Saturday, June 30, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I have done this for probably 15 years now, and I have had no shortage of ideas. The imagination literally runs wild with ideas on how to spend this enormous sum of money.
If I were to receive one billion dollars today, I would:
- give one million dollars to each member of my wife's and my families. The children's money would be placed in trust to be used for their education and the remainder disbursed upon their graduation from college: $22,000,000
- provide full four-year scholarships to any student I ever had who gained acceptance to a college: approximately $25,000,000
- give one million dollars to each of my friends: $35,000,000
- buy four season tickets for the Detroit Tigers in section 135 of the Tigers' Den for the next 40 years: $480,000
- buy two homes and an apartment: one house near Gulf Shores, Alabama on the bay near my wife's family's bay houses; one along the Manistee River in Mesick, Michigan, where I grew up. I would also maintain a condo on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, near Comerica Park: $3,000,000
These are things I choose every year, and it totals less than $100,000,000, 10% of the money to spend. Lately, though, I have added things to my list that I would never have done before.
- I would adopt another daughter from China. We can afford one daughter right now, but a second one would stretch our budget uncomfortably. We would both go back tomorrow to get another child.
- I would help other people adopt with interest-free loans. There are literally thousands of children waiting to be adopted and thousands of parents who can't front the money for it that they would get back in tax credits.
But here's the one I've been thinking about lately, and it is something I feel strongly about:
- I would create a comic book line appropriate for all ages with ascending levels of reading difficulty so that children could learn to read along with their heroes.
The heroes in my comics grow into their roles starting at about five years old, akin to the Power Pack books that Marvel produces. As the kids grow older, they learn about their powers and learn how to behave in the world in a civilized and responsible way. Of course they get into trouble like kids do, but how they handle it would be the way they define themselves as heroes.
If a character dies in this comic book universe, they would stay dead. In the current comics world, death has no meaning. There used to be an expression, "Only Bucky stays dead," referring to Captain America's old partner who died during World War II. Well, guess what? Bucky's back. Death's permanence is an important lesson that kids need to learn.
In my comic book line, heroes would act as heroes. There would be no need for replacement heroes. No hero falls from grace. They may be viewed as threats, but they aren't threats. Sidekicks would be encouraged to strike out on their own and fight evil instead of forever remaining in their mentors' shadows.
In my comic book line, heroes don't fight other heroes. In fact, they only fight at all as a last resort, if there's no other way. Conflict resolution is an important lesson that kids need to learn about as well. If you think that's boring, check out Fantastic Four under Waid and Wieringo.
Speaking of writers and artists, those are the first two on my list. Mark Waid knows more about the Silver Age than almost any other living person. The Silver Age is a feeling I'd like to replicate. Mike Wieringo has a cartoony style that I just can't get enough of. I'd also like to get J. Scott Campbell for the art on my teenage books. I loved what he did with Gen13 and Wildsiderz. I just didn't care for the stories in them.
In short, I'd like comic books that my daughter not only could read, but should read. I wonder how much that would cost?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
It's nice to have an LCS because it gives me a place to hang out and talk about comic books with people who have similar interests. It serves as a base of operations for local comic book creators and people who generally enjoy the medium as I do. The odd thing about it, though, is that sometimes the place makes me feel...well, old. Casey and Kelly are considerably younger than I am and when I reference some obscure Batman story from the 1970s I sometimes get blank looks. Comic book fans are funny that way; there is an expected knowledge base of comic book history that comes with being a comic book fan, and woe be to anyone who exhibits the slightest ignorance. If you've seen "the Comic Book Guy" on the Simpsons, you get a slightly exaggerated idea of what many comic book fans are like. I have to laughingly forgive some of their knowledge lapses because of their youth, but it does make me feel old.
Our LCS is well-stocked and the service is very good. They are leaders in sales of action figures, and they have a pull-list service for new comics. The pull-list service probably could use some work, but they are just two people operating the store so on the occasion that I miss a comic on my list, I don't get too upset. They also tend to know their customers' reading habits and make good recommendations to enhance their reading pleasure. That's a good move and a big plus in my book.
The most fun thing to do now is to take Sera to the comic book store. Casey and Kelly had their third child while we were in China, so they appreciate little children too. I'm still picking out which titles to get for Sera when it's reading time. I have a few favorites, and they have shared their daughters' personal favorites as well. I hope there are more options soon.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
And now that the class is over, I can enjoy the rest of my summer in relative peace. The class only lasted six weeks, so it was compressed and the assignments were labor-intensive. Now I can concentrate on getting back to another project, a secret project, that I've been working on since winter. I'm creating a workbook for middle school math. Its exact nature must remain a secret until it's finished. Everyone who has looked at it says that it's a sure thing and it would be wonderful if that is true. We'll have to see.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
- I love my wife and daughter more than anything in the world.
