Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Things We Do For Love

Willingly participating in something humiliating is nothing new to me. I dare say it becomes a natural part of life for any parent.

We (parents) have all made silly faces in public in order to try and avoid a temper tantrum. When you think about it, it’s hard to imagine any human being sinking lower than the act of wiping excrement from someone else’s rear while telling them they are special. Singing Wiggles songs, while long in my rearview mirror, is not a part of my life I’m particularly proud of, although I’ll be damned if I didn’t nail those tunes and bear a striking resemblance to the original yellow Wiggle, Greg Page who, for the record, is not dead, but simply had to leave the group due to a non-life-threatening illness that made performing extremely difficult for him. You can stop spreading the rumors now.

For all the ridiculous behavior parents will stoop to performing, there are things that we swear ahead of time we will never do. These are the most dangerous because it hurts your pride even more when you suddenly and unintentionally find yourself doing the exact thing you swore you never would.

Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I have yet to willingly listen to a Justin Bieber song. I did, however, let my sons purchase a video game for the Wii that I never thought I would allow into my home.

Kids get to experience independence and valuable social development when they go to their friends’ homes to play. It’s always a nice thing to hear from a fellow parent that your children are behaving themselves and acting politely without you around to constant remind them to say please and thank you. The drawback is that the random, meaningless rules that you try to make them obey, like never saying the words “Green Bay Packers” (I’m mad at myself for even writing it just now), or pausing for ten silent seconds at the mention of the name Boba Fett, are not guaranteed to be enforced.

Case in point, video gaming in my home is meant to revolve around blowing things up, solving puzzles or defeating maniacal would-be world dominators, preferably clad in spiked tortoise shells. Should music be involved, it is to be rock music. It is certainly not to include dance music and the object of the game is specifically not to be dancing.

Alas, while at several different friends’ homes, my sons had occasion to play Just Dance 2. Instantly, it was cool to hold a Wii remote in one hand and mirror the moves set forth in front of them by the virtual dance instructor as if they were in a fiendish cyber-step aerobics class, forced to perform in order to generate energy and fuel for the evil master supercomputer that had enslaved the human race.

The next time we were at Target, they decided they wanted to buy it. I conceded, but only because they were using their own money saved from First Communion and a birthday. My pride was somewhat in tact. That was soon to change.

After hearing the same three songs over and over form my basement, I decided to go down and take a look to see what this game was all about. In an effort that was purely about getting them to change the music, I agreed to dance for one song with them on the agreement that I would get to pick the song. Several songs later, my wife and I were both sweating and I was rejoicing in the fact that my score was the highest of the four.

I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, standing there in the pink bunny suit, hoping nobody would happen to see me and spread the word of what I had just done. Of course, nobody needed to because my wife started talking around the neighborhood about how much fun Just Dance 2 is and how, who would have thought, that her husband (that’s me) happened to be really good at it. You should see him.

So, yes, I played an embarrassing dance game on the Wii with my kids. But no, I won’t be displaying my hip shaking prowess for anyone else to see. At least not until I get in some more practice sessions.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial (Not Just One) Day

Certain holidays are naturally celebrated over a span of time rather than on one day. I’m already hearing people set of fireworks in my neighborhood, which hints to me they are preparing for the Fourth of July, Halloween spawns costume parties throughout the month of October, and the Christmas season seems to begin immediately after Halloween these days.

Regardless of the reason, in all of the above instances the celebration of a single day stretches out over a weekend, or a week or a month or more. Sometimes it is due to tradition. Other times it is because we as humans cannot stand the anticipation. But today we observe a holiday whose celebration should last longer out of obligation.

Memorial Day has become synonymous with many things over the years. It is an extended weekend away from work. It is an excuse to get together and grill in the backyard. It’s a family vacation. It’s the unofficial beginning of summer.

Yet with all the things Memorial Day has come to signify, most of us have lost what it was meant to do. Memorial Day is supposed to be a day when we remember the fallen soldiers of this country who have died in battle throughout the all too many wars our nation has fought.

