Friday, August 30, 2013

Kids Reach Limit, Insist On Educating Parents About Minecraft

Luddite parents are the worst!
Last night the kids held the first of a many-part series called Minecraft 101, the course designed to give us unbelievers a glimpse of the sacred knowledge.

From yutzing around with technical fixes I know Minecraft is a cool and creative way for the kids to spend time on the computer, but I have not ever actually played. I now realize this is a barrier with my kids that must be surmounted.

The first lesson was with a whiteboard and the next one will be on the computer. I was proud of my daughter's presentation skills, especially when dealing with such a complex subject.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Every Time A Bottle Of Water Is Purchased An Angel Dies

In the name of science and emotional honesty a full water-bottle inventory was taken. I am okay, sort of, but continue to suffer moments of emotional trauma when reflecting on a) how many water bottles we have; b) the frequency we purchase bottled water and additional water bottles.
I used to rant and rave about our persistent purchase and subsequent loss of sippy cups. We had a box of mismatched lids, bottles and valves that kept growing no matter how many we stashed in the car or diaper bag. In smug satisfaction I reported to the world that those days had ended for good.

Then came the water-bottle inventory.

Are you kidding me?

The only thing that makes this a little easier to bear is that some of the above are insulated cups, which is technically a different category.

Now I tell my kids every time a bottle of water is purchased not only does an angel die, but a unicorn is sent to hell, too, just for good measure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Secrets of Fatherhood Revealed - Melt That Cheese!

The blackened tray for the toaster oven -- a key piece of equipment for the melting of cheese and the sustaining of peace and nutrition.
There is no permit, test, or qualification that unequivocally gives one the right/privilege to become a father. This is to my benefit as I have always done poorly on standardized tests. But I have a blog and I have some kids, so I guess I am a credentialed expert. 

But if there was such a test, it might go like this:

How do you melt cheese on a bagel?
  • Heat the oven to 475 degrees and turn on the convection fan
  • Toaster oven
  • Flammable spirits
  • Blowtorch 
Perhaps all would melt the cheese but there is only one correct answer -- the toaster oven. This is what parents need, one-dial appliances and two-ingredient recipes. I become misty-eyed thinking about all the smiles and joy our toaster oven has brought us.

Trendy kitchen appliances come and go, but the toaster oven remains the keystone to sound pediatric nutrition.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Weird, weird, weird.

The serious amateur or academic would first note the Cliff Bar wrapper as an obvious plant -- my favorite snack food is actually whale blubber wrapped in bacon and served with Mt. Dew Kickstart.

Another tell-tale giveaway that the above photo is a carefully arranged still-life rather than a work space is the Pilot rollerball, as everyone knows I only use a Crayola Electric Lime writing instrument.

But the most recent desktop tsunami of change is that I've cut the chord -- gotten rid of that strange object to the left of the computer monitor. Yes, until recently I've used an old fashioned telephone, one with no other functionality, for talking.

I realize I am way late to this party, but am glad to have made the transition before becoming a grandfather.

Not only have I cut the chord, but I've also become That Tech Guy as I recently received a Bluetooth watch-phone as a gift (thanks Bob!). Now my wrist buzzes with calls that I used to have to reach across my desk to handle.

Progress marches onward as I now say the same things but over a much more high-tech device. Can't argue with the extra real estate on the desktop, more room for marine mammal treats.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Card Game "I Doubt It" Blockbuster Hit

Now, at long last, we have a fun exercise that helps our kids practice deception.
Card shark (Uncle) Bob blew through town, unhappy that he didn't have an opportunity to fleece his fellow train passengers of their savings through poker. Perhaps realizing that the kids didn't have the scratch for high-stakes poker, he taught us another game where bluffing is tantamount, the "I Doubt It" card game.

I had learned this game in a slightly different way, but the version we all enjoyed is when players must all (pretend to) play the same rank of card until someone challenges. You can read the rules here.

