My son’s elementary school, located in a bustling small town of around 4000 found squarely within the big battleground state of Pennsylvania, voted Barack Obama into office today.  I believe that settles it, far ahead of schedule.  I hope that CNN doesn’t get too upset that I’ve broken the news so early.  At least everyone can get to bed early tonight, my son in particular.  He voted for McCain.

I wonder if he had to wait in line.  His mother and father did.  My 50 minute wait to vote was an extended finale to weeks of politics overload.  Pennsylvania is a swing state and you can feel it.  The constant phone calls don’t allow you to forget.   The mailbox is filled with pamphlets.  My doorbell often signaled that another chat about our future president was about to begin.

As a long time Maryland resident and registered Republican, this pleases me greatly.  Concrete statistics aside, it’s nice to feel that your vote matters.  It’s nice to live in a state that doesn’t hand out its electoral votes almost as a celebration of a singular mind set.  It’s fascinating to live within easy driving distance of a place where a presidential candidate actually makes an appearance.  It’s nice to be loved or, at least, have your vote loved like it matters.  I’d tell you that it is not all sour grapes brought upon by my political affiliation but, I’d mostly be lying.

So, I guess you might say, I didn’t take voting lightly.  This one mattered.  I watched every one of the debates.  I read up on the issues.  I took a look at my vote from 2004 and reexamined why.  I wondered who’d I’d trust to shore up the economy and spend wisely.  I read about health care plans and considered their feasibility.  I looked for things to love with regards to education.  I weighted tax plans against simple macroeconomics.  I paid attention when campaigns shifted from the issues to name calling and accusations.  And then I did something interesting.  Something that may be interesting only because it marked my first such vote in my relatively short voting history.

I voted for a Democrat for the highest office in our country.

Good luck Senator Obama.  You have a bunch of little kids voting for you.  I’m just one of them.

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Daddy’s Day

Jun 15, 2008

Two quick notes:

Bill Harris, the author of one my favorite blogs, has a great post over at Level Up called A Father and Son’s Shared Reflections on the Lessons of Play.  I’d say I’d liked I it because, well, I did.  But that doesn’t quite capture my thoughts.  It might be better to say that, as a dad, I appreciate it.

Didn't I tell you to not to play on the furniture?

This morning, two sweet little boys came bursting into the bedroom shouting salutations and toting along gifts.  That wasn’t quite the best part of Father’s Day, even though it was close.  That would be carrying the sleepy bodies of my boys to and from the car last evening.  There’s nothing quite like a drowsy hug — provided just so that a little head might lay on your shoulder — to remind you that you are very much a dad.

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I came into March unexcited about Nintendo’s big release for the month, Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  The concept — use one Nintendo character to knock another Nintendo character senseless — is sound and simple enough.  I like Metroid.  Mario is a close buddy of mine.  Make them the main characters in Rock’em Sock’em robots.  Surely, that’s a game that  I should enjoy.  But I wondered about a lot of things.  Almost all of these things were bad. 

I wondered if Nintendo’s attempt at an online service and arcane rules meant to “protect the children” would serve as too much of barrier to online play.   I wondered if I could find suitable opponents in a world where the gap between button mashing (my young kids) and jedi master (the rest of the Internet) often appears nonexistent.  I wondered if a lonesome guy like myself could find something on the disk to play when my far away friends couldn’t visit. 

Maybe I was rationalizing in the hope that I wouldn’t do the inevitable.  Maybe I hoped that I wouldn’t purchase another Nintendo branded product for my little white console that’s simply starving for decent games.  I’m not surprised that I could ignore these rationalizations at the checkout counter.  I am, however, a little surprised that I was so right to wonder.

Right now, I’m wondering why I bought it.

Calling Nintendo’s online service an attempt sounds charitable in retrospect.  It’s simply broken.  Public matchmaking doesn’t appear to work.  In a scene that is perhaps symbolic, it’s an exercise that consists of petering about in an empty room alongside a lonely white punching bag waiting and hoping someone swings by to visit.

