Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Son the Magician

"Good Morning Dad! Wanna see my new magic trick?"

Kids are great. As Chris Taylor told me once, "Kids are great! You should have more kids!" He should know, he's got four of them.

The catch though, with toddlers, is that they like to surprise you. These aren't the "Here Dad, I made this for you!" kind of surprises either. These are the "I didn't know a 21-month old boy could pee high enough to hit the bathroom ceiling" kind of surprises.

About a month ago, the Lovely and Gracious Wife and I realized that The Boy had figured out how to take off his own diaper. This meant no more naps in just a diaper on hot days, and required him to be in at least a "onesy". (For those who haven't experienced the joys of baby clothing, a onesy is basically a shirt with snaps on the bottom that allows it to cover a diaper.) Actually, what happened was the Lovely and Gracious Wife found out that The Boy could remove his diaper and started putting him in a onesy, I had to learn by cleaning up soaked sheets after getting The Boy up from a nap.

This morning started like most mornings do, with me getting up The Boy and turning on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for him while the Lovely and Gracious Wife and The Girl sleep for a bit longer. It took me a while, but I happened to look over to see The Boy scratching himself, and thought that I'd seen something that shouldn't be possible. Mostly because there's supposed to be a diaper covering the area he was scratching. Picking him up, I realized just how grateful I am that he seems to be taking to potty-training and bladder control early, otherwise there could have been wet spots all over the living room. Sure enough, sometime after he woke up, The Boy had somehow removed his diaper from inside his onesy. Some talent.

Tonight he went to bed in a sort of 1-piece tank-top/short thing. If he's free-ballin' tomorrow morning, his night diapers are going to start getting help from Duct Tape.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Playing at McDonalds

Well, it's official. As of Sunday, my wife and I have officially become "those parents". I can't say I'm terribly proud of our decision, but truth be told, I doubt it will be the last time. When you've got an extremely active 21-month old little boy, and you live in a >900 square foot condo, he's got to play somewhere.

Here's the deal: we live in a small condo. It's what we could afford when we bought it, but we knew at the time it was only a starter home, not where we'd be living in the rest of our lives. Lord willing, we'll move into something larger, preferably with a yard, in a year or two, but for now, here we are. On the summer days when it's not raining, the Lovely and Gracious wife usually takes the kids to the park in the morning so that our son can run around and play. In the afternoons after everyone gets up from their naps, they usually go to one of the local malls that has an indoor free play area.

Unfortunately, naps ran late on Sunday. Since the mall closes earlier, we realized that we would only be there for maybe ten minutes before things started to close. This would have been somewhat less than optimal, since our son prefers to play around other kids, and our daughter needs lots of noise and people to hold her attention and keep her awake. The question was simple, really: where do we go at 7pm on Sunday that's open, has a play area, and most important, is free/very cheap.

Which is how we found ourselves in the play area of a local McDonalds, eating Chicken McNuggets and Chipotle Snack Wraps, and helping our son climb up into their large slide/gym thing.

Yup, despite our college degrees and my white collar job, I'm pretty sure we're even closer to being a redneck family than we've ever been before.

Still, I guess the important thing is that The Boy had fun and got a lot of exercise. He was sweating pretty good by the end, and slept well that night. Which, of course, only means that we'll be making more McDonalds trips when we need a cheap indoor play area in the future.

Ba-da-da-da-da... I'm lovin' it. I guess. Maybe

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Community Recharging

Apologies for the lack of bloggage Friday and Sunday. As previously mentioned, I had an off-site activity I needed to attend on Friday, and Sunday I was enjoying the last day of the Arlington EAA Fly-in.

I've attended the fly-in every year for the past three years, and in four of the six years I've lived in the Seattle area. One of the most useful things I've learned from these things is that for me at least, they're a useful and important part of keeping the fires of my enthusiasm stoked year round.

I've always enjoyed aviation. It's my biggest hobby, followed in no particular order by baseball, anime, and video games. It's not always easy to keep my enthusiasm for flying though. Winters in the Northwest are long and damp, I work in an office, and the money needed to actually start taking flying lessons seems so far away. It's easy sometimes to get discouraged, wonder why I'm dreaming this impossible dream, and start considering what other uses the small savings I've made towards flight school could be used for.