- I need to get my teaching license renewed as soon as my class is over so I can keep my job and continue to help support them.
- My final exam for Introduction to Computing is tonight. I have a 100% average, so I'm not worried. I'm going to try to get another 100 on the final because I've never finished a college course with 100% before. I don't care if I wreck the curve for everyone else.
- Teaching summer school is fun. Because you have to give the kids time to do their work, there's lots of downtime during which you can work on other things...like your blog!
- I hate arguing about politics. You'll never change anyone's mind about anything. At least with baseball you can use statistics to compare players' performances. In politics everyone fails to some extent and there's no World Series to get excited about.
- I'm amazed at the waste that goes on in this country. Do we really need to water our lawns? Is having perfectly green grass more important than having water available to fight fires? There was a fire at a recycling plant near our house the other day and the city actually had to ask people not to water their lawns so there would be enough to put the fire out.
- People in our neighborhood are having garage sales. They've been working for days to make a few hundred dollars. Most if not all of them earn more money than that in their jobs. Why don't they just give the stuff away and deduct it as a charitable contribution?
- Why aren't MP3 players allowed in school? If the students use them to help them focus on their work, what's the harm in that? Teachers can make students put them away when they need full attention. It would be no more difficult to enforce that than to enforce the "no MP3 player" rule in the first place.
- A friend of mine recently had a house fire and lost all of his gaming materials. We're talking about thousands of pages of quality material that he created. I think it's time to make backups of mine, not that they even compare in quality, but I would hate to lose them all. The artwork that I would lose would be a tragedy all by itself. Some of it can't be replaced as the artists are deceased. That includes a Justice League of America page drawn by Dick Dillin.
- Superman is an illegal immigrant.
- I wish I had time to explore all of my interests. I love to draw, to write, to take photographs, to read, and I have never had enough time to do them all. Retirement for me means having the time and means to explore all the things I have always wanted to do. I should be able to retire when I'm 55.
- Batman is guilty of tax fraud. The government doesn't have a proper assessment of his property since he has one of the most valuable finished basements in America. It's called the Batcave. Think the Joker is deadly? Wait until he faces the IRS.
- I want a finished basement. And I'll call it the Batcave.
- Every big project we have is measured in terms of summer school sessions. Fence around the yard? One summer school session. New living room furniture? One summer school session. Finished basement/Batcave? Two summer school sessions. Adding a giant dinosaur and penny will be extra.
That's all for now. I'm sure my brain will misfire more later.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Whether it comes from being abused by parent-figures or burned by contemporaries, I am often suspicious when people show any kind of affection toward me. Somewhere in my brain, suspicions arise because if someone likes me, there must be something wrong with them. Many of my friends don't know why, but having read this I'm sure it makes sense. But with my daughter, there can be no doubt. She loves me with a white-hot, supernova love. When I walk into the house each day, she lights up and giggles so hard that she can't stand still. You can't fake that, and even if you could, she's not old enough to know how.
I'm still amazed at the things she learns. From the very first night of singing her to sleep I used Beethoven's Fifth: Da-da-da-daaaaaaaah; da-da-da-daaaaaaaaaaah. Now she sings it whenever she thinks it's appropriate, along with "ee-i-ee-i," which concludes with the unsung "oh." She has picked up sign language at an amazing rate. She learns a new word every two or three days. Yesterday was milk. She's like a sponge, this one. I have to be careful about what I say or do because she's likely to pick it up too quickly. Thank goodness for Battlestar Galactica, because I have weened myself off certain words that begin with "f" by saying "frak" instead.
I dream about Sera every night. I imagine what she'll be like when she's older, and I can see us taking her places like Disney World or Six Flags. In my dreams we do all the things I never got to do as a child. We'll be going to Mackinac Island this summer, something I didn't get to do until I was 16. I know she won't remember it, but we will.
I have spent entirely too much time in my life worring about the past. The best part of being a dad is focusing on the future. Maybe that's why I'm so happy!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I had played RPGs informally in college, simply because time was at a premium and it was tough to match schedules with so much activity. I tried various games, like DC Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes, and even D&D. But after graduation, I joined a group that changed my life. My friend Scott had told me about the group he played with in South Bend, Indiana, and how they had been playing in a campaign (an episodic series of gaming sessions)together for a few years. I sat in with them once, but again, was too busy during college to dedicate the time for it. But after I graduated from college in 1987, Scott had a serious car accident and he needed someone to drive him to the game. And since I suddenly had the time, I jumped at the chance to join. And the rest, for me, is history.
