My XBox Live Gamer Card
Wednesday, October 14. 2009
Once the doors opened Travis and I headed for the the Microsoft booth to get in the 40-minute line up to play ODST. There were three stations of four seats each and they were allowing each group to play ten minutes of the game's Firefight mode (Now that the game is released, my longest games of Firefight have all been over an hour and I can see them going much longer than that as I improve). However, ten minutes was enough to give us a great taste of a very very fun game mode. Of course Travis was the high-scorer on our team, and he continues to be the high-scorer in every game I have played with him since.
While in line waiting to get our hands on ODST we got to watch several people try their hand at Forza 3. I loved Forza 2 and have been very impressed with what I have seen of Forza 3 so far. The setup they were using to demo the game involved three 360s and three monitors and a cockpit with pedals and steering wheel. It was very very impressive. One of the most interesting things about the Forza community is that it is divided into those who race cars and those who paint cars. I'm good at neither of those things yet this is still on my list of "must-buy" games this fall.
While in line for ODST I started noticing my head hurting, I was pleased it wasn't a migraine, I didn't want a migraine wrecking our second day of PAX.
We wandered the aisles of the Expo. We saw the demo of Ubisoft's new Splinter Cell game which looks like it may be a lot of fun. I bought the Monster Manual 2 a second Players Guide and a set of three hero figures at the Wizards of the Coast booth. We saw some amazing gaming tables at the Geek Chic booth I really think the Emissary table would go very well in my dining room.
While watching people playing D&D on the very cool furniture I started to realize the headache was getting pretty bad. Migraines are not any fun, but I know how to deal with them and what to expect. I have no coping ability when I have a bad headache that is not a migraine. My life simply runs downhill. We had some food and I ingested some of my drug of choice, caffeine in an attempt to stave the headache off but that didn't work. After lunch we visited the Harmonix booth and took in The Beatles: Rockband. They were giving away t-shirts to people who were willing to play on stage but I couldn't convince Travis to participate so we missed out on those shirts! We did stay and watch a few groups play and it was a lot of fun. The Beatles music is amazingly timeless, and I am often in awe of the things they were able to accomplish musically. I'm looking forward to getting a copy of the game sometime soon.
By now I was completely miserable, but I still thought I had the energy to sit through the Brink show and tell at the Bethesda Softworks booth. The game looks stunning, some of the RPG aspects of it look like a lot of fun. I couldn't help but compare it a bit to what I had seen of Borderlands. I wish now that I had felt better at the time and could have more fully enjoyed the presentation. The game is definitely on my watchlist.
After seeing Brink we went in search of Advil. Thankfully I found some.
The headache on the mend, we headed to the Unicorn Theater to see Stepto's (Stephen Toulouse) talk about XBox Live policy enforcement. As XBox Live's top cop he's the man in charge of making sure Travis and I don't have to put up with two many jerks, and that my younger boys have a relatively safe environment when they are on Live. I first ran into him when I was concerned about some of the clan tags I was seeing in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He had a great presentation that was full of laughs and good information about the way live is run. You can find this video, a reading from the Book of Enforcement, at the presentation link but it is too good to pass up here:
Major Nelson was at Stepto's presentation and afterward I got to do something I've wanted to do for quite some time and that is thank him for the part that XBox Live played in allowing me to stay in touch with Travis during the time that Jennifer and I were separated. I got to talk to my son almost every night as we gamed together, and I firmly believe that to be a vitally important role in he and I having the quality relationship we currently have.
We stopped and checked out the new BioWare game Mass Effect 2. I honestly expected more from that demo. I loved the original Mass Effect, despite it's flaws it was a remarkable game. The problem with the demo was two-fold, the area was too loud to hear the sound of the game, and the demo looked like exactly what it was an unfinished game. This was jarring to me given how much I had been reading about improvements to the game. Neither Travis or I was able to see those improvements in the portion of the game they were showing off.
I'm not quite sure how we ended up there, but we found ourselves in the Main Theater for the Rooster Teeth Productions panel. I've always enjoyed Red vs. Blue but I have never been a big enough fan to take the time to watch it all. The Rooster Teeth panel changed that. It was a lot of fun, and I made the decision right then that I needed to support their endeavours. These men are truly funny and truly a lot of fun, and they love gaming.
By now I was feeling 95% better and we headed off to Subway for dinner. After grabbing our sandwiches we headed back to the Rock Band freeplay stage and watched several bands do a really good job on their songs before the technical difficulties forced an end to the proceedings. Once that occured we moved back to the queue room to line up for the Saturday nigh concerts. We were both pleasantly surprised when the line started moving far sooner than we expected it to and once again we ended up with reasonably good standing spots, this time just in front of the sound board. Soon the lights went down and the big screens lit up with Rock Band graphics, the curtain opened and out came Gabe and Tycho's band, The Sex Generals. The screen mentioned something about The Rock Band Network and the band launched into their song "Are you really a woman?" It was incredibly cool seeing The Rock Band Network put to use for the first time (the audio gets better a few seconds in so be patient).
