Monday, December 29, 2008
This "show" is done in parts, available on YouTube, and apparently there's more of them. They not only have original series writers like David Gerrold working on them, but they also have Star Trek actors working as well. I really enjoyed this one!
Here's their home page!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
I got Magi a professional knife sharpening station. We have a good assortment of knives, but they get dull way too fast and it's never fun to cook with dull knives. I had Magi cancel what she was going to get me, so I got a couple of books, and a Detroit Tigers beach towel and wall calendar. My dad sent me a hatchet that he made with "Native American" (he's 1/16 Native American) glyphs for which only he knows the meaning. But in my stocking this year was a truly great present. The Atari Plug-N-Play video game controller turns any TV with an RCA jack input into an Atari 2600 video game system with 10 games on it. With brilliant 8-bit graphics and powerful mono sound, this little machine will keep me entertained for hours and hours of fun!
I didn't have a video game system when I was a kid, but my mom did, so my brother and sister got to play it all the time growing up. I got to play with it sporadically when I went to visit them, and I never got enough. Now I can play some of my favorite games as often as I want. This particular version came with Centipede, Asteroids, Missile Command, Pong, Breakout, Adventure (my favorite), Circus Atari, Yar's Revenge, and some kind of Volleyball. You can be sure this will be going to school with me when we return a week from tomorrow, so I can share with my kids what real video games were like back the day!
One really nice thing about this unit is the quality of the controller. If you were playing video games back then, you might remember that the controllers were a little fragile. There was a little plastic piece inside the handle that touched the connections inside and it was prone to break every couple of weeks or so. You could get replacements, but it took time away from your busy playing schedule. This controller is heavy-duty and built to last. I'll be taking this with me on spring break for sure. Since it runs on four AA batteries, I can even plug it into Sera's extra DVD player screen in the car on the trip!
Wii users, eat your hearts out!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
The book centers around a boy named Joey Clark, who lives in an orphanage. Joey is unhappy, but a good kid, considered "horse-crazy" by his friends. He longs for a life with a real father as he goes through his chores from day to day. When an opportunity arises for Joey to go to a real, live rodeo, he sneaks in. When he's discovered, he makes a break for it and hides in a vehicle belonging to Jim Newton, a single rancher who has just caught a wild stallion named Fury. Of course Joey is discovered and eventually adopted, and of course he is the only one who can tame the wild stallion. It's stories like this upon which cliches are based.
But the power behind it is that it gave me hope in a time when I had none. My brief vacations to visit my father and my grandparents were the only bright spots in each year of misery. I immediately identified with Joey, and about a year later, my father allowed me to come live with him instead of being beaten and abused every day by my stepfather. This book got me through the last year of five where there was no silver lining to be found.
Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
My reaction is, really? You have to show Batman grabbing Talia's butt? Who is the target audience here? Obviously I couldn't have this comic book in my classroom. Could you imagine the parent calls I would get? Does this image do anything for older teenagers? I can find more graphic images by accident online, and so can they. So who exactly is this image drawn for?
I have the graphic novel that this scene is taken from. In it, Batman finally finds a moment of happiness in a lifetime of angst and tragedy. It was treated with dignity, class, and even respect for the characters. This is just schlock and awful.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It was really difficult to convince Magi to go camping. As she has said herself, her family’s idea of camping was staying at a Day’s Inn. When my buddies and I went camping several years ago for Gen Con, I told Magi about the experience. She said even then that she was too much of a “princess” for the rustic campground we used. Well, a little store called Cabela’s took care of that! On our trip out to visit my father in Utah, I had brought what I thought we needed to camp. I had purchased a clearance-priced tent made by the Swiss Army company that looked pretty good and I set it up for the first time at my father’s house. We didn’t sleep in it, but I was reasonably sure we’d be comfortable. Well, it turns out that the air mattresses that lie on the ground are a little unstable, which we found out after one night in my sister’s tent, and our own tent collapsed in high winds the first time we tried to sleep in it two days later! All the way to Utah, I had seen signs for Cabela’s, and when we drove past one in Omaha, it looked to be the biggest store I had ever seen. So we stopped at every single one on our way home as I looked to make camping an enjoyable experience for her. A week and four Cabela’s stores later, we had a new 20’ x 15’ tent, and two queen sized collapsible air mattress frames. The windstorm in Omaha convinced me to not only replace the tent, but to get a weather radio as well.