Private matches, which requires the exchange of a 12 character code to merely begin the convoluted process, have their own set of problems.  The ability to play games with friends is segregated into its own little corner of the menu.  It’s difficult to determine who is online right now, much less coordinate a match without any real form of communication.  This is a system that damn near requires an actual telephone to work. 

What Nintendo has is a game that demonstrates that they barely understand what this whole online gaming thing is about.  Adequate would be a step up.  I’d settle for functional. 

What I have is something that is surely a great party game without the party.  I should have seen this coming. 

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Bits and Pieces

Nov 16, 2007

Cambell and Chase got into an argument the other day regarding who is bigger.  Chase is developing a bit of a complex.  He’s the smaller of the two by about two or three inches.  He’s also two years younger.  This fight will be interesting when they are closer to 10 and 8 than 5 and 3.

The wife’s Star magazine rests upon a shelf directly above the toilet of our master bedroom.  Britney, please get your act together.  You are haunting me while I pee.

As a bit of a planning exercise for my upcoming anniversary, I took a look at the local performing arts centers.  There’s nothing exciting happening this weekend but they are showing Underpants next year.  I qualify that search as a success.

The wife was quite unaware of any recent arguments concerning height.  Still, she made magic mashed potatoes for dinner.  You know, the kind that make you taller as you eat them.  According to the lines she drew on the wall, the potatoes had a dramatic effect.  I, however, can report no noticeable changes to the overall results.

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55 Words

Jul 17, 2007

From what I understand, 55 word stories have become somewhat of a fad. Neat. I don’t want to be left out.

He was sure she was lying.

An embrace is given more to subdue than comfort. Fleeting promises fade as the darkness begins to close in.

How can she leave me? What have I done?

The truth made him quake. Dread gaped from the open doorway.

There is a monster in my closet. I know it!

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Parents Do Matter

Jun 21, 2007

Over at the Freakonomics blog, the authors have again noted their stance on the subject of reading to your children. Notably, they say it doesn’t really help and they use a flashy headline to ask a question. Perhaps surprisingly, I agree with their points, even if I have some trouble with their wording.

Culture cramming may be a foundational belief of modern parenting but, according to the data, it doesn’t improve early childhood test scores.

Amen. The anecdotal evidence I’ve witnessed doesn’t support it. The aggregate test scores of our high schools don’t appear to show the improvements of this group of very intensely focused parents. Do the special schools and flash cards give your kids an important head start? I can’t say. My concern is that that the kid will learn something much worse than arithmetic. They’ll learn to hate learning, a problem that is incredibly difficult to teach away.

I want my kids to love to read. I’m not particularly concerned about the mechanics of reading at such an early age. I don’t have a spreadsheet to track their progress or a checklist where I record their accomplishments. I tend to keep the flash cards hidden within the case of that brightly colored alphabet work set.

I do, however, attempt to foster their interest in books, or magazines, or even the occasional map from an amusement park. I decode the writing below the occasional statue on the fields of Gettysburg just because they ask. I look forward to the days of comic books and secretly thank J.K. Rowling for a future where I can show my kids that reading is more than something that school forces you to do.

So, we’re on the same page, at least until their conclusion, which doesn’t need to be restated more than it needs to be reworded.

Parenting technique is highly overrated. When it comes to early test scores, it’s not so much what you do as a parent, it’s who you are.

Parenting is very much an attempt to pass on the good and acknowledge, and maybe contain, the bad. The most important lessons you teach your kids, you do as an example. In a sense, it’s very much about who I am. I want my kids to be like me — at least the good parts of me. But the X’s and O’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic come up when I play a different but related role, the role of a teacher. When we talk about who I am, and who I want them to be, it’s then that I’m being the parent.

If I’m reading things correctly, it sounds like I’m taking the right tact. I certainly dig propping the kids on my lap for a short story or two or three or four. More importantly, they seem to like it too.

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MIA

Jun 14, 2007

I’m really disappointed that I haven’t spent my time this year blogging, something I log as a personal failure more than anything else. I have no audience to please or satisfy. I don’t harbor any fantasies of the importance of this space. I do, however, very much use these pages as an offbeat historical record. I note the updates about the kids. I follow my old thoughts as an active reader. And, occasionally, I remember that the process of simply writing is often an exercise worth doing. I feel a bit sorry I don’t.

