Ares Exultant Fantasy Game 12-09

My gaming group in Northern VA finished playing a new system for minis, both Fantasy and Historical, that my friend Steve devised.  He calls it Ares Exultant.  We had played it before, but this version had some rules changes, and it was the first time we had used it with Fantasy Minis.  This is a simple 6 page rules set, plus unit statistics for the particular forces.  Since we were using my classic 25 mm Fantasy figures, I advised Steve to write up some statistics for units that rarely see the battlefield.  When playing Fantasy Miniatures, we usually are using one of my homebrew games that simulate a battle from JRR Tolkien’s mythos.  So we never get to some of the more oddball fantastic creatures that I’d like to see hit the gaming carpet.  In the end, I was a little disappointed in that we used all Tolkien types, however, we all agreed Steve did an outstanding job of rating the units’ true to their capabilities in the Tolkien universe. 

 

Steve came up with the opposing forces.  I was surprised that some of the statistics of the forces on the “Good” side were pretty bad.  However, we did have some awesome troopers on our side, notably the Elves who were excellent in quality, both their light and heavies. We had some heavy Dwarves as well, with that amazing armor they are known for.

 

The baddies also had some good stuff; the Uruks had lots of armor and good attack values.  The Trolls were also fearsome, as you’d imagine, but they were lacking in morale.     The Goblins were bad, but not that much worse than the “human volunteers” we had.

 

This system benefits heavily by a lack of look up tables for the most part.  Unit statistics were marked in back of the figures using magnetic markers.  This was really an outstanding method for keeping records of troops’ abilities, their casualties, and loss of order for heavy troops. 

 

In Ares Exultant, the simulation is at the grand tactical level.  Heavy and light troops both play an important part and have differing strengths and weaknesses.  Casualties (and loss of “order”, a statistic for Heavy troops only that is akin to taking a temporary casualty in other game systems) are inflicted in battle and on retreats, but when retreating from the enemy the amount of casualties taken depends on the unit type that chased you away, and the retreating unit’s type.  Light troops strike first, and can retreat without taking losses from heavies, but they cannot stand up to heavies.  Heavies can get “order” back by resting for a turn.  Cavalry is powerful, in that it can inflict heavy losses on retreating units and gets an extra move in certain situations. 

 

The game is played in squares, representing an area of the battlefield.  Units can be in reserve, or defending one of the “borders” of the square, or moving from the square to attack an adjacent square.  This combat system is simple and FUN.  Terrain bonuses can add pips to your defense or dice to your attacks.  You need to be mindful of getting flanked, but can react to meet a threat if you have units in reserve.  The rules are refreshingly elegant in my opinion; the only real criticism of the system as a whole I can see, is they allow for a great deal of freedom of movement and action on the field – much more so than a game like DBx.  If you have a leader in that square, you can move from that square.  Morale and command and control are extremely simple.   

 

The forces of light won the initiative and so had to set up first (actually that is a disadvantage).  We decided to put our best troops in the center and left flank.  We were really trying to take the woods, where our outstanding elvish troops would be even tougher.  We were also trying for the high ground square on our left flank.  The evil ones set up hordes of wargs on their right, and Uruk Hai were set to battle for that hill we wanted.  Their Trolls were in their center.  Our crappy humans were on our right (the minis looked a lot tougher than these guys really were).

 

We were able to walk into the woods unopposed around turn 3.  The baddies thought they would trick us with a spell to make our light elves run, but we were defending in place and that “converted” us into heavy infantry.  Many an orc was sent to Valhalla trying to wrest that woods from me. 

 

Steve on the other hand had his dwarves beat up pretty bad trying to take the hill on our left from the tenacious Uruks and their friends the goblins.  It took several turns and eventually our second wave made up of our best troops, heavy elvish infantry were able to capture porkchop hill. 

 

Although the evil ones held the high ground on their left, that was where our garbage troops were stationed, and they were happy to threaten that flank without ever attacking.

 

After playing for about 4 hours, it was clear that evil was doomed (I suppose that’s always the case).  They lost 14 units, the forces of light’s 1 unit.  The evil ones fought well, but they could not stand up to our best troops and I think they would have done better concentrating against our weaker flank.  Looking forward to adding some new units into the fray next time, and maybe throwing in some siege rules or town squares.           