As we set out on our first post-windstorm camping experience in my hometown, we stopped in Cadillac for lunch at Elias Bros. Big Boy. Big Boy might seem a little lowbrow for some people, but for me it’s a piece of home. The Big Boy we visited is the one at the end of Pearl Street, where my grandmother and my father lived during my senior year in high school and first few years of college. When I was with them, we ate there virtually every night. I bought Sera a Big Boy beachball for the campsite, and she really enjoyed that.
We also stopped at G&R Party Store in Cadillac, which sells fantastic deli sandwiches. Well, they seem fantastic to me anyway. If hunger is the best seasoning, nostalgia probably comes in a close second. I used to get their sandwiches when I worked at Four Winns boats right out of high school, saving money for college. I took a bite of my sandwich and packed the rest of it to go in our cooler along with a couple of 20-oz. bottles of Faygo (gotta love Michigan products), Redpop for me, and grape for Magi, and we only had one more stop to make at Wal-Mart, because I had forgotten to pack our pillows.
When we arrived at the campground, I found the tent to be just as easy to set up the second time as the first, which I had done at home in the back yard just a few days before. Sera and I had slept out there one night to make sure she was okay with tents that are not being blown down around us. While I was putting up the tent, Sera got busy getting to know the earth of my hometown through her new beach ball. Too bad she didn’t enjoy herself.
We were completely settled in within an hour, with the air mattresses inflated and the beds made. I looked at the sky and decided not to put the fly on the tent, so we could see the stars, which sparkle far brighter in northern Michigan without all the light pollution of the cities nearby. Magi asked me what we would do if it rained. I didn’t think it would rain, but of course we found out that it would the hard way. We awoke to raindrops in our faces and I threw the fly over the tent in about five minutes and just laughed as I pounded the stakes into the ground. I said, “We’ll do what everyone does at a campground when it rains; we’ll go to town!” So, the next morning we made a short trip to Traverse City, where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at a bistro called Amical on Front Street. My wife wrote a glowing review of it here. Sera napped in the car afterward while I went into a local bookstore to find something to read. We sat in our van in the rain while Sera slept in her car seat, listening to the raindrops, reading, and contemplating our amazing lunch. By the time we were headed back to Mesick, the rain was clearing, and the weather was mild again, as it was the rest of the week.
When Sera wanted to swim, I took her down to the beach where my grandmother used take me when I was young. We always called this area the “backwaters” but I never understood what it really was, and unfortunately I was too wrapped up in other things to ask. The “backwaters” is actually called Hodenpyl Dam Pond and it’s essentially a flooded valley where the Manistee River used to run through. When the Dam was built by Consumers Power in 1925, the waters backed up, creating the…”backwaters.” Swimming in the backwaters was always a challenge because the beach has about fifty feet of rocky sand until the water is about six feet deep, and then it drops off quickly and steeply. The mud bank that forms the drop off has freshwater clams galore. You can’t eat them, but they sure skip well across calm water.
While we were set up, my buddy Eric came up for a couple of days. I had wanted to go canoeing, but logistically, it wasn’t going to happen with three adults. So, we did the next best thing: we went rafting instead! The four of us rented a raft and set out down the river on the shortest trip they had available, which is two hours. We had a little difficulty at first, as the current pulled us behind a downed tree. Paddling out of that was a bit of work, but after that it was smooth sailing. You really don’t have to paddle much as you float down the Manistee. You just have to steer and enjoy the scenery. There are old railroad bridges, sand banks, and some evidence of logging. By the way, that part of the Manistee River is also home to a bird sanctuary. On any given day you can see Herons with wingspans well over six feet taking off. There are bald eagles too, but we didn’t see one that day.