It was also incredibly cool seeing the Pip Boy puppets that had been part of the genesis for this entire father-son adventure into geekdom making a reappearance at the concerts this year. The owners of the puppets put on quite a show throughout all the events of the evening. They were quite fun to watch.
After the song Gabe and Tycho stayed on stage to introduce the final eight of the Omeganauts came out on stage, having been divided into two teams of four. The winners of this round would become the final-four contestants in the Omegathon. The competition for this round was going to be Beatles Rock Band. The song Twist and Shout. The first band out did wonderfully well. The second band, well not so well at all. It was a lot of fun watching The Beatles in animated form up on the big screen, and a lot of fun watching the two bands working for their place in the final four of the Omegathon.
When the curtains closed, Travis and I sat on the floor and waited for the opening act for the evening, Freezepop. My only familiarity with Freezepop was their music in Rock Band, but I thoroughly enjoyed their upbeat quirky music. Liz Enthusiasm, the front-woman for the band, is attractive, and knows she's attractive, and she played that up a whole lot with her mostly male audience, including getting down off the stage during one song to dance with the guys in the front row. Partway through their set, there was a pause and a couple who had won a raffle to appear on stage with the band were brought out. Only they weren't there because they had won a raffle, they were there so the guy could propose to his girl. She said "yes," which was a good thing because if she had said "no," it would have been awkward for everyone and severely diminished the good vibe the band had been generating up to that point.
Following Freezepop's very upbeat and fun set, we were told that we were fortunate enough to have an appearance by the Secretary of Geek Affairs, Wil Wheaton. Who appeared on stage to read the following proclamation:
I didn't know a thing about Paul and Storm prior to them coming on stage to receive the Secretary of Geek Affairs D20 award, but from the moment they launched into Opening Band I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy the show. Their humour, their hawking their wares from the platform (Travis has a Dejected Arrr t-shirt and Jennifer has a lovely Minion t-shirt), and their talent as musicians made for a wonderfully enjoyable set that kept us both laughing throughout.
The last act of the night was Jonathon Coulton. My familiarity with him was limited to the fact that he wrote Still Alive, the song sung by GLaDOS at the end of the brilliant video game Portal. I knew he was something of a geek icon so I was very much looking forward to hearing the other things he has written. With Paul and Storm providing backing vocals for much of the set it was a lot of fun. Not as funny as the preceding set had been but still a lot of fun. In addition I got to hear the original songwriter singing Still Alive.
Once again it was a full day and once again, two very tired guys dragged into their hotel room just before 3:00am. Even though we were exhausted we were still looking forward to what the final day of PAX would hold for us.
Wednesday, September 23. 2009
He did an excellent job of getting us exactly where we needed to go. We found parking in a parking garage that had far too low a clearance for my head, and made our way to the Queue Room at the convention center. The Queue Room is exactly what it sounds like a room set up with serpentine dividers to allow thousands of people to queue up in an orderly fashion. We hadn't been in this room for too long before we realized that not everyone had showered, was in clean clothes, or understood the concept of deodorant. It wasn't horrible but it was clear evidence that geeks and nerds still have some stereotypical traits to overcome.
Travis and I were obviously in the first four-thousand in the queue as we scored our wristbands for the concerts that night. Those wristbands were our first good score of the day. Usually queuing is a chore, a frustrating experience, but playing on the big screen in the queue room was some brilliant (at least if you're a geek or student of pop-culture) entertainment. Somewhat War Gamesish the computer kept "talking" to us and playing all sorts of entertaining interactive games. The games were made interactive via an SMS short-number and some entertaining uses of SMS messages. Voting for your favourite YouTube video. Solving puzzles via SMS. Creating a census of those in the queue. It was all handled really well and in a very fun and entertaining manner. In addition people played their hand held video games, read books or sat on the floor and played board games to pass the time. It was during queue time that the beach balls appeared. I can't tell you who sponsored the beach balls but I can tell you that the logo lent itself to "enhancement." and the Sharpies came out and most of the balls were "enhanced" by people who have spent far too much time watching the movie Superbad.
Once the doors opened we had a brief few minutes to wander the Expo floor before running upstairs to the first panel of the day for us, Game Development 101. It was a fascinating panel with some interesting people and there was some good insight into the insides of the development process. I was particularly interested in listening to the writer, and the producer. The writer because I love to write and believe that video game writing is just starting to come into its own, and the producer, well the producer because he has my dream job.
