Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prime Cuts of Dad

Upon checking my second grader’s book bag yesterday evening, I discovered that we had inadvertently sent the wrong kind of notebooks along with him to school.  Gasp!  I’ll give you all a minute to get over the shock.

I immediately recognized that this was a mere hiccup I knew would be easily remedied.  I decided that I would go and purchase the proper notebooks when I had a minute at work and my son would be able to stride confidently into his classroom the following morning knowing he had procured supplies with the correct line spacing and number of pages.

I purchased the notebooks begrudgingly.  I begrudged because the note requesting we provide new notebooks was not addressed to me.  It was not even addressed to both my wife and me.  And, no, it was not addressed to “Whom it may concern” either.  It read, “Mrs. Transformer Generation Dad.”

The note was written to my wife.  The assumption being that she is the female parent and must be the one taking care of all the school supplies, home business and womanly duties.

I immediately resented this note.

My wife, I will have you know, is a loving, attentive mother, is quite pretty, very smart and makes more money than I do.  She contributes a ton to our family lives.  Must she also perform the nightly homework checking ritual just because some assume it is the kind of thing that mothers usually do?

I cry foul.  This displays blatant sexism against men present in our school system.  Do the mostly female teachers and entirely female mothers out there think that we dads can’t handle the behind the scenes business that it takes to foster a successful student?  Because we totally can.

Do they think that we are just there to occasionally pick the kids up from school and look devilishly handsome?  Are we just pieces of meat meant not to provide support, guidance and lunch making but just to labor away and provide the funds for tuition, all the while looking devilishly handsome?

Dads everywhere, join me in saying that, while we may be pleasing to the eye and even feel flattered by the occasional whistle, hoot or cheek pinch (you know exactly which cheeks I’m taking about), we are more than this.  We are meaningful parents who contribute to our children’s educations.  We are men and dads and we will do whatever is necessary to help our kids achieve at the highest level possible in school even as we provide eye candy to the throngs of women surrounding any given grade school.  The caveman days are over.  Open your eyes, teachers and see us for whom we really are.  Sexy, sexy fathers who love our kids and are just as down to earth and humble as we are good looking.

Also, on a complete side note, addressing letters specifically to my wife that I then read and whose instructions I carry out kind of makes me feel like a sissy.  It hurts my feelings and I want you to stop.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Put My Son in a Box...or a Bag

The first (half) day of school has come and gone for my sons.  Unlike preseason games in the NFL, their first day usually provides an accurate glimpse ahead at what is to come.  They return home from school with the start of the year letters home, bracing parents for the challenges that lie before them.

I always take my time and pore over these syllabi.  In this way, I am able to predict just how difficult it will be for my sons and, more importantly, my wife and myself to keep up on the daily activities and homework that will be sent home with.  It often becomes immediately apparent which teachers will have you scrambling all over the place trying to complete projects.

For instance, my second grader came home today with four things in his book bag.  First, an empty folder.  Second, his English book.  Third, a book cover.  Last, a school-issued assignment notebook which, under todays date, listed his night's homework: cover English book.  I can tell I'm going to like this teacher already.

My third grader, on the other hand, came home with papers in his folder.  There was the standard note home welcoming my son to the class replete with far too many exclamation points (punctuation will apparently only be glanced over this coming year).  He also had homework that involved his needing to find six things that described his personality which he would then place in a paper bag and return with to school.  It's a neat little way for the kids to get to know each other.

But there was more.

There was also a multi-pocket folder, a school supply item that was particularly difficult for me to find in the first place, which required that I label the pockets of the folder with the different class titles.  It was a slightly annoying task whose completion was made more annoying to me because that folder just wouldn't seem to leave me alone.  However, it was deemed acceptable as it is the beginning of the school year and some busy work need be done in preparation.

Then I found another sheet of paper.  It was homework for my wife and I (groan).

My son's third grade teacher provided a series of questions asking us to describe our son.  She asked details about any allergies as well as his aspirations and shortcomings and our overall impression of our own son.

"That's cheating!" I promptly overreacted (notice the exclamation point).  She didn't want to have to put forth the effort of trying to get to know our son on her own.  She wanted all the answers handed to her.  What kind of example is that to set for aspiring scholars?

I wasn't about to bite.  So, on the very first question which called for us to write down the three words we would use to describe our son, I wrote, "Mysterious, Enigmatic and Awesome."

When asked what motivates our son, I wrote, "Cold hard cash."

The response for what we hoped our son would take away from this upcoming school year was, "A base understanding of quantum physics."

The thing that causes our son anxiety was described as, "The recurring dreams that his dominion over the Force combined with his fear of loss might result in his turning to the Dark Side."

Good luck figuring this one out, lady.

I can't wait for parent-teacher conferences.

Desperately Seeking Nathan

Our Perplexus giveaway has ended.  There is but one problem.  A commenter with the handle "nathan" deserves to have a Perplexus mailed out to him and I do not have an email address associated with the handle.

In order to avoid being a total creepy internet stalker, I am hoping that "nathan" stops by again sometime soon and reads the following:

Nathan (if that is your real name),

Congratulations!  You are the lucky (and mysterious) winner of an Original Perplexus.  In order to claim your prize, I need to get your email address so that you can tell me where said prize need be mailed.  You can email me at to give me the information.  Thank you for playing and I hope to hear from you soon.

Transformer Generation Dad

There, now I feel that I've done my part in attempting to send the prize off to its rightful owner.  For those who did not participate, do not fear, I will try to organize another giveaway sometime in the near future.

Thanks again to out friends at Plasmart for sponsoring the event and thanks to all who undoubtedly took a look at their website even if they did not participate in the giveaway.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The 3 Rs: Reading, Writing and Weekly Features

My family officially closes the book on the Summer of 2011 today as my kids will start back to school tomorrow morning, no doubt bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  As I gather their fresh batch of supplies and prepare to send them off on the voyage that is learning, I recall some of my favorite school supplies from my formative years.  It just so happens, my favorites were always the most dangerous.  In light of that, this week's top five list consists of the deadliest school supplies.

