Friday, November 30, 2012

Upcoming Vacation Event Comment (Disney)

Forget copyright issues, if LSS doesn't give prior approval I'm stuck. The female above is an undisclosed woman.
I have the good fortune to go on a cruise with members of my immediate family. Yes, it is a Disney cruise, which I realize is cause for some concern.

I have an MBA degree, which my kids understand, for good reason, to mean Master Burrito Assembler. During my studies I took an operations management course in which the instructor felt that Disney was perhaps the company that expressed operational management in the highest and purest form. He believed that the deep thinkers knew what you wanted before you even knew, making a 90-minute wait for Space Mountain seem bearable and pleasant.

I haven't left for vacation, so obviously I can't get too snarky, but I have been interfacing on the Disney MyCruise website, which I rate at B+. If you put in your itinerary number you can reserve dining and activities on the cruise, each option having a link to full information.  Also cool is that if you are making the trip with others you can see if your group has signed up for the activities as well.  Other functionality:

  • Register a credit card and decide who has access;
  • On-line check in (this is significant as passport and flight numbers are required);
  • Indicate interest to have CEO Bob Iger call and complain about former Big Guy Michael Eisner.

The idea is that the cruise people will have full electronic itineraries before we even get there. I want seamless integration. Now that I'm middle-aged and ridiculous I want the magician to get me and my brood checked-in fast and on the Fiesta deck pronto.

My criticism of the site has to do with slow-loading, overly produced, cartoonish pages. I understand this is Disney, but the children usually don't handle the financial details. Also, it wasn't intuitive how to enter the screens where personalization of the cruise is possible. I went in loops more than a few times.

There is the option to pre-pay gratuities 3 days before the ship leaves from dock. Reflexively I'm against this --what if the service sucks? But even if it does, I usually have deep sympathy for service workers and rarely show displeasure through tipping -- so maybe this is a good thing. Do they know what I want before I do?

I know my dreams of travel convergence and frictionless transfers are just that, dreams, but Disney may be the company that makes dreams (of luggage delivered to the correct stateroom) come true.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raspberry Tickle Bear F-bomb

This is not the said bear but will suffice.

Those creative kids have adopted "Raspberry Tickle Bear"as code for the F-bomb. I realize part of me should be upset that a 10- and 7-year-old are referencing such words -- but I don't have the energy. What kind of parent objects to Raspberry Tickle Bears?

More importantly I am happy that both have learned that to use the F-bomb directly would be bad, very bad. Keep the language clean around parents and teachers and everybody is happy.

If I had been a better student I would now deftly tap into deconstructionist literary theory and show that this is how language ultimately works, once a word or concept has been devalued another immediately takes its place.

I imagine in a future meltdown someone might be told to journey to the realm of the Raspberry Tickle Bear. When that happens I might have to take a poll to figure out whether to laugh or cry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dream Sandwich

Several minutes later only crumbs.

Recently my daughter had all ingredients to fully express her culinary longing in the form of a sandwich. The above contains:
  • Aged-cheddar bagel (Kenny and Zuke's)
  • Mayonnaise
  • 2 slices of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Roast turkey
  • Sopressata
  • Romaine lettuce 
I was happy she ate heartily, but more important her ultimate sandwich dream was fulfilled. On to the next challenge!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Novel Anger Management Idea Falls Flat

It sounded like it might work at the time.

This past weekend my daughter was quite upset. She wanted an early reprieve of her consequence of no screen time and I refused to oblige. The result was lots of door slamming, moaning and wailing, and general unpleasantness.

My son had the idea of creative anger management. He used my phone to take my picture, sent it to the printer, then taped it onto the punching bag. He invited his sister to vent her frustrations with kicks and punches on my picture. Oddly enough she did not think it a constructive idea.

My son then took out his future frustrations.
Take that, scoundrel!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Wisdom Learned Over the Weekend

Schwarma gets us more excited than the above pictured, but then again we don't often (successfully) defend against aliens from another dimension hell-bent on our ruination.

Here's the big fun -- if you have the DVD of the movie "The Avengers," let it play through the eight minutes of final credits.

In the movie the character Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, invites all of his comrades to try schwarma after he falls hard to earth after heroically diverting a nuclear warhead into the mothership of rapacious aliens.

