Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Phantom of the Attic Moves to Downtown Easton

Phantom of the Attic, my friendly neighborhood gaming/comic book store moved to downtown Easton, Pa. this week. The store's located at 125-129 Third Street, one block east from the Route 22 4th Street exit. The new location is great -- it's got beautiful hard wood floors, expansive amounts of space, and the Silver Surfer flying in one of the two display windows.

The shop moved from the 25th Street Shopping Plaza location, which wasn't nearly as nice as this one. A couple of my friends have remarked that parking might be an issue downtown, but in my experience it's a heck of a lot easier to navigate and find a spot in downtown Easton then it is having to run the automobile gauntlet that is 25th Street during rush hour (or any hour for that matter).

The store's still in flux, but the comics are racked and things appear to be coming together nicely. There's a prime gaming space in the back. so prime that I'd even consider having my group meet down there once in a while.

It's that nice. Or has the potential to be. I'm also thinking of volunteering to run a Savage Worlds one shot at the store in December, once NaNoWriMo is behind me and normality returns to the Newquist household. I've been itching to get in a game of SW; this would be a good way to do it.

Anyway, if you're in the Lehgih Valley (and I know a number of you are) stop by, check out the store, and buy something. This is the only truly geeky shop we have in Easton; we should make an extra effort to support it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Marching Downtown

The Easton Area School Board voted 7-2 to go ahead with $30 million in renovations and expansions to March and Paxinosa Elementary Schools, a move that will see both schools closed in 2008-2009 while the kids temporary spend a year at the old Middle School (sans Middle School students, who will be moving to the new Middle School).

I was at the school board meeting last Thursday, and there was very little talk about this from the school board, which was disappointing. As a former reporter, I know that's likely because they've already talked it to death at the monthly Buildings and Grounds meetings, but still, they could have at least explained their reasoning. A few parents spoke; some were concerned about the suitability of the building for little kids (which has been my biggest hangup about the move) and one was paranoid about alleged drug deals and crime happening down town, which inspired this article in the Express-Times.

Personally, I don't think it's class or race at issue, or at least, I don't think that's the primary issue; it's more lack of knowledge, or rather, lack of accurate knowledge. People read the paper, see headlines about crime downtown, and get nervous. Kerry Myers, the new school board rep quoted in the article, is right: the suburbs are hardly immune to crime (as illustrated by a murder that happened just last month in Forks) and I'd be willing to bet there's just as many drug deals in the burbs as there are downtown. The difference is, you don't see them when everyone's hiding on their 1/4 acre.

There's certainly a perception of crime downtown, but at the same time, I've never felt like I was taking my life into my hands going to the library, getting dinner at Porter's, or having a drink at Which Brew, all of which are on Northampton Street.

I'd love to see some GIS data showing crime in Easton and the surrounding area (which sounds like a great project for the PoliSci department at Lafayette. Or maybe the Express-Times could do some number crunching...); nothing fights ignorance like facts.

Meanwhile, we still haven't heard enough about the changes being made to the old Middle School to make it suitable for K-4th graders. I want to hear about traffic management (as legions of parents compete with parents to get and drop off kids), playground equipment (last I heard, there wasn't any) and the not-insignificant issue of trying to herd 1,000 or so elementary school kids around a school that's much bigger than what they're used to.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Geeks Can Run for Office ... and Win!

Atlas Games President John Nephew's been elected to city council in Maplewood, Minnesota. According to Gaming Report, his opposition tried to play the "games are evil" card, but clearly it didn't work. I'm not saying I want to run for city council in Easton, I'm just saying I find it interesting that a gamer was able to do it ... and win.

Nephew talks about his win and the mainstreaming of games at ICv2.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Easton Area School Board Meeting Tonight (11/15)

The Easton Area School Board's meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Easton Area Education Center, 1801 Bushkill Drive, Easton, as it does the third Saturday of every month. What makes tonight different is they'll be discussing (and likely voting on) plans to renovate March and Paxinosa Schools. It's item K under section XI. NEW BUSINESS of the agenda. As part of these renovations, the school district has stated they intend to close Paxinosa and March schools next year (2008-2009) and have the students attend the old Middle School instead (its students having been moved to the new Middle School in Forks).

Parents of the affected schools met about two weeks ago to discuss this, and submitted a number of questions about the projects and their associated plans to the school board. The board has said they'll answer at least some of those tonight.

My wife and I live on College Hill and our daughter would have attended kindergarten at March next year, so this issue's of keen interest to us. I'm planning to attend the meeting; I'll be the guy with the dark green shirt, orange tie and the MacBook Pro in tow. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Radio Active 59: Novel Update, Seeds of Destruction, NanoMonkeys, Invincible Super Blog

Book Cover: Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction

On this edition of Nuketown Radio Active, I update folks on my quest to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, check out a new LEGO Chess set, debate what to call a hybrid unicorn/pegasus.

In Netheads I talk about Chris's Invincible Super Blog, a blog featuring capsule reviews of current and classic comic books and the NanoMonkeys Podcast, which returns for its second year of offering advice and encouragement to those participating in National Novel Writing Month. Rounding out the podcast is a review the Hellboy graphic novel Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola. Get the episode at

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Of Charters and City Councils

Easton voters approved changes to the city's charter yesterday, implementing home rule, diversifying its taxing powers and expanding the city council to seven seats while making the mayor president of the council. I'm a little surprised at how few people voted on the issue, given how important it was: 2,289 vs 3,643 for the mayoral race.

Democrat Sal Panto was elected mayor again, and brought with him a string of Democratic councilmen and women.

The big question now is ... where do we go from here? The city's got serious financial problems, which is why I voted for the charter yesterday -- relying entirely on real estate taxes to fund government services clearly isn't working. But what kind of Democrats got elected yesterday? The fiscally responsible kind that will use their new tax powers wisely, or the tax-and-spend kind that will spawn a few dozen pet projects that will dig the city deeper into the hole?

Based on what I've read, I'm hoping for the former, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Radio Active #58: Chess for Kids, Geek Dads, D&D 4E

On this episode of Radio Active, I discuss my daughter Jordan's sudden desire to learn chess and my approach to teaching her, contemplate the impending arrival of National Novel Writing Month, check out the Geek Dad Podcast and Simian Farmer blog and offer some thoughts on the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Get the episode at Nuketown

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Capitol Ideas, Two Rivers Daily

For a variety of reasons, some relating to my novel work for NaNoWrimo, some personal interest, I've been checking out the areas newspaper web sites recently. The PennLive remains a jumbled Borg-like mess that some how managed to assimilate a half-dozen newspaper web sites, including our local paper, the Express-Times, but the redesigned is surprisingly clean and reader-friendly. Moreover, its spun off a number of new blogs.

Of particular interest to me on Election Day was the political blog Capitol Ideas, which featured live blogging of election results and occasional quotes from activists at the various polling places. It's an amusing read that mixed together politics with Queen references. I kid you not. Honestly, I didn't think reporters were allowed to have this much fun, at least in public.

Their new Easton blog is Two Rivers Daily, which sounds great until you realize that it's died an unceremonious death on October 10. Prior to that it lived up to its name with a steady stream of local happenings and press releases. There wasn't much there in the way of personal observations or opinions, the sort of thing a blog really needs to keep people interested, which may explain the doom that befell it.


Here are some useful links for figuring out whose running and who you want to vote for:

Election Coverage
League of Women Voters 2007 State Municipal Election Guide.
The Morning Call's take on the guide (PDF)
Express-Times' Endorsements
Morning Call Endorsements

Voting Information
How to use the voting machines
Where to vote in Northampton County