The 8-year-old and the 11-year-old really took to the game, which requires some strategizing. They were both able to win while I came up short -- not because of honesty, but for a failure of mental calories.

This is a great game because one can be creative with the different methods of deception. My daughter would lure people to doubt her cards by having all four of a rank then only playing one at a time. The first time she tired this I believe 10 cards were played representing the four 4s.

I'm hoping our interest holds until Bob comes back so the kids can further teach the teacher.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Limits Of My Sustainability

The deck looks good but the board split on the bottom filling it with water
I like getting second use out of stuff as it eases my conscience by making me feel less of a rapacious defiler of the earth's resources.

But everyone has limits.

Recently I broke a windsurfing board. I went around to the gear shops asking what one did with such a thing. The best answer was cut it into chunks and cram it in the garbage can. Others just shuddered and turned away, lest they be tempted to store yet another large piece of junk in the garage.

I had the idea that I would let the kids paint on the white bottom of the board a mural of sustainability, perhaps whales and lemurs frolicking together as they celebrated the feast of Saint Crispin's Day. Or maybe a chimp waxing his surfboard with a video game controller. All these were fine ideas.

Or not.

The thought of a junked graffiti board in front of the house for time immemorial made me wince and so I drove to the dump. We have a problem getting rid of kid-generated art and this project had "landmine" written all over it.

I realize I generated a substantial amount of landfill, but I feel right about things because I've now earnestly blogged about it.

Maybe if the kids continue to develop their artistic talents I'll let them do a mural on our Hummer H1.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Don't Rule Out Abandoned Industrial Sites For Play

As long as it's not a Superfund site I'm good.
We've got a lot of outside in these parts. But if a Northwest Forest Pass or a State Park pass is beyond your means you can always find a rustic abandoned industrial site and have a great time.

Just be careful of rebar sticking out of concrete blocks when wading in the water, trains, and partying teenagers.

Remember, Boring Oregon City isn't a place (it's actually two places), so get out there and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Minecraft Tortures the Ruminating Brain

I don't care what it is just as long as it doesn't need me to update any files.

I’ve already ruminated on my tendency to ruminate. This topic has been a big hit, especially for  those with parenting questions in the Ukraine. Я приветствую вас с рыбой! According to Google Translate, this means from Portland to Kiev with love.

Over the last day my brain has been afflicted with the disease of Minecraft. No, I don’t have any interest to play the damn thing – but my son does.

He’s eight-years old and, to his credit, has made serious efforts to educate himself about computer use and the game. But he's still a kid. So when he needs to make changes, edit files, or download something he often has problems.

I spent considerable time setting up the computer for him last week. This week I decided to tweak the computer in an attempt to speed it up, as the graphics-heavy program stresses the machine. The attempt ended badly with the loss of many Minecraft files I had driven myself to distraction to install.

Yesterday I spent several hours trying to undo the damage, all the while wishing I could somehow learn from the experience other than how I am cursed with no impulse control and am doomed to walk the earth in a semi-lucid state destroying perfectly operational electronic gear.

Part of the time was spent removing the copious amounts of spam-ware files that accumulate when an uninitiated dad tries to do anything Minecraft related. The computer was junked up with viruses that hovered fake download buttons over pages  that did indeed have downloads. I then would click these decoy buttons and install even more crap advertising widgets on the computer.

I felt really stoopid yesterday. 

I thought of all the other dads, and children, who have no problem with Minecraft and find it an easy and enjoyable pastime. Also, my son finally had the game he desperately wanted and I screwed it up with my “improvements.” When it occurred to me my kid would probably become a juvenile delinquent because of such idiot parenting I vowed to set things right.

Early in the morning my ruminating brain got me out of bed and I began futzing with the computer. I watched endless videos of how to update the files, each video missing one crucial aspect or release number so I never understood exactly where I stood. 