Everyone is relieved Tony has survived, but the extra scene does not reveal heroes celebrating good triumphing over evil with fine food and drink. They look like they lost a bet and are having to pay. This is a disservice to a delicious dining experience!

The rotating log of schwarma is clearly visible over Thor's left shoulder.

Schwarma should never be a punchline, so please write emails of complaint to the National Schwarma Council.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Indomitable Spirit

Well said!

I’m Unstoppable with Indomitable Spirit 

I’m physically healthy because indomitable spirit. I use it for everything below:

  • Summiting tall mountains;
  • Doing flips, cartwheels, and jump kicks;
  • Pushups, sit-ups, burpies, mountain climbers;
  • Never quitting no matter what (in and out of martial arts);
  • Weightlifting;
  • Punches, kicks, forms, combos.

The above is the essay component of my son's martial arts test. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Editorial Comment From The Daughter

 Heroic pose for heightened dramatic effect -- that's what it's all about.

The new comedic touchstone in our house is Ryan Higa videos. What I love about this guy is that he's hilarious and is making great videos on a shoestring budget. Here's what the daughter has to say:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cold War Explained

Contemplating the international ramifications of the Vietnam conflict after eating a bowl of noodles.

For the record, I do not let my son play Call of Duty:Black Ops (first edition), the shooter game set in the early years of the Cold War. He's taken an interest in those years on his own initiative. Here he is explaining himself:

As I was preparing the video he had the following notes:

The note reads: At end of blog post say: my son knows way more history (including those 2 wars)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I console myself that I cleaned the sewer grate.

Trapped inside during a storm and school vacation with two neurotic hyper weasels. Not even December and I have cabin fever.

Yesterday saw "Grosology" at OMSI -- a decent distraction. Nothing too crazy here.

Better yet is the BBC series "Chased By Dinosaurs," which posits if a 21st century naturalist could go back in time to seriously observe dinosaurs. Not too scary for the 7-year-old and great effects.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Computer Used for Educational Activity

The kid wanted to build something with this -- I should have let him and launched a startup. Instead I told him we were going to drop the neat package off for recycling.

Here's an activity for a rainy day. Take a PC and open it up and teach the kids the following parts:

  • Power supply
  • Graphics card
  • RAM chips
  • Motherboard
  • Hard drive
  • Media drive
  • CPU
Tell them what each part does. If they pass the test allow video games to be played for nine hours.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pajama Day

Big fashion day: The kid changed out of his Clone Wars pajamas and went all out, finding his best sleepwear, Angry Birds in the (clean) laundry basket.
Today is pajama day in the kids' school. This is a really big thing for the second grader.

Such enthusiasm is not an isolated event. When I dropped him off there was an electricity in the air not present yesterday (true, it is Friday) .

Caught up in the festive mood I made the remark to a mom that I, too, would have liked to wear my pajamas.
I don't care if you live in Portland, socks with sandals are a crime against humanity!
Okay, so the joke didn't go over so well. Needless to say I was, and will be, attired as usual.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Mood Depends On My Computer (What kids?)

The jokesters at Linux figured that after 24 hours best use a calendar to measure the download time.
I have often used a Linux box, but those days are gone in large part because said box antiquated itself by not growing a faster processor and more RAM.

I have purchased a new PC and am in a crappy mood because five years of programs and settings haven't lept from one tower to the next. Power, power, power --that's what it's all about.
That and Gang-nam Style! Here's an example of what is cheering me up -- daughter's favorite Psy video still.
Mad raps can occur anywhere! (At least in Korea).
Changes are coming to the quaint hamlet of Portdaddia-Town. Soon I'll be uploading these posts faster by a factor of three.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daughter's Big New Backpack Actually Fits In Locker

I initially  thought we had jumped the shark.
LSS and the daughter agonized on what the appropriate next backpack would be. Large, it seems, is just not large enough. Massive, or Extended-Long-Weekend, size works fine.

Despite my nay-saying, it fit in the locker.
The locker closed, too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working At Home (With Kids)

This artwork was actually created with my son sitting quietly while I sat in front of the computer.
Yesterday I had told my kids, who got the day off from school, that they could play video games as long as they wanted. That took up six hours of their waking time, which still left about nine hours unaccounted for.