 

 

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97 Mitsubishi tried to get away

Here is an amusing and true tale from only moments ago.  I parked my car in our spacious garage, but I forgot to employ the emergency brake as I usually do.  I did not leave the car in gear, and I have a manual transmission.  My garage is situated on high ground with a slope to the street level and you can guess the rest.  That’s correct-Omundo; my car goes rolling down the driveway at an increasing rate of speed. 

 I tried to catch it, but it’s kinetic energy @ 1/2 m v ** 2 was too high.  I could not get into the car either, so it ran across the street, over a curb, onto a neighbor’s lawn narrowly missing a metal street sign.  Then it rolled down the other side of his lawn (it is a corner lot), and across another street and came to rest on the second neighbor’s lawn.  At which point I tried to push it onto the street.  Of course I could not do it since it was on grass, and had a higher rolling resistance than pavement.  I hopped in, started the car, and drove it quickly back into the garage, only checking for damage after it was back where it belongs.  There was no damage, only the side mirror was knocked back into the retracted position.  There were not even any appreciable marks on the neighbor’s lawns.  I consider myself a lucky man.  Moral of the story?  Don’t ever forget the emergency brake when you drive a manual and park out of gear on even a slight incline (I tried, but could not come up with a deeper meaning). 

This is what it looked when it was new.  Its not quite that shiny anymore.

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2009 International Yorkie Meet Up

So what was the international Yorkie Meet Up like?  Well, it was much the same as the local meet ups, only A) More expensive, B) Bigger and Better, C) Lots more stuff to see and do, with more great people and YORKIES to meet.  Gaileena and I started off at the Yappy Hour at the Hotel Montico.  This was the former Holiday Inn on King Street in Old Town, Alexandria.  It’s quite a gimmick they have there.  I got this photo off an internet screen capture of a slide show, so its low res, but you can see Cyndee talking to Jacqueline next to me and Gail:  

 

 

The beer is all bottled, but you can get mixed drinks as well, albeit in plastic cups.  These are the concessions one must make when drinking in an enclosed patio for pooches.  You do not go to this event for the drink deals, but to be out in the nice weather enjoying the company of Man’s (and in the case of YORKIES, mostly Women’s) Best Friends. 

 

 

We arrived fashionably late, and met some nice people, and a few strange but interesting personalities before we took off to the Canine Cruise with our freind Jacqueline in the mighty Potomac River with many of the YORKIE meet up faithful; including a large contingency of local meet up ladies (Jacqueline is one of those ladies and is so very friendly to Gail and me – she also lives in Kingstowne where we used to live).  Yorkies dig rides in strollers; just make sure they are harnessed in just in case they see Mr. Squirrel or any other interesting potential prey animal…

 

 

 

The plan was to show the local meet up flag to the much larger Yorkie Talk group, and we did.  The only unfortunate part was paying 85 bucks a pop to help rent a small meeting room for about 60 people (plus pets) and dinner.   The chow was really good actually, the best hotel fare I can remember, but for that price it would have been nice to get some icy cold beverages and snacks, which were not included.

 

We also went to an outdoor enclosed dog park on Friday afternoon, where the YORKIES held court.  Unfortunately, due to some faulty directions I got there very late, but did get to hike around Old Town for an hour, which helped tire out the pooches, Mr J Gatsby and Ms Daisy.  When we finally arrived after many had left, but it was fun and I got to see the ladies from the local meet up, who were not in a mood to party, so we left.

 

Ms Yorkie Talk International Meet up 2009

 

Saturday was the main events, that included a Fashion Show (of which we did not participate, because although I love YORKIES, I do not like dressing them up at all, unless it’s A) Very Cold and they need their winter jackets, or B) its Halloween.  But since it was mid July and somewhat hot, their fur was more than enough insulation (plus I like my Yorkies like I like my chicks, naked).  There were some great get ups, though, and I have to admit it was fun seeing all of the homemade outfits which were very creative.  My new friend Syndee (a very nice lady who has 3 YORKIES) was selling some clothes and accessories.  Being a guy, I do not buy this stuff, but it was of the highest quality.

 

A swell collection of Yorkie Bows

 

There was also a group photo, dinner that included a serenade (but not from a laughing space man), an awesome agility demonstration from Eddie, the AMAZING genius Yorkie who’s owner is my YORKIE training hero, and a talk on qualifying your Yorkie as a therapy pet.