5. #2 Pencils - If graphite had not significantly reduced the threat of lead poisoning, you would see the trusty #2 pencil listed much higher.

4. Construction Paper - Thought to be completely harmless and childish, if placed in the right hands, it's thick sturdy construction can be wielded to crate massively stinging paper cuts.

3. Staple Remover - The sharp, metal, spring-loaded teeth of this sabertooth tiger like utensil would have been ten times deadlier if its jaws could open farther.

2. Paper Clips - Able to be bent into virtually any shape, the paper clip is the perfect stealth weapon.  The this metal wiring could be slipped between fingers to poke somebody upon returning from sharpening your pencil or even used as a dart tip on an impromptu blowgun.

1. Compass - I'm pretty sure this requires little explanation.  A metal spike on one side and the list's number five item together on one device.  Diabolical.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a private parking space in front of your kids' school.  Alas, one of the yearly trials of the school year is jockeying for position, especially on those rainy days.  I won't be surprised when I see an overzealous parent drive up on the sidewalk sometime soon.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you are jealous of you children's new school supplies.  Perhaps you even went so far as to buy an extra package of something under the guise that it might need to get replaced over the school year.  You can never have too many red marking pens around the house.

This week's nemesis is the unusually detailed supply list my kids got from their school.  Does the wide ruled spiral notebook have to be exactly 100 pages?  Must they be Fiskars scissors?  Do you know how difficult it is to find an 8 pocket folder compared to a 7 or 13 pocket folder?  They'll be learning times tables, not planning an expedition to the moon.

This week's lesson learning is to begin adjusting your kids' sleep schedule at least a week prior to the start of the school year.  Otherwise, you end up with a kid that can't fall asleep the night before and is a real crab getting out of bed the next day.  Then everyone ends up mad with one another and holding grudges even after the kids get picked up at the end of the day.  Not how you want to start a school year, with lingering resentment.

This week's equation determines how long you spent shopping for school supplies this year:

The time in hours (T) can be found by multiplying the number of kids you have (k) by the average grade level of said children (g) then adding to this product the average total number of items on the lists (i) and a numerical value representing whether or not your kids have to wear uniforms (u, 1 for no; 2 for yes) raised to the power of the number of inches your children have grown since the beginning of the previous school year (l).  This sum should then be divided by the product of the percentage of items found at a single store (p) and the time in days that you have until the start of the school year (t).

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "Much to learn, you still have."

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading and good luck with your own school years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Suspect Ted, Part 4

Here it is, just before the end of Thursday, our final installment of our continuing story.  If you haven't read the previous three chapters, please do so now right here.  Trust me, it won't make sense without having read the previous parts.

Without diverting his attention fully from sorting the reports into reasonably sized stacks on his desk, the grey haired man in the starched white shirt picked up the receiver, pressed the button next to the blinking red light and matter-of-factly announced his last name, “Hammond.”

“Special Agent Hammond, this is Agent Barnes,” the younger voice on the other end said, hopefully.  Then, after a few seconds of silence it continued, “From the Montana office.  We spoke last week.”

“Spoke to a lot of people last week, son, and I don’t waste my time trying to remember all of them,” the man at the desk said, many years beyond caring about the emotional scars he might leave on younger coworkers.  “You’re going to have to tell me what it was we talked about.”

“Well,” the voice known as Barnes said before already being interrupted.

“Short version,” added Hammond, curtly.

Barnes cleared his voice and began, “Call from a rural town.  Very vague.”

“Calling a town in Montana rural is vague,” snapped Hammond as he shook his head.

“Some sort of cheap voice-altering device employed,” Barnes continued, trying not to be affected, but noticeably insulted, which was exactly what his superior had been going for.  “Something about a shed in the woods and bombs, but we couldn’t make most of it out.”

“I remember it now,” Hammond said, annoyed he was fielding a call over this case.  “What about it?”

“Preliminary investigation revealed an ex-Boeing employee from their security division just purchased some land out there.  Also shows a significantly increased purchase rate of piping from the local hardware store.”

Hammond allowed a brief silence before asking, “And?”

“Yes, sir,” Barnes’ voice faltered as papers could be heard shuffling on his end of the line.  “This particular employee has been threatened on three separate occasions according to our file and is currently on leave from the company.  They recommended it for his safety, sir.”

“You should be reporting to me about what your follow up revealed already.  I shouldn’t be wasting my time hearing about your preliminary,” Hammond barked.  “Honestly, you guys these days need to have your asses wiped for you.  I would have…”

“When we followed up with surveillance, sir,” Barnes interrupted with a sudden air of confidence, “we discovered that the guy, the ex-Boeing, well, current Boeing employee on leave, does a great deal of fishing on a stream located on his property.  Not much of anything else.  Does it near a small shed he seems to have recently built.  With little else happening, we were about to cut it off when one of our agents reviewed surveillance tapes and discovered heat signatures in the surrounding woods we had previously missed.  They returned regularly as if someone else was watching this guy as much as we were.  Couldn’t catch wind of any radical groups recruiting in the area, but we believe there may be a legitimate threat here.”

“What do you think?” Hammond asked as if he suddenly valued Barnes’ opinion.  “Previous assailants tracking him down or local crazy government hater caught wind someone who built weapons for Uncle Sam moved next door?”

“Can’t be sure at this point, but the surveillance pattern by the other party suggests they’ll be back again tomorrow night and my call was for the purpose of requisitioning a support helicopter.  Mostly for the spotlight, sir.  Tough to get light out there.”

“Yep,” said Hammond simply.  “I’ll put you on with Bonnie and she’ll fax you the paperwork.”

“And sir,” Barnes’ voice came over sounding unsure once again, “I was hoping for some advice.”

“Yep,” said Hammond again.

“Local law enforcement.  On what level should we involve them on something like this?”

“They’re stretched thin in those parts,” said Hammond.  “Best to do your thing nice and quiet.  If you step on some cowboy’s toes, just kiss ‘em and make it all better after.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir,” Barnes said before Hammond placed him back on hold without a response.

Hammond then shouted, “Bonnie!  Give the young punk on line one what he needs.”