After the Game Design panel it was time to head back down to the Queue Room to Queue up for the Keynote speech. Travis held our place in line and I went in search of some food which we proceeded to eat sitting on the floor. We had great seats for the keynote, but there really weren't any bad seats in the room given the six large screens that gave everyone a great view. The keynote speaker was a gentleman who spent his formative years in La Grande, Oregon. He went on to fame designing games for LucasArts. You may have heard of Guybrush Threepwood and The Secret of Monkey Island. You may also know of Ron Gilbert the creator of The Secret of Monkey Island. Mr. Gilbert spoke of his history in game design and along the way helped show us the importance of games in our culture and games as art. It was a brilliant speech, quite moving, quite insightful, and definitely inspiring.
We stayed in our seats after the keynote for a Q&A session with Gabe and Tycho. Given that they are the reason for PAX the crowd was huge, and the Q&A quite fun. Gabe told the story that provided the impetus for the titles of these blog entries.
As the planning for PAX was underway contracts were entered into with many of the hotels near the conference center. As the time drew closer the PAX planners discovered that 37 rooms had gone missing at one of the hotels. When the PAX people called about the missing rooms they were told "Oh the Oakland Raiders are in town. We needed the rooms." They were told very politely that no one at PAX cared that the Oakland Raiders were in town and their attention was re-directed to the signed contract. The hotel told the Raiders that they would have to find lodging elsewhere. It was truly the reversal of roles for the geeks and the jocks.
There was one quite touching scene where the person at the microphone told his story about how Penny Arcade had helped keep his spirits up during some very dark and difficult times in his life. He was hoping he could shake Gabe and Tycho's hand, however, Tycho pre-empted that wish, hopped down off the stage and then gave the guy a huge hug.
From the Q&A with Gabe and Tycho we headed back upstairs to the Bungie panel, Prepare to Drop! They were in the biggest theater in the building and the line was quite long, I was worried we were not going to get seats. However, the Enforcers (PAX's volunteer security force) assured us that there would be room and there was. The panel was not what Travis or I were expecting, however, it proved to be an incredibly gratifying look behind the scenes at the creation of Halo: ODST. We heard from the Creative Director, the composer, the lead graphic designer, the producer, and several others. We saw some of the concept art. We heard how the game had taken shape, moving from something that should have been DLC to a full game. We heard some of the score (a complete departure from the typical Halo score but really impressive). We heard about weapon re-designs and why the Battle Rifle has no part in the game (something I'm still not sure I'm happy about). It was a great panel and lots of fun. Now that I've played the game I can say all their hard work was not in vain and that while it is completely different from its predecessors it is also a very good game in it's own right.
From the ODST panel we headed back downstairs to the expo for a while. A trip that proved to be far shorter than we expected it to be as we discovered that Gearbox Software was going to do a panel on their upcoming title Borderlands. Borderlands is one of the games Travis and I are most looking forward to this fall, so we knew we had to see that. We quickly dashed to the Subway in the Convention Center to get some dinner and then headed for presentation. It turns out we hadn't needed to get dinner as the Gearbox gang had ordered pizza for everyone who came to their panel, something I thought was quite cool of them. Right from the beginning this panel felt completely different from the Bungie panel. Where Bungie were professional and polished the Gearbox guys were rough and tumble. I quite enjoyed it. They started their presentation with this hilarious video of Claptrap the Robot. Then discussed the evolution of their game prior to letting one of the audience members up on stage to play co-op against the other panel members while their exploits were narrated. My interest in the game was heightened by the panel so I'm quite sure they did what they set out to do.
We left the Borderlands presentation expecting to go down to the Expo again, but when we got there we discovered the Expo was closed. Hearing music we followed the sound until we discovered the source. The Rock Band freeplay stage. We sat and watched and listened as group after group tried their hand at Rock Band. Many of them were no better than I am which gave me some hope. Of course I will never be up to Travis's standard of being able to play anything and everything on expert guitar.
Finally it was time to line up for the Friday night concerts. As you know from my PAX Day 0 post it was events from the concerts a year earlier that triggered my desire to go this year. After waiting in line and watching the sometimes quite funny SMS Message Board on the big screen (People could text their messages to the system and have them displayed on the big screen). We got to head into the Main Theater for the concerts. Most of the seats had been removed and we got extraordinarily good standing spots quite close to the front. Unfortunately, the concerts started quite late so that was a bit of a drag.
First up was Anamanaguchi a chiptune band that composes on a hacked NES. Their music was upbeat and and a lot of fun and they had lots of energy. The visuals provided by Paris Treantafeles and outpt were eye-catching, entertaining, and very well done. It was fascinating seeing the two visual artists working on stage as the music was played.