 

Can you find Waldo, me and Gail?

 

Mike – He is Eddie’s owner (along with Kelly) and he is the kingpin of yorkie training.

 

Who said Yorkies could not be "working dogs?"

 

Eddie was an agility master, and he knew many amusing stupid pet tricks as well.  Although Yorkies are supposed to be smarter dogs (even though they have walnut sized brains – and remember, its not just the size that counts but brain size in proportion to body size is a better metric), they are notoriously difficult to train for some things like agility.  But Eddie’s owner and trainer Mike from Alaska has an amazing amount of patience and puts incredible time into training his Yorkies.  He reported that Eddie completed five 8-week obedience classes, and then they took Agility I, II, III and IV and three other related classes. And they repeated a couple of the agilities because Eddie struggled. 

Real he-men types LOVE their YORKIES.  Those who feel the need to own pit bulls?  Insecure – I feel sorry for them. 

What a cute little guy!

 

With regards to qualifying your Yorkie as a therapy dog, there are a couple of certification agencies that grant this based on a dog’s behavior.  Mr. J Gatsby would require a great deal of training to qualify for this, as he is very aggressive at times when he’s startled; I could see Daisy mastering this, however.  There is a retirement home within a short walk of my house, so I am contemplating investigating this.  I always wanted to be one of George Herbert Walker Bush’s “thousand points of light” but am so darn busy at work all the time…         

Some of the new friends we made at the INTERNATIONAL MEET UP (including Alison in the top photo, she is a geologist) and some tired pooches after a long day of sniffing.  Please note that none of these photos were taken by me, I borrowed them from some of the nice people who have shared them on the net. 

 

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Yorkie Meet Up!

Gail and I went to the Yorkie Meet Up today.  There were about 17 people this time around, and 20 little dogs, most all of them Yorkies but we had a cool miniature poodle and a Maltese, too.  The dogs all got along great and seemed to have a wonderful time, as did the humans.  Our guys did a fair amount of socialization, but were a little afraid of such a robust group of Yorkies, and spent some time on our laps and in Ms Daisy’s case on my shoulders where she like to hang out and see what’s what with the height advantage over her peers.  There was a lot of sniffing going on to be sure, a few accidents, and lots of good fetch action, keep away, and rough house play time.  The tiniest “tea cup” Yorkies were not phased by the standard and big guys at all.  I’d say the Yorkies weighed in at between 2 to 15 pounds.  And the two biggest Yorkies were outliers.  Our guys in the 5-6 lb range fit in very well and were right in the middle.  The tiniest guys seemed most interested in the fetch options, and were quite a laugh.  I would not do well with one of these types, although very amusing to be sure, they looked too small to easily get up and down stairs, at least without beating up their little joints. 

 

We discussed the next meet up, which will be a battlefield adventure in Manassas, where the battles of first and second Bull Run as we “Southerners” call them, were fought.  Of course, in those days, the soldiers actually shot at each other with cannon balls, canister, large caliber lead bullets and round ball.  Plus, they had no little dogs to walk with.  You can imagine how hellish it must have been.  Would they be “rolling in their grave” if they knew that we were taking in the history with our pets in tow?  I’d like to think not, since First Bull Run included many spectators from the District who rode their carriages south to picnic and see their army chase away the rebels, of course it did not work out that way. But these citizens of 1860 did not have the benefit of hindsight, so some may think this disrespectful; it does bother me some.  A field of glory, honor and sacrifice does not seem to mix well with Yorkies, but on the other hand, what companion is more loyal and fearless that our little canine companions?  And the citizens of Northern Virginia did keep Disney from building their Civil War theme park here, so what’s a few little dogs?      

 

Another topic of discussion was the 2009 Annual Yorkie Meet Up in Old Town.  There will be Yorkie lovers from all over the country converging on Old Town Alexandria for that celebration of our wonderful little furry friends on the weekend of 17 July.  This was a tough one for me!  That same weekend is the infamous Historicon miniatures war gaming convention in Lancaster, PA, which is the biggest and best convention of its kind, at least on this side of the Atlantic.  But in the end, little dogs won out over little lead soldiers for my time; primarily because this national meet-up may not make it back to Alexandria for years, so I need to show the Yorkie Flag in Old Town that weekend. 