“I don’t like going out there no more,” John nearly whimpered as he sat on a crate across from Elmer in his tool shed and watched him stuff supplies into a canvas duffle bag.  “It gives me the willies.”

“If it ain’t us that’s gonna make this right, it ain’t gonna be nobody else,” Elmer scolded John for his lack of bravery and delicately placed the night vision goggles he’d borrowed from Phil into the bag.  “I don’t aim to let some nut job come into my town and start threatening me or anybody.  I’m sick of sitting around waiting for him to fire the first shot.”

“Can’t you just call the FBI again?” pleaded John.  “This would be better off left to them, I think.”

“They obviously ain’t gonna act fast enough.  We got our townsfolk to protect.  Besides, they’re stretched thin in these parts,” Elmer reasoned.

“We ought to at least let the Sheriff know,” John suggested.  As he watched each new item enter the bag he realized that the point of no return was drawing ever closer.

“No sir, we gotta do what’s right, John, and sometimes that means not following the rules.  This is America, dammit.  Might have to do something we can’t have the Randy involved in.  If the old cowboy feels we stepped on his toes, it’ll make ‘em feel better when we bring this terrorist to justice.”

Elmer then slid a bucket from the corner of the tool shed and lifted off the cover.  He reached his hand in and produced one thick section of pipe after another.  John watched in horror as the pipes, capped on each end and with what appeared to be a wire sticking out of one end cap were inserted into the bag.

“The hell are you doing with those?” John cried out.

“Fighting fire with fire,” Elmer responded, his face still in the bag.  Then again, quieter as he continued packing, “Fighting fire with fire.”  Elmer then handed John a pair of handcuffs, which he accepted reluctantly.

Elmer knew it was up to him to hold Ted at gunpoint while John placed him into custody.  If he let John hold the gun, Ted would surely see in his eyes he was incapable of pulling the trigger.

“Now keep those ready and let’s get on with it,” Elmer said.  He stood, threw the bag over his shoulder and hoisted his rifle.

“Oh, Edna, what have you done to me,” Ted moaned as he still sat in his outhouse, his stomach shouting at him.  “Woman must have undercooked the sausage this morning.”

He had recently lit the lamp inside the small shed and its glow was becoming increasingly bright compared to the light outside.  Ted still had a long walk home in front of him and he had hoped to do it with more daylight than it appeared he would be afforded.  It was beginning to look like he might have to navigate his way in the dark since he was far from done.

This was particularly troubling because Ted had heard the rustling in the woods another handful of times since the first.  It was always around dusk, which meant that his chances of running into whatever it was that had been stalking about the woods near his favorite spot to fish the stream would be all that much higher on his way home now.

“Maybe I won’t smell too appetizing,” Ted joked with himself as his stomach gurgled loudly again.

Then Ted listened intently as he sat atop the commode he had installed into his outhouse shed.  He swore he heard something over his groaning stomach.  As he focused to try and hear it again, he looked about the shed and regretted not making it a bit larger.  He had contemplated making a separate room with a small cot in it at one point, but decided he didn’t want to be tempted to spend entire nights out by the stream.  Apparently, Edna’s sausages had other plans.


This time Ted definitely heard it.  And it was close.

He began to try and wonder what he was going to do.  He reached momentarily for the rifle propped against the shelves then thought better.  Inside the outhouse, he ought to be just fine.  It was sturdily constructed enough.  Worst case scenario, he would just have to wait it out until sunrise.

Just as Ted relaxed his legs and settled back down onto the commode, he began to hear something else.  It was not any sort of animal.  In fact, it wasn’t even close at first.  It sounded like a something Ted recognized but just couldn’t quite put his finger on at first.  As it slowly grew louder, Ted thought it might just be a…

“Helicopter?” he wondered aloud.  Then as the sound grew suddenly louder, light burst in through the vents near the outhouse’s roof.  This was followed by a great deal of shouting from a great many people, a few of whom sounded to be immediately outside Ted’s outhouse door.

“Thank God you’re here,” Ted heard a voice shout as he fumbled for the roll of toilet paper.  “He’s inside there!”

Elmer had advanced past the tree line confidently.  When John hesitated and stayed behind, Elmer hadn’t even looked back.  Before he knew it, John was watching Elmer place the grey metal pipes beneath Ted’s outhouse.  The night vision goggles allowed John to see a small, red, barely noticeable light waving around in the distance as Elmer glanced around.

He was frozen.  He dared not take a step closer.  He could no longer go through with it.  Eventually, he saw Elmer glance around quickly, the red light swinging back and forth.  Then it stopped, pointing right at John.

Elmer walked quickly back toward John.  A branch snapped beneath his feet and he stopped momentarily, then began returning to John’s hiding place still within the trees.

“What are you doing?” Elmer whispered furiously.

“I…I…I can’t,” stammered John.  “This is going to far.”

Elmer’s glowing red night vision light pointed right at John’s face.  Without lifting the goggles, Elmer held out his hand and growled through clenched teeth, “Give me the handcuffs.”

John silently placed them in Elmer’s open palm.  Elmer then turned back toward the shed as John took a few steps backward and crouched behind a large stone.  He could barely watch and turned to look at the trees behind him.  They invited him, called to him to retreat into their safety.  He listened and, without Elmer noticing, disappeared into the forest.

Meanwhile, Elmer walked back toward the shed, more determined than ever before.    He felt invigorated.  Justified.  Patriotic.  Pride swelled in his chest as he took the handcuffs he had taken back from that traitor John in his left hand and leveled the rifle at the door of the shed.  As he rocked backward, preparing to kick the door down, the pride and self-righteousness grew to a rumbling sensation he could almost hear.

Elmer hesitated for a moment.  He realized that he actually was hearing a rumbling sound and it was becoming louder.  It wasn’t coming from within his chest.  It was coming from somewhere off in the distance behind him.  Elmer and his red night vision light spun around and in glowing white set in green, he saw at least a dozen bodies moving toward him through the opening in the woods.

A helicopter appeared then over the trees and a spotlight shone directly on Elmer.  He whipped off the goggles and in now blindingly clear light saw that the people coming toward him has FBI in big letters across their uniforms.

