Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Don't Know What Happened, But...

For some reason, the twenty-five votes that had previously been cast in our Geek Tournament Championship game have been deleted. I have no idea why and am frustrated to no end. It would figure that the very final game would be the first time that this would occur.

However, in my attempt to make things right, I am going to credit each contestant with the amount of votes they had last night and add the current total to that score. Lego will be deducted one vote because I voted for it myself just now to see if things were running properly.

So here's what we have: As of 3:40 CST on March 31st, 2011, Lego has three votes, plus the fifteen it had yesterday and Lord of the Rings has four votes plus the ten it had yesterday. Out current total is now as follows:

Lego - 18
LOTR - 14

That's all for now. I will keep you all updated. If your vote was canceled out, feel free to vote again and if you can, let me know you recast your vote so I can stop double crediting it.

What a mess. Thank you all for your patience.

Third Person Thursday, Throwback Edition: The Descent Into (March) Madness

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We love you for reading, though.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Inve$ting in New Hobbie$

One thing I’ve come to realize as a parent is that your kids will do some pretty amazing things if provided with the opportunity. Another thing that I’ve learned is that sometimes opportunity alone isn’t enough. Sometimes, in order to watch your child excel at something, you need to invest cash into it.

This brings me to yet another thing I’ve learned. If you fuse your inability or reluctance to spend a great deal of money on the equipment or lessons necessary for your kids to just try something they are interested in, you will end up feeling like a colossal jerk. In your head, saying no to the kettle drum rental and lessons seems like fiscal responsibility, but as soon as it comes out it sounds more like you’re a big fat fuddy-duddy. And you don’t need your child to say that to you. You can see it in their eyes…their little, judging eyes.

Over the past year, my sons have become very interested in hockey. I’ve heard about how much the equipment alone costs to have your kid play hockey. I’ve read about how it’s one of the major reasons the sport is not popular in inner city areas. I have a friend whose son is pretty deeply imbedded in the youth hockey culture and he confided in me that had his son tried to back out of the sport, he would have been forced to stay in after the financial commitment that had already been made. Thankfully, he stuck with it of his own accord, or so my friend tells me.

When my sons’ hockey obsession did not wane over several months, I began to dread the impending requests. I thought I might have to make a similar commitment on behalf of my sons, forcing them to play a sport they were no longer into just so I could get my money’s worth out of it. I remembered my parents saying, “Yes you can play in the school band, but you can’t play the drums. It’s going to be the trombone or nothing, because that’s what we bought for your older brother and it’s sitting in the closet unused.” I never forgave them.

The purchasing of hockey accessories started with roller blades. I was fine with this. They are much cheaper than ice skates and should your kid hate them, it pretty much negates any discussion of further hockey equipment. Plus, it provides them with a means to get some exercise. Last summer, we found some roller blades on sale and they began practicing in the house, taking full advantage of one of the benefits of wood floors. They were very straightforward with me and informed me that they wanted roller blades so that they could play hockey. I told them that if they practiced and became good at using them, we would discuss sticks and pucks and nets down the road.

Now we have made it down the road.

On a recent trip to Target, my six-year-old sheepishly called to me in the way only a six-year-old who is about to ask you for something can, “Daddy?”


“Um…I was thinking,” he continued in a voice that I can already imagine being a few octaves lower and asking for the car keys, “that since we’re doing so good on our roller blades that maybe we could get hockey sticks.”

This was when I became aware that he had stopped at the entrance to the aisle where the hockey sticks, pucks and other assorted equipment were displayed. It was odd to me because we had already made our way through the toy section. This is the point where his eye for browsing usually takes a break. As we made a beeline for the grocery section, it was not common for him to notice anything other than what snacks were being picked out for his lunch until it was time to leave. Yet, somehow, he knew exactly where the hockey sticks sat and waited for him. I imagine that a curious golden glow invisible to my eyes emanated from the aisle as we approached. As we came closer, he sensed their presence. His precious called out to him.

“Ummmm…” I said, eloquently.

He didn’t wait. He immediately countered with a pathetic sounding, “You promised,” and the discussion was already at an end. We walked out of Target with two brand new hockey sticks and a package of street hockey balls. There was also a promise made that if they keep practicing and really enjoy it, maybe when winter comes around they can get ice skates.

I know that after that may come pads and better sticks. Then there may come league entry fees, fuel costs for attending tournaments and possibly lodging expenses. Some of those traveling hockey teams get pretty intense.

But for now, all I have to worry about is the noise and the arguing I hear over their indoor matches while I wait for the weather to warm up enough to get them out to the tennis courts as they take full advantage of one of the drawbacks of having wood floors. Then I can try and distract them with baseball, bike riding and fishing, all hobbies whose full range of supplies have already been purchased and, thus, come with no overhead costs.

Of course, when I see one of them lift a shot over the shoulder of the unpadded friend they deftly convinced to tend goal in our living room, I start to think it’s an inevitability that I’m going to need to spend more money on equipment down the road. Spending a little on home accident insurance might be prudent as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Geek Tournament Finale is Here!

Round after round has resulted in only two remaining contestants. Now they will battle it out for the love of the entire Transformer Generation Dad geek community.

Lego has roared through the tournament, it's closest competition coming in the Formidable Four when it met The Empire Strikes Back. The Lord of the Rings has also been fairly dominant, facing fierce competition yet emerging a strong number one seed from the TV & Book division.

Now let's see what happens when they go head to head. Which will win the lion's share of the geek love? Will it be bricks and minifigures or epic fantasy literature?

I can't wait to see how this plays out. It has been a fun ride, watching the match-ups unfold each week, often in ways and with an enthusiasm I cold not have anticipated. I'm saddened, frankly, that this whole thing has to come to an end soon. But there will always be next year.