Eventually through trial and error I got the different files to work together. My brain relaxed and it seemed I had a remote chance at a productive adult life. I hugged my son and made him promise not to change any settings or ask me to for one day.

He’s already making the list for tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be smarter by then.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

“Warm Bodies” Film Review

Nicholas Hoult  and Teresa Palmer star in this year’s feel-good zombie thriller.

A bit of the “The Walking Dead” combined with “Romeo and Juliet” best describes this zombie thriller in which a star-crossed zombie falls in love with a living girl.

As improbable as this sounds the movie was a nice lesson about human relations and we all agreed a great family movie, with the exception of our 8-year-old son who panned it probably because everyone else liked it. Or perhaps the kissing at the end might have been too much.

Our family appreciates a good zombie movie and this one had the unique spin in that much of the tale was told from the zombie’s point of view. The story begins long after the zombie apocalypse with the boy zombie describing what the undead do day after day in a voiceover.

Despite the scary monsters, a feeling of comedy kept spirits high, especially with Rob Corddry as the boy’s friend. One of the main dramatic points turned out to be an overbearing John Malkovitch playing the girl’s father.
One of the reasons I suspect my 11-year-old daughter liked the film so much was that it gave her some actionable intelligence – if one considers all boys zombies such goes a long way to explaining certain behaviors. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Multnomah Village Days Director's Cut

Safe parade chainsaw fun or does this character have another agenda?

I love parades generally because I get to confront my own neurosis as well as film and interview the people in the parade without having to give any valid reason.

Why did they dress up if they didn't want someone like me to notice them? Don't answer that. Anyway, Multnomah Village Days was a great event with lots of creativity and civic spirit. Too bad a sorehead like myself had to get involved. Enjoy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Favorite Articles of Clothing #4

 I don’t follow a sports team. But if I did I imagine the feeling of wearing my team’s jersey to the stadium would be similar to the one generated by wearing my Denali Jacket around Portland.

To say this is a ubiquitous item in the Northwest is an understatement along the lines that Lance Armstrong had a teensy-weensy problem with EPO and truth-telling.

The jacket makes me feel like a soggy everyman in these climes, especially when paired with a ball cap of any ilk.

The jacket is plenty dorky looking, all technical functionality with its four zippered pockets and pit zips. But if wilderness chic is your thing (yes!), this is the Chanel suit of multiple generations –the Denali Jacket first premiered in 1988.

I’ve owned my jacket for several years and have tried to destroy it with hard use. Perhaps the fleece has pilled a bit, but it looks pretty much the same as when purchased owing to a superb overall design – a nylon yoke and elbow patches smoothing over the heavy abrasion places. 

The North Face has capitalized on the jacket’s longevity and now offers a build-your-own on its website, with customizable zipper pulls, logo stitching, and label, as well as the more obvious choices.

I’ve owned many fleeces, but only one Denali Jacket. And if you see someone wearing the above garment, statistically it will not be me.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Favorite Articles Of Clothing #3

I do wear T shirts most all the time. To reconcile this painful truth I tell myself that most of these shirts are pocket Ts rather than undershirts, and that because they have no visible logos or messages printed on them this somehow makes it all okay.

So when I leave the Blog Cave I usually need to wear something extra as I live in a temperate climate. The above canvas jacket is my go-to for much of the random activity I pursue around Portland.  Inside pockets allow the phone to be handy without breaking the clean lines of the jacket’s cut. With my jacket worn over a black crew-neck shirt or sweater, I feel ready for the cameras to pull in tight to let the monologue begin.

This feeling is enhanced when I smoke Gauloises in my imagination.  I inhale deeply with a pensive look to the sun setting over the Mediterranean, before gently releasing the breath and realizing I’ve spilled Earl Grey on myself again. 

Like all clothing in this series, casual is king. The jacket imbues the functionality of a traditional sport coat with an energetic modernism.
That and it was on sale at The Gap sometime in the last decade. At least I’m not wearing a mullet ironically.