A few hours at an air show brings it all back. Sitting in the grass, the wing of an old Cessna providing shade while I watched pilots perform aerobatic maneuvers that shouldn't be aerodynamically possible. Hearing the deep rumble of a massive AD-1 Skyraider as she taxies in the parade of warbirds, then hearing that engine sound the way it was meant to be heard as she thunders overhead. Even just walking the flightline, seeing aircraft buzzing overhead, and looking at finished and unfinished projects reminds me that Yes! This can be done!

I think this encouragement of being around like-minded people is a built-in thing, inherent to our human nature. Even the "loners" of the world tend to find community and encouragement with other loners, often through MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, or through message boards. It's part of what we are, and I've got to believe, it's one of the big reasons why God knew we needed church, rather than just trying to go it alone.

Someday, I will have an airplane to work on. It will start as a pile of parts sitting in my basement, garage, or my parent's garage. I could build it alone. I'll have an instruction book and blueprints to tell me what to do, it can be done. It's also much more likely that after a couple years of turning lots of small parts into slightly bigger parts, I'll get tired. After another year or two of having half the garage taken over by dusty bits of aluminum, my lovely and gracious wife will suggest that I should think about doing something with said bits of aluminum. And finally, after another year or two of vacillation, I'll admit defeat and the whole mess will end up on E-Bay and in Trade-a-Plane, just like so many other partially completed kits.

That's where the go it alone route leads, and is why when I do get the kit, I'll be working with other people, and plugging in to my local EAA group for additional support. Because I want an airplane, one that's safe, flyable, and fun; not a pile of dusty metal in the garage.

If community is that important a factor for something like a project, how much more vital is it to things that really effect our lives?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Late Today

Sorry, Friday review will be up late tonight. I was to be somewhere this morning that wasn't conducive to blogging.

Monday, July 9, 2007

And the children shall lead us

When you have an extremely active 20 month old boy in the home, and your home is a sub-900 square foot condo with no private yard and a 10-foot communal patch of grass, you tend to go out a lot. To parks when it's sunny, and to indoor play areas when it isn't. Since we live in the Seattle area, we spend a lot of time at indoor play areas. For us, the closest (free) indoor play area is at the local mall.

The local mall has a pretty diverse population. A lot of Asian families, a fair number of black families, etc. What's really striking is to watch all the kids play together. It's a good reminder that little kids don't see skin color, just other kids to play with.

I think that's the way I grew up. Racism was, to me, an intellectual concept, one more entry in the list of stupid ideas that some people believe.

Then I went to college, and found out that not only do these idiots still exist, sometimes they go to college and become educated idiots.

And sometimes, when I see my little son running around the play area, shrieking with delight and being chased by a little boy with skin of a different color, following a little girl of another ethnicity, I remember some of the conversations I had with the educated idiots I once shared a dorm room with. And I wonder how anyone can see skin color and think that it matters, if they've ever seen little children at play.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Weekend Aviation Fun: Inside the Cockpit with Bob Hoover

Oldie, but a goodie. Video clip from a BBC documentary inside the cockpit with Bob Hoover.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Video Game Review: Tomb Raider Legend

I knew the dame was trouble the moment she walked into my office. Dames with curves like that always are. But hey, what was I to do? I'd just set up the new office on Gametap Avenue, and a client is a client. Of course, if I'd known that talking to her was going to end with me free-climbing in the Peruvian mountains, swinging across pits of spikes hoping that the vine I'm clinging to won't break, and getting into more running gunfights than I'd care to count with the thugs that were after her, I might have have said something different when she plunked down on my desktop and said, with a British accent in her voice, "Hello, I'm Lara Croft, and I need your help." Then again, I'm a sucker for an accent, and like I said, the dame had it where counts.

She said that she was trying to locate some sword fragments. "Fair enough", I responded, "but archeology really ain't my shtick. Have you tried Dr. Jones down the hall?" It wasn't like that though. The sword fragments were connected to the Arthurian legend of Excalibur, along with more personal connections to the disappearance of her mother, and her father's research. How could I say no to that?