In the meantime, we still need to find out who will win the inaugural tournament and only you can decide. Vote today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You Can Always Depend on the Kindness of Strang(n)er(d)s

The other night, I met up with my older brother and his friends to play Axis & Allies. While I knew of the game, I had never played it before. For those who are not familiar with it, picture Risk as imagined by Peter Jackson, who happens to be on steroids during its development.

There are all sorts of different figures, each with specific attack and defense values and an insanely large amount of territories to occupy on a map. In the case of my brother’s social circle, the map itself was also insanely large. Someone found a PDF file on the Internet of an Axis & Allies board and went through the trouble of having it printed at a size whose edges hang slightly off of a large dining room table.

So that’s what I was walking into Saturday night as the new guy. To be honest, I was sort of intimidated. Had it been another group of people, I would have found an excuse not to attend, like an ingrown toenail or my dog’s digestive problems or work. Instead, seeing as it was my brother (who has been referred to in prior posts related to the Geek Tournament as “The Selection Committee”) and he has always been my geek mentor, I took the night off of work just to participate.

My rationale was that it would be worth it. It’s been a long time since I’ve spent a Saturday night doing anything so decidedly geeky. I have pathetic ways to spend a Saturday night covered. I’ll catch up on some laundry and watch recorded episodes of The Big Bang Theory or The Regular Show. I’ll play Xbox by myself while mowing down a six pack, leaving me toasted enough to think my wife gives the slightest crap about my exploits when she returns late from work.

Babe, you should’ve seen it. I was like, BAM BAM BAM, that’s a three shot burst because I was using the M16, and the guy didn’t even see it coming. It was my fiftieth headshot and dudes just kept coming around the corner, not even knowing where I was and I was all, ‘Come get some!’ It was aaaawwwwesome! (Then I go for the high five and get left hanging.)

But while pathetic was in my vocabulary, the injection of geekiness into my weekend evenings had eluded me as of late. The entire premise of the evening, letting my geek out into the open to breathe some fresh air, called to me. Like they say, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, geeks gotta delve into minutiae, particularly over World War II military strategy.

Upon walking into my brother’s place, the map looked even larger than I had originally imagined. Details of the game were being discussed on a level that might as well have been in another language, and actually might have been. I nearly hyperventilated. But soon enough, I realized that it was all in good fun. I was reassured by veteran players that I would get it soon enough and I did. Ultimately, I walked away from the evening with enough knowledge about the game that I could play it confidently on my own (with one to four friends twelve and up).

But I walked away with much more than that. That night, I collected more than game pieces at the end of the evening. I felt more than the glorious mixture of beer and Chinese take-out in my stomach. My faith in nerd/geek-kind was strengthened. I remembered the things that were comforting about being a part of geek culture. I felt the acceptance that is nerddom.

At some point, everybody who calls themselves a nerd or geek has been ostracized. They have been made fun of or left out because of who they are…sorry, whom they are. It leaves them accepting of newcomers at, I believe, a higher rate than average. Perhaps nerds display a constant search for fellowship instead of the constant drive to display their dominance over a social group. This leads to a more supportive than competitive culture.

That is how I spent my Saturday night: Getting reacquainted with the greatness of geek, pulling on the common thread of nerd and then, from that thread, knitting a sweater of brotherhood that warms the heart and mind and that comes in one size fits all so that nobody willing to wear the garment is left out in the cold. And since that metaphor has taken on a life of its own, let me conclude by saying, thanks guys for a fun night and for making the new guy feel welcome.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Features for a Defining Week

By the time this week is over, the largest and most intrepid undertaking I have...undertaken, will have reached its completion. The Geek Tournament is currently down to four teams and the Geek Champion shall be determined by April 1st, which also happens to be April Fool's Day. So with that on my mind, I will now update our weekly features.

This week's top five list consists of five geeky practical jokes you can play on someone this April 1st:

5. Move their bookmark - What a shock it will be when they think momentarily that the Fellowship must pass through the Mines of Moria a second time. I don't remember that from the first seventeen times I read this book, they'll think.

4. Repose their displayed action figures - This is best when your target owns a figure with articulation in every finger. Imagine their surprise when they look to their shelf for inspiration and find Optimus Prime flipping them the bird.

3. Take their movie collection out of alphabetical order - You can do this randomly, but if you can sort it in some other order like by last name of first production assistant or foley artist or according to the Dewey Decimal System, it will prove even more maddening as they try to crack the code.

2. Leave an empty telephone booth on their front lawn - It's up to you if you want to leave a scarf or a Wild Stallions poster behind inside of it. Get creative.

1. Replace their 20-sided dice with identical dice that have 1 on all 20 sides - Good luck defeating those goblins now! Mwa-ha-ha-haaaaa!

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a piece of basketball net from a Final Four appearance. The cutting down of the game nets is one of the cooler sports traditions in my opinion. What you might not know is that if you manage to fashion the threading from it into a vest, it gives you +5 armor class.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you don't need to reference the instructions to recall the exact number of each type of piece that came with your board game. It makes clean up much easier, but it also displays your level of OCD. My knowing there are exactly 49 cards and 49 monster tokens that come with Castle Panic doesn't count because that's such a unique number. I mean, who wouldn't remember that it's seven squared, right?

This week's nemesis is my NCAA bracket. I can't recall a year in recent memory that I didn't have a single team in the Final Four. In fact, I only had two teams in the Elite Eight predicted correctly. Disgusting.

And along those lines, this week's lesson learned is to check your facts before bragging about something. For instance, make sure you looked at the scores of all the completed games before you decide to post a tirade about how everybody should listen to you more often.