When trying to get things done with kids in the house there is always the comedy of reading a line, getting interrupted, reading it again, another interruption, until finally you make a video. That's what happened yesterday.
I got a bit cranky, but generally I'm thrilled to have bizarre little creatures running amok in the house.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Update

The design parameters were carefully considered
 Had a pleasant weekend of various distractions. Starting off, Saturday morning LSS and myself went to the supermarket for a mock date, leaving the devil spawn plotted on the couch where they remained for the 40 minutes until we returned. Scientific methods would be needed to determine if they had moved at all during this time -- mischief-making would have taken too much energy.

Next we saw a fine animated film, Wreck-it Ralpf
This Disney film delivered some laughs with a pleasing riff on video games old and new. We all agreed it was a fine work, but not worthy of further study.

We saw some art for Día de los Muertos, which is always a colorful and quirky celebration, refreshing after the enforced gloominess of Halloween.    

Not giving in totally to the gray skies we went for a brief nature hike before running to a bakery for sustenance from the (mild) cold.
Indian Creek Trail
A fine weekend! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Daughter's Self-Reflections

Today was the day I had to review my daughter's folder of homework. One of her assignments was to write random things about herself that reflected her personality. That she did!

Randomesticated Me!

Indecision is what I suffer from.
I say you can make your own sandwich!
I have made sandwiches (unwillingly).
I have touched a bald head.
Never would I want to summit Mt. Everest.
When in my Martial Arts uniform, I feel invincible.
Don't bake me a casserole unless it's a dessert.
I accidentally spilled red Gatorade in my mom's polka dot purse in the middle of Jerusalem.
I have experienced writer's block.
It's hard for me to reflect because I live in the present.
If I try to be at peace, all of the things I need to do are at the top of my mind, and vice versa.
Should I ride in the black car or the red car?
Instead of an imaginary friend, I had an imaginary enemy named Flangus.
According to others, I am very entertaining and can tell quite a joke, for what it's worth.
If you ask, I will answer.
You oppose me?! Tell that to Martial Arts me!
My lifelong goal is to read all the stories in the world.
If I told you everything, you still wouldn't understand.
I will not go down without a fight!
Don't say I'm destined for it; I already have it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Star Wars Saga Continues (In 2015)

In the 1990's I read an interview with Alec Guiness, who played Obi-wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars film (1977). He recalled how at a Los Angeles supermarket a mother and child walked up to him, the mother saying her son enjoyed the movie so much he had seen it 20 times.

"Will you do something for me?" he asked the boy. "Yes, anything!" "Never see the movie again."

"That's a terrible thing to say to a child!" the mother said as the pair stormed away.

When I read this, before I had kids, I praised Guiness for trying to end the fetishization of Star Wars. I imagined he viewed the film as a good story with fresh design concepts but lacking the substance that would warrant scholarship.

Now that I have kids I realize that it's fine if a child watches a movie 20 times. The story or character has moved him/her and further contemplation, fantasy, fixation on the details, shows a seriousness of thought that is praiseworthy. When I'm in this mode I think of Guiness as an old sorehead.

If Guiness were alive today what would he have to say about the myriad streams of marketing, scholarship, lifestyle choices, recipes, vacations, metal bikinis, related to the Star Wars franchise?

Now that Disney, the Grand Master of inserting branded movie products into life, has purchased Lucasfilm, whatever level of comfort I've built up in those 35 years since the first film came out may not be enough to combat the new deluge. I have a few years to prepare myself with calisthenics.

In the meantime my son wants Star Wars Lego for his birthday. And why not? It's totally awesome!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Night

Lesson learned: activism can be fun.
One of the nice things about living on the West Coast is that election night need not preclude the usual bedtime. Like a fairytale, NBC called Ohio and the election at 8:20 pm or so, and we went crazy. Sure it was tough to calm down, but in the end some rest was had.

Watching the election results come in was educational in a very compelling way, reinforcing the idea of how the electoral college works, percentage of vote counted, what things a candidate can do to derail a campaign, and generally why politics matters.

