Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another funny link...

To A Tall Cool Drink of Water. Today's answer to the question, "How was I born?"

:-) Bus Zen....Yes I stole this title....but it is a link

Bus Zen. From Oh, The Joys. Not stealing anymore, go there and read about it. You'll be glad you did. Put something soft on your forehead, your palm might end up there.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ever been to the southern hemisphere? Thinking out loud blog....

Without someone to stay with my son this year while I go out of town for a couple of days I'm not likely to see Utah like last year. So I was thinking about where I could snowboard over the summer.

Any guesses?

Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Flights are just a few hundred dollars more to New Zealand than to Chile. I haven't checked on ski packages in New Zealand yet, but for around $700 all inclusive, I get 7 days in a backpacking youth setup at Portillo, Chile. Almost $2000. Portillo includes 4 meals a day :-). I would fly into Santiago. New Zealand is a whole different story. Almost $2000 for idea about accommodation's and lift tickets.

Anyone have any experience with this? Anyone want to go? Well, I can almost assure you that I cannot afford it...just dreaming, but the idea of going to any of those three places is quite appealing to my adventurous side. July/August time frame.

Alternately, I can do a very cheap trip to Cozumel for Scuba Diving. :-)

My girlfriend wants to do an Eastern or Western Caribbean Cruise. That would be fun too. Bon Aire is supposed to be great for scuba divers.

Other things that have come up were Catalina Island in California. I could go there with my son, then drive up to Monterey or Yosemite, or both, then fly home from San Jose.

Key Largo also for scuba and snorkeling.

Just bouncing a lot of ideas around. Have to start budgeting for something.

The photo behind my page is this:

From Snowbird, Utah in 2004. I was lucky enough to go out there for work once and get some snowboarding in. I really like Salt Lake City and the snowboarding opportunities there. You can make it a VERY inexpensive trip really. The skiing is <30mins from downtown Salt Lake. You can stay in a cheap $50 a night hotel and get a superpass for about $40 a day that acts as a buss pass and an all day lift ticket at five different resorts. If you have a friend you can split a rental car and the hotel and then the major expense is airfare. In all, I bet it is cheaper and more fun going to Utah than to stay several days at any East Coast ski place that doesn't have a tenth of the snow, views, or amenities. :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Please welcome newborn Elizabeth into this world!
From my friend Jeff in Richmond:
"things have finally calmed has finally left and now it's just the three of us. Elizabeth was born at 4:15pm .... 20.5 long.... 7lbs 13.5ozs......and she is currently sleeping like an angel....already successfully latched and had a couple of meals.... Mel is doing wonderfully."

Congratulations Melanie (Mom), Jeff (Dad), and Emma (Big Sister)! She is a beautiful baby girl!

If you have children, you have to read this....

Don't drink or eat anything while you read this that you wouldn't want blown out your nose.....

Google Reader

I've been using Google Reader for several weeks now. There are about 37 or so blogs that I keep up with and I add more here and there too. So how does Google Reader help me do it?

Google Reader is a lot like Google Mail. It lists the blog subscription names on the left and shows you which ones have new posts. It will also tally the total number of new posts in all the blogs near the top ( so you can see how many you may be working through). When you click on the blog you want, it shows the posts on the right and can automatically track what you have read and not read.

There are a lot of other features to it that I have not explored yet, but that is the basics.

I have noticed in my settings, I can change a little about how my blog reacts to subscribers, and I think I can even prevent my blog from being subscribed to, thereby forcing people to come to the blog.

Which brings up another point. I know that a lot of bloggers track their statistics with Google Analytics or other software. They track referrers and word searches. I do not know yet how Google Reader skews those statistics (which may be why some blogs will not let you subscribe).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ravioli and Teachable moments

Tonight I decided to have some pasta. I had bought this Spinach and Four Cheese Ravioli package from Sam's. An impulse buy to be sure. Two large packages of Ravioli. Spinach and anything will sell me every time.

You really want both packages. The ravioli is delicious, even without sauce. It is also very FAST to cook. Boil water, 4-5 minutes on a very slow boil, done, and perfect. You need two packages to turn it into the teachable moment I had tonight. We learned about stove fires and turning on the correct burner.

Lesson 1 - never put anything on the stove that isn't immediately ready to be cooked.
Lesson 2 - Always double check the burner you are turning on.
Lesson 3 - What to do with a fire.