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Star Trek 2009 Rant

I saw Trek yesterday and have a few comments and concerns (don’t bother to read any of this rant if you are trying to keep all plot details secret for some reason).  I thought it was pretty good overall, but there were some issues with it that could ruin it for a fan of the original series, or of course, if you just think too hard (not a problem for most movie audiences).  Although it was fun to see the characters as young cadets, those who were supposed to be the youngest and had not joined the crew until later (second or third season from the original series) were all together at once, thrown on the ship with seemingly the Capt of the ship (Pike) the only senior officer aboard, with a bunch of trainees.  This was akin to the cadets of VMI going off to fight for the confederacy before they had a chance to graduate.  That could have worked (and did) in the civil war, but the machines of war are a bit more complicated in the 23rd century than the 19th.  No Naval (or even commercial ship for that matter) today could possibly accomplish its mission with an entire crew of trainees.  Where were the precommisioning crews for this armada? 

As far as the sets go, I didn’t understand the transparent 3′ diameter pipe with some kind of watery fluid running through it, bizarre engine room looking more like it came from the "alien" series, with "turbines", and a valve that dumps the watery fluid onto the nice tiled deck.  Apparently, there is plenty of space to design machinery rooms in the distant future. 

Automated damage control features for recoverability seemed to be less effective than systems we have today, although when the hull starts to crack, but still is able to maintain pressure, its pretty amazing (or stupid). 

Kirk not only gets a well deserved medal (he would have received the Congressional Medal of Honor for what he did in the movie today), he gets promoted all the way from cadet to Capt of a star ship in a few days (at least I think its a few days, as no one ever sleeps, eats, pees or anything real people have to do in these movies).  I undertand he is a gifted officer, but to skip from 3rd year cadet to senior officer is a bit much.  I guess we have a true meritocracy in this utopian future. 

Another pet peeve: anyone who knows anything about giant construction projects such as ship building would be amazed that so many new star ships are being built and all ready at once, with no legacy crew to man them up.  Imagine the US building like 5 aircraft carriers all at once, having them all be able to be deployed at once, without any trials, testing and certification process or outfitting period.  I also like the way the enterprise is constructed in Iowa – how it gets to the space dock in orbit, I don’t know…

And as far as the ginormous drilling machine Nero uses to facilitate the destruction of planets, how does it all fit in the romulan ship? and why not just create this singularity on the surface of the target planet (and how does that lava lamp red goop create a black hole in the first place)?  All of the matter is going to get sucked in anyway. 

Don’t the most advanced planets of the Federation have any planetary defenses at all?  If spock’s ship could sever the drill bit, you’d think Earth or Vulcan could send up a couple of 23rd century fighter planes to do the job.  And why does the drilling machine stop the transporters from working again???  Too much EMI, I suppose.  In the end, I think there is about as much fantasy in the movie as Lord of the Rings, but at least LotRs happens in an alternate reality.  I have no problem suspending belief for these movies really, I just like them to have a certain level of plausibility that seemed to be missing in this one.  Still, its certainly one of the best trek movies, none of which has really been all that fantastic.  I forgot to mention, special bonus points for the Umpa Loompa first assistant engineer to Scotty.  I need to get one of those guys to help around the house.

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Fords of Isen Turns 1 through 4

Fords of Isen Play Test

 

My gaming group decided to squeeze in some 25 mm Tolkien fantasy miniatures to go along with the usual Napoleonics, ancients, colonials, WWII, future fantasy and all the other various genres we have played over the years.  The games we play are really determined by whoever is willing to host and prepare the event.  When I get the time to do so, I’ve traditionally experimented with new rules sets, sometimes based on a favorite of the past.

 

This time, I had a request for minis with no look up charts.  This can easily be accommodated by use of a system using predefined unit ratings with a differential combat determination system.  Throw in some easy morale and scenario specific rules and you are ready to roll.

 

I knew that this particular system would have its detractors, since it required lots of dice; two per figure in combat or firing missiles, actually, as well as two on the defensive side to dodge, parry or shield against the attack.  I like using 2x six sided dice since I grew up playing old Avalon Hill and SPI games.