When you really think about the reason for the day off of work and the observance of the holiday, it seems like less of a reason to celebrate and more of a reason for somber reflection on all that has been sacrificed so that we might shove too many hot dogs in our faces in the privacy of our backyards.

I’m not trying to be a downer, here. I would just like to encourage everyone out there to stop and think more often than once a year about all those who have gone before us, into battle, for this country.

Emile Durkheim defined military service as a form of altruistic suicide. He considered it the willing sacrifice of one’s life for the benefit of a greater number of people. Whether or not death actually resulted from service, the expectation of death existed nonetheless and thus the serviceman or woman had already forfeited his or her own life to a cause. When you think about it on those terms, it’s pretty heavy. It also deserves our gratitude.

Last Memorial Day, I wrote about my grandfather, a WWII veteran. He did not die in battle, but many years after. He enjoyed a long, full life with his family. Yet he went off to the war, fully understanding that he might never have returned to start the family that was so important to him throughout his life. Many young men and women have sacrificed just that for this country. They have forfeited a future, years of time with their family for this country and the people of it. If ever there was someone looking out for the rest of us from above, they would fit that profile.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend. You may have grilled burgers and drank beer like me. Perhaps you took advantage of the myriad sales and picked up a new set of patio furniture. Maybe you traveled and took in the purple mountains’ majesty or swam in the oceans white with foam. I’m sure every single red-blooded soldier would have wanted you to soak in every minute of it.

All I ask is that we not leave their memory behind once Memorial Day ends. Let us all return to work tomorrow, thankful that we were able to celebrate as we saw fit this past weekend. Let’s remember, on a daily basis, all those who have given their lives for our freedom. And if you aren’t a big fan of this country and how it operates, then remember that your right to say it sucks in an open forum has been defended by these same men and women.

To all you men and women of the armed forces who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, I extend my thanks.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

W(b)ee(r)kly Features

Last week's poll question resulted in a different answer than I expected. Most of you would spend your time before rapture purifying. This is a little disappointing because it make my entry into Heaven less likely with suitable candidates no doubt leap-frogging in front of me while I exact revenge, but I suppose eternity will be mine to rue my decisions.

Anyway, when considering this week's poll question, I had nothing. So, I asked my sons to help me and I used the first thing they said as this week's poll. "What do you think a unicorn poops?" they wondered. And I wondered too. So, out of the options of candy corn, flowers rainbows and regular old poop, which do you think unicorns poop?

Completely changing gears (you're welcome) if you are anything like me, you plan to use the extended weekend to fit in more beer consumption. And, if you're even more like me, you will also be consuming some variety of grilled meats. If you are like me in any other ways, you are starting to creep me out. But getting back to the topic of beer drinking, an issue very closer to my heart (and increasingly close to my liver), this week's top five list consists of relatively cheap, non-pretentious, summer beers. I am a simple man who wants to actually be able to drink a summer beer all summer and actually afford it:

5. Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss - Too sweet to drink long term, but a nice summer change of pace for a bottle or two.

4. Corona - When it comes to beers that taste good with a lime in them, this is the king. But have you ever smelled it prior to drinking it. It smells like an elephant cage to me for some reason. Yet I still drink it.

3. Blue Moon - Again, a good solid beer that goes perfectly with a citrus fruit wedge added to it makes it a summer beer in my mind. Blue Moon + orange slice = delicious.

2. Bud Light Lime - I'm not a fan of regular Budweiser. I only enjoy it at two times: at Blackhawks home games and never. But a few summers back, while attending Lollapalooza, I was in desperate need of a beverage and Bud was the only beer brand they had available. So, my love of Bud Light Lime was formed in a simple effort to avoid the flavor of a Bud. This is by far the cheapest beer on the list and has a nice lime taste to it.

1. Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy - I'm a big fan of Leinenkugel's beer to begin with. I've noticed people either love or hate this beer. They either think it's too watered down with lemonade or they think it's a perfect blend of flavors. I happen to love it and it's not any more expensive than the other beers in the Leinenkugel's line despite being a limited time offer each year.

