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Travel Epilogue

by on Jun.21, 2010, under career, family, money, video games

11 cents.  That’s how much cash was left in my pocket after two weeks on the road.  I honestly only used cash for minimal incidental expenses that required it (e.g., train & bus fares, items from convenience stores and news stands) and I only started with a little over $100.  I just find it funny how closely my funds matched my needs.

Anyway, I’m glad to be gradually returning to normalcy.  Though while Saturday with the family went smoothly, Sunday my children did their best to remind me of what I didn’t miss while I was gone.  Grasshopper seems to be going through that phase in life where he is realizing that he is not in charge and is fighting that reality tooth and nail.  And Cricket seems to be giving us a preview of her teenage drama queen years to come.  All upon the backdrop of dinner with the in-laws – their older cousin got fed up with the behavior and I’m sure the parents of their younger cousin were not thrilled with the image of their possible future.  It seems my wife and I have some work to do with them.

On a good note, there were some positive aspects of Father’s Day this year.  My family made me French toast in bed, got me a nice geeky card, and got me Super Mario Galaxy 2 (which the kids proceeded to watch me play for hours).  The game is a good continuation of the series in that it keeps some continuity with the previous installment.  But it is also an improvement – the level layout is much more sensible and enjoyable.  In the first you had this huge “ship” with various rooms to navigate to find the levels of play.  In the new version you steer the ship (which is smaller and simpler) to the various worlds which are all laid out on an easy to navigate map (more similar to games like Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3).  And they brought back Yoshi which adds a fun new variation on the game play (plus the kids love to watch me make him eat things).

Anyway, now that my travels are done, I must return to reality and be a productive member of society.  I look forward to getting back into more interactive tasks than just sitting still and listening all day.  I look forward to getting to go home every day and enjoying some time with my family (maybe a bit less of it like this weekend panned out).  And I look forward to getting refunded all of my travel expenses so that I have more than a dime and a penny to line my pockets.

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Interpretive Song

by on Jan.15, 2010, under family, video games

I could go on about how the very thoughtful be seemingly innocuous gift of RockBand 2 from my sister has gone through the ebb flow of severe addiction and determined withdrawal within our household, but that would take away from this nugget that just happens to be as a result of the song selection my children have been exposed to by this game.  The nugget really needs no explanation, so I will be uncharacteristically brief and take you straight to it.  So here it is:

Grasshopper’s (my 3-year-old son) rendition of the opening to Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”:

Chocolate heart
And your too lame
You give love a Band-aid

Yes, kids do say some of the funniest things.  But few compare to the arguments they can get into over song lyrics.

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My Daughter, the Rock Star

by on Nov.09, 2009, under family, music, parenthood, video games

The funny thing with kids – no matter how complete your life may have felt before, once you have kids you can’t imagine life any other way.  Cricket and I have some interesting ways that we bond.  We play video games together, we read stories together (currently we are going back and forth between Nancy Drew and Harry Potter books), and we watch the cartoons together (some of them are quite fun even for adults).  Recently the kids and I had some free time together in the evening and opted to go to some nearby shops.  After doing a round at the pet store and passing in and out of a bike shop and a mattress store (who doesn’t like to bounce on beds?), we walked into a game shop to check out what Wii games were out and coming soon.

After browsing the selection and playing a round of each of the games they have on their demo systems, my son and I turn to see his sister having put a Rock Band guitar strap over her head getting ready to play it (mind you, she has never actually played any such games – she is only 5).  She gets her hands in position and shouts to the audience of the store “I’m bringin’ the THUNDER!”

Being her 3-year-old little brother, Grasshopper had to follow suit by getting his own guitar and repeating the phrase as best he could remember it.  In hindsight, I’m glad we had gone to the stores in the order that we did, because that was a better finale to the evening than the typical ‘don’t touch that’-fest that any trip the the pet store always becomes.  This event easily washed all of that away.

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Temporarily Single Dad

by on Sep.29, 2009, under family, home & stuff, Internet, movies, parenthood, video games

For the past 5 days, I’ve been Mr. Mom.  My wife went away to a blogging conference in Asheville, NC and left me in charge of managing our 2 kids.  Being actively involved with my kids on a regular basis, this was not a daunting task, per se.  The hard part was not paying attention to work for that period of time – especially since my shine, new iPhone would chirp every few minutes telling me I have some new email to read.  But eventually I turned off that notification and got to the serious business of responsibly entertaining my posse.

First priority – getting them to school on time.  Grasshopper only just started going to daycare (2 days a week) and already being without his Mommy, he was very reluctant to go (though apparently his tears ended within minutes of Cricket and I leaving him there).  Cricket just started Kindergarten this year and has been loving every minute of it, but with the possibility of being able to stay home and play Lego Star Wars with Daddy she suddenly was on the fence about going as well.  But I got them there, they did there time, and got them safely home (all perfectly according to schedule).  But outside of that, it was play time – we went to the park almost every day, we went to a play place for the better part of one cloudy afternoon, and we spent a fair share of time watching a couple of movies and playing Lego Star Wars.

By the end of the long weekend, I was ready for reinforcements.  I love my kids, but I can only be jumped on so many times before needing to tag out.  I only took advantage of the in-laws once for a break (which I spent cleaning).  And I actually made semi-nutritious meals for them for all but 2 meals (pancakes are good for you, right?).  So all in all I think I did okay.  And today it was back to work … to deal with my other batch of kids.  Maybe I should go to a conference.

P.S. – Mywife (who now has 2 blogs) went to a blogging conference, but didn’t post anything the entire time.  Ironic.

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Virtual Road to Riches

by on Aug.18, 2009, under comics, family, video games

So one of my bonding activities that I developed as of late with my daughter is video gaming – specifically playing with the Wii (btw, thanks again Mom).  Initially it was all about Mario Party 8 since that was one of the first games we had with it.  But I, frankly, can only handle so much of that game (especially since the taunt feature has been unlocked).  So for my birthday, I got a couple of new games (thanks, Jesse) – Lego Batman and Lego Star Wars.  And loving the genre, my daughter wants to play it with me every day if she can – she will wake me up early on work days to play before I leave and will barter bedtime stories in exchange for another level in the evening before bed.  I try to keep the game-play time within reason, but she is legitimately getting better at playing and as such learning some good eye-hand coordination skills.  So if it is time that the TV would likely be on anyway, I’ll gladly play for a bit rather than vegging out to some show.

Anyway, she and I have managed to work through all 30 levels in Story mode and managed to get a good amount of the minikits and red bricks in Free-play mode (I think we are around 90% complete right now).  Once we get through all of it, we may move on to Lego Star Wars.  But we have discovered some interesting quirks in the game.  For one, we found that there are 5 different extras you can unlock that are score multipliers (scorex2, x4, x6, x8, x10) and it seems you can enable all 5 at the same time thus getting a score multiplier of x3840.  As a result, it has been cake to reach Super-Hero/Super-Villain mode in any levels we hadn’t before.  But also it has led to another discovery – it seems the game has a maximum allowable score of 4 billion studs (the currency of choice within the Lego realms).  So any studs accrued beyond this amount are simply lost in the ether (possibly garnished for Gotham City urban renewal programs?).  Granted, it is a ludicrously high number (though ludicrously easy to reach with all the sore multipliers on) and those studs will never get spent even if I never use the multipliers again.  But it is funny that a cap exists (probably a programmatic limitation).

So my daughter and I now moonlight as Lego billionaires.  It is a complex and lavish lifestyle, but we try not to let it go to our heads.  We try to keep our priorities straight – after all, we still do have a city to save.

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