I put the pasta on a burner in anticipation of imminently boiling water. Then walked out of the room. A minute later my son calmly hollers, "Dad...I think you need to come here." I go in, and the package is melting on the burner. I quickly turn off the burner, turn on the correct one, and start pulling burnt raviolis off the burner. We talked about what he could have done if it had really caught on fire. He first said, "run out of the house." Which is probably best. He then followed with "put out the fire with water." It is right next to the sink. I told him that first he should remove the heat source if possible by turning off the stove. Then water to douse that particular type of flame. Grease fires are different. Water is bad because it will likely spread the burning grease all over. Better to use baking powder or some other type of smothering agent to choke out the Oxygen. We talked about where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it.

And lastly, from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, DON'T PANIC. :-)

Funny thing about perceptions....

I've done enough ranting for today, so here is something a little lighter.....

I played for a kickball team this fall. Adult (using the term very loosely here) Kickball. Really it is more of an excuse for team drinking than it is a team sport. I couldn't really drink because I have my son with me. Which begs the question, "Why was I there at all then?" Well, it is just down the street from me, seemed like fun anyway, my friends were playing, and the most important reason, my girlfriend was playing and it could be an opportunity to impress her with my amazing physical abilities outside of, well you know. :-) I am actually good for a lot more than things in the....

I had two nicknames for the fall. Kickball was Spiderman, and softball (mainly the same group of people) was Smackdaddy.

One night at kickball, I was getting ready to kick and the catcher is saying all kinds of stuff, but all I here is "daddy". I hear it a couple of times. I'm thinking (something I should never do while kicking) that this person knows me from softball and is cheering me on. I thought, "That's cool, real sportsman like conduct." etc. Then he said, "I bet you drive a mini-van too." OHHHHHH, now I get it, he thinks he is making fun of me. I got out at first (again, shouldn't think when kicking). I came back to the catcher and said "No, I drive a Subaru WRX Wagon, it totally WROX, but honestly mini-vans are awesome vehicles, incredibly versatile, and if you knew a little more about them you would want one too." :-) Not the adult thing to do (I did say the term was loosely used here), but mini-vans are awesome. They are the ultimate gadget. They do nearly everything. A suburban assualt vehicle if there ever was one. And they keep getting better all the time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just a little late...grrrr

I figured that the moon rise would be pretty close to sunset with it being nearly full and all. How did I figure that? Um, anecdotal observations, kind of noting that on full moon nights it kind of rises with the sunset...sort of. It didn't occur to me to even check for a moon rise chart until about five minutes before sunset. Instead of hanging out in the cold, I would give ourselves some time by waiting until sunset to head out. You could say I didn't plan it out very well.

The fact is that the the moon rise was at 4:21 pm in Va Beach. Roughly an hour before sunset. Conditions were near perfect too. We didn't even get in the car until 5:21, just minutes after my discovery. As we drove away from the house, the moon was already happily on its way across the evening sky. GRRRRR.

We still went and got some pictures. They are below. Maybe tomorrow the weather will still be good. It looks like the moon is rising nearly due east from the ARE spot. It would have made some great pictures tonight.

We have a system, and it is kind of like NASCAR...

Well, neither of us are NASCAR fans but occasionally I have to put air in my tires. I hand my son the air gage and he starts on the driver side front tire (the one that always needs air). I go and start the air compressor he starts unscrewing the caps and reading the pressures to me. I start filling the ones that need air and he screws the caps on after me. It wouldn't impress NASCAR but it sure is helpful as we are always in a crunch for time. :-)

It is a nearly complete full moon tonight. We may head over to ARE around sunset to try and catch the moon rise from the hill and the Labyrinth. Here are some previous moon shots....The first is from a red lunar eclipse in March 2007. The second one was taken in a graveyard in Charleston, SC. The third was just a clear night in September 2006.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Our Pottery from GLAZENFYRE...and the Sushi Monster

The pictures will tell the story....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bamboo Forest

Insanity ensued yesterday once I dropped my son off at daycare, and continued through the day. It has been a stressful week. I had planned to take my son down to the Labyrinth Friday after school, and then walk on the beach some afterward. That didn't work out, but I wish it had.

The labyrinth is a paved pattern at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE). Also known as the Edgar Cayce Foundation. I use it as a form of meditation/prayer. Sometimes in yoga you have some "intent" that you dwell on while you move through the poses. The labyrinth is kind of like that. Click HERE to see it.