This week's cool ass thing you will never own is a flame-thrower. Think of how easy is would be to simultaneously sear both sides of your steaks, using the grill for the bottom half and the flame-thrower for the top half. Plus, you could perform cool experiments like when J.K. Simmons lights the giant ball of lint on fire in the Farmer's Insurance commercials. By the way, if Geico increased their customers by having funny commercials, I think Farmer's is on the new frontier of that battle with Simmons as their spokesman. Off topic, I know. Just saying.

This week's sign you are a nerd in that you are incapable of enjoying a good sunset because you can't help but think how much cooler any sunset would look if you were on Tattooine and there were two suns setting at the same time.

This week's nemesis is the Miami Heat. I really never had a problem with Lebron leaving Cleveland. Nor did I hate him for going to Miami. I don't even hate them for beating the Bulls this post-season. My problem was with "The Decision," with the catwalk and firework celebration the "Big 3" had before the season ever started, with the way they have overreacted about wins that the ought to act more professional about and now with the fact that I will have to continue hating them through the NBA Finals instead of just forgetting about my hatred and moving on to just watching basketball. They are the Empire and purposely amplifying my hate in order to bring me to the Dark Side. Use the Force, Dirk.

This week's lesson learned is to pay attention to weather forecasts prior to planning outdoor activities. With Spring weather changing so rapidly, it would be nice to expect that thunderstorm before you get five miles out on the bike trail.

This week's equation helps you plan ahead and attempt to calculate how long your kid's Little League game is going to take:

The amount of time the game will take in minutes (T) can be calculated by taking the number of innings (i) times fifteen and adding that to the product of number of innings (i) times the number of runs each inning is limited to before being forced to end (r) then dividing this sum by the sum of the skill level of the pitcher (p) on a 1-10 scale plus the skill level of the catcher (c) on a 1-10 scale and the area of that particular umpire's strike zone (a) in square feet. Finally, take the time at which you hope the game will finish in twenty-our hour time (h, subscript 2) and subtract the time at which the game started (h, subscript 1) and divide that by 2, because everyone knows that when you have something you need to get to after the game, the game will inevitably take longer.

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is: "For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire."

Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho! This Nerf Gun Be For Ye!

With Pirates being such a big theme with kids lately, the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie being out and the Lego version of the film series now on game consoles and all, I decided to extend to you a suggestion in aiding to your children's imaginary pirate adventuring. I wanted to recommend a fantastic tool that no pre-teen pirate should be caught plundering and pillaging without.

Swords are a necessity for swashbuckling. Everybody knows that. But any pirate worth their salt takes an advantage when they see one. The opportunity to brandish a quality sidearm would not be passed up.

Why the name is so long, I have no clue. What I do know is that this Toys R Us exclusive Nerf blaster is the perfect pirate pistol.

On its own, the weapon may be a bit of a disappointment. It only holds two darts at a time and is much larger than other Nerf handguns. Loading the handgun is also more time consuming. You have to hit a switch, then break the side by side barrels of the gun open (hence the name) and manually insert two darts. But this is exactly where the beauty of the gun also lies.

Should we journey back to the times when pirates were sailing the high seas, chasing buried treasure and boarding other vessels, we would not have found any machine guns. Nor would we have found any sort of device that could have fired a metal ball that was any smaller than the forearm of an average adult. Rather, that would have been considered a lightweight firearm, ideal for a blood-thirsty pirate to keep by his side at all times.

The Nerf N-Stike Barrel Break IX-2 (deep breath) adds the realism of pirate weaponry to your kid's Nerf arsenal. Captain No-Beard can fire the twin barrels one at a time or simultaneously, then he/she will need to either unsheathe their sword to stand and fight or retreat (perhaps in the elbows to the hips, hands flailing manner of Jack Sparrow) to a safe distance where they might be afforded enough time to reload. It is hijinks on the high seas at its best.

Again, this is a Toys R Us exclusive product. I couldn't even find it on the Nerf website. It retails for $19.99 and includes an ammo rail that holds 8 darts that can be used with any weapon's rail system. In my household, bonus accessories are always a plus for Nerf guns.

Keep this product in mind for any scurvy scalliwags age 6+ who think the pirate life is for them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Gradual Graduation

“What do you think it could be?” his mother asked the room.

