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Okay, I’m probably going to talk about this on my Stonemaier Games blog soon, but I’m just so giddy with excitement that I have to share this video here too.

Some context: Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge recently opened at Disneyland. The Westworld-style full immersion area isn’t available yet, but the Millennium Falcon ride/game, several restaurants, and the various stores are ready.

I’ve been watching videos about all of them, but one in particular really blew me away. It’s 10 minutes of people building their own lightsabers. They’re not “real” lightsabers, but they’re mostly made out of metal, and each one is unique based on components you choose.

I’d highly recommend watching the video if you like Star Wars, but a quick summary is that the host introduced you to lore about the lightsabers at the beginning and throughout. They talk to you as if you are really in the Star Wars universe. You pick your crystal color and a combination of 6 different parts. Then there’s the magical moment at the end where the sabers come to life.

In my opinion, the entire presentation is incredibly well done. I love the immersion, the high-quality components (as far as I can tell), and the intimacy of it all. It costs $200, but I would be awfully tempted to participate if/when I go to Galaxy’s Edge.

Would you build a lightsaber if you went to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge? Is the wand-selection process at the Harry Potter world anything like this?

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My Thoughts on the Attack in Japan

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If you have children (or nieces or nephews or an imagination), think about when they were 6 years old or when they will be. That’s how old my niece is right now.

Think about sending those children to school. Like, the actual logistics of it. If you’re in the US, you probably either (a) drive your kids to school or (b) accompany them to a specific spot for a school bus to pick them up. Either way, the kids are typically delivered with supervision from your home to their destination.

Now try to picture this: Instead of the above methods, imagine if you simply opened your door, said goodbye to your 6-year-old child, and trusted they would end up at school. Not only that, but imagine that their school is located 30 minutes away, requiring a combination of walking and public train to get there.

That place is Japan.

I saw this all the time when I studied abroad in Japan. I noticed it the most during my two summers in Hiroshima, as I was among those kids (albeit high schoolers) making the long trek from home to school. It’s a daily mass migration as a result of a combination of safety, society, and public transportation.

In a way, it’s a bit of a miracle that it works so well. And that miracle was shattered on Tuesday when a man stabbed 17 elementary schoolgirls at a bus stop in Kawasaki.

This would be a heinous act in any country. But I think it’s particularly vile for someone to disrupt a such a peaceful miracle. They’ve taken something safe, something people trust–like a country music concert in Vegas or a sidewalk in Paris–and forced people to question it. Remember when schools didn’t have metal detectors at the entrances?

My heart goes out to the people of Kawasaki. It broke me to hear this news.

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One of my favorite shows/sports/competitions, American Ninja Warrior, is returning to television tomorrow. As per tradition, the new season begins with a 3-hour skills competition featuring some of the top competitors.

The vast majority of the skills competition involves variations on normal challenges: Two ninjas may race against each other in a head-to-head challenge or attempt to outjump all other competitors. There’s a team portion and an individual portion.

But this year, they added one new event at the end. It was a freestyle event judged by the hosts of the show. Normally the winners of any event are quantitative–this is the first time an event has been subjectively judged. Which is fine for a fun episode like the skills competition.

Each of 6 competitors had 2 chances to impress the judges by launching themselves from an obstacle and ultimately landing in the water. There were a few interesting takes on the obstacle, but most contestants simply opted to spin a few times in the air and then make a big splash.

I thought it was fine, certainly the start of a fun tradition. But here’s the thing: ninja warrior competitors are really good at not falling. That’s what makes them so impressive. This event put them in the awkward position of trying to do the one thing they try so hard not to do.

Here’s how I’d change it: Let each competitor choose 1 specific section of the entire ninja warrior course on which to do something cool. We’ve seen competitors do awesome, challenging maneuvers on every part of the course over the years, like jumping 2 rungs in the salmon ladder or skipping over optional obstacles. I’m sure every competitor has something cool they’d like to try outside of the realm of real competition. Let them do that thing wherever they want on the course. I bet we’d see some brilliant moves as a result.

What do you think? Did you enjoy the freestyle competition? Who are you rooting for this season?

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Despite my intense love of chocolate as an adult, I had very little access to it when I was a child. We had access to candy at Halloween, at Christmas, and at Easter, but beyond that, it was a rare treat.

So recently when I was gifted an amazing chocolate bar that I’ll share in a moment, I was transported back to the first chocolate bar that etched itself into my memory.

I was raised Catholic, and I attended Sunday school every week starting around age 6 or 7. For several of my elementary school years, my Sunday school instructors were Mr. and Mrs. Walent, whose son was in the same church and public school I attended.

I don’t remember much about Sunday school itself, other than an intense drive to memorize the Beatitudes. But I will never forget the one day that class ended (perhaps for the semester) and the Walents gave each student a full-sized Symphony chocolate bar.

It was by far the largest chocolate bar I’d ever seen. In my memory it’s almost as big as I was. It was so large, in fact, that I thought for sure it was meant to share with others…but no, everyone in the class got one.

I waited until I got home to open it. I remember peeling back the gold foil to reveal the chocolate inside. I tried a bite, and it was magical–it was the first creamy milk chocolate I’d ever eaten.

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I savored that chocolate bar, allowing myself 1 piece a day for the next week. This was a difficult pace to maintain, but each piece was so big that it wasn’t as hard as I thought.

I’ve since eaten far fancier chocolate, but I don’t think any chocolate will ever eclipse that experience. I will forever treasure that memory.

So why did this come to mind? At a recent game convention, a lovely woman named Barbara introduced herself to me and presented me with a Stonemaier chocolate bar she had commissioned from her local chocolatier. She said she didn’t know how much was a normal amount of chocolate to put into a bar, so she asked for a 1-pound bar…and it turned out to be massive. 

When I tried the first bite last week and discovered that it was creamy, delicious milk chocolate, I instantly thought of that first Symphony experience. In fact, this chocolate bar is so big that it even renewed some of that child-like wonderment that’s so hard to replicate as an adult. I feel very, very fortunate.

What was your most memorable experience with chocolate (or another treat) as a child? Is there any thing as an adult that has triggered those positive memories?

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As the class of 2019 listened to their commencement speech, billionaire Robert F. Smith announced that he and his family would be paying off the entire graduating class’s student debt.

Can you imagine being one of those students and hearing this news? For some it may have even verged on the edge of disbelief–it sounds too good to be true.

But as far as I can tell, Smith’s offer is genuine. It will free nearly 400 graduates from the burden of student loans, possibly opening up a series of doors that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to consider.

Mostly my reaction is of admiration. It isn’t something Smith was obligated to do, and he can’t help everyone. But it seems he made the decision that helping some is better than helping none.

I hope the students who benefit from his generosity take full advantage of the opportunity they’ve been given. I’m fortunate that I had a good interest rate on my loans, and I paid them off several years ago, but they definitely impacted my finances for a while. I don’t think my career path would have changed, but it may have allowed me to go on more adventures in my 20s.

What would you do (or have done) with no student debt?