Friday, February 29, 2008

11 Month Anniversary?

A little under a year ago, my five year old son decided he wanted a mohawk. I was a somewhat reluctant at first. Would it be wrong to chop the locks of such a cute little kid? Especially right before Easter? Nope. Hair is a renewable resource (well, at least when you're little). And he'd been asking me for quite some time. You see, he wanted to be a little punk rocker - like his Dad. At least that's what I told myself. So I did it, and he loved it. Today, my friends, we celebrate this momentous occasion: my son's First Mohawk.

Makes me wish I'd taken a picture of him with his First Mullet...

There's only one video that illustrates the excitement of this event:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

So Much For My "Place of Tranquility"!

For anyone that saw my first post on here, "Such is Life", they read about this special place I found near some bridges in Montana. When I was returning from Montana last weekend, I considered stopping to show the kids. I didn't, but glanced over as we drove by on the freeway. I noticed an odd-looking truck parked on the bridge. I didn't think much of it.

Well, I just found out that my "special place" was the site for a body dumping last week. The dude ended up turning himself in. I think that truck I saw was part of a search operation. Check it out at the Missoulian here.

I guess it's a good thing I didn't take the kids down there. And so much for serenity. Such is life. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

3 Hours in One Minute

I have a fascination with time-lapse photography. One of my favorite parts of "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" is when they have that one shot of the house being built - In a matter of seconds.

Awhile back I got the k'nex "Serpent's Spiral" for my son. As we started building it, I realized it would be a pretty good subject for a time-lapse movie. So, after 3 hours of building, I compressed the video down to around a minute. Not quite "Extreme Makeover" cool, but still kinda cool.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Winner! - Crappiest Kid's Meal Toy Ever

Any parent knows the drill. Kids love fast food. It's ingrained into their DNA from childbirth. Our kids know Ronald McDonald as well as we knew Joe Camel. Except Ronald is still legal. Oops. I'm getting off track here.

I've always wondered - is it more the food, or the toy that comes with the meal that excites kids? I remember getting Happy Meals, and not really caring about the food. I just wanted that toy. One time, I got a "Stomper" truck (remember those?) that I played with for years. I also remember getting pretty cool Lego sets, that now would probably cost $19.99 at the store.

You see it all the time. Parents frustrated with their kids, because they're playing with the toy instead of eating.

I never let my kids have the toy until they're done. Seems pretty simple to me. But, I always peek in the bag and say "Whoa! You guys are sure in for a surprise... when you're done!" You always want to encourage your kids to finish their food, even when it's incredibly unhealthy. I guess.

Today, I had a hard time doing that. The kids both got a Kids Meal from a mall Dairy Queen. It included a hot dog, bag of chips, milk, even a coupon for a dessert when they're done. And the toy? Well, you've just got to see for yourself:

A tarantula? And a beetle? They were both made of extremely hard plastic. And, they both looked like they were dead. Good times!

The kids looked at me with confused, disappointed eyes. My son, for the first time ever, asked:

"What is it supposed to do?"

I wasn't sure what to tell him. I gave them their coupons for their treat, hoping they'd forget about the creepy things and move on with their lives.

With Dilly Bars in hand, they seemed unscathed. Better luck next time. :)

Although, now that I think about it, there was that miniature stuffed oven mitt from Arby's a few years back... that was pretty bad, too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts From the Freeway

The left-most lane on a freeway is the “pass” lane. It’s not the “Sunday drive” lane. If you’re in it, you should be passing someone. If you’re not, get the hell out of the way.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people weaving around traffic at high-speed… just to end up right in front of me at the exit stop light. Way to save time there, jackass!

When you’re merging onto the freeway, YOU need to yield. If people move over to let you on, that sure is nice of them. If not, slow down or speed up to stay out of their way. Don’t just casually slide over, expecting everyone to clear a hole for you. Especially when it’s a big truck you’re merging into.

Speaking of big trucks, give those guys a break. It’s a good bet they’re a better driver than you are. It’s also a good bet that in a collision, you will lose. Give ‘em some space and respect. I see them do it all the time.