The second band of the evening was Metroid Metal. Having not played the Metroid games, I was doubly at a loss when I didn't enjoy their metal interpretations of music I was unfamiliar with. The band was very good, very loud and fun to watch, but the music simply left me cold.
The headliner for the evening was MC Frontalot I'm not a huge rap or hip-hop fan, but I certainly enjoy quite a bit of it so I was really looking forward to seeing the man who made "nerdcore" a household word. The set got off to a great start when Wil Wheaton came out on stage with a Guitar Hero guitar and started playing, because Frontalot was going to be unavoidably delayed. It wasn't long until the MC came out and ripped into his set. Musically and visually it was a great set. The man is fabulous entertainer with a great shtick. The biggest downfall (and I'm going to sound like my parents here) was that I couldn't understand a word the man was rapping. Travis felt the same way, and that took us way out of the set. For those who actually knew what he was rapping about it had to be a great and very enjoyable set.
Once the concert was over two very tired guys headed to the car and the trip back to the hotel. It had been a great first day at our first ever PAX. We fell into our beds just before 3am both dreading and looking forward to the alarms the next morning.
Saturday, September 19. 2009
Just about a year ago while reading the gaming news I saw the video linked to in this blog post.. As I bemoaned in that post, I knew Travis and I should have been there. I vowed then and there to remedy that.
PAX is a three-day long convention for gamers that has been held in Seattle for the last six years. It is put on by the guys who created one of the most successful web-comics on the the net, Penny Arcade. While mostly thought of in the context of video games, it also is all about RPGs (e.g., Dungeons & Dragons) and board games. This year they had the entire convention center space, and sold close to 60,000 tickets.
The week passes for PAX 2009 went on sale I bought two, one for me and one for Travis. I then started to plot the most epic weekend for a father and son ever. Sometime in the early summer I was speaking with my boss and told him I was a bit worried, I built up this amazing picture in my head of just what kind of event it would be and I was becoming terrified that it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. He told me not to look for trouble where there wasn't any. That was good advice.
Two weeks before the event I went online to look at the "deals" that were available for hotel rooms close to the convention center. I was appalled at how expensive they were and came to the conclusion that staying farther away and paying for the exorbitant parking at the convention center ($25/day) would be much cheaper than staying within walking distance. In addition I'd be able to afford a room with two beds, a definite plus. So I booked us into the Days Inn in Midtown Seattle, a location that was five miles north of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
As far as I was concerned, the evening of Thursday, September 3rd, when Travanoid and rhacer would toss their gear into the back of the GTI and head north to Seattle could not come quickly enough.
We got off to a slightly later start than I had hoped, but the GTI did very well on it's first trip of any real length, with a quick stop at our new favourite fast food joint, Jack in the Box, and four CDs full of MP3s in the CD changer, we made excellent time and were in our motel room before 10:00pm.
The room was much bigger than we would have expected, and included a small sitting area. The queen beds were comfortable, and while the TV was crappy, it was good enough to keep us entertained with some silliness on MTV before we turned the lights out at an early for us 11:00pm.
Neither Travis nor I are what could be called "morning people" but we knew we needed to be early enough the next day to be amongst the first 4,000 in line as those were the people who would be given wristbands that guaranteed them a spot at the Friday night concerts. The doors would open at 8:00am and the expo proper would open at 10:00am. We wanted to be their closer to the 8:00am mark, hence the early bedtime.
Friday, July 24. 2009
Well I've been making lots of potato and pasta salad this summer experimenting with several variations. However, I've gotten a bit tired of that and wanted to do something different last weekend. When I got in the car to head to the grocery I had no idea what I wanted to do by the time I made it to the grocery I had a pretty good plan. I just didn't know if it would work. It worked very well, and my wife liked the salad more than the main course. Here is a broad outline of the recipe used. I didn't pay attention to how much of some things I put in, so they're best guesses.
* 2 Large tins of chicken in water
* 1 Mango diced
* 1 Cup Mayonnaise
* 1 Handful of Golden Raisins
* 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
* 1/8 Cup Shelled Sunflower Seeds
* 3 tsp Curry powder
* 1/2 tsp Cumin
* 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
The most painful part of this is dicing the mango!
Mix in a bowl, chill and serve.
Next time I will likely grill chicken breasts and cube them instead of using the tinned chicken. I'm also contemplating using whole cashews or those crispy oriental noodles.
Just made this for the second time I grilled three chicken breasts and cubed them in place of the tinned chicken. It turned out far better than expected.
Tuesday, May 19. 2009
I'm not much of a cook, but recently have done a bit of it. This last Sunday I wanted to try my hand at potato salad. I'm not good with recipes. Usually when I try a recipe I mess it up and get discouraged and then won't try again. Since I've been enjoying doing some cooking I just decided to do it recipe-less and see what happens. William happened to be home with me and the two of us came up with some pretty darn brilliant potato salad, and in a somewhat ironic twist, I thought I would post the recipe.