“Drop the weapon,” they shouted repeatedly, assault rifles aimed at him.

“Thank God you’re here,” Elmer shouted in response.  “He’s inside there.”  As he turned and pointed to the shed, the shouted instructions repeated.

“No, no, you don’t get it!  I’m the one who called you,” Elmer tried to explain and lowered his rifle finally.  “I’m the one who…”

Elmer landed face down in the dirt and two more agents joined the one who had tackled him on his back.  He continuously protested as his hands were secured behind his back.  He attempted to explain what was really going on, readily admitting how all of this must look.

Just then, Ted swung the outhouse door open.  His stomach cramped as he wasn’t ready to emerge just yet, but he obviously had to see what was happening outside.

“That’s him,” Elmer shouted.  “That’s the one you’re looking for.  Don’t let him get away.”

Elmer was ushered to the rear seat of a black Jeep that had pulled up on scene.  Agents rushed about the shed, recovering the pipe bombs Elmer had placed around the foundation of outhouse.  As a hand was placed on his head to assist his entry into the vehicle, Elmer overheard an FBI agent approaching Ted and saying, “You’re safe now, sir.”

The agent explained to Ted what had been happening.  From the outside of the crowd, a neatly dressed man in a shirt and tie with a bulletproof vest over it approached.  He thrust his hand at Ted and said, “I’m Agent Barnes, sir.  I hate that we had to put you through this, but this man was an apparent domestic terrorist who we believe may have been targeting you due to your position at Boeing.”

“Jesus,” Ted whispered and ran his hands through his hair.  “I came here to get away from all that.”

“I understand, but we seem to have everything under control now.”  Then, Barnes looked around in the now illuminated clearing.  “So, fly fishing, huh?”

The next morning, the entire town was chatting about how they hadn’t seen Elmer going off the deep end the way he did.  Edna and Helen both agreed that he could be cranky and stubborn, but had never suspected that he would try to hurt anyone.  Carl chuckled to himself in the corner and spoke suddenly during a quite moment as something occurred to him.

“Anyone seen John?” he asked through a mouthful of hash browns.

John would be found two days later.  Most of him anyway.  The coroner’s finding determined he had been mauled by a bear while stumbling aimlessly through the woods in the dark, trying to return home.  Whether it had eaten his left arm and leg or just wandered off and dropped them further away remained unknown.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Impassioned Plea

Transformer Generation Dad has been up and running for approximately a year and a half now.  Over this time, we have mildly gained popularity through very little effort.  We now have 230 "likes" on Facebook and the site gets a few hundred hits per day.

In the interest of continuing to exert very little effort on the popularity of this blog, today has been designated as a day of eliciting help.  We ask any and all readers of Transformer Generation Dad to do your part in spreading the word about the wonderful content you discover here (Disclaimer: Not all content is wonderful).  If each person who reads, enjoys or even stumbles upon this blog by happenstance could do a few things for me, we would be eternally grateful.

First, please run the gauntlet down the right hand side of the page and follow, join, like and vote in any of the numerous ways made available there.  In particular, we encourage you to follow the blog via the Google Friend Connect option.

Second, please tell others.  Whether this means "retweeting," "suggesting" or just plain old word of mouth, we would love to have new readers visit the blog.  We're pretty confident (perhaps unjustly) that those who stop by and read a few posts will be pleasantly surprised by the blog's content, including the Third Person Thursday posts, so we just want to get new traffic.

Finally, visit the left hand column and vote in the monthly poll and participate in our Perplexus giveaway.  The successful running of more giveaways with other cool products depends on the participation we receive.

Thank you all for your help in this matter.  Should everyone pitch in and help spread the word about Transformer Generation Dad, then we can continue to focus our efforts on producing quality content instead of marketing strategies.

And, who knows, maybe one day you all can be responsible for saving me...I mean, us from the terribly miserable and life-sucking career we are currently trapped undertaking day after dreary day.  No pressure.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Should I Answer the Call or Hang Up?

While I haven't done so recently, I've certainly played my share of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the Xbox.  Time that often should have been spent doing laundry, paying bills, reading or anything other than lying prone on my bed with a headset microphone in front of my mouth, sweating from the stress, was spent playing it online mostly against complete strangers.

It was always done during my free time late at night, however, after my sons were tucked in their beds, preparing for the following day of school and while my wife was still in her last few hours of work.  There are two reasons for this.  First, while video gaming has been and continues to be an important aspect of my life and who I am (I shudder to think what my life would have been like if not for those early year spent with Pong, Combat! and Pitfall), I try not to take away time from my wife and sons to play.

Second and more of a motivational factor in my decision to hide in my room alone late at night to get my fix is the fact that I (my wife) didn't think my (her) sons should be exposed to the violence from the CoD games.  I (again, my wife) thought the intensely realistic gunplay and blood were a bit too much to expose them to just yet at the ages of eight and seven.

But those became the rules in our (my wife's) home.  As I learned early on in my own gaming experience, when you go to another kid's house, you play by the other kid's rules.  Thus, if his parents allowed him to play violent video games you too are allowed to play violent video games.  My sons figured this out pretty quickly as well.  When one of their buddies down the block spoke frequently of his adventures on Call of Duty 3 (a title in the franchise I had never personally played), they became very curious.  When they asked me if they could borrow CoD3 from him to play at home I (glanced at my wife who shook her head, then) answered, "No."

However, this was merely a speed bump in my sons' eventual exposure to the game.  By the next day they had figured out that if they went over to play at their friend's house and played CoD3, then they weren't technically breaking any of our rules.  They had successfully navigated a path to playing the game they so badly wanted to play.  But make no mistake, they did not lose sight of their original goal of playing CoD in their own home.  During a visit to their grandparents' house, they discovered that there existed a copy of CoD3 on the Wii in the basement.

"We've played this game before," they sweetly told my parents, who naturally believed them, caved, and allowed them to play it, telling me after the fact.

I wasn't really upset at all.  "It's just shooting and we allow them to play with Nerf guns at home so what's the difference," I reasoned based on my experience with MW2.  They have done a good job distinguishing the content of video games from real life despite the realistic graphics.  They've watched cartoons without subsequently dropping anvils on one another's heads so I wasn't too concerned that they might go out and procure an M-16 to shoot at each other with.

