic program booklet for the duration of your stay at the convention.

If you are not familiar with HISTORICON and HMGS historical miniature goodness, I recommend visiting the HMGS Site to get up to speed about our biggest event of the year, HISTORICON.    H’con will be held at the Fredericksburg Convention Center, Carl. D. Silver parkway, just to the left of Interstate I-95 facing North.   The app will actually pop up Google Maps to give you an idea of where to go.

[Cautionary note.  You register,sign-up for events, and pay on the Historicon 2o15 site above, which looks like this.  You don’t register for Hcon with this guidebook app, even if it has some features described as “checking in”– that is mostly for attendees communicating with each other and has nothing to do with paying/registering for a show]

Each Guidebook App uses the guidebook app engine created by Guidebook, Inc.  The information is customized for every show.   Usually by me, as it happens.

So to make the Guidebook App work, you’ll need the core “engine app” from Guidebook, and the specialized convention module that I create for each show.  You download the guidebook app, FIRST, then using the search mechanism, search for the app for a specific show.  In this case, HISTORICON 2015.

You will find the pertinent links to how to download the core app and show app on Guidebook’s LANDING PAGE for Historicon 2015.

After you download the guidebook app first and convention app second, you can browse around and look at the schedule.

Front Splash Page, Featuring maps and address, show hours and policies

The menu as it stands currently (PEL release)

Note— these are Android Phone version screens– I usually post Ipad shots.  I changed it up because not everyone uses a tablet.

Note, as well — this release was concurrent with the official HMGS Historicon PEL.  It is ONLY that at the moment.. just the event listings that the events team has a record of at the current moment (5/12/2015).  The guidebook will change a great deal before game time– we will be adding Seminars, Maps, Tournaments, Hobby University events, Exhibitor Listings, Restaurants, and a Vendor Hall Layout.  The good news is that if you download it now, you will automatically update every time I publish an update.  Just open it connected to the Internet (somehow) and Guidebook will tell you that Historicon 2015 has been updated and do you want to update it?  Say yes.

Right now, this is just the first step/bare bones initial release.  Stand by and I will be posting major updates as I get them.  You can also view the preview web copy here.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2015.  I’ll be the guy running the big post-apocalyptic Mad Max game.

Guidebook QR Codes:

For the guidebook app, the “engine”

For the Guide itself (if you already have Guidebook installed). The actual show bits.

LEGO (TM) BrickFair 2014, Chantilly, VA .. AAR

Well, I have to say I have encountered a group that is nerdier than I am. If you think that miniatures conventions attract a lot of geeks with disposable incomes, LEGO Brick Fairs are another thing altogether. I know LEGO is a big, burgeoning hobby, I just had no idea how complex it all until I went to my very first “Brick Fair” at the Dulles Convention Center in Chantilly. WOW. The crowds were astonishing. The line snaked AROUND THE BUILDING and out into the parking lot. The builds were great (many of them anyway) and the vendors were out of sight price-wise. I love the new historical and SF/Fantasy line vendors that have cropped up, but the prices are more than I can afford. I’d love to do a historical wargame with LEGO for fun some time, but I’m not sure I want to pay 100 plus dollars for a dozen troops. Not much of a game.


Still, it’s astonishing to spend time at one of these things. The level of detail that goes into a LEGO diorama of would put the average miniature painter to shame.

Here’s a little youtube of the days events:


My letter to the Eagle Review Board

Eagle Scout Badge, Type 9

Eagle Scout Badge, Type 9 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Boy Scouts of America
Eagle Review Board


Dear Sir or Madam:


It is a challenge to write a letter about one’s child without sounding too subjective, but I’ll give it a try.  My son, Garrett Dillon O’Hara, is 13 years old as of this writing; he is applying for consideration to be awarded the Eagle Scout level of Scouting in his local council, and I am happy to write a letter of recommendation for him.  Garrett has been actively involved in scouting since he was a Tiger cub.  “Active” is hardly the adjective for it—he has been proactive in achieving his merit badges, participating in campouts, avidly attending Summer Camp activities and learning safety regulations for scouting.  Garrett’s participation and enthusiasm for scouting came as a surprise to me; Garrett demonstrated a maturity and confidence in his approach to scouting achievements that compared favorably to Scouts that were far older than he.

Garrett, working on the Clothing Drive

I was favorably impressed (and personally moved) by the Eagle Scout project Garrett chose to pursue six months ago.  Rather than work on a project local to us, in Northern Virginia, Garrett wanted to organize a clothing, toy and small appliance drive for disadvantaged families in Appalachia.   Garrett learned that this sounds like a great notion up front, but also entails a vast amount of coordination, logistics effort and creativity on the back end.  There was much to do—finding a ‘depot location’ on the far end that would help us distribute the material to families in need, soliciting donations locally (primarily at our local Moose Lodge, where Garrett discovered a flair for public speaking in front of the crowds of potential donors in his Class A uniform).  Coordinating with a human services organization in West Virginia that provided volunteers and a place to donate leftovers too, arranging for volunteers both in the troop and also with West Virginia Boy Scout troops, borrowing a gigantic trailer to transport the clothes to Romney, West Virginia, and other logistical tasks, up to and including providing the Pizza.  No small effort—hundreds of hours of volunteer hours.  At the end, I thanked him for all he had done.  Eagle badge or no Eagle badge, it was a fantastic effort and it felt good to help 120+ families and individuals that could really use a hand getting through the Winter.