When I see a car plastered with religious bumper stickers, I don’t think “Wow. What a dedicated Christian!” I usually think about WJWD (What Jesus Wouldn’t Do). If Jesus had a car, I highly doubt it would have any cheesy bumper stickers on it.

If you STILL smoke in the car with your kids, you’re a lazy, selfish moron. That, more than anything, puts visions of road rage in my head.

If you and another car pull up to a four-way stop at the same time, the person on the RIGHT is supposed to go. If you are the person on the right, don’t confuse everything by waving the other person on. Know that you have the right-of-way, and commit. (This has nothing to do with the freeway, but I had to throw it in cause it drives me insane).

One of my favorite things to do on the freeway is to randomly wave at people. At first, they look at you intently to see if they recognize you (they wouldn’t want to wave to someone they don’t know!) More times than not, they just ignore you. Kinda sad, I think.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

She's a Good Ship... Fortunately

Update: I guess I better clarify here. This is not a "body of water". It's a low spot at the local sledding hill. I walked across it in my Sorels without getting wet.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lost - The Serious Seinfeld

I'm not much of a TV person. I would much rather watch movies that sitcoms. I think part of it is knowing that if I watch one episode, I might get sucked in and get stuck watching it every week - usually feeling like I should be doing something else.

When the show "Lost" first came out, I constantly heard people at work talking about it. A bunch of people stuck on an island? Sounded lame. I had already burned out on Survivor - and didn't Gilligan kinda cover that in the 60's?

I ended up giving it a go, and like everyone else... found myself wanting to know what would happen next to those poor saps. The story itself kinda drove me nuts... but I dug the whole "sci-fi" aspect of it. I did like the episode where they found the Volkswagen full of beer and got it fired up:

My favorite episode, though... the HATCH (click on the picture at left for a more detailed view). What a killer season ender. And then, the whole continuing saga of what happens in the hatch. I think that was the most brilliant part of the whole series.

I'm not sure what my deal is with clearance-priced pop-culture toys lately (see My Own Personal Elvis here), but I came across this baby in the music store at the Valley mall. Marked down from $29.99 to.... $11.99! I couldn't resist. It was just too damn cool.

Here's a miniature Jack, Locke, Kate, and Hurley peering down the chasm of what is the hatch. The detail is actually pretty good, for a crappy mall store diorama. There's a switch that makes the hatch hole light up (for extra dramatic effect!) It even came with a fake jungle photo background. What will I do with it? Hell if I know. Wait... I'm doing a blog about it.... that counts as something!
After the hatch blew up (on the show, not mine!), my interest in "Lost" mostly blew up with it. I started to realize something EXTREMELY annoying about the show - nothing ever seemed to get resolved. It had these incredibly dark, deep plots - that were never fully explained. They just seemed to continuously get deeper. (I felt the same way about the show "Alias", by the way). It started reminding me of Seinfeld, in how it was kind of a "show about nothing". Except, it wasn't in a funny way. It was in a jam-a-fork-in-your-eyeball frustrating way.

I heard someone talking about "Lost" at work yesterday. I didn't even know it was still on. Maybe I'll catch an episode in my "free" time (what's that?). I'm thinking they're probably... still on the island?

For the last episode of the series, they should find a 70 year-old Gilligan in the jungle. Now THAT would be something. :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Back To School

When I took a new job last summer, it came with a condition - that I pass the F.E. (Fundamentals of Engineering) exam before the end of 2008. The F.E. exam is the first step towards getting a P.E. (Professional Engineer) license. Most engineers take the F.E. exam right after graduating with a bachelors' degree. You know, when the stuff is still fresh.

I started college back in the fall of 1993. I was never meant for higher education, considering I barely finished high school. After going through Marine Corps boot camp (which I did because I had nothing better to do), I realized something. There was this little thing called the G.I. Bill, where the government sent me a check - for being in college. What the hell, I figured. I'm down with free money (especially from the government), so I enrolled at North Idaho College.

I had absolutely no direction in what I was supposed to do. I was a band geek in high school, so I decided that was a good place to start. I majored in music for two years - long enough to realize that wasn't what I wanted to do. I also realized I was STILL a horrible student. So what did I do? Switched majors to engineering. Brilliant.