Two and a half hours later, Sera was pretty miserable. Her life jacket prevented her head from turning so that she couldn’t even rest her head on Magi’s shoulders. She still talks fondly about riding in the boat, though.
That night, we returned to Amical, and had a wonderful dinner. I had a sirloin steak with morel mushrooms, the trademark of my little town. If you’ve never had morel mushrooms, they sell for around $25 per pound and they are worth it. I grew up with them, so I can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money on them, but if I see them on a menu as part of a meal, there’s a good chance that I will order it.
The next day, we said our goodbyes to Eric and left for Mackinac Island, just a hundred or so miles north. We had reservations for the Grand Hotel, and after four days of roughing it, we looked forward to being pampered. We took the ferry over from Mackinaw City, and while Magi and Sera rode in the main cabin, I rode on top in the air and took pictures. When we arrived after 15 minutes, we initially had trouble finding a coach to the hotel. For those who have not been to Mackinac Island, there are no motor vehicles allowed except a few fire engines and ambulances. Everyone else is conducted by horse, carriage, or bicycle. It was actually convenient that we were delayed at the dock, because I had forgotten my sport jacket. You see, at the Grand Hotel, you must dress in jacket and tie after six. I had left mine in the minivan. Fortunately, we had valet parked, so the people at the ferry arranged for it to be brought over on the next boat and delivered to the hotel. What service!
We checked into our room and showered, showered, showered. Our feet were filthy from days in the sandy pines, wearing Crocs. Even after you take a shower at the campground, you have to walk across sand to get back to your campsite. It took some serious scrubbing to get the dirt out of every nook and cranny of our toes. My jacket arrived at about the same time as the luggage, and we got ready for dinner. Meals at the Grand Hotel are sumptuous, and always wonderful. The milk chocolate crème’ brulee was amazing.
Sera loved shopping in the little village. There were all kinds of cheap souvenirs and plastic toys that she could play with, and we got her a t-shirt with a monkey on it that she just adored. There was so much to see that was new to her. There were horses everywhere, and beautiful flower gardens. And she really enjoyed the attention she got from the wait staff and the guests in the dining room as she virtually pranced through the aisle after dinner.
The next day, during Sera’s nap, I rented a bike and rode the 7.5 miles of Lake Shore Road. This is a trip I really want to take again next year with my own bike. The one I rented was comfortable enough, but my bike is built much more for someone my size. I’m hoping Sera will want to go with me in her trailer. She would really enjoy the scenery. I want to find a way to mount our video camera on my handlebars too. It’s a gorgeous ride.
All too soon, we were headed home back down I-75. It rained most of the way back, and it was fitting. We had enjoyed such great weather for most of our trip, we felt it was a fair tradeoff to drive home in the rain. With just a quick stop at Sea Shell City, a great tourist trap that has been there for years, we drove straight through until we were almost home.
As I sit here in the dead of winter with a slushy drive home ahead of me, it’s nice to think back to that week in what I consider paradise. I look forward to going back for more.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
While we sat together on the couch with her tucked in next to me watching Wonder Pets or one of the other awful shows she loves, I watched the most recent episode of Chuck on hulu on Magi's laptop. I plugged in my headphones, which she of course wanted to try. So I hooked up my splitter, which we got for traveling to China, and she listened on her own headphones while still watching her show.
Searching through the channels, I saw an opportunity to watch a movie uninterrupted during her nap. Live Free or Die Hard was coming on at 11:30, so all I had to do was put her down for a nap a half hour early. I did that, and she thwarted me by staying awake until 12:15. Ladies and gentlemen, always respect the schedule! After a two-and-a-half hour nap, she was up and wanted a bath. Yes, you read that right. She wanted a bath. It's high recreation for Sera, and who was I to deny her?
By the time Magi got home from work, we had gone through half a box of tissue, but we had a great time together. Whether we were drawing on her easel, or watching the Little Drummer Boy on DVD, or just playing kitty cat, this is truly the way to spend a sick day!