* 3# potatoes
* 6 hard boiled eggs
* 6 - 8 strips of bacon
* 1/4 cup chopped red onion
* 3/4 cup Mayonnaise
* 1/4 cup Miracle Whip
* A tiny bit of yellow mustard
* 1/8 tsp curry powder
* 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
* salt to taste
* Boil the potatoes in their skins and then cube
* Boil the eggs then dice
* Fry the bacon then dice
* Mix everything in a large bowl
Wednesday, April 8. 2009
Today I wore tartan in honour of my father who departed this life somewhere near 4:00am Pacific Daylight Time. I'm still trying to come to grips with how to respond, my Grant tartan tie is just a small way for me to show some level of respect at his passing. I struggled with my relationship with my father. I'm struggling with his passing. I was fortunate enough that my wife insisted I go to the hospital on Sunday to visit him. The last time I saw him in the hospital he picked a fight with me from his hospital bed. This time I don't know if he even recognized me. None of the things that could have been (possibly needed to be) said were said. Hopefully my holding the hand of this frail old man was enough to convey that I loved him.
I loved my dad. We couldn't be in the same room, but I still loved him. I've never understood why he chose to become who he became, or act in the ways he chose to act. Actually, that's a lie, I know all too well what happened. I don't know why he made the choices he did, but I know what happened.
William Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien (or perhaps it was Peter Jackson's take on Tolkien) provide the best pictures. The Bard gave us Othello in which the good and noble man falls prey to the whisperings of Iago, destroying not only those around him but himself. Jackson paints a portrait in his film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. His brush gives us Théoden, a good and wise monarch who has fallen under the spell of Gríma Wormtongue, becoming completely ineffectual as a leader, unable to think or act for himself. In both cases a strong and good man is brought low by not the weapons, but the words of others.
So now I have a choice. I can choose to remember the man I knew as a boy, into my teens, twenties, and early thirties, the huge, tall man with the booming voice. The man who fought a war as part of the Greatest Generation. The man who taught me to drive, and then allowed me to drive him thousands of miles around the Northwest as he traveled from one small town to another to minister in their churches. The man who shared season tickets with me to the Portland Pride. The man who would road trip with me to Seattle to watch the Timbers or the Pride or the Pythons. The man who attended a Blazers game with me on Christmas Night when I was just a pup. The man who didn't appreciate the music I listened to, but never told me to turn it off. The man who shared Monty Python with me. The man who taught me to drive a standard transmission while traveling to England, then let me let it rip when we hit the Autobahns in Germany. The man with whom I saw Shindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. The man who never missed a Blazers game on the radio and would often sit with me in the car not wanting to get out so we could hear the end of the game before going on about whatever it was we needed to do. The man, who for a Christmas when I was just a lad, completely disassembled, painted by hand, and rebuilt a bicycle in secret so it would be waiting under the tree for me. The man who introduced me to Alistair MacLean and C. S. Forrester. The man who I am now shedding tears over losing.
Or I can remember what he became due to the influence of others.
I think I will choose the former.
I love you Dad.
Thursday, November 20. 2008
This morning, Jennifer had jury duty which means that alternate plans were required for getting William and Kellan to school. She's good at planning things like that so had all her ducks in a row days before she was due at the courthouse. I knew something was throwing a wrench into those plans when Kellan knocked on the bathroom door while I was taking a shower and said "dad, they're not here yet!" I said "your ride isn't here yet?" and he said "No! William's isn't!" I knew right then there was a problem, so I got out of the shower as quickly as possible and went to comfort my son who does not like being late to anything, much less school. I then contacted the school to tell them William would be late, and get his tardy excused. It was then that things took a turn for the surreal when I was told it was not possible to excuse a tardy due to a ride not showing up.
I'll let the email I sent the school principal tell the story...
Today my wife had jury duty. This meant she had to be out of the house before any of our three sons usually left for school. This meant that alternate transportation was in order, and she arranged for it. Apparently, the alternate transportation forgot they were on duty this morning, and William was left standing at the door.
I called the school to let them know William would be late and to excuse his tardy. I was told it couldn't be done. That he would have to serve detention due to someone else's mistake, not his own mistake, but an adult's mistake. I was told there is no such thing as an excused tardy due to transportation. Does that mean that when a school bus is late everyone on that school bus serves detention?
My initial reaction was to say William would be absent, I would take the day off work and he would take the day off school. To me that is far better than a child being punished for an offense that is not of their making. Apparently that was fine with [the secretary i spoke with] also. I gave William the option and he chose to come to school despite the fact that he would serve an undeserved detention.