I've never been a huge Tomb Raider fan, to be honest. Yes, I've seen the movies staring Angelina Jolie, but the last TR game I played was the original, and it had a protracted argument with my PC's video card that resulted in a less than amicable split. But TR Legend is available on the free side of Gametap's all you can eat game service, so I figured I'd give it a shot. The game was released last year for every major console and the PC, and got decent reviews as well.

Overall, I enjoyed the game. I usually have some annoyances with the camera controls in 3rd-person perspective games, but the camera here was surprisingly trouble free. Combat was generally fun, and save for some scripted button pushing sequences that I thought were totally unnecessary, the game moved along pretty well. It took me about 10 hours to finish the single-player campaign, although there are a lot of unlockables that could double that play time if you wanted to play Barbie dress-up with Lara and all her outfits. Then again, I'm married with two kids, and well past the Jr. High days of being amused with "Look at Teh cartoon B00biez" by taking 10 hours to unlock a bikini to dress Lara in. (Spend an extra 10 hours for this? No thanks.)

The story, while not the best I've ever seen, worked for me. The voice acting was also good, and the game had some genuinely good emotional moments.

One irritant that I dealt with that I suspect most people won't (and haven't) was in controls. For some reason I couldn't save my custom control scheme. While I finally devised a workaround via my programmable gamepad, it was still a perpetual annoyance everytime I started the game. Of course, if you play on a console, or even the normal PC version, you likely won't have this problem.

Here's the final stats:
Genre: 3rd Person Action/Adventure
System: PC (also availabe on Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, and Gamecube)
Rated: T (Ages 13 and up)
Appropriate for Ages: 13 and up. I guess the ESRB agreed with me, since they rated TR: Legend T for Teen. As previously noted, boys of a certain age will chuckle about Lara's "assets", but the game is worth playing regardless.
System Requirements: If you've bought a new computer in the past three years, you should be fine. Or, just play it on the console.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Fireworks and the Fourth

I've always enjoyed watching fireworks. The colors, the noise, the potential flirtation with danger, has always made an appealing combination for me. Growing up in the People's Republic of California, there were (are still) pretty severe restrictions on what can be legally purchased, so I didn't shoot a lot of big stuff. Still most years, the brothers and I would gather in the yard in the evening of the Fourth, arm ourselves with Supersoakers to extinguish any stray fires (we lived in the desert, and fireworks don't absolve you of responsibilities) and set off a few Piccolo Petes and wave sparklers around.

Of course, boys grow up, and sometimes they move to states with less restrictive regulations. The shot below is what we hope to be firing off this year.

Lots of fountains, mortars, Roman candles,
and a hundred pop-its.

There's a rich history of celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks, dating back to 1777. Before that, fireworks were so popular in Elizabethan England that they were mentioned in some of Shakespeare's plays. While they've certainly gotten fancier in the intervening centuries, I like to think that when we light off our Roman candles and mortars on the Fourth, we join in a tradition that connects us to the days of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and the rest of the great men who founded this nation.

It's interesting to realize that, when this tradition first started, America was still very much a untamed continent. Most boys learned to hunt, and if they weren't apprenticed to become tradesmen in a city, would likely become farmers. Losing a finger lighting or throwing the fireworks of the day was likely very far down on the danger list.

Now, of course, we strap our kids into special car seats and keep them there until they're 8. God forbid that they should ride their bikes without helmets, or play in the grass for five minutes without being slathered in mosquito repellent. It saddens me to say that I know multiple parents (okay, mothers) who forbid their kids from watching anything even remotely violent (awful fodder like Disney's Sleeping Beauty is right out), and ban toy guns and swords from their homes.

It was a big day for me when I was finally allowed to light something more dangerous than a sparkler on the Fourth. I just hope that when my son reaches that age, there'll still be something legal to light.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Weekend Aviation Fun: Jimmy Franklin's Jet Biplane

I remember seeing this act during one of my family's visits to Reno in the mid-90s. It's a biplane, with a jet engine. Enough said.