Then, after a sleepover with my parents, the CoD3 game ended up returning home with them in one of their miniature suitcases.

"I never play it," my father said.

I shrugged, my wife (surprisingly) agreed that since they've been playing it anyway, they might as well be able to play it at home and so it became allowed.  I didn't think anything else about it.

That is until I personally witnessed a level during which an enemy combatant goes hand to hand with the player, attempting to take their rifle from them.  I found myself watching them play the game and as my seven year old did not manage to wrestle his firearm back from his assailant, blood covered the screen.  While I could handle this, the disturbing portion came when the camera view showed the enemy soldier standing over the now injured first-person hero and kick his boot into the hero's face with a sickening crunch.

When it ended, I noticed myself staring at the screen, a mild horror eating away at the lining of my stomach, cringing.  Maybe I (my wife) was right in thinking these war games too intense for them.  Maybe I (my wait, I) should not have been permissive enough to allow it into my house.

Shortly after the completion of the level, all kids inside the house were kicked outside to play.  I then grabbed a hold of the game disk and box and plan on hiding it away somewhere so my sons can't play it again until I sort out the details.

In the meantime, I will be playing it while they're asleep.  You know, for research purposes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seeing the World Through Superhero Colored Glasses

The now waning summer months have seen my sons and their friends wisely coming inside from outdoor play to rehydrate.  That is when I can convince them to leave the calming glow of the television screen and set the development of their chosen video game avatar aside and actually play outside in the first place.  Over that same span of months, I have decided that water is the best thing for them to drink at these times.

I will not pretend to have made this decision for their health.  To be completely honest, I restricted their liquid intake to only water because, while Caprisun pouches are convenient and relatively inexpensive by volume compared to other drinks, kids are to juice boxes as chain smokers are to cigarettes.  (I am going to send this relationship to the committee that determines SAT questions for potential inclusion in next year’s test.)

I would have five kids at the house tell me they were thirsty.  “There are Caprisuns in the fridge,” I would say, “Help yourselves.”  I was so trying to be the cool dad in the neighborhood.  Ten minutes later, two full boxes (that’s twenty Caprisun pouches for those keeping score at home) had been completely demolished and the foil pouches and skinny yellow straws were littered across my front and back yards.

After the first time this happened, I insisted water was to be the drink of choice in our household and for anyone choosing to visit our household.  I went out and purchased a large package of red plastic cups and kept them stacked in the kitchen.  They would have water and like it.  So much for being the cool dad in the neighborhood.

But this didn’t change much.  Sure, I was paying less for red cups than boxes of Caprisun, but the endless supply of water available to the kids carried over to their perception of the red cups.  Every drink of water resulted in a new cup being used and they still ended up scattered across my yard because once the kids set them down, they instantly forgot where they put it.  In order to effectively reduce the spread of cooties in the neighborhood (which I commended them for), they would have to take a new cup every time.

Now, instead of twenty shriveled up Caprisun pouches on my grass, there were about fifty red plastic cups.  The only thing that distinguished my lawn from the aftermath of a college party on a Sunday morning was the lack of the frat boys face down with a dog licking up the pool of vomit nearby.

The next logical step was to get the boys using reusable glasses that they would be able to distinguish from one another.  And during a trip through Target, the solution came calling to the geek in me from the glassware aisle.  There I found multiple sets of superhero themed glasses, four unique glasses in each set.

Now, after much eye-rolling and forehead-slapping by my wife, the glass front cabinet in our kitchen that used to be filled with neat rows of matching (and classy) glassware is stuffed full of twelve colorful (and gloriously tacky) glasses featuring popular superheroes from both the Marvel and (counter to my usual standards) DC Universe.  Of course, the Captain America glasses are always to be placed in the back so that I get to use them.

Problem solved.  The boys all get to pick their own superhero and they have a designated glass for the day.  It helps them remember which glass is theirs, which reduces waste of plastic cups, foil pouches and my money.  At the same time, I get to regularly drink water and maybe occasionally something else (cough, beer, cough) out of a glass with Steve Rogers on it.  It’s a win-win scenario.

And I don’t get what my wife’s problem is with it.  I mean, I got her a Wonder Woman glass. Plus, she gets to be married to the cool dad in the neighborhood again.  Like I said, win-win.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Avenging Weekly Features

As summer comes to a close, I find myself beginning to reflect back on the blockbuster movies that have been released over the past few months.  However, I am a futurist, a forward thinker like Tony Stark and Reed Richards so shortly after I begin to contemplate the movies of this past summer, I begin to look forward to the movies of next summer.

Who am I kidding?  Obviously, I dwell on the past.  I still play with my NES and encourage my sons to play with retro toys.  But, for the purposes of this week's top five list, let's pretend I always think about the future while I list the top five Avengers I wish would appear in next summer's upcoming Avengers movie:

5. Wonder Man - Sort of a generic superhero when you think about it, but when I think of the many Avengers over the years, the W on the sweater and the sunglasses always pop into my head.  Plus, he would be an easy enough movie introduction.

4. Doctor Strange - Only made a member of the Avengers in recent years, it would be cool to see the group have someone with talents in the mystical arts on their team.  If Marvel does decide to use Doc Strange in a film, however, his character probably deserves his own title.

3. Black Panther - The mysterious nature of the technological genius/amazing athlete dealing with the responsibility of his people's fate was always pretty cool to me.  If the 2012 movie does well, I could definitely see him entering a sequel.

2. Giant Man & Wasp - They get one entry because you can't really do one without the other.  Not to be sexist, but perhaps Hank Pym could be included without Janet van Dyne, but since they were founding members of the Avengers, it would be nice to see them in the movie.  I have yet to hear anything suggesting they will be included, however.