I'm truly troubled by several things that have been brought to light by this event:
* I am troubled by the level of inflexibility the school has shown in what happened to be extraordinary circumstances.
* I am troubled that in the grand scheme of things, an absence can be excused while a tardy cannot be, this encourages absenteeism over attendance, or in my case it encourages me to keep my child out of school to avoid unwarranted punishment.
* Even more troubling, however, is the fact that the school is willing to punish a child for something that was in no way shape or form their fault. Our society lacks people willing to take responsibility for their own actions. However, teaching children that they may have to take responsibility for other's actions is an equally intolerable lesson.
In closing, I would like to know when William's detention will have to be served, as I will come and serve it with him. That, at least, is a positive lesson he might learn from this experience.
I didn't hear from the school, so about 11am I called and spoke with the secretary again. This time she put me through to the school's vice-principal. I forwarded him a copy of the email above and we had a very good conversation about it. The end result is he told me that William would not have to serve detention. I'm thankful that the school did the right thing, and I'm thankful that I could show William that people do do the right thing.
Sunday, October 19. 2008
Yesterday the following appeared in my Twitterstream
Apple Store let me down for the very first time. Drove all the way to swap out an obviously dead iPod told we would have to wait until 5pm 2:59 PM Oct 18th from TwitterBerry
Turned out that a really great employee didn't allow that to happen though.
The replacement iPod we received when Travis's birthday iPod failed developed a row of dead pixels. We decided that yesterday, after Kellan's soccer game, we would return the defective unit and get a new one. We arrived to a packed Apple Store, and Travis approached the young woman who was functioning as store hostess. We told her what the problem was, she left briefly and then returned to tell us that we couldn't return the iPod until 5:00pm. She told us the Geniuses were really busy and wouldn't be able to look at it until then.
5:00pm was two hours away, we'd driven a long way to get to the store and Jennifer and I were going to the theater that evening. We couldn't wait two hours. We told her so, she said she couldn't help us.
We hung out a bit letting William play a game, while Travis and Kellan checked out the iPhones and I checked out the new Mac Book Pros. While that was going on a nice sales type guy came over and asked us how we were doing. I told him "Not so good, for the first time ever, the Apple Store has let me down." He asked what was going on, we told him. He gave us a rather lengthy explanation of why we needed to wait until 5pm. It was lucid, and completely understandable, but still didn't take the sting out of the fact that we had travelled a long way for a simple return and were apparently not going to be able to accomplish that task.
He asked if we would like to see if there had been any cancellations. We said sure. He checked, and their hadn't been. We would still have to wait until 5:00pm. Then he asked if we would like to "fly standby." Once again we said sure. We filled out the Genius Bar web-app. and stood around to wait for a while. He came back within five minutes and told us "They can see you right now!"
Travis got his replacement iPod and the Apple Store remains in our good graces, thanks to a young sales guy who didn't want his store to have let down one of it's most loyal customers.
We did learn a valuable lesson. Any time we need to go to the Apple Store for anything other than a purchase we will make sure we've scheduled ourselves for the Genius Bar, even if it feels like we don't need to waste the Geniuses time.
Monday, September 22. 2008
Travis started an Introduction to Programming class at his high school this semester. I'm quite pleased about that as to-date he has shown little interest in how software is created. I got to meet his teacher at the high school's Back-to-School night, and asked her what she would be covering. They're starting off with some "database" stuff using MS Access, and then, surprisingly, moving into C++, before moving into the realm of drag-n-drop programming with Visual Basic.
I'm really quite pleased about the C++ aspect. I question whether or not it is a good first language, but Travis should learn some good foundational skills working with it.
A while back I was reading Geek Dad and he posted an entry about a newish language called Processing I took a look at it because he wrote a about how it can be used to create computer art. One of Travis's interests is graphic design, so I passed the link on to him. I also sent him the link to my own Conway's Life program.
Saturday I took some time to make sure there were a recent versions of Python and wxPython installed, along with Cody Precord's very capable Editra text editor (written using Python + wxPython).
Travis sat down with me at the family iMac and I walked him through running life.py, and loading it into Editra. It wasn't long before he was digging through the code and making some minor changes, "how do I change the colours?" "what happens if I change the grid size?" "Look at what I did mom!"
We talked about classes, and the meaning of "self" in python code, and briefly touched on some of the wxPython. Feeling I'd tapped out the depth of that avenue of conversation as I didn't want to get too deep into programming concepts yet, I walked him through downloading Processing, installing it and running it for the first time. We then did some pair-programming as he worked through the very unique Processing "Hello World" tutorial.