No exaggerating here... I took almost every class twice before I passed it. And I emphasize PASS. There was a time when my GPA was like a 1.0 or some god-awful thing like that. I actually got a letter from the government saying if I didn't bring up my grades I'd hafta pay the money back. Crap.

Like many, I ended up getting serious with a girl while going to school. That was enough to make me realize I better get my shit together. So I scraped by enough to graduate, with an Associate of Science degree (it only took me 5 years!) I got my diploma and never looked back.

Now, I'm getting ready to take an exam that covers all those topics I took around 10 years ago. In preparation, I signed up for an evening "refresher" course at Gonzaga University a couple times a week. I showed up the first night, completely stressed out. Would I remember anything?

Luckily, it hasn't been that bad. I'm realizing I'm not nearly as stupid as I thought I was. So far, I'm finding everything to be pretty familiar - not bad, considering I was usually hungover when I took the classes back then. Well... when I showed up, that is. The weirdest part? I seem to be one of the "old" guys in the class. Funny, I don't remember getting old...

Wish me luck. My exam is in April.

And just so you know, I'm not the only person in the class. I always show up a little early, so I can study a bit before the professor comes in. Times sure do change.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Attack of Boozilla... Almost

At last summers' Post Falls Day Parade, I took some random video footage with a little video project in mind. As we sat there watching from the curb, I had this vision of a giant "Godzilla" suddenly appearing, wreaking havoc on the parade.

I've had some limited success in using the "keying" effect on my video software. For those that don't know, keying is what you call using a "green screen" in the background, so you can superimpose shots over one another. It's how meteorologists put themselves over a map in the background.

One time, I used a green blanket background to insert someone into a 80's music video. It worked okay, but I needed something bigger so I could get a full person in the shot. I noticed my software also has a "blue screen" option, so I thought that maybe I could use a big blue tarp. As you'll see, it didn't work so well. There's too many wrinkles and shadows, so I couldn't fully key out the background. The lighting was also wrong, so the characters ended up fading out too much. With every success there's failure, right? I'll keep working on it.

So, here's the work in progress. "Boozilla" comes on screen to attack, and the "Goo Ranger" comes in to stop him. I still plan on working on it - I'm thinking about going to a fabric store to try and find some fabric in that weird green color. Of course, the finished "film" will be here first (I know you can't wait!) :)

Update: During a "green screen" google search, I came across this fancy little suit. I could have all kinds of fun with this sucker! Too bad it's $225.

Although, maybe if I found the fabric, my Mom could whip something like this up...

Are you reading this, Mom?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Going Down... With Help

Big brothers can be a pain. They don't like pink. They steal your covers. They want their Dad to read an Arthur book, while you want to read a princess book. They forget how little you are, and sometimes hurt you by playing too rough. Yes, big brothers are nothing but trouble.

But more times than not, they're at your side making sure you're okay.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Own Personal Elvis

When Nirvana first came out, it was a huge deal for me. I went through most of my teen years listening to my brother's buttrock music. It consisted of Quiet Riot, Ratt, and various other big hair, exposed chest, tight leather pants bands. I liked the heavy guitar, but I always thought the singing was weird and the lyrics too cheesy.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana's breakout single, grabbed me like nothing else before. Here was some freakishly skinny dude, wailing on a guitar who didn't seem to care if he made mistakes or not. Yup. Pretty much where I was at in life at the time.

Kurt Cobain was really nobody special. He never wanted to be a big deal. He was just a loner from Aberdeen who had something to say, and the world embraced him. A little too hard, it turned out. Kurt ended up shooting himself in his garage.

He left a note, the text of which is here, and a picture of here. I'll never forget his famous last words, "It's better to burn out than to fade away."

I found this little action figure of Kurt at Spencer's Gifts in the Spokane Valley mall recently. It's a pretty good likeness, and even included a chunk of the gym floor from the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video. It was not prominently displayed. In fact, it was clearance priced for $5.98 (marked down from 20-something dollars). I wondered what Kurt would think about being clearance priced, in a shopping mall novelty store.
Would that be considered "burning out", or "fading away"?
Peace out, Kurt.