This week's equation helps you determine how much shame you have:

You can determine the amount of shame you posses if you add the number of people you dated in high school (d) to the average number of people you interact with on a daily basis (i) then multiply that by the number of pairs of shoes you own (p) and the percentage of your wardrobe that does not consist of t-shirts (w) then subtract the product of your age in years (y) and the number of kids you have (k) to the power of 1 if you are single and 2 if you are married (m).

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "We won't get another chance at this, Admiral!"

Thank you, everyone, for reading. I hope you've enjoyed the Geek Tournament thus far and continue to vote up until the final decision is made. And I hope you keep reading for a long time beyond that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Formidable Four

Our Geek Tournament is reaching the end. Champions in each division have been decided. The Empire Strikes Back has emerged from the movie bracket, Lego crushed Dungeons & Dragons to take the crown in the toy and game bracket, the original Super Mario Bros. proved too much to handle in the video game bracket and The Lord of the Rings proved itself to be the ultimate geek tome as it took the TV and book bracket title.

Now it gets really good. Who is ready for cross-genre competition? Ooh! Ooh! I am! That's what you probably just said and that's okay, because it's what I said too. Isn't it great?

You have until Monday night at midnight to vote. The two winners will then meet in the championship to determine which geeky thing is most loved by the geeks who happen to read this blog occasionally.

Talk about an honor!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Who Told Who So?

Have you ever randomly done something correctly then took full credit for your lucky guess as if it was the result of months of diligent research? Well that's exactly what I am about to do so brace yourselves.

I didn't waste everybody's time posting my entire NCAA Man's Tournament bracket. I didn't do this because almost every bracket looks like swiss cheese after the first two rounds. Instead I stuck with what I felt people would be most interested in. I got to the heart of the matter. I shared my Final Four predictions. Admittedly, even they look like swiss cheese already.

However, the true value of the bracket selection advice that I offered you all against your collective will came when I explained to you the details of my own flawed selection process. If you remember correctly, I spent a good portion of my post detailing the strength of the number one seeds. If you look back on that explanation, you will see the genius I now appear to be glowing softly before you on your screen.

Who did I predict would be the first number one seed to fall? Pittsburgh. Which number one seed was the first to be knocked out of the tournament? Pittsburgh. You're welcome.

And which team was it again that I predicted would be the second number one seed to fall despite seeming like such a strong team? I believe it was Ohio State. Wait, let me check...yep, it was. And who just lost to Kentucky less than an hour ago? Ohio State. Ha!

What does this mean exactly? It means that all those so called experienced analysts who actually watched college basketball for the entire season and picked these two teams more than any others with regularity to make it to the Final Four can eat it. That's what it means.

And what lesson can you, loyal reader, take away from this? First, you should have learned by now to trust the vague advice I give, but not the specific advice. I'm much more accurate when I'm deliberately unspecific. (What?!) Second, you now should realize that I am notoriously proud of that which I did very little to achieve and will make sure that I let you know when I shockingly get something right.

Let's see, I need to keep things vague then act afterwards like I knew exactly what was going to happen. I think I can perfect this technique over time. I think I may see a future for me in fortune telling. But as for my immediate future, I see a lot of chest puffing and chin raising in my life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Induction

On March 22nd, 2009, a man who happened to find himself on business just outside of Owensboro, Kentucky was paying diligent attention to his GPS system.

“How do people live out here?” the city-dweller said out loud and leaned forward in a desperate attempt to help his eyes function better in the darkness. All he wanted was to reach the bed of the more than likely outdated motel he was scheduled to check into four hours ago and get a few hours of sleep before his meeting in the morning.

While on a particularly dark stretch of road, he found his gaze drifting more and more often to the alluring glow from the dashboard mounted device. It became difficult to adjust his eyes to the blackness through the windshield. Just off the edge of the display screen, a smaller section of the Ohio River approached, but just before it came into his view, the screen went blue. A vivid, distracting blue.

“What the hell?”

As he tapped the screen with his finger, hoping to reactivate the display, a small bridge without a guardrail passing over the Ohio River rapidly approached. As he changed his technique to swearing fervently while still tapping the screen, he was nearly at the bridge.

It wasn’t until he heard a horn honking that he even noticed the headlights of the oncoming vehicle, whose lane he had carelessly drifted into. A short time later, he found himself standing on the bank of the river, reading the dripping rental agreement he had managed to salvage from the glove box by the red glow of his rental car’s taillights.

Also on March 22nd, 2009, a fifteen-year-old boy who had promised his mother he would be home already in Evansville, Indiana pulled the ringing cell phone his mother had given him from his pocket. As the boy answered and prepared to make up a better reason than hanging out with his friends for why he would be returning late, the call dropped. He was later grounded for a week for returning home late without calling.

Simultaneously, three thousand other cell phone calls in the Western Kentucky and Southern Indiana area were cut short. Had his mother been aware of this, which she wasn’t, it might have kept her from adding two more weeks on to his punishment for hanging up on her.

At the exact same time all of this was happening, United Flight 8527 was passing over the lower Midwest after having taken off from Charlotte and suddenly began experiencing difficulty. At first, the instruments in the cockpit flickered. This caused the pilot and co-pilot to merely glance at each other and shrug before they resumed business as usual.

Seconds later, the two were just as surprised as the passengers when the aircraft began to plummet toward the ground. Food in the passenger compartment flew everywhere. A heavyset woman gripped the arm of a nearby stranger so tight that her victim was convinced the three small marks on his forearm years later were scars from her fake nails. The unfortunate stewardess who happened to be standing in the aisle at the time of the incident ended up in the lap of and face to face with a man who had eaten more garlic in his preflight meal than most people would normally consume in a year.

But just as suddenly as it began, every instrument returned to perfect working order. The pilot regained control and smoothly pulled the nose of the plane skyward where it belonged. Soon, he had returned to their scheduled flight path. During the fall he remembered glancing at the compass and noticed it was spinning wildly. He would tell this story many times over throughout his retirement, which just so happened to begin prematurely, immediately after he landed the plane in Denver.