When he woke up we went to one of our favorite breakfast places, Pocahontas Pancake House. It is a very dreary day, cold, drizzly, and everything is some sort of shade of gray. ARE is across the street from the beach proper, and on a hill, so there was a constant breeze lightly laced with moisture. It is so nice to smell the ocean, though the Atlantic has a different smell than the Pacific. Brandon started first and I started soon after. There is something about doing simple mechanics whilst trying to put things in your universe back into perspective. That is probably why I love hiking so much. I miss the mountains, the Blue Ridge, the Rockies, and the Sierras. I miss Yosemite and wish I lived closer to it. I miss the turquoise and azure waters of the Caribbean. I miss the tide pools, the swell of the Pacific, the sea otters, seals, and sea lions of Monterey. I miss a lot of things and a lot of people, but I'm also happy right now here in Va Beach. I am where I need to be right now and I am looking forward to the adventures that yet await me here. :-)

I have been trying to tell my son that we cannot get really upset just because things don't turn out the way we wanted. Sometimes, if we give it a chance we may find that where we ended up was far better than what we wanted initially. If we get too upset we may lose what we wanted and lose everything else too. All too often are attitude is what makes things bad, not the situation itself. If we cling too tightly to what we have or what we had, we lose the opportunities that are in front of us as well. It has been said that life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.

After our independent walks, we explored the area there around ARE. :-) There is a reflexology path there for your feet. This is a path of differing stones that you walk on in bare feet (socks or soft soled shoes). The stones will hit various pressure points and should help to relieve stress, toxins, etc. There is a small winding pond with a series of small bridges over it. There are trees around it and a lot of benches. Serene. They also have a bamboo forest. Brandon loved this. I did too. Lots of thick bamboo. Standing very tall, straight, green. Sometimes so close together that they are like a wall. The wind did not make it far into this place. We took turns hiding in bamboo pockets, acting like asian statues or like we were in jail. It seemed that if you stood very still, you almost couldn't be seen. Brandon discovered that some bamboo is rough if you rub up, but smooth if you rub down. The wind made the tops of the stalks bang together like a natural and relaxing wind chime.

We also saw some small rock gardens, but those we just looked at and did not touch.

We thought about heading to the beach, but we were a little cold by this point!

Now Brandon is working on his Element project, and is probably not too happy about picking the largest naturally occurring element that there is. Making 238 dots isn't as much fun as he imagined.

We are also waiting for snow.....

Have a great weekend!!!!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some AVID information and my conference....

Thank you very much to Linda Powell-McMillan for leaving this on my blog today! It was very timely. The conference today went very well. I think the program is a good one for my son, and I actually know one of the AVID teachers in one of the High Schools. The biggest hurdle at this point is arranging care that would provide transportation to and from the school since it is out of district for me here. I talked to his current before and after school care provider tonight and they are 80-90% sure that they will be providing that care to that school next year. I needed some good news and some affirmation today...I'm thankful to have gotten some.

AVID is a college-prepartory elective class offered in 10 schools in Virginia Beach which include:
Tallwood High School
Kempsville Middle School
Landstown High
Salem High School
Cox High School
Salem Middle School
Landstown Middle School
Green Run High School
Great Neck Middle School
Kempsville High School
The AVID District Directors in Virginia Beach are Susan Adcorck and Kellie Mason in the Virginia Beach District office. If you want more information about AVID please check out the AVID website:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Overheard my son talking to his mom...

Son: "What comes out of a volcano?"

His mom: {can't hear because I'm not that close.}

Son: "Lava, not Larva!"

Monday, January 14, 2008

AVID...Advancement Via Individual Determination

My son's teachers think he would be a very good candidate for this program next year. The problem is that it is not taught in the school for our district.

Does anyone have any experience with this program? My son already wants the advanced classes and is in them. The main thing this program would hopefully help him learn is organization and the other non-academic skills needed to succeed at the collegiate level. It sounds good on the surface, but I'm curious as to what it really entails. So far the information I have found has been sketchy, and nothing from the school it is currently being practiced in. It may mean my son needs to give up an elective, which he would not like either. It also means leaving the friends he has made at his current school to go somewhere else. I would also need to figure out transportation, which will probably be the factor that ultimately says no to this idea.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Crazy Idea for a BOOK....