Popcorn and serious analysis.
LSS and myself were in full geek mode, watching NBC through the Xbox which was interesting in that Xbox Live asked survey questions during the coverage on the lower edge of the screen, giving instant polling responses. Example: "Should gay marriage be allowed?" If you answered you would immediately see the percentages of respondents who said yes, no, or undecided. Generally, Xbox Live respondents were Democrats.

LSS had two devices going, a phone and iPad, while I ran the Xbox and my phone. Between Twitter, Facebook, the TV, and a few texts to my brother in Ohio, the information and quip overload was glorious.    

We watched Stephen Cobert's show to end a perfect evening.

The opening sequence was excellent.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Cargo of Life (With Kids)

This is actually fairly clean -- absence of wrappers is an anomaly.

I have kids. Two of them. They do stuff. And they need to be driven around for various activities. To get this mission accomplished I am fortunate to have the finest motor vehicle ever created, a 2001 Nissan Maxima.

Does the car become sort of a purse for LSS?
To say the car is messy is to miss the point. It has a patina of life that is uniquely ours (it only smells a little). I have sport racks on top and a Yakima box. I took both kids home from the hospital in this car, so there is sentimental value.

School backpacks and escrima sticks.

Today LSS drove the kids to school in a Nissan Box as the Maxima is being repaired. The absence of our "patina" and loads of stuff, as well as a late-model car,  felt odd indeed, sort of like a vacation.

Here's hoping there is a decisive election victory by the end of the day!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Great Circle of Life

Ski hill as metaphor.
In school my daughter has been reading "Tuck Everlasting," (1975) a novel by Natalie Babbitt. The work deals with themes of immortality and the circle of life. A homework project was to create one's own circle of life.

I didn't read the book, nor did I understand exactly what the objective of the project was. Still, as the Guy Who Does Stuff, I happily joined the project, being told the teacher had approved making a miniature ski hill as a circle of life project.

I like the idea of a ski hill as a metaphor for life, as everyone has moments of difficulty (riding the chair up) and moments of joy (wheeee!).

As for the notion of immortality, my daughter's idea was that the immortals would be consigned to eternity riding the chairlift. I didn't think that was fair. I lobbied that the immortals just had to ski forever, not ever leaving the ski hill (unless the lifts closed or warmer weather arrived). She agreed and so there were not miniature immortals riding the chairlift down.

Suffice to say we're all hoping for an early start to this year's ski season.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Good Idea Gone Bad

Soft foam dueling sabers.
About a week ago I posted my strategies for reducing the sugar intake of my kids. I smugly stated that I had some ideas that would induce the kids to part with their pile of high fructose corn syrup. Putting the theory into practice I bought a pair of foam swords for the kids with which to whack each other. I bought this toy with my seven-year-old son in mind, who has been pining for such for a while. I was so confident this would be a sure-fire hit.

Obviously things did not turn out as planned. The kid read my previous blog post and had convinced himself the loot he was to receive for his candy was to be the equivalent of his birthday and Hanukah combined. So when I showed him the Mashoonga saber and told him he could have it for all but 15 pieces of his candy, he had the psychomotor meltdown.

The daughter said great, took a moment to comprise an A-list of candy before forking it over, and began running around hitting stuff.

My son's world had completely fallen apart, he had planned on getting cash, Pokemon cards, and the sword, as well as keeping a good amount of candy, and now we were locked in a stalemate that was getting him nothing. Hours passed before things settled down: LSS did trade some cards for more candy, but the kid was adamant that he would hold on to about 30 pieces. 

My daughter saved the day, tenderly mentoring him, saying that he had some duplicates in his "keep" pile, winnowing it down to around 20 pieces. Then she gently pushed him to make the final sacrifice to get the sword. My final concession was that the next time I baked a dessert he could choose -- blueberry pie as this morning.

Today I wanted the candy out of the house quickly to end any further discussion.
Happy recipient..
 This marks the beginning and end of any fancy ideas about cutting the kids' sugar intake. Next year they can enjoy their haul free from parental interference. I honestly thought this would be a slam dunk. Live and learn.

The video below is the 17 seconds of relative non-meltdown time from last night.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Wrap-up

This soldier is serious.

Thor's hammer is more awesome than usual.

The spoils.

A blackout just as we were getting ready to trick-or-treat threw a curve our way, but all turned out okay as the above photos show. Now comes where I will see if they will part with the candy at any price.