The rental car’s accidental detour into the Ohio River and the disruption of cellular service would have gone entirely unnoticed had it not been for the slight hiccup in the travels of Flight 8527. Once a scare like that occurs, however, other smaller details tend to come to light and the people who get paid to notice such things tend to notice such things.

That’s how it came to pass that Buford Hedgecock sat atop his tractor on March 24th, 2009 in the town of Beaver Dam and watched a shiny black car that kicked up a cloud of dust in its wake pull up in front of his barn. By the time he made it to the house, his wife had already set two cups of coffee in front of the two men in dark suits and sunglasses as they sat on his couch, waiting to speak with him.

“Mornin’” Buford greeted them. “How can we help you gentlemen?”

Much to the astonishment of Buford and his good wife, the men informed them that they were from the Central Intelligence Agency and had a matter of national security to discuss with them. They were particularly interested in looking at a very specific area of Buford’s grain field approximately three quarters of a mile from the rear of his home. They asked Buford if he had seen anything unusual two nights before or if anyone that normally wasn’t on his farm had been there to his knowledge.

Buford explained that it was just he and the Mrs., but he had no way of accounting for who might have been out in his field after dark. After he cordially escorted them to the location in his field they were most intent on looking at, the two men thanked Buford and left abruptly.

Nothing ever came of this as far as Buford Hedgecock knew. He was never informed that the CIA had been concerned that a terrorist organization had test-detonated an EMP on his farm. They never told him about the cell phones or the flight that happened to be passing directly over the Hedgecock farmhouse at the very time its instruments began to malfunction.

The CIA officials investigating the incident never rechecked their figures. If they had, they would have discovered that the epicenter of the electromagnetic disturbance had actually occurred three quarters of a mile closer to Buford Hedgecock’s house than they had originally thought, which would have in fact placed it inside of Buford Hedgecock’s house.

However, since none of this information been shared, Buford never told the story about how he had decided to try and use a new method for making popcorn he had read about using a stainless steel pot and a magnetic induction plate which he plugged into an already extremely overloaded outlet. He may have told the agents about how his wife had made him promise to throw the induction plate away. He might have told them that this came after they had blown fuse and extinguished the resulting small kitchen fire.

Instead, all that had been revealed that evening in the Hedgecock household was that Buford did not have a head for science and that his wife had no patience for any attempts he might make at using it to prepare food. Meanwhile, a salesman in Owensboro vowed to buy the rental insurance from now on, a teenager in Evansville was grounded for two weeks longer than he had to be and thousands of citizens of Kentucky suddenly considered changing cell phone providers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Entrenched Eight

Our Geek Tournament begins yet another round today! Only eight contestants are left to fight for the top spot in the hearts and minds of geeks everywhere.

While there have been some epic battles, it would seem that I did a damn fine job on the seeding decisions. Sure, Return of the King made it in as a seven seed, but that is really the biggest and only surprise. All four number one seeds have made it to the championship game for their respective categories. But I have to save a few of those pats I'm rigorously applying to my own back for the back of my selection committee as well. Somebody had to keep me honest.

Now we look at four games over the next three days that feature some absolutely amazing things pitted head to head. I am personally wondering how Dungeons & Dragons vs. Lego will play out. I'm also enthused that we have a book versus a television show in the championship game for the much disputed TV & Book Bracket.

So, get online (which I suppose you already are if you're reading this) and vote for your favorite in the Entrenched Eight, a title I am particularly proud of. Meanwhile, I will try and come up with a clever yet original name for the four teams that will remain come Saturday morning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Does Anyone Offer a Master Degree in Lego Construction?

School was never something I was afraid of. I did well in it. Some of the best times of my life occurred while I was going through it. I met my wife while enrolled in it. Still, once I graduated from college an undisclosed number of years ago, I was happy to be done with it.

Looking back now, I realize that I lacked the perspective that holding a career and needing to keep a job due to family expenses and medical benefits offers. Had I truly known the differences between work and school at the time I’m certain I would not have been so eager to be done with my lifestyle of waking up ten minutes before class, sitting in a lecture hall for a mere four hours of my day and concluding the evening with a round of N64 with my friends and future wife over pizza and nachos. My current average work day is far less enjoyable. Yes, I would even sacrifice the advances in gaming technology in favor of irresponsibility. Give me the original Mario Cart over credit card bills any day.

Of course it’s not that simple. There are other benefits to my current lifestyle, including but not limited to my own car, house and nearly perfect miniature genetic copies of myself with which I play the more advanced video games, have Nerf battles and build Lego sets. This all leaves me more than content with the fact that my life has moved forward. I feel no sorrow over the fact that my only connection with education now involves double-checking spelling words and algebra facts at the dining room table.

So when my wife hit me with a bold statement just before we walked into the restaurant (strung out from the road…sorry) we were about to dine in, I nearly stopped in my tracks.

“I think you need to go back to school,” she said.

I almost responded, “Awwwwww! Do I have to?” I immediately understood the way my sons feel when they leap from the table to go finish the level they paused and get called back to eat that last carrot. Instead, I responded with, “Hm,” by which I meant, “Let’s not talk about this right now.” I didn’t want to talk about it because I knew she was absolutely right.

While we had discussed my return to school numerous times throughout our marriage, my wife’s perspective was that it would happen eventually while mine was that she would stop bringing it up eventually. But something in her tone was far more serious this time. She sounded a lot like I do when I can hear my sons still giggling in bed an hour after they were supposed to be asleep on a school night. All she said was, “I think you need to go back to school,” but I also heard, “Don’t make me come in there!”