 

I tried to mitigate the hardship of massive dice rolling by going to my local hobby shop (GW in this case) and loading up on 6-siders of many color combinations so that an entire unit of 6 figures could roll for their attack and defense at once by use of corresponding colored and sized dice.  This worked pretty well in my book, but I am still waiting for the kvetching to come.

 

The scenario:  I borrowed much of the “historical” basis for this scenario from (once again) Mr. Larsen’s outstanding web site: http://larsen-family.us/~1066/index.html where you can read about the particulars of the conflict, its outcome, how it fits into the War of the Ring and how it can be gamed in miniature.   

 

Fortunately, I had almost all the figures I wanted to game this scenario, only paining up about 20 more Heritage Elan Merch figures (circa 1979) in order to fill out an order of battle with 32 units of Rohirim (Eoreds) and 64 units of assorted bad guys.  The bad guys are mostly Uruk Hai, with some standard orcs, Dunlandings, and wargs for good measure.  I also had to build the Styrofoam and balsawood forts Rohan had built defending the fords on the west side.   

 

Here is the set up:

 

 

 

There is not a great deal of strategy in this game, Saruman has the most to think about, since he is on the attack and has to complete 2 of 3 objectives by turn 15:  Capture both of the forts and kill Theodred  (King Theoden’s only son).  Saruman also has to think about fording the river not at the actual ford (in my scenario) and fighting both the current and the forces of the Westmark – risky business but it can save time.  Rohan, on the other hand, has to hang on and delay the advance of Saruman’s army until Helm’s Deep can be fortified.

 

First 4 turns:

 

Most of the action so far is on the east side of the river.  The Riders of Rohan equipped with bows are taking a very deadly toll on Saruman’s light troops here.  The warg riders and Dunlanding Cavalry are getting hammered before they can even get into contact with the “straw heads.”  Some of the problem was maybe due to a poor initial deployment here, Alan (working Sarumans guys on this side of the river) thinks he should have put his archers in front and I think he is correct on that, as the Rohanese are using traditional horse archer tactics to great benefit.  On a rules note, I’m getting rid of opportunity fire as it confuses folks on movement impacts and is not needed with the ranges given.

wargs got shot up pretty bad!

 

 

Some 1/2 Orcs decide to run.  Spiked clubs really don’t instill a great deal of confidence in a half-orc, as say a pike does.

 

The few close actions that happen here are pretty disastrous for Saruman in the early going, but he has plenty more minions to join the fray later…

 

On the west side, the losses are pretty severe just due to Rohan’s archery alone, but at least the fist fort is under attack by turn 4, and Sarumans horde of archers are just getting into good position to lay down massive fire into the forts.

 

 

The way the scenario works, Saruman is at a big disadvantage until he can get some of this warriors into the forts, and then the odds become much more even.  But until he can get some units into the forts, losses are going to be very one sided.  So far 33 to 3 in favor of Rohan.

 

In any case, I took a simple set of rules (2 ½ pages) and came up with a good system IMO, although I certainly could have devised the game to run on units rolling 20 siders instead of buckets of 6-siders.  I hope to play more and maybe finish this battle this week. 

Some of Saruman’s brave dead (or Aruman, as they called him in the Bakshi movie so as to not cause confusion with Sauron).

 

I was planning on finishing up the game myself after the second round of play testing.  We completed another 4 turns, and the game could have gone either way, however, I have to admit the buckets of dice were holding things up at this scale, particulary the need to compare each pair (type) of dice with those rolled against them, in order to get a differentail.  So as far as the game ballance went, I think that worked out fine.  A better set up on the east side of the Isen for Saruman and the game would have been even more close.  By the end of the 8th turn, the first Rohirim fortress was heavily infested with Uruks, and a large group of 1/2 orc archers were formed up firing into the second fort.  Theodred’s  Eored was shot up pretty well, and had to retreat into the second fort (he was guarding the road leading to the eyelet in the middle of the Isen).  I was playing these troups, and should have retreated them earlier, the defense against archery fire being much superior within a fort.

 

This was the final situation in the first fort.  The Uruks infested half of it, and it was time to make a hasty retreat to the eyelet or the second fort.  Rather than play this battle out solo as originally planned, I think its time to reset and tweak the rules for faster combat resolution.  One idea I have is to use the random number generator on Excel.  That would make the "rolling" and comparing of the results super quick.  It would take some of the fun out of it, though, so I may just try reducing the dice to one pair per unit vs figure and do somthing about the results to account for the greater statistical variance.