10 to 15 years ago I had this crazy idea....I wanted to get a motorcycle, a laptop, and a tape recorder. I wanted to drive all over the country and write down people's stories. Just sit in barber shops, coffee shops, diners, front porches, etc around America and listen to funny stories, sad stories, inspirational stories, odd stories, angry stories, and the list goes on. Everyone has a story to tell, a story that means something to them. I wanted to collect them and put them in a book called "America's Story" or something like that. I drifted back to this idea a few days ago and started thinking about it. While it would still be fun to do, people are getting their stories told through another avenue....Blogging. Though blogs, links to blogs, and blogrolls the book has already been written, and people are reading it. Thanks to the Internet, it isn't just America's story. There are people all over the planet that are sharing things about their lives, struggles, triumphs, thoughts, politics, knowledge, philosophies, religion, and laughter. God knows I need a good laugh now and again.

Thanks for sharing, thanks for writing!


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


My son's teachers have insisted that he take advanced science, math, and english next year. They want to meet with me next week to discuss other options as well. He is in advanced classes right now, and the teachers were worried that with his other issues that there would be big problems this year. When I talked with them in December they said that none of those had manifested to this point. While he has a way to go on some non-academic skills, he is doing super with his classes. His counselor has been thrilled to see him so happy. We still have bumps in the road, but they come much less often and are far less severe.

I have started taking dance lessons. Something I have always wanted to do, but not enough to make the time. Our group has a "Battle of the Sexes" event every month or so and in April we decided to do a Dance Off. So every Sunday between now and then I'll spend an hour in a private group lesson learning a dance and even doing some choreography for a studio showcase.

Piano is going well for my son and I both. I'm about to go get the next two levels of books for his lessons and read through them. I'm playing various parts of a bunch of songs. I got a book of learning adult easy christmas songs. I LOVED playing those. I still have so much to learn, but it has been crazy fun. My bird can nearly whistle "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" and "The Entertainer" now because of the piano. :-)

Friday night is Glaze and Fire night. We are getting some parents and kids together to go paint pottery. Saturday is basketball in the morning and piano theory in the afternoon. We also have to do a model of an element. Of the 92 elements that occur naturally that my son has to choose from, he chooses the biggest, Uranium. U-238 to be exact. 92 protons, 92 electrons, and 146 Neutrons. We have to build one. The electrons we have figured is the nucleus that we are still debating on how construct. All the while I'm trying to explain the difference between molecules and elements, why we can't actually see the nucleus of an atom, and why U-238 can't seem to hold it's act together (there are no stable isotopes of Uranium, some just last longer than others).


Friday, January 04, 2008

DRM and HD woes abound....

I'm not likely to steer clear of this topic for a while, so my apologies to those it doesn't apply to.  The link below is about another person's nightmare with the HD (HDTV, HDCP, HD DVD, BLU-Ray) restrictions and DRM (Digital Rights Management).  No one I know likes to be micro-managed, and just about every management philosophy says to stay clear of it ( I mean really, if you can't trust your people to do the job then you either aren't managing them properly or they can't do job and need to be moved elsewhere ).  The media moguls are trying to micro-manage the viewing habits of hundreds of millions of viewers.  The blog entry link below makes a good point about the technical controls involved to ensure an encrypted un-copyable stream from the disc to the display.  Now you also have DRM incompatibilities that will prevent you from displaying some content unless to disable content from other providers or vice-versa.  Even if you go with the suggestion from Netflix for downgrading your equipment to something less capable, even that may prevent you from viewing higher quality content. 

The complications with competing software, especially software that tweaks your Operating System or your hardware is the primary reason I stopped playing games on my home computers.  I do too many other things with them to jeopardize their stability.  I can't really afford to journey into the DRM world with these types of issues.  I read this morning also that the EU is contemplating standardizing DRM.  It could be a good thing, but we all have seen where something wasn't totally FUBARed until government got involved (sometimes they do end up making things better though).

There are many good comments that are worth reading in the blog link below too.

In the mean time I guess I'll stick with DVDs for my movies.  The headache and expense of the HD world is just too much.

"Until you forget what you think you know and what you think is possible, you will never know what is truly attainable."

Thursday, January 03, 2008

He's Bored...

Bored to tears. Literally. My son, dying of boredom. 16000 lego pieces to put together. Video games I will actually let him play during the week, after 30 minutes of reading mind you and homework and chores. Bored. Doesn't try to play with the dart game, roller blades, skateboard, or other sorted presents from Christmas and before. He wants Zelda on the DS. Not until the weekend, and if he keeps fighting about it, not until the weekend after. If only he was this persistent about school.