Since that moment, I’ve been reflecting what going back to school at this point in my life would mean. The first thing a man my age needs to come to grips with is the fact that returning for another degree will be nothing like the hilarious shenanigans featured in such films as Old School, Billy Madison or Rodney Dangerfield’s classic Back to School prior to even beginning the search for the right program. My priorities should have nothing to do with campus housing, the raucousness of the local frat houses or the existence of an adversarial dean with whom to match wits with. Instead, I’m going to have to consider cost, curriculum, class schedule, how many years it will take to complete and what I can ultimately do with the degree I hope to obtain when it’s all said and done. My family and work life will need to be balanced with schoolwork. Making that sort of commitment will seriously cut into my video gaming and comic book reading time. Yuck!

It’s all very scary. Like most adults, I don’t want to regress. When I move past something, I want it to remain in the past. Change from the day to day life I have worked for so long to establish is unwelcome, unless it comes in the form of a crap-load of money.

The question at hand is one I’m afraid to address: Am I brave enough to do this?

Ultimately, I must consider the source. The person I trust the most in the world has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts. The one from whom I will need the most support has asked me what I’m waiting for. It is now up to me to choose to be brave or to give up. When I look at my sons and think of all that I try to instill in them, I already know what the right choice is. That choice simultaneously excites me and sucks a little.

Here’s to hoping that I find the right program and get accepted.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mad Geekly Features

Busy time of year. The Men's NCAA Tournament is in full swing, our Geek Tournament has bee whittled down to sixteen teams and C2E2 was this past weekend. Our weekly features are highly reflective of this.

It all starts with our top five I-told-you-so/You-told-me-so teams from the NCAA Tournament:

5. Memphis - You told me so. I had them getting to the third round and they didn't get past the first.

4. Oakland - You told me so again. I had them getting to the third round as well and endorsed them as my favorite upset. Should've gone with Richmond.

3. Louisville - I told you so. I didn't pick them to get to the Final Four but a whole mess of other people sure did.

2. Syracuse - One last you told me so. My first Final Four pick to be eliminated, this one sort of stings a little. Congrats to Marquette, though. They played a tough game and hit the free throws at the end.

1. Pittsburgh - I so told you so. I knew they would be the first number one seed to fall and those who disagreed with me can eat it.

This week's cool ass thing you will never own is the entirety of your wish list from attending a comic convention. There was so much there that I wanted, I would have easily spent several million dollars. This estimate does not include the new garage I would have to build in order to store it all.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you have such a large collection of souvenir comic convention passes that you've had to develop a filing system just to keep them. You can alphabetize them by city, or by event title, or sort them by date. Personally, I would sort them by date, then put them in alphabetical order by event title, but it's not like I've put that much thought into it.

This week's nemesis is my introverted nature. I was too shy to hand out the business card promoting my blog at C2E2 as often as I should have. Waiting for it to come up organically can result in rarely talking about it. I should have been a little pushier, but didn't want to be like the dozens of people stepping in front of convention-goers and sticking flyers in their faces. I would have wanted to punch myself.

This week's lesson learned is to check the weather forecast prior to planning to grill. Just because it's been nice for a few days doesn't mean it won't rain on the day you plan on preparing delicious red meat over your coals. Should you get too excited over it, somebody upstairs might even send hail.

This week's equation helps us determine what percentage of nerds and geeks are present in the attendees of any given comic convention:

The rate of nerds and geeks at a convention in percentage (R) can be determined by taking the total attendance of the convention (a) and dividing it by the total attendance (a) and then multiplying it by 100.

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote comes from C3PO: "This is madness!"

Thanks for reading, everybody. Remember to vote on our Geek Tournament's Spectacular Sixteen. You have until Tuesday night.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thoughts on a Con: TGD Attends C2E2

Can you spot the nerd? (Answer: Circle entire picture)

Transformer Generation Dad has just returned from C2E2. While there, he handed out fewer business cards than he had promised himself he would (on account of being very shy) but had a wonderful time over all. He will also conclude referring to himself in the third person upon the completion of this paragraph.

Was it fun? I managed to meet comic artists, photograph my wife with multiple impressive cosplayers, ooh and ah over old collectible action figures I wish I had, avert my sons’ eyes from the occasional randomly placed adult content booth and pick up a Bubble Bobble NES cartridge all while managing to resist the overwhelming urge to buy even one of the thousand t-shirts that were calling to me from all directions, “Buy us! Buy us! We are so unique that you must buy us!” much the same way zombies incessantly moan about brains. So, yes, I’d say the day was a resounding success and I would definitely do it again.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t do a few things differently. Perhaps it’s the parent in me (Get it out! Get it out!) that causes me to criticize my own past actions and perhaps it’s the pretentious, know-it-all nerd in me (Eww! Get that out too!) that wants to pass such information and lessons on to you, but I realize now that my tour at C2E2 is over that things could have gone smoother had I done a few simple things. Those things are as follows:

Bringing Kids? Make sure you both know what to expect. We took my sons, eight and six, and they started to become a little crabby. Standing all day, being surrounded by crowds and seeing three hundred dollar collectible figures that they want while they can’t comprehend why you would come to a place full of such unbelievably awesome things if you didn’t plan on buying any for them can take a toll on children. My wife and I spoke with my boys prior to our arrival and told them there was to be a lot of walking and a lot of waiting patiently while mommy and daddy looked at things. This laying down of ground rules (as well as the aforementioned Bubble Bobble purchase) might be the only thing that prevented a complete meltdown. If you really want your kids there with you that’s cool and I totally approve. That’s what this blog is all about. For your own sanity, explain things to them ahead of time. Another option involves a session with the kids and a session without. Our schedules didn’t permit that, but my wife and I talked about returning by ourselves. Maybe next time.