1. Vision - One of my favorite Avengers of all time.  If they put him in a movie down the line, they better keep the scarlet face and the green and yellow outfit.  They can lose the cape if they insist.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a pack of attack dogs with bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you.  Homer Simpson's original ingenious idea would be the ultimate in home security, but all the scientists currently dedicated to the genetic engineering of such dogs have yet to create a viable prototype.  The problem is that the dogs keep eating the bees in their mouths.  At least that's what happens with the scientists that I've employed.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you have more than one book in your home that has been signed by its author.  Randomly ending up in a bookstore and buying a book while the author is there is one thing.  Why not get the book signed?  But if you're like me, you have purchased books at conventions (particularly graphic novels) and have conversed and gushed over the authors as they offered to sign it for you.

This week's nemesis is grass.  It just keeps growing.  Even the brown patches.  And it seems to grow extra fast on the weeks it knows i will not have time to cut it for a few extra days.  What the hell is up with that?

This week's lesson learned is that simplifying the motto "stick up for yourself" by saying instead "if someone hits you, hit them back" doesn't necessarily work on a seven year old.  You might find yourself in the middle of a fight where each kid is accusing the other of hitting them first.  Even if your kid didn't hit first, they might take this as an open invitation to knock the crap out of some other kid on a technicality.

This week's equation displays my mathematical proof that there is no truth behind the statements "liquor before beer and you're in the clear" and "beer before liquor and you'll never be sicker."

In this set of statements, b = beer; l = liquor; c = clear; s = sick(er).  There you have it.  Cheers!

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "It's an older code, sir, but it checks out.  I was about to clear them."

That's all the features that are fit to be updated this week.  Thanks for reading and please participate in the Perplexus giveaway if you haven't already.  Have a good week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Don't Think as Much as You Drink I Do

Dear Mommy,

First of all, thank you for reading my blog with such frequency and fervor.  If the multiple profiles following it and hundreds of daily page views are all being generated from you in an attempt to make me feel like more people are reading than really are, I would not be surprised and really appreciate it.  You have always been my biggest fan.

Second, thank you for providing such an outstanding example of parenthood.  I often look at the way you raised me for guidance during difficult times with my own sons, like that time when they were both in diapers and I went downstairs just to switch a load of laundry and returned to discover the apparent aftermath of a quick yet furious battle whose ammunition consisted entirely of poop.  Your patience during stressful moments like those and ability to display that you still loved and supported us has been inspirational.

You may have guessed by now that the previous two paragraphs of obvious (and wholeheartedly truthful) praise are meant to butter you up for the upcoming real purpose behind this letter.  Once again, you have displayed one of the qualities that I have tried to emulate: your intelligence.

Over the past year and a half that I have been writing this blog, I have made numerous references to my beer consumption.  In that regard, I am not exercising poetic license in order to be funny.  I am being completely forthcoming about my enjoyment of beer.

I know this bothers you.  I know this because you regularly tell me that this bothers you.  However, the purpose of this letter is to assure you that I do not have a problem.  Of course, that is exactly what someone with a problem would say, but I don’t have a problem so when I say I don’t have a problem I hope that you recognize it means I really do not have a problem.

Do I have several beers on an evening when I am not working and know that I can do so at my leisure without leaving the house?  Sure I do.  Do I drink beer in front of your grandsons?  Absolutely and I have, in this way, instilled in them the valuable trait of helping their elders by often having them save my knees and run up or down the stairs to retrieve a beer for me.  Do I have a beer over breakfast with them occasionally?  Yes, but only since starting the overnight shift at work when this beer is essentially a nightcap for me before climbing into bed for the day while they attend school.

As you can see, my beer drinking falls within reasonable, respectable and downright logical guidelines.  Furthermore, the discussion of it here on these blog posts serves the original and intended purpose of this blog, which I cannot remember at this time because I have had a few beers, but I will be sure to mention to you as soon as it comes to me, which will probably be tomorrow morning.

Oh, wait!  It highlights the duality of my personality and that of many fathers around my age.  We are essentially big kids, enjoying awesome action movies, building Lego sets and cartoons just as we did twenty plus years ago while being legally able to drink beer, vote and drive.

But not in that order.  In the opposite order.  In fact, just forget I put “drive” in there at all.  Just completely forget it.  Oh, man I just screwed this up.

What I’m trying to say, mom is that you shouldn’t worry about me.  My enjoyment of an undisclosed number of beers while sitting at my dining room table and building the Lego Millennium Falcon and subsequently telling everyone about it is simply a shining example of my ability to enjoy the fruits of my maturity while simultaneously staying true to myself and not being afraid to be who I really am.

And isn’t being happy and confident about who I am the best way to live the way you showed me how?

Again, my point is that I don’t want you to worry about me, mom.  I’m doing fine and not keeping a load of misery hidden from you.  I have a wonderful family.  I enjoy writing this blog.  I have a crappy job…BUT it allows me to live comfortably (by which I mean buy Lego sets for myself aside form the ones I buy for the boys and still afford groceries) in an era when many are losing their jobs.  I laugh and, in my own humble estimation, live life to its fullest each day.

Love Always,

Friday, August 19, 2011

Remember the Giveaway...and an Apology

As I mentioned on Monday, the good people at Plasmart have graciously allowed me to run a giveaway with their Original Perplexus toy.  However, the response to said giveaway has been underwhelming.

I mean no offense to Nathan as his comment was both interesting and greatly appreciated.  What I mean to say is that I expected a higher volume of comments and, thus, participants in the Perplexus giveaway.

I blame myself.

I fear I may have buried the details regarding the opportunity to win an awesome toy to have as your very own beneath an extensive review of said toy.  If this has led to any confusion, frustration or general discomfort, then please accept my sincerest of apologies.

In an attempt to remedy this mistake, I implore you again to check out our review of the Perplexus by following the link at the top of the left hand column.  You should then leave a comment below our Perplexus review post about your favorite silence-inducing toy or activity from your youth.  I will also accept comments below this post as valid entries into our contest.

While I am apologizing, I would like to also apologize for another recent shortcoming (don't get used to this).  Yesterday's Third Person Thursday post was...well...nonexistent.  It was meant to be the conclusion of our ongoing story (which you can catch up on here) but I didn't have the time to write one worth posting.  It will be up next Thursday, I promise.