My only, and unspoken, New Year’s Resolution this year was that I wanted to create. That might mean many things — the sandbox I hope to build for my two little boys or the paint I’m certain the wife hopes I finally get around to applying to the walls — but, mostly, it meant I wanted write.

I wanted to write more about gaming, a personal hobby and industry in flux. As the major players in the gaming market position their billion dollar investments, there’s commentary to be made there. I’d love to try my hand at it.

I wanted to write a bit about software and programming. An outstanding percentage of software related writing outside of Joel on Software is either boring, lacking style, or both. Some of it makes my eyes bleed. Some of it makes them close. I wonder how I’d do. Is my quirky style interesting to others? Is my quirky style interesting to me?

But mostly, I wanted to get back on track. Shake the dust off.

It’s hard to view your home page as a vacant wasteland. I’ll see if there’s something I can do about that.

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Christmas

Jan 2, 2007

“There are three stages of man: He believes in Santa Claus; he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus.”

– Bob Philips

I’m looking forward to next Christmas. I really am. I can’t anything away from this past year, which was wonderful and left me feeling about as blessed as a person can be, but next year is going to be fun.

Next November, my little one will turn 3. That’s a magic age, an age where Santa becomes something more than a name you hear a lot and an outfit of strange lap. It’s the age where Christmas becomes something real and tangible. I’ll have to chase him down the steps Christmas morning, much like I did to another little boy just two years ago. It’s going to be great.

While I wait, here’s some of the things I enjoyed this holiday season.

Spending just a little time with my grandmother and now 4 year old son. Watching my grandmother and my son interact at a time where he’s too young to be fearful of the nursery home around us was a treat. He may not remember the time he spent with his great grandmother, who is working her way to age 99. I will.

Watching my son’s first Christmas pageant. The four year old group rocked the very crowded house.

Getting a chance to host my sister’s family during Christmas. I love the chaos of Christmas morning. The more the merrier. I’m incredibly glad that I reconnected with my favorite sister this year.

Listening to my sons sing in the car. Cambell can belt out a great version of Jingle Bell Rock. Chase can’t seem to find the end of Jingle Bells.

Having a great Christmas season. It’s hard not to take things for granted when they are going so well. I look into the stars every once and a while and thank God for the little ones that scurry my floors with brand new bikes and a handful of Matchbox cars, the family that shares our Christmas meals, and the wife I’ve woken up next to the last ten Christmas mornings.

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Emotionally Involved

Dec 7, 2006
The wife and I have been following this story very closely.  Having two very young kids of our own, it somehow hits very close to home.  I have no doubt that my actions would have been much like that of James. Stay with the kids. I’ll be back.

The final result is just awful. It hurts and I had never heard of the guy until this last week.

I’ll take solace in the fact that the wife and kids made it. It’s a tragic end. I’ll try to be thankful that it wasn’t as tragic as it could have been.

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Survival Supplies

Nov 9, 2006

I need a list, preferably a list of survival supplies.  Supplies that you wouldn’t venture into rustic surroundings without.  Necessities only, please.  After all, we are camping here.  Guys camping – no women allowed. 

Camping the manly way means that pity fish could be on the menu.  Pity fish, a rare catch, can only be found on the fishing hooks of the occasional passerby, overcome by grief at a great display of futility.  Camping the manly way means that only one dish is prepared in an location other than the fire.  That dish?  Macoroni and cheese.  We must take pride in our cast iron cookware.  Camping the manly way means beer and videogames.  Lots of videogames.

In any case, we’ll need some stuff.  Let’s get this list started:

  • Beer
  • Beer
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Cast iron pot
  • Sandwich fire cooker
  • Charged battery, in case of dry camping; it might be cold
  • Refilled propane for the camper
  • Charged GBA, DS, and PSP
  • DVDs – Upright Citizen’s Brigade, …
  • Firewood
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