Bring a bag. You will acquire things you did not plan on acquiring. Then you will be left with nowhere to hold them but the plastic bag you got when you bought something at that other booth. That plastic bag will quickly get on your nerves as it becomes full and either cuts into the flesh of your fingers or threatens to snap free from its handles. To keep yourself from setting something you really wanted down and forgetting about it until you’re already on the other side of the convention, bring some sort of bag. But make sure it isn’t too awkward so that you don’t end up knocking an important piece off somebody’s carefully made costume and damaging their calm. You might also want to throw a firm folder in your bag to protect any smaller prints you end up purchasing.

Make time for conversations. I know that comic conventions are notoriously rife with the socially inept. If you can get past that, a big part of the fun rests in finding out more about the people there, especially those in the booths. While you are really impressed with their collection of vintage Transformers or that totally badass sketch of Batman they made just while they were sitting there, they might be equally impressed with your job or that blog you write. You’ll never know if you don’t take the time to talk.

Bring two credit cards. The vendors come from everywhere and your main card might shut down on a fraud alert when it receives charges from several different states within an hour. Chances are you can use your phone to get online and remove the alert, but when a sweaty, three hundred pound nerd waits behind you in line breathing heavily and invading your personal space as your credit card gets denied swipe after swipe, you would probably rather just pull out the back up card and get the whole experience over with.

Bring extra cash. While many vendors will whip out a little card reader that plugs right into their iPhone, other vendors aren’t equipped to accept credit. When you see the artistic, full color mash-up of all your favorite characters that you have never seen anywhere before and will never see anywhere again that you really must have now, that’s the guy who will only take cash. Your day would be better spent not waiting in the ATM line with the same guy from my previous bit of advice standing behind you. Furthermore, be safe with said cash. Keep it secure, preferably in a front pocket. Although I am a firm believer in the geek honor code, you never know when you might fall victim to the guy who showed up and decided to test his ninja training by deftly pickpocketing as many people as possible.

If you bring a camera, put it on a strap around your neck. I saw a few left behind at tables and could only imagine the heartbreak of the owner as they realized all their timeless snapshots of geeks in Star Wars outfits might be lost forever. Especially that one with the Sandtrooper where you posed as if you were performing the Jedi mind trick on him. Those memories are priceless.

That’s all I have for now. C2E2 continues through tomorrow for those of you in the area. For those that aren’t, maybe these tips would serve you well at a convention near you.

Or maybe you’re just too cool to attend comic conventions. Is that it? You think you’re better than us? Well, then I have one last piece of advice. Take it from someone who didn’t attend any comic cons until recently either, you’re the one who is missing out.

The Spectacular Sixteen

In order to avoid copyright infringement, I have named the third round of our Geek Tournament, the round where only sixteen teams are left which I think is pretty sweet, the Spectacular Sixteen.

There have been a handful of upsets, but not many to be that shocked by. I would take this opportunity to pat myself on the back regarding my seed assignments if I didn't think that would result in people being angry with me. Aw, Hell with with, YAY ME!

While some five six and seven seeds have snuck into the third round, the only real dark horse at this point, for those of you who like to root for the underdog, is Mythbusters. It defeated a show last round that I thought had a legitimate shot at the title in Doctor Who. Thus, the remaining contestants are:
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • Monty Python & the Holy Grail
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Risk
  • Lego
  • Nerf Blasters
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
  • Civilization
  • Sim City
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Mythbusters
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
This round will see some interesting match-ups. The first two Star Wars movies will square off, Lego and Nerf will force my sons to make a tough decision, and this round will result in one book and one television show remaining for that bracket's championship.

Let's see how it goes from here. There will be four days to vote on this round and in the meantime I am going to work on titles for the remaining rounds of eight and four that will not result in any fines for me. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Third Person Thursday: The True legend of St. Patrick

Patrick couldn’t believe that his friends were capable of making such a blunder.

They had watched this planet for hundreds of years and picked their destination carefully. The climate on the small island held enough moisture year round to keep their species comfortable. The cloud cover it routinely provided allowed their starships ample opportunities to sneak down to the surface to drop them off. Even the natural disposition of the people inhabiting the island seemed optimal for masking the discovery of one of their kind with a well-told folk tale. The sobriety of the witness could be called into question and it would live on forever in what everyone would believe to be nothing but a story.

They had chosen this place very carefully, so it was shockingly disappointing to Patrick that when he notified his people that it was time to meet, he discovered they had chosen to take the form of a non-dominant species. They had also sent more subjects to the surface than they had originally agreed upon.

Patrick knew it would be far more difficult to explain to the townspeople why several thousand snakes were now slithering up the hillside to greet him.

“You fools!” exclaimed Patrick to what he could only assume was the expedition’s leader, as all of his people now looked identically reptilian. “What have you done?”

“We have come to meet you as previously agreed upon,” spoke the lead snake as he lifted his head from the grass. “What information have you, noble scout?”

“I can only inform you that you have picked the wrong species. This will not do.”

“But this is such a beautifully efficient form,” the lead snake explained, coiling around to observe himself. “No limbs to muck things up. Anything eaten goes straight in, no messy chewing, and goes straight out. And the color. How can this deep green not assist in our blending in to this rich landscape? I’ll admit it’s a but cold here, however. Perhaps a fur-covered beast would have served better in theat regard.”

“No, no, no,” repeated Patrick as he paced about the hillside. “This will not do. We must separate for now and I will meet with one of you at another time to discuss your appearance. You will be noticed like this in such great numbers.”

“I should say so,” the leader said, proudly raising his head from the ground again. “It would seem that the locals all appreciate the beauty of this form as much as we do. They were coming out from their homes and staring at us in awe as we passed. Perhaps we misjudged how crude these humans are.”

Patrick looked over the large group of writhing green reptile forms and saw the townsfolk gathering at the foot of the hill. His heart sank. After all the research, all the years of work, everything was about to be undone.