So, in the end, I’m back to where I started from, trying to say objectively what I can’t help but feel subjective about.  Garrett has grown tremendously from his time spent in the Boy Scouts.  Not just in terms of maturity, and skills and leadership, but also ethically and civilly.  He has learned to handle adversity and challenges.. not just from fellow scouts but also from adults.  I’ve asked Garrett more than once what his plans will be when he does become an Eagle Scout.  Will he fade away and become inactive?  Not in the least.  It’s Garrett’s plan to join a troop local to him and participate in a Sea Scouting Venture Crew after he attains the Eagle, so I’d say that Scouting has made a profound, positive and long term effect on him.

As Garrett’s dad, and I’m proud of the boy he is and the man he is becoming.  Scouting had a significant impact on the process.  Please consider him for Eagle Advancement.

Mister Nizz.


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A visit to the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, VA

USMC Marine Corps OPD, Quantico, VA

Yesterday, we conducted an OPD (Opportunity for Personal Development) session at work. This is not always a lecture in a conference room about a dry technical topic; sometimes we go out on a field trip, as was the case today. Our destination was the US Marine Corps museum in Quantico, VA. If you have ever been heading North on I-95 at night just north of Fredericksburg, you can’t miss this signature structure, being a giant triangle with a big projecting bit sticking up in the sky. It’s impressive at night.

You can’t miss it.

The museum is a series of galleries roughly running in a semi-circle pattern around a large atrium with a few large scale dioramas in it. Here’s one:

A rather fanciful writer’s embellishment of the Okinawa landing Diorama in the atrium.

The Galleries off of the main atrium (the “Leatherneck Gallery”) follow a roughly historical order of precedence; starting with the origin of the Corps, early actions in the Revolutionary War and 1812, Mexican War and Civil War.

The artifacts in the Marine Corps museum are almost too numerous to mention; standouts for me were the 19th century armory items, such as the Maxim gun, the experimental boarding guns, swords of the early Marine Corps heroes, and the actual sledgehammer head from the assault on the Engine House at Harper’s Ferry!

The World War I section was great, including the much maligned King Armored Car, small arms and dioramas from the conflict, and some interactive video created by the museum staff.

As one might expect… the World War II Pacific section of this museum is the largest gallery by far, as befits a service that had such a huge impact on that theater of World War II. The standout exhibits for me were the actual Second Flag that was raised on Iwo Jima (the one that is featured in the classic flag raising photograph) and the memorial wall for the fallen at Iwo Jima. Alas, the Korean section was somewhat short and the Vietnam section was half bottle up for renovations, so we didn’t see much more. Thanks to Roger from the museum for showing us around!

SLIDE SHOW follows. If this doesn’t work, here is the DIRECT LINK to the show.

Northern Virginia hits the big time at last.

PosterI’m sure many of you readers don’t recall my posts of six years ago, on the subject of Northern Virginia‘s own crazed killer legend, the Bunnyman.  If you feel like catching up, run off and read:

Now that you are caught up, I am pleased to notice that someone, somewhere noticed our little errant serial killer (well, myth of a serial killer) the Bunnyman.  Apparently the visual of a crazed axe wielding murderer in a bunny suit was too hard for the entertainment industry to resist, and they made a movie about him.

Click here for the BUNNYMAN trailer on Youtube. 

(the embedded version was hanging up the browser for some reason)

Of course, the locale looks more like Oregon instead of Northern Virginia.  In every respect, this movie is about as horrific as you would expect out of a low budget scare flick, with distinctive 80’s style horror tropes, including:

  • The gang of stupid young people on a car trip
  • Crazed killer in mask
  • Somebody’s oversexed
  • Somebody’s an insensitive jerk
  • Somebody’s sensible and sensitive, and of course, sympathetic
  • The hillbillies are sullen, hostile and oversexed
  • People walk off by themselves so they are easy to kill
  • Lots and lots of screaming
  • A Chainsaw.. of course
  • A woman is the last one left
  • The Serial Killer listens to classical music on a record player

You know the drill.  It’s poorly lit, poorly shot, the dialogue is terrible, and the action sequences are laughably bad.  There’s some car vs. truck sequences early on in the film, stolen directly from THE DUEL, and they are shot at what appears to be 14 miles an hour.  At one point, one of the stupid people is under the car “fixing” something that inexplicably broke (they cut something out, it’s not quite explained what happened).  The truck drives slowly up and literally taps the bumper, it’s not even dented very hard.  This apparently kills the dude under the car instantly and obviously, as his friends look under, get up and just walk away.  You didn’t even check for a pulse?  Reach for a car jack and try to get his body out?  Really??  The rest of the movie is entirely predictable along these lines, with an attempt at a couple of twists  and very lame jump scares.  It’s not scary, it’s not even particularly in the category of “so bad it’s good”, but it IS based on Northern Virginia’s home boy, so it was worth one viewing.  AND ONLY ONE VIEWING!!! (and only if you are from Northern Virginia).  Friends… can I call you friends?  If you want to watch a movie excellent in every respect that mocks movies like this, seek out the Anti-Gore film, Tucker and Dale versus Evil, which I think is still available for rental on Itunes.  You will not regret it.

The "Bunny Man Bridge", an example o...

The REAL Bunnyman Bridge, located only a few miles from my house. Image via Wikipedia

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