Speaking of School. I went to the parent orientation for his middle school next year. Not much to tell, but he gets some electives. He wants art, Japanese, German, and Technology. For alternates he wants French and Computer Sciences II. I hope he gets what he wants. He is really working hard for it. He also wants the advanced classes for science, math, and english, but his current teachers would need to recommend him for it.

I read this today from Oh, The Joys "I am certain that to any outside observer I appeared to be a complete, raving lunatic. [Or talking on a blue tooth.]" and it really made me laugh. That is so me at times, though I refrain from talking on the phone except for if I am standing still or driving. Bluetooth is the only way to go with driving. Everything else distracts me too much. Texting for me is only while I am completely still. Otherwise I run into things, people, or off cliffs.

Nothing earth shattering or erudite, just another day.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

And a second post today....

A link to another single father. He was tagged to recount three of his favorite Christmas memories.

DonVA, Ramblings of a Single Father Christmas Meme

Don is a man that adopted a teenage boy, and his blog tells the story of how that journey began and continues. You should definitely check it out.

How much more complex can it get? HD, BLU Ray, and more

Apparently there is no limit.

So, been looking to play something at 720p or 1080p on your HDTV? No idea what I'm talking about or what those numbers mean? Well, those digits are just the very beginning of your HD nightmare.

They say that you only get a benefit from 1080p if your TV is 40" or bigger. What they mean is that the resolution of 720p begins to visibly break down as your screen gets bigger. I've been working on computers for decades now, and the more dots I can get on the screen of any size monitor the better. 1080p means more dots (1920 horizontal dots and 1080 vertical dots), 720p means less dots (1280 horizontal dots and 720 vertical dots). Wikipedia has some good explanations of these standards and you should look them up there for more information. I'm just ranting here and my information may be suspect.

What can you watch in HD? That depends. What do I mean? Well, you can have a lot of stuff that all says HD on it, but it may not be the experience you are looking for. Can you really say "Standard" and HD in the same sentence and it not be a joke? NOPE. There are some HD channels out there on cable and over the air. Their max output is 720p. Should that stop you from getting a 1080p TV, I don't think so. Somethings can output in 1080p, like Video game consoles or Computers. Blu-ray also outputs in 1080p, assuming the movie studio will even let you see it in 1080p.

If you have a 1080p display, and a blu-ray drive, and a digital connection, you still may not be able to see your movie in 1080p, or you may not be ALLOWED to see your movie at all.

HD DVD only outputs at 720p.

Read the explanation below to see what I am talking about....from

"Blu-ray DVD/HD DVD Advisor > Compatibility

Do I need to upgrade my display in order to play Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD titles on my computer?

In most cases, you can still connect the regular display through a D-sub/VGA connector and play Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD content with analog output. However, to enjoy the high-definition video quality provided by Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD, we recommend that you connect your graphic card to an HDCP-compliant display through a DVI or HDMI connection. To play Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD titles on a computer through a digital DVI or HDMI interface, the following 3 criteria need to be satisfied:

Graphics card is HDCP-compliant. Click here for more information
Graphics card driver supports HDCP. Click here for more information.
Display is HDCP ready. Please contact display manufacturer for more information.
Note: Some Blu-ray Discs or HD DVD titles may require a digital output instead of analog. In this case, the digital output requirements listed above must be satisfied in order to play those titles."

So before you start buying and connecting a bunch of things expecting HD nirvana, you may want to do some serious research to ensure everything will work together and everything will play. ESPECIALLY if you plan to view any of it on a computer.

Personally, I thrive on complex puzzles, but the amount of ambiguity and change in the HD world over the past couple of years has left me in a state of frustration and distrust. I don't watch TV (I don't have the time) and movies that really interest me are very few and far between. I would whole-heartedly support a world wide boycott of the entire entertainment industry as an effort to make them fix the mess they are making. No big loss for me though since I essentially boycott it anyway. Anyone else willing to forsake movies, music, and TV for six months to a year to play board games, hike, geocache, kayak, SNOWBOARD, read, or just meet friends in a pub and sing Don Mclean's "American Pie"? My son want's me to play this on the piano, he loves the song. Of course the music industry will sue us for singing the song without their permission, even a capella, as their lawsuits are now a viable revenue stream to make up for the loss in sales because they can't produce the music in a format consumers want anymore.