“No,” he said again, then looked behind him toward the cliffs. “You must follow me. Now!” he commanded to the group and all at once they began slithering forward through the grass, higher up the hill, following Patrick’s lead.

Patrick produced the communicator from his billowed sleeve and spoke into it. “Immediate relocation protocol initiated, latitude fifty-two point one six five, longitude negative six point eight six seven. Hover fifty feet above sea level and prepare top hatch. Subjects will be coming from above.” A series of sounds came back, then a voice said, “Affirmative. Arrival in 5.4 minutes.”

He glanced over his shoulder as he scrambled up the hillside, the thousands of snakes obediently following behind him. The group of humans at the base of the hill and had grown significantly in numbers since he first saw them. They had also apparently grown in curiosity because they had started advancing up the hill themselves.

“What on Graxicon are you up to?” the lead snake asked Patrick as they finally reached the top of the hill. It ended in a sudden cliff, plummeting down into the ocean.

Patrick didn’t bother answering, but peered over the side of the cliff. The craft had not arrived yet. He looked back at the crowd below. They were gaining ground. Patrick’s head spun. He tried to calculate how soon the people would arrive at the top of the cliff and feared it would occur before the craft could position itself below them near the cliff. No folk tale could explain this.

“Paddy,” came a voice up the hill. “Is that you Paddy? What on Earth are you doin’ me boy? Did you see all those snakes?”

Time was running out. Patrick’s human form sweated beneath his robes. He was prepared to leap off the side of the cliff himself just to avoid having to face what was to come.

Suddenly, Patrick heard the whirring of the spacecraft below. It had arrived. He turned his gaze to his snake counterparts and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Be gone!” and pointed his walking stick off the edge of the cliff.

Knowing he was trustworthy and not the sort of Graxiconian to be trifled with, they blindly slithered off the side of the cliff, not doubting for a moment that Patrick had made arrangements for them to fall safely.

And fall safely they did, into the waiting top hatch of the Graxicon craft waiting below, hovering near the water. When the last of them had thrown themselves off the cliff, Patrick turned and hurriedly walked down the hill toward the crowd below. He wondered what would happen. As he reached them, they stared at him, wide-eyed.

“He got rid of them,” someone whispered.

“Aye, that he did,” said Seamus, the town’s mayor. “He sent them all off the cliff.” He then turned around to look at the crowd and continued, “Patrick drove all them snakes into the sea. There was ten thousand of them if there was one. He’s rid us of the evil scourge. He’s a hero, I say!”

The crowd erupted in cheers of joy. Patrick was hoisted up onto the shoulders of two of the larger men in the town and bounced about as they all pushed against one another for the chance to pat him on the back.

Patrick seized the opportunity while they were distracted. He reached quickly into his sleeve and pressed a button on his remote communicator. Behind their backs, the craft that had been waiting below shot into the air, leaving a hole in the clouds above. The sun shone through it and down onto Patrick as the crowd congratulated him.

“’Tis a miracle,” they all agreed and carried him down into the town where a great feast was prepared in honor of Patrick whom had driven the snakes, snakes that nobody had ever seen in the country prior to that day, out of Ireland forever.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There's Another Tournament?

March Madness (the real one, not our Geek Tournament) has arrived. With two play-in games already decided and two more to go (is this the beginning of an expansion of the tournament?), I figured now might be a good time to offer my suggestions on filling out your brackets. I won't bore you with a game by game selection, nor will I post my completed bracket, but I'll generously give you my predictions for the Final Four as well as a few underdogs you might want to ride for a few rounds.

Note: While I love basketball, you should note that last year my sons nearly beat my bracket selections simply by picking which team's mascot they liked in each game.

The Upsets: The make or break decisions of any bracket lie in picking the oh-so-difficult to see coming upsets. I personally like eleven, twelve and thirteen seeds. If you see one of those teams and have a good feeling about them, I say go with them as your upset. This year, I'm picking both Clemson, already winners of a play-in game, and Memphis to win their first round match-ups. While I enjoy seeing the double digit seeds advance, I usually avoid picking them t get any farther than the second round. This year, I don't expect a 2010 Butler to emerge, but I do have thirteen seeded Oakland coming out of the West to face Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, where they will, no doubt, lose.

The Strength of the Number Ones: No matter how diligently you pore over your bracket, you may be disappointed in yourself when you see all that thinking only lead to your selection of all four number one seeds to make it to the Final Four. Don't be so hard on yourself. They got the one seed in their respective bracket for a reason. However, being right about a one seed missing the Final Four is an especially satisfying feeling. Thus, I have decided to rank the number ones in the order I see them most likely to be knocked out:
  • Pittsburgh - This is the weakest of the ones. They'll have to face either Butler, Wisconsin, K State, BYU and/or Florida, all teams that I could see beating them.
  • Ohio State - Strong team, but somebody had to be second most likely to lose before the Final Four and I like both Kansas and Duke better.
  • Kansas - The only reason they are number two is because they might have to face Notre Dame. If Notre Dame loses prior to the Southwest champion game, they will walk in.
  • Duke - I'm not a Duke fan, but I've picked against them so often and have the scars to prove it that I hesitate to do so ever again.
My Final Four: Here is my Final Four - Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Wisconsin. Controversial, I know. I have only one number one seed reaching that round, which is something I personally recommend against, but it is what it is. Should you want to put more number one seeds in, the above section contains my suggestions on which ones to pick.

Have Some Stones: If you are entering a bracket for consideration, whether it be at your office or through a bookie (which I do not condone, mind you) then I strongly encourage you to do it right. By this, I mean enter only one sheet. Sure, you could try and enter a few different combinations of games, but have enough ride in your selection process, however random it might be, and stick with your original picks. You may not win the top prize, but You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you stuck to your guns.