We played at my friend Doug's house, in his dining room. The game was called Champions, a popular superhero game that uses a point-based system to create your very own original superhero. I have always loved the superhero genre, and had made up my own superheroes for years. It was amazing how each player's character came to life. Week after week, we met on Sunday, shared pizza and pop, and developed complex characters that would put the best author to shame. Hundreds of game sessions flew by. We went to dinner and movies together, played disc golf, and cultivated true friendships. A few players left here and there, but the core group stayed intact for the next six years and we all stayed in touch. Finally, we found ourselves distracted by real life as players got married, began careers and moved away. The game ended in 1994.
Well, here we are in 2007 and thanks to the internet I still play with my friends. We now play on online game called City of Heroes. We play on Wednesday nights and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Instead of sitting around a table in South Bend, we sit at our computers in our own homes, whether they are in Virginia, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Michigan, or Indiana. We still talk to each other, too. We use a computer program called Skype which provides voice communication over the internet. So, we play with headsets on, and carry on conversations covering just about every topic that we used to discuss, ranging from movies and music to politics and religion. It's just that now we also talk about children and taxes too. The computer resolves the action for us, which is more fair, but I sometimes miss rolling 12 or more dice and watching them scatter over the table.
Those of us who still live in the area remain good friends. Doug and I were each best man for each other's weddings. We both have kids now, which makes it tougher in some ways to go to movies together, but Doug's son Sean is a born gamer. I'm just trying to figure out the best age for the kids to all get around a table together so they can start rolling dice and becoming real friends. And if they move away as adults, I'm sure technology will provide the means for them to remain close, as it has worked for my friends and me.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
An hour later the rest of the tree fell on our house.
It would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that the tree fell on the house. It didn't hurt anything, but it was pretty annoying. I went to class, and Magi took care of the rest of it when the guy arrived later in the evening. He only ended up charging us a total of $550, so I guess I feel lucky. They did a good job cleaning up the tree. You can't even tell there was one there.
On Friday, we packed up Sera and went to Rhapsody in Green, an annual summer celebration in Elkhart. It seems like all the midwest towns have these all summer long. There's no good reason. They must like carnival food. While we were walking around Island Park, where the celebration occurs, a branch fell out of an overhead tree from about 60 feet up. I don't know why I stopped in my tracks, but I did, and it hit the ground and exploded right in front of me. I think the trees are out to get me.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
This weekend, while we were driving in Elkhart, we saw a moped tipped over in the middle of the street. A car was backing away from it onto a side street. It paused for a moment, and then turned around and took off in the opposite direction. The driver of the moped was getting up off the ground. As we pulled up, I rolled the window down and asked him if that car had hit him. He said it had. So, I turned down the side street and followed the escaping vehicle. After a couple of twists and turns, the car accelerated well past the speed limit toward the direction from which we had come. We caught up with it at a traffic light and took down its license plate number. Whereas some of my superhero characters would have lifted the car and flown it to police headquarters, we simply pulled into the nearest parking lot and called the police. When they arrived, we gave them our information and went home. I felt good that we had done the right thing, despite the lack of super powers.
Setting an example for Sera is becoming very important to me, but it is hard work. It has made me think twice about my actions many, many times since we came back from China. For the most part I'm satisfied that I do well, but this process has really opened my eyes about some of my behavior and I'm working to change it.
Monday, June 04, 2007
On a day when we drove to Kalamazoo just to get Sera some Tigers wear, I caught a foul ball at a baseball game. No big deal, you're probably saying. Many of you have caught foul balls at games. Well, here's why it's a big deal. My friend and colleague Dave and I went to the South Bend Silverhawks game tonight, and a near-miracle happened. I never sit behind the plate because I want to catch a foul ball. I've been waiting years to catch one. I usually sit on the third base line where I can at least have a good chance. Well, tonight of all nights I finally caught one. The ball was fouled straight back and rolled down the safety net over section 109 and fell through a hole directly above me. I caught it even though I had my scorecard in my hands. This is coincidence enough, but here's where it gets really cool: As a Tigers fan I experienced something of a convergence, because the foul ball that I caught was hit by Great Lakes Loons outfielder Scott Van Slyke. Who's he? Why, none other than the son of Tigers first base coach Andy Van Slyke. Who did I get to sign the ball after the game? The manager of the Great Lakes Loons, none other than former Detroit Tiger Lance Parrish. How's that for a night for a Tigers fan?