“I don’t know,” his sister fretted, “but he seems like he’s in a lot of pain. Maybe we should take him to the hospital.”

“He doesn’t have a fever,” his father interjected, “and he hasn’t thrown up, so let’s just wait to see how he feels in the morning.” He then leaned to one side to try and see around his daughter which new pitcher the manager had chosen.

Meanwhile, the first grader rolled about on his parents’ bed in the dim light shining in from the hallway. His little body, lying there alone, caused the queen sized mattress to look like a football field.

“Ohhhhhh,” he groaned, both hands clenched to his stomach. He stopped for a moment and looked toward the crack of light coming from the doorway. When nobody entered, he listened for footsteps. He heard none, so he increased his groaning in both volume and duration. “OOOOOHHHHHHHHH!”

“Listen to him,” his sister scolded their father in a whisper. “He’s obviously in pain. We have to do something for him.”

Her father stared past her at the eighth inning of the baseball game. This late in the year, facing a division opponent, with the pennant up for grabs, and he puts in that bum?


“He’s got a stomach ache,” he finally responded. “It was probably something he ate, or it’s the start of a bug. We’ll know more in the morning. Until then he has to get over it. He’ll fall asleep before you know it.”

“OOOOOOHHHHHHHH…OOOOOHHHHHHHH,” came the little voice form down the hall.

“That’s not normal,” the voice’s older sister protested and turned to look at her mother.

“I’ll admit, I’m starting to get worried,” his mother said. “He’s not usually like this. What if it’s something bad he’s never had before?” she wondered.

The father gave no response. The set up man was setting things up for the wrong guys and the lead his team had was now down to one run.

“We should take him to the hospital. He needs medicine,” his daughter said.

“What he needs is sleep.”

“And a doctor could give him medicine so that he can get sleep. He’s obviously not sleeping now.”

“You should be sleeping,” her father scolded her in return. “Don’t you have class tomorrow? Get your laundry and go back to your dorm or you’ll end up sleeping through it. I’m not paying your tuition so you can miss class.”

As another groan was heard, the daughter’s fiancée, who had been watching the argument silently the entire time, peeked around the corner and down the hallway. He saw his soon to be brother-in-law now rolling around on the hallway floor. Repressing a grin, he stood and quietly said, “I’ll go see if he needs anything,” and excused himself form the room.

The first grader never saw him coming and didn’t hear his footsteps through the groans he was working hard to make loud enough. At one point, he opened his eyes to see if anyone cared and nearly jumped when he saw his sister’s fiancée sitting on the tile floor of the hallway next to him.

“Anytime you have to do something new at school, it’s pretty tough,” he told the young boy. “Eventually, school becomes a lot more fun, though. College is really fun. You wanna know something?”

The first grader stared at him suspiciously. He wanted to know something, but he didn’t want to admit that he wanted to know it.

His sister’s boyfriend told him anyway, “School only gets easier if you keep going. Then you get used to it.” They stared quietly at each other again for a while in silence. “But I think my least favorite grade ever was first grade,” he continued. “First grade sucks, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” the boy responded sheepishly. “You don’t even get nap time.”

“I know,” his sister’s boyfriend responded knowingly. “But that’s why it’s even more important for you to stop trying to get out of it with fake tummy aches and get some sleep. How about I sit on the bed with you for a minute?”

“Ok,” the boy said and took his hand to help him off the floor. “Does it really get better if I keep going?”

“I promise. You’ll get used to it. Just don’t give up.”

With that, he tucked the young boy into his parents’ bed and talked to him about school for all of two minutes before the boy was breathing heavy, deep in sleep.

When he returned to the room with the rest of the adults, he said, “He’s asleep now. He said he was feeling better.”

“See,” the boy’s father said to his daughter, “whatever it was, he got over it.”

The above story is based loosely on true events which occurred over eleven years ago between this blog’s author and its resident graphic artist. While the latter continued to hate school for many years to come, he eventually found his stride and will soon be off to college. Transformer Generation Dad congratulates him on his graduation from high school today. Way to go, kid. I knew you could do it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Geek Pride Day!