Then it was time to look at some of the sample code, and then more and more questions came and we started learning this new language together, experimenting with time delays, and programmatically changing the colours of lines that were drawn. Processing while based on Java, provides almost instant feedback (no compile step), and you get to see the results of your labour immediately. I've never been a fan of Java, but Processing makes tinkering with code, so enjoyable, I will be more than happy to spend many more hours "sketching" with Travis.
Monday, September 15. 2008
Having three sons I've heard my share of tattling. My sons also know that tattling is a sure way to get into dad's or mom's doghouse. If one of my boys is not risking his safety or someone else's safety their responsibility is to have their brother's back, not to rat them out. It's a lesson that they have a hard time learning, even when the tattler gets punished and the tattlee does not. Hopefully eventually they will completely learn the lesson.
Tonight was one of those nights where the people who plan stuff get together to see how they can make the boy's mother and me pull our hair out. Kellan had a game he needed to be at at 5:30. Travis's Back to School Night was also at 5:30. The two locations were far enough apart that it was difficult to get everyone where they needed to be in a timely fashion. In addition, the man providing dinner (me) ended up waiting in line at Wendy's for ten plus minutes throwing the entire schedule off.
Jennifer and I both went to Back to School Night. Our thinking on that was Travis only has three of those left and Kellan has lots and lots of soccer games left. I had to leave the high school and go pick Kellan up after the game and return with him to the high school. The game was just ending when I pulled into the parking lot at the school where he was playing. I got out and wandered over to his team to listen to the coaches post-game briefing. I didn't see the game, I don't know the tale of the tape, I'm not sure what interactions happened during the game. I do know what I saw and heard after the game.
While I was there the coach for the Centennial U-11 team came over and started talking to one of the dads. I didn't catch what he said until the very end, fortunately Kellan's coach asked him if there was a problem and the coach repeated what he said, "I just wanted you to know that one of your boys wouldn't shake hands with our boys after the game." I was stunned. Here was a grown man ratting out a ten year-old to his coach. I bit my tongue and didn't say a thing, but I really wanted to. I wanted to tell this coach just how impressed I was by the fact that he was ratting out this player.
The whole concept of "sportsmanship" that they think they're teaching the kids these days is one of the most repugnant things I have ever heard of. It's bothered me since Travis started playing ten years ago. We force this kids to stand in line and shake hands and lie after every game. "Good game, good game, good game...." What a load of crap! What if it wasn't a good game? What if the guy you're shaking hands with tripped you and pushed you the entire game? What if you tripped and pushed him?
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of good sportsmanship. I believe that we should teach our kids to be good sports. I love seeing a player who was tripped helped back up by the guy who tripped him. I love it when a team realizes they should not have possession of the ball and purposely kicks it out of bounds to turn it over. Watching friends from competing teams greet each other after a game is a great thing. Listening to players acknowledge the the other team was better when they lose or acknowledge the efforts of other players are all very good things. But forcing players to shake hands, forcing them to tell the other team "good game." is not good sportsmanship, it's forcing kids to act the way we believe they should act, not teaching them to act the way we believe they should act.
So what lesson did that Centennial coach teach Kellan's team tonight? I know this it certainly wasn't one I want my son to learn.
Sunday, September 7. 2008
Last night Travis, William, Kellan, Jennifer and I watched the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I can't count the number of times I've watched it, but it was a first for the little boys. They'd seen part of it but not all of it. I generally glean something new from it each time I watch it, but last night it raised the following question for me.
"What kind of friend am I?"
We don't really know the back-story on the friendship of Sam, Merry, Pippin and Frodo (at least from the film. It's been so long since my last read of the books that I don't remember if it is delved into more deeply there). Regardless of back-story, it is evident that Frodo has engendered a special kind of loyalty from his friends--even the two party-dudes, Merry and Pippin. At the end of the film when Merry and Pippin see Frodo and then cause a distraction to aid in his escape to the river, they are risking their lives to help their friend. And then of course there's Sam, the most faithful and true friend someone could have, he doesn't just risk his life, he goes on to what is almost guaranteed certain doom to aid his friend in his quest.
So I come back to the question "What kind of friend am I?" Am I the kind of friend that engenders the kinds of sacrificial loyalty in his friends? Am I the kind of friend who would be as sacrificial as Merry, Pippin or Sam? If I'm not, what do I need to do to become that type of friend?
I ask the same questions for my boys. What types of traits do I need to encourage in them as they grow into man-hood to help them become those sorts of friends.
It has certainly given me something to think about.
Thursday, December 27. 2007
Two annual memberships to Xbox Live, $100
Beating the Halo 3 campaign on legendary difficulty with your eldest son...