 

 

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25 critical facts about me (not so random, but more a stream of consciousness thingy from the facebook craze)

I was on business travel in Seattle during the great World Bank protest. I checked into the Westin and was almost immediately in lock down by order of the police (can’t leave the building) with protesters who chained themselves to the building chanting loudly below. The destruction the next day was noteworthy.

One Saturday morning in 1987 I was staying at the BOQ on Treasure Island, when the Marines decided to hold an unannounced drill. I was ordered to leave the building with my hands up by big guys with M16’s. They interrogated me briefly, frisked me, and then I was released. No water boards were used.

I was once on the USS RANGER, an aircraft carrier, for 28 days at sea. It gave me a new respect for those who serve in the US Navy and MARCORPS.  There were no curtains on the WCs or the 3 high berths.

I love dogs. The Yorkshire Terrier is my favorite breed.

I took my first Yorkie Mr Pippin with me to FL and CA for several months at a time, Gail watched him the rest of the time.  The flight attendants can get pissy if you let your dog stick its head out of its carrier.  They would much prefer it if he just barks his head off, because there doesn’t seem to be a rule against that.

Although nominally living in VA/MD since college, I also spent 2 years in CA and one in FL. Los Gatos was the coolest place I ever lived.

I flew over the Potomac on inauguration day for Obama, and got to see 1.8 Million fanatics crowding the National Mall. Getting to Reagan National on the Metro was a daring feat.

I had been recruiting Engineers to come work Uncle Sugar for 6 years now at U of Michigan before the great recession and eventual “right-sizing.” I would give a presentation in the same classroom every time, which happened to be a classroom that I actually took a class in back in 1984. These students were generally less than ½ my age, but it did not seem that way.

I have had as many as 4 offices simultaneously, I am now back to only 1.

My parents confiscated all my bar mitzvah money to pay for the dinner, etc. I am NOT bitter to this day.

My friend Mr. McCarthy put a big picture of me, Gail, Mike Strathmann in the back page of
the word famous St Croix Avis newspaper when we visited him on the island.

Pippin almost made it up Lombard St (the crookedest street in the word) by himself, but I finally had to carry him the last ¼ of the way.

I only had the spins once. In college on the day before classes Senior Year. I will never come close to getting that drunk ever again.

I once worked in a vault, where we had to eject and lock up our hard drives every evening.

I once worked at Chuck E Cheese Pizza Time Theater in Okemos MI. I sometimes had to be Chucky or the purple guy who was a Grimace (of Mickey D’s fame) Rip-Off. The worst part about it was having to wear the suit after another worker had sweated in it.

I once got a long ride in Tom Cruise’s P-51 Mustang thanks to my brother in law.

I once had a job cleaning theaters. The worst part about it was cleaning the “blood boxes.” This should be featured on “Dirty Jobs.”

I was CAPT of the OHS Chess Team as a senior, but we sucked that year.

I am the only Naval Architect in the Navy to have managed designs for a monohull ship (single hulled ship), then a SWATH (double hulled ship) and then a Trimaran (3 hulled ship) and in that order.

I have seen Blue Oyster Cult in concert 6 times going back to the 1970’s.

I have run several miniatures events at gaming conventions over the years, and am a regular in a bi-weekly miniatures and board gaming club.

My dad one barged into my room, ripped a black light poster (featuring a demon being summoned by a wizard) off my wall, and set it on fire in a 55 gallon drum until it burned up completely. He did this due to a bad dream he had about the images on it. Weird.

I am still driving only the second car I have ever owned.

Business travel has taken me to these diverse places: Freemantle (Australia), Helsinki, Honolulu, Atlanta, New York, Mobile, San Diego, Los Angeles, Escondido, Vallejo, Sunnyvale, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Jacksonville, Mayport, Port Hueneme, New Orleans, Pascagoula, Panama City, Boston, Miami Beach and Dahlgren

I attended a speech by then President George W Bush on 10 September 2001 (the day before 911). Sat right in front and Condi was there too.   He did not read us any childrens books like he did the next day.

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