Thanks to an app on my iphone entitled Today in Geek History, I was alerted that today is Geek Pride Day. I have no idea how long this has been going on, but I'm happy to hear it. The contradiction of Geek's having pride in who they are is something I try to promote and is one of the major reasons why I started this blog.

It's a fitting day, a fact I further discovered through this same app, because Star Wars Episodes IV and VI were both released on today's date thirty-four and twenty-eight years ago, respectively as was Back to the Future III (my favorite of the trilogy). Also, it is Towel Day, in honor of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

With such a significant day in geek culture, I was reminded of a piece of artwork I saw at C2E2 this past year. It is a rendition of several iconic characters from various geeky franchises all working together to raise a flag with the word GEEK emblazoned upon it. The artists name is Ashton Gallagher and you can view the image here.

I encourage you to celebrate Geek Pride Day with me. Play some Dungeons & Dragons. Buy another adult a Lego set. Listen to the music of They Might Be Giants as you sit in front of your computer, immersed in your favorite MMO, getting up only long enough to go to the bathroom and heat up a plate of pizza rolls. It's your day!

And there is one extra thing to celebrate. I find it fitting that while most geeks are obsessed with numbers, Transformer Generation Dad posts its four-hundredth post today. Yes, this very post you are reading makes a nice even four hundred on this blog.

What better way to celebrate Geek Pride Day than by going back to the beginning and having a reading marathon with all four hundred posts tonight?

That was a rhetorical question. I didn't really want you to answer and tell me the thousands of things that would be better. Jezz, you geeks ruin all the fun.

What's in a Name?

Fatherhood, as a status, is acquired suddenly. One minute, you’re just a normal guy. Your schedule revolves around sporting events and video games. You had nobody to take care of but yourself. You may have been married, but more than likely your spouse relied on you for emotional and financial support at most.

The next minute, a human being with half your DNA miraculously finds a path out of that same spouse’s womb through a process which includes numerous gruesome details we will not discuss here, and relies completely upon the two of you for every need. That tiny human must be fed, sheltered, clothed, washed (especially the butt, remember that, that tip is free), and given constant attention. You are one of two people primarily responsible for all of this.

But the realization that you are a father takes a little longer to set in. Through the sleepless nights, the feedings and the visits to the doctor with a 104-degree fever, it ends up feeling more like a job than fatherhood. It often seems you’re barely doing more than treading water.

Instead, true appreciation for fatherhood comes in moments. Your infant recognizes your voice. Your toddler takes his first steps to get to your arms. They beg you to read a bedtime story. The ball you throw finally lands in the mitt. And one of the best moments is when they say your name: “Da-da.”

Of course, before you know it, those moments fall into chaos and the smile you thought your baby gave you was the gas he experienced as he loaded his diaper. The kid who it seemed had just learned to walk now runs out into the street if not kept under constant surveillance. The ball that was just caught gets fired back through your front window. And soon enough, “Da-da,” becomes just another word that gets screamed from the other room when they want something while you’re just trying to get enough free time to get the bathroom to yourself for five minutes.

While short lived, they continue to pop up, usually when you least expect them. That’s what happened to me the other day. My sons have obviously been walking and talking and reading for some time now. I’ve been proud of many recent accomplishments, but just last week, my eight-year-old decided to start doing something differently.

“Hi, dad,” he said.

Amazing, right?

I went from “Da-da” to “Daddy” and have been that for years. The sudden and complete switch to “Dad” struck me silent when he said it to me. It was obviously a change made on his part to seem more mature but something about it moved me. It was one of those moments when I was reminded that I was someone special in this boy’s life. Our relationship was deemed important enough that a calculated decision was made regarding his choice of name for me. I know that sounds extremely nerdy when put that way, but I meant something to me.

It was nice to be reminded of what I mean to my sons, whether they intended to do so or not. Regardless of how much they grow up and what they call me (I’m sure there will be some rather colorful expressions in there through the teenage years), I’ll always be their dad.

Thank you, son.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TGD Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Some four years ago, I thought the adventures of Jack Sparrow were gone from the silver screen once the storyline shared between Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann had run its course. This seemed fitting since it was one of the few trilogies whose three movies I liked and liked equally well at that (I smell a top five list).