Thank you all, as always, for reading and please participate in the Perplexus giveaway. It's a great toy and I would love to see some more comments regarding everyone's childhood memories.  It makes me feel included.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is Your Kid Spoiled or Smart?

It has occurred to me recently that my sons may be the kids in the neighborhood who have too many toys.  There was always that kid growing up that you avoided telling about the new toy you received because he always told you he already had it.  He had his parents under his thumb and could get whatever he wanted from them whenever he wanted it.  Despite that child’s usual plethora of friends, the suspicion always remained that people didn’t necessarily like that kid, but he was popular because he had all the coolest new toys.  There existed a resentment over his ability to work the system.

Nobody said anything in particular to cause me to feel that my kids might be perceived this way.  In fact, there hasn’t even been the rolling of eyes or dirty looks from other parents that sometimes come after their kids complain in the middle of crowded toy aisle, “Bobby’s parents let him have one, why can’t I?”  (Note: neither of my sons are named Bobby)

But I have noticed their friends’ reactions to their Nerf arsenal.  From time to time other parents marvel at the massive size of their Lego collection and, probably due mostly to my own self-critical mania, I have felt the need to explain that I spent the entirety of my paper route money and any Christmas or birthday gifts from the ages of 8-14 on Lego sets.  “Most of that is still mine,” I preemptively apologize.

Still, I end up with this gnawing feeling at the back of my head (which I should probably have a doctor look at) that causes me to worry that my sons are perceived as being the s-word: spoiled.

This has caused me to spend a lot of time over the last few months analyzing their toy collections and watching their toy-acquisition-related behavior.  I have been very conscious of how often I am ready to cave and buy them something they want.  I have patted myself on the back with every no.  With each different item I discover left upon the floor, I try to recall how they acquired it.

This has led me to a realization.  My sons have a lot of toys.  That’s not the realization.  My finding is that they are not spoiled.  Toy volume alone does not dictate whether or not your child is spoiled.  Their reaction to not receiving the next toy does.

I have witnessed countless children having what would most likely be interpreted by an observing alien species as the physical reaction to a brain aneurysm or perhaps an outward display of dominance when denied their request in any given toy aisle.  I can proudly say that my sons have never done this.

I’m serious.  Never.

They have practiced time-tested techniques to try and get me to bend to their will.  I have been asked the same question at least a thousand times while navigating the cart through Target’s laundry detergent section, each time with a slightly longer, “Pleeeaaassseee,” at the end of it.  Both of my sons have at some point attempted to stand in my line of vision with a disappointed scowl on their face to make me aware of just how badly they wanted the thing for which they were asking.  (This has led me to a secondary finding that such behavior is instinctual and has its roots in thousands if not millions of years of evolution).  But never could anyone have heard their protests in the next state and never has their expressed disappointment caused anyone to think the fire alarm in the store had been activated.  In fact, I cannot recall a time when they were still upset with me by the time we were walking through the parking lot.  Do they pout a little in the store?  Sure.  They are kids after all, but then they get over it.

Confident that my kids were not spoiled because they accepted no as an answer, shared said toys with their friends when they came over, and valued social interaction over playing with the same said toys, I still wanted an answer to one of my other questions: Where the hell did all these toys come from?

The answer turned out to be simple.  Everywhere.

My two boys are the only grandchildren to my parents and are the first grandsons to my wife’s parents.  I have two siblings, she has four.  There are a lot of people who want to buy them things for their birthdays, Christmas, Easter and other various events throughout their lives.

Another factor is that, while I don’t buy my sons toys every time we go to a store by any stretch of the imagination, we do always look around in the toy section.  All the while, as we wander up and down, looking at what is new, discussing what we like and don’t like, they are apparently conducting research.

Furthermore, being only seventeen months apart, my boys share nearly identical interests.  There is the hobby that one happens to be more into than the other, but when it comes to toys, they want the same things and play well with them together.  Thus, gifts serve only to increase the size of the pool of common toys between them.

When the time comes that I begin receiving calls from grandparents, aunts and uncles asking what my sons want, I know almost instantly what to tell them.  The resulting efficiency of toy purchasing reaches astronomical percentages.

So, when it comes down to it, I found that not only are my sons not spoiled (in my humble opinion, anyway), they are focused and practical.  They have displayed impeccable research skills and an ability to commit to the things that they particularly enjoy.  Knowing what they like and pursuing it is something I hope to teach them later in life and they seem to have grasped it already.  They are well aware of the times they are going to receive a gift and have time and again been able to optimize the enjoyment of those gifts through diligence an communication.

Sometimes working the system just goes to show that the system works.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Fantasy Team by Any Other Name...Would Suck

During this week's weekly features post, I became sidetracked when my brain began randomly generating potential NFL fantasy team names.  I spent probably as much time deciding which of these names to include in the post as I spent writing the rest of the weekly features.  Frankly, it was a lot of fun.

Thus, I have decided to offer my services to those who may still be in desperate need of a cool team name this NFL fantasy season.  My proclivity to do so can even be customized to your needs.  Just let me know the effect you're going for and I will try my best to oblige.

Are you looking to be oxymoronic?  Try Grrrrrl Scout Cookies or Sweet Chewy Center if your team's success relies on the up the middle running game.

Perhaps intimidation is your priority.  Then I Shoot Lasers or Executioner's Hood might be the name for you.

Are you a sports geek?  D is for Dalek, The Bothans or Galactus's Endless Hunger may suit your needs.

Feeling onomatopoetic?  SNIKT!, BAMF!BAZINGA!, KRAKA-POW! or Pew! Pew! Pew! could work.

Complete randomness more your style?  Alex P. Keaton's Necktie.  First thing that popped into my head.

All these names and more are rattling around in my brain, just waiting for you to take one.  Seriously, please take one, they're driving me crazy and taking up way too much space in there.  I feel like the party host that insists you take home leftovers because the fridge is already at capacity.

There is no charge, it's just something I realized I enjoy.  Of course, should you decide to enlist my services, I would ask that you follow Transformer Generation via all possible social media and vote for the blog.  Perhaps you could even visit the store and purchase one of the many bad ass t-shirts available (we are always adding more!) but there's no pressure.  The fact that you have stopped by to read this blog is payment enough.