That's all the unsolicited advice I have to offer. Should these suggestions lead to success, I am willing to accept any credit you might throw my way. If they cause you to crash and burn, then you should have come up with your own system. Either way, good luck.

Round 2 Continues

Our Geek Tournament's Sweet Sixteen is nearly complete. Thus far, only two underdog have snuck into the third round, those being each of the sixth seeds in the toy and game and video game bracket, Nerf Blasters and Sim City. The current list of round two winners is as follows:
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Nerf Blasters
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Sim City
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
Thanks to everybody on our voting turn out. Please keep it up as the remainder of the second round games are now posted and will close late Friday night. The Sweet Sixteen round will begin Saturday morning.

Here's to you, voters. May you return often and may your favorites do well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

π = Us

On this, the fourteenth day of March, nerds, geeks, dorks, dweebs, techies and Poindexters (as well as any other group of intellectually heightened, socially stunted group of people I neglected to mention) around the world are celebrating Pi Day. Trying to think of the myriad ways they are celebrating would be like trying to extrapolate the number they are celebrating to an extra decimal place. Some might be playing games involving who can calculate various measurements of circles or spheres the fastest. Others might be baking a pi(e) order making their own pi(zza).

If you are doing any of these to celebrate, I commend you. However, I would like you to consider celebrating an aspect of π that I think often goes unappreciated. It is the philosophical side of the number.

π mirrors life. It does so in that it is irrational and never repeating. This is precisely what makes it mysteriously beautiful, majestic and daunting all at the same time. We are first exposed to it in grade school Geometry, yet some of the greatest mathematical minds in the world agonize over trying to better define this same number. π is used in equations. Equations which we depend on to absolutely define aspects of the universe around us. Yet it is never ending.

Should you attempt to find the ultimate answer to π, you will embark on an endless quest. It goes on forever whether you feel you have satisfactory knowledge of it or not. It stretches out to an infinite number of decimal places, places we cannot comprehend and could never hope to see in one lifetime. It is the mathematical expression of the universe itself as well as our human potential. Always present. Ever expanding. Its boundaries are unreachable.

I think the appreciation of π is important. If you can see its irrationality as beauty, you may be able to do the same with the things that tend to frustrate you in your own life. When that co-worker three cubicles down insists on performing their irrational habit of creaking their chair repeatedly while typing, just think, That person may be irrational, but so is π, and without π, we wouldn’t have a perfect circle, and perfect circles are pretty freakin’ cool. If you can do that, you can see beauty everywhere.

So love the irrational, at least for today. Celebrate that which you know you will never fully understand. Thank your personally chosen higher power for the existence of things that are bigger than ourselves because they keep us striving and reaching for something more. There will forever be something beyond us. A world where everything had a set value would be boring as hell to live in.

Take comfort on 3.14.11 in the fact that some concepts will never be locked down into a definitive answer because that’s just the way they were meant to be. π is more than a number. π is you. π is me. We are irrational. We are endless. We never repeat.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Wee Spot O' Weekly Features

If you haven't celebrated St. Patrick's Day already, you will probably be celebrating on the 17th, so Happy St. Patrick's Day. If you aren;t celebrating it at all then I want to know what your problem is that you would not take advantage of a free excuse to drink.

This week's top 5 is St. Patrick's Day libations:

5. Black & Tan - Although this isn't a drink that is popular in Ireland, it does give you the opportunity to combine two Irish beers with Guinness and either Harp or Bass. Plus, it tastes good.

4. Bailey's Irish Cream - Smooth as silk although I still wonder how cream and alcohol can be combined in a manner safe for commercial distribution.

3. Bailey's Irish Coffee - Even better than straight Bailey's is having some in coffee. Perfect hot drink to have in that travel mug while you sit in the cold watching that St. Paddy's Day parade.

2. Jameson Irish Whiskey - My favorite whiskey and they have some damn clever commercials on lately to boot.

1. Guinness - No words. Just pour one, watch the cascading bubbles and enjoy. Also, healthy for you.

This week's cool ass thing you will never own is Lobot. Think of how easy syncing all you computers and electronic devices would be with your own cyborg sentry to run your network. Also, when you need to pull off a double-cross on a Sith Lord and his lackeys from the Empire, you need someone who is both loyal and great with computers.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you own the entire catalog of John Williams' music. You also probably categorize them on your ipod by mood so that you can dial up Leia's Theme when you feel like relaxing and then jump to the theme for raiders of the Lost Ark when you need that pick me up. I am personally a big fan of The Asteroid Field.

This week's nemesis is Daylight Savings Time. I love it when the clock falls back and I get that extra hour of sleep, but when it jumps right from 2AM to 3AM I want to take my alarm clock and smash it into a thousand pieces, which I will then burn in effigy on my grill during the last hour of sunlight, middle fingers raised to the setting sun. I admire the ingenuity behind the idea, but I'll take my extra sunlight when the rotation of the Earth decides to provide me with it, thank you very much.

This week's lesson learned is not to leave a soccer ball indoors in a room with several kids unless you don't mind something in said room being broken.

This week's equation came to me when reflecting on how much I would pay for a beer in a certain situation, when I was faced with having none as told of in a recent post:

The true value of a pint of beer (V) can be calculated by taking the number of friends you are with (n) and raising that to the power of hours spent at work that day (t) then dividing that product by the product of you proximity in miles of a decent barbecue (b, a value no lower than 1), you proximity in miles to a sporting event (s, a value no lower than 1) and the actual price of the beer (p). You may wonder what happens when the price you ay for the beer is zero. the answer is that this is an invalid equation because the true value of a free beer is obviously immeasurable by mathematics.

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is Han Solo's expression of how he felt after being tortured and may reflect how you feel after you St, Patrick's celebrations: "I feel terrible."

That's all for this week. thanks for reading. Tell the others.