Halo 3 has a split personality. The Campaign (played either in single player or co-op modes) is a bit of a mess. It's relatively short, and the story doesn't hang together very well. Since it's the only Halo game I've played, I found myself lost quite a bit. That said, on legendary difficulty level it is truly difficult. For those who have managed to beat it on that difficulty solo, I salute you.
Halo's co-op mode allows up to four players to tackle the campaign levels together. Travis and I set out to beat it together. While I had played through on heroic difficulty (one level below legendary) this was Travis's first play-through.
One of the joys of Xbox live is the built-in voice chat, this means that for the 15 or so hours that Travis and I played together we were talking the whole time. Not necessarily about serious matters, not necessarily about anything other than our strategy to get past the next Brute or Flood monsters, but talking none-the-less. The most important thing was that Travis chose to do this with me. It wasn't my prompting. He wanted to play the game with his dad, and to me that was a wonderful and amazing thing. While he has immense skills at video games, I mostly suck at them. So in addition to wanting to play with me, he had to put up with my less than stellar game play.
I'm glad he wanted to. It's something I will always cherish.
Friday, November 30. 2007
Last night was the opening of David Douglas High School's production of The Wizard of Oz. I went and I had a fabulous time. It's amazing the amount of talent these high school students had on display, from the cast to the stage hands, to the musicians, I was stunned at the amount of talent and effort that was on display.
I had special reason to be there. My oldest son was playing his cello in the pit orchestra. When I went to Back-to-School night I saw an announcement about the pit orchestra in his rehearsal room. I told him he should try out. He told me it was invitation only. He's a pretty talented young man. He is Principal Cellist in the second most advanced orchestra at the school (DDHS has four orchestras!) He didn't expect an invitation as he is only a freshman, and there are other talented cello players in the more advanced orchestra. Well they did invite him and he is bearing the burden of being the only cello in the pit.
I never would have questioned his ability to hold his own musically, but I did know it was a huge commitment of time and energy for him to participate in this endeavour. I was thrilled that so far he is coming through with flying colours. His rehearsal schedule meant his days the last few weeks were amazingly long. School, a short break and then a three plus hour rehearsal, then home, and homework.
The hard work isn't over as they have six shows left this weekend and next weekend. He will be exhausted by the end of it, but he's set his mind to doing it and when he sets his mind to something I have never seen him fail.
Seeing him walk in to the theater, wearing his tux, carrying his cello, it was more evident than ever that he is turning into a young man, a young man I am incredibly proud to call my son.
Saturday, October 20. 2007
Admission to the football game $18
Coming back from a 22 - 0 deficit created in the first 14 minutes to beat the 9th ranked team in the state...Priceless.
Last night was Homecoming at David Douglas High School. We've been planning on going for several weeks. There was a really good spaghetti dinner before hand, and the students did a great job of serving their guests.
Afterward we headed over to a jam-packed Palermini Stadium for the game. This was obviously the place to see and be seen as there was an almost continuous wash of bodies flowing back and forth on the lower walk way. I'm not sure exactly why this is, it certainly made it difficult to watch the game. I hate standing up in those situations. When I stand up the people for a couple of rows back can't see. With Travis's height starting to draw close to mine he provides a similar experience for those unfortunate enough to sit behind us when we stand. In the future we will sit higher in the bleachers so the teaming masses don't block the game.
It was a dark and stormy night, and things looked bad for the Scots before the game even got underway. The Centennial team was huge. For the first 14 minutes the Eagles had their way with the Scots running up 22 unanswered points. Then something happened, the momentum completely changed and the Scots managed to make it 22 - 12 by half time and then scored some more to make it 35 - 22. Along the way the Scots kicker kicked two field goals but missed two extra points. those missed extra points came into play after Centennial managed to get back on the scoreboard two more times giving them a 38 - 36 lead.
The Scots managed to put together a great final drive making it down to the Centennial 14 yard line before the kicker, who must have been feeling the weight of the world, kicked the winning field goal with 5 seconds remaining in the game.
I haven't yelled so long and so loudly or had such dramatic emotional swings at any game in ages.
It was a wonderful way to spend a Friday evening.
Wednesday, October 3. 2007
My oldest son started high school this year. His high school has four orchestras, I have no idea what they're all called, but the top two are the Concert Strings and the Symphonic Strings. Travis auditioned last spring and was placed in the Concert Strings. He was slightly disappointed that he didn't make the top group, but as a freshman he did very well.
Seating tests were last week. I asked him how he did. He thought only "OK," and I could tell he was not pleased with his performance at all. Well the results are in, and Travis won the competition and is the Principal Cellist for the Concert Strings.
In addition his teacher has asked him to play in the "Pit" orchestra for the school production of The Wizard of Oz that will open sometime in December. He's agreed to take on the task, and apparently will be the only cello in the Pit.
I'm very proud of him!
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