Feel free to ask for your custom fantasy team name today.  Just comment below and I'll provide you with an absolute TGD generated original.

Monday, August 15, 2011

TGD Toy Review & GIVEAWAY: Perplexus

When I was a kid, the Atari 2600 was the pinnacle of video gaming.  I defended castles, retrieved glorious treasure and slay dragons as a mere yellow square armed with only a pixilated arrow floating mysteriously at my side.  Soon Nintendo’s 8-bit graphics blew my mind as I plunged headlong into pipes and ate mushrooms to gain size and strength.  Obviously, I had no idea what was to come over the next few decades.

For the most part, the electronic gaming world was still new and innocent during my formative years.  Video games were not the epic adventures that they are now.  In the summer months, you still spent your time outside, pretending to attack one another’s woodland fort or looking for bugs, snakes and frogs.  In the winter months you played with action figures and reenacted your favorite scenes from the movie they were designed to market or pretended to attack your enemy’s woodland fort.  This often created noise.

On the other hand, certain toys and activities induced near perfect silence despite our heavily sugared systems and overactive imaginations.  I built with Lego bricks for hours by myself.  My older brothers would map out entire D&D worlds or fiddle with a Rubik’s cube.  Occasionally, we would sit quietly together around a board game, deep in strategic thought.

We didn’t exactly have to carve our own toys out of wood with a dull blade, but times were simpler.  With my sons near dependence on our iPad reaching a boiling point, I was beginning to think that nothing without a power source could possibly attract their interest.  Then, a few weeks ago, I happened upon an unusual looking toy that required not a single battery.  It was named the Perplexus and looked like Labyrinth in a ball.  It consisted of colorful plastic marble runs encased in a clear plastic globe.  The result was a spinning, three-dimensional maze.

I was intrigued to say the least.  Upon returning home, I reached out to Plasmart, expressing interest in reviewing their product and running a giveaway with my readers.  They generously obliged and sent me one of each of the three stages of the Perplexus (Rookie with 70 obstacles, Original with 100 and Epic with 125) for review (that is the disclaimer in case you didn’t notice) and told me that they would be glad to send an Original Perplexus to one lucky winner in a contest of my own design.

So, without any further ado, let me get to the review.  What?  You thought I’d start with the giveaway?  Calm your greedy selves down and I will get to that at the end.

The Plus Side: To start with, the Perplexus will challenge children and adults alike.  Even the Rookie will take an adult time to defeat.  Even after finishing the maze, there is no guarantee that the feat will be readily duplicated.  This goes double for the Original and infinity for the Epic.  You will keep going back, trying to prove you defeated it in the first place and will continue coming up short.  You’ll spend the day at your desk, wanting to get your hands on it again when you get home.  It’s addictive.

The Perplexus also promotes hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.  The subtle movements necessary to navigate the precarious shifts, rolls and drops that the marble will take throughout the game require focus and a steady hand.  It absolutely requires patience, determination and perseverance, things we could all use more of and would love to see more of in our children as well. 

As an added bonus, the Perplexus is nearly a work of art.  When set on the included clear plastic display base, it creates a colorful conversation piece.  Just looking at the picture above of the entire Perplexus family should convince you of that.  It looks less like a toy that has been left carelessly lying out and more like something you are displaying in your home, just begging someone to ask what it is.

Finally, it will shut your kids up.  If you hand them any one of the three levels out of nowhere, silence is imminent.  You won’t hear from them for at least an hour in the first sitting, but it won’t just be a passing fad.  They’ll tell you they finished it and you’ll say, “Show me,” and BAM another fifteen minutes of silence guaranteed.

The Down Side: At $22.99 for the Rookie, $24.99 for the Original and $29.99 for the Epic, you would have to drop $77.97 to purchase all three and provide multiple levels of challenge to your clan.  That’s a major toy investment.  If you have more than one child in your household and said children are at all prone to not wanting to share or wait patiently for their turns, your attempt to provide them with fun quiet time might turn into a shouting match and the Perplexus from a constructive toy to a virtual football carried through the house by its possessor whose sole purpose is to keep it from anyone else.

If you only want to buy one, get the Original.  If you have little ones in the house, pick up the Rookie so that you can let them practice with it before moving up to the Original down the road.  The Epic is essentially a luxury purchase.  If you are so into the Perplexus that you want to move up to the highest possible level, or if you are intent on raising future surgeons with steely resolve and unshakable hands, indulge yourself and get it.  Otherwise the Original should suit your needs nicely.

Sadly, this is not a good road trip toy for in the car.  Even the slightest and smoothest turns on the highway will result in the delicate balance of your marble being thrown off.  If you’re looking to keep them quiet in the car during your journey, a pair of headphones for the handheld game might still be the better investment.

Also, prepare to swear in front of your kids.  You will play with this toy and the moment when you realize you are but three obstacles from completion and the marble drops to the bottom of the sphere, your reaction may not be able to be contained.  This is your fair warning.

The Wrap Up:  The Perplexus, regardless of which level of challenge you choose, is an instant classic.  Rarely does a toy come around that I will watch someone else play with, spellbound.  It is even far more rare that the toy does not require batteries.  Buying all three can be pricey, but a single level is within most people’s budget, especially considering its high replay value.

TGD Rating: 17/20 of a star.  I nearly gave this 4/5 but decided it deserved better.  It’s a dynamic, constructive, elegantly designed toy that you and your kids will love and keep around for a long time.

Now on to the giveaway…

With one Original Perplexus ready to be shipped out from the fine folks at Plasmart to our lucky winner, the onus is upon me to choose the most worthy.  So, what I ask is that between now and August 28th (that gives you nearly two weeks), you comment on this post or one of the several posts I will write to remind you all of the giveaway and:

Tell me about your favorite quiet inducing toy or activity as a kid.  What was it that could keep you sitting on the couch or lying on the floor on a rainy day, whiling away the hours while your parents enjoyed peace and quiet?

The most amusing, enjoyable, random or striking in a way that I can’t even fathom yet tale will be sent an Original Perplexus.

Good luck everyone and I hope to hear from you very soon.