When I heard there was to be a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, I winced. The potential for a movie franchise at the top of its game to keep making movies until they produced a real stinker did not sit well with me. I remembered Michael Jordan’s years on the Washington Wizards.

Still, I knew I would want to see it as the Pirates films should be seen, on the big screen. This past Sunday, I ventured out with my wife and kids plus one friend and did just that. As you probably guessed, I’m going to tell you what I thought of it whether you like it or not.

The Plus Side: The action, the fighting, the humor and the…piracy are all there as in the previous films. Swords are swung, cannons are fired, things explode and Jack, sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow stumbles his way into perfectly timed escapes and maneuvers one after another. This is all as you expect from the series and does not disappoint.

Then there is the addition of Blackbeard, played well by Ian McShane, who adds an extra level of mystery, magic and fiendishness. As the various conniving and morally corrupt pirates in the film interact with one another, Blackbeard proves to be a formidable and intimidating opponent. As the search for the Fountain of Youth is undertaken, we soon find out many participants in the search have their own agendas.

The most enamoring thread of the movie involves Geoffrey Rush’s performance as Captain Barbossa whom we discover near the start of the film to be a new member of the British Royal Navy. Rush’s portrayal of the low-life pirate captain fitting into his new role in order to get what he wants and finding out along the way just exactly what that is proves to be the most rewarding plot element.

One other point. I did not see this one in 3D as I have been leery to spend the extra money on a method that I think is being used too often as of late. However, Tuesday saw me chaperoning my seven-year-old’s field trip to a 3D IMAX movie and they played the trailer prior to it. I regretted then being so cheap as the 3D IMAX version of just the trailer scenes was amazing (now I smell a lesson learned).

The Down Side: Penelope Cruz’s character didn’t do much for me. I was so unimpressed with her, in fact, that I don’t recall her character’s name in the movie and don’t even care to look it up right now. So there. It seemed lie they needed to place a well-known actress in some sort of starring role and Penelope (she won’t mind if I just call her Penelope, will she?) was it.

In fact, this seems to be my biggest problem with this movie. I get that it’s a summer action blockbuster, but a lot of the action and creepy special effects seem to be used just to fit in extra gimmicks (and a pointless cameo by Keith Richards) more than to progress the plot. The intricate plot was a major strength of the previous three films and it definitely was not as engaging in this fourth part.

The Wrap Up: If you want a summer blockbuster, and you like the Pirates movies already, it’s worth the trip. Lots of action and lots of clever Jack Sparrow dialogue and trickery, though I personally thought Barbossa stole the show.

Basically, you get a trimmed down version of the original three movies. There is a slight hint that another movie may be in the works, but it’s not quite as blatant as in the previous trilogy and that leaves you lacking the excitement of anticipation.

Keep in mind that younger kids will be scared by some scenes. The mermaids are particularly terrifying. However, there’s nothing overly sexual or gory that requires you be ready to cover any eyes.

TGD Rating: In keeping with our theme that one full star s the highest possible honor a film can receive despite the obvious confusion it is causing (you’re smart readers, I know you’ll catch on eventually), I hereby award Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 7/10 of a star. As I said, it is worth seeing on the big screen and is fun and exciting. The effects are great as always and the actors do a great job with each individual character, though the plot itself may be sparse.

Monday, May 23, 2011

With Eternal Damnation on Hold, Go Ahead and Indulge in this Week's Features

On Saturday, I expected to wake up (or not wake up as the case may be) in whatever section of the afterlife I had been filed into. I will make no assumptions as to whether that was to be Heaven, Hell, Purgatory or some other area I have yet to hear about. If it is up to me, however, then I'd like to go on the record now as listing Heaven as my first choice and Hell as my last with any other possibilities filling in the spaces between the two.

Since I woke up in the same place I usually wake up, in a puddle of drool on my own bed, I suddenly needed to take care of all sorts of responsibilities that I had dismissed as unnecessary with the fact that, you know, none of it was supposed to be here and all. The top five of those things are as follows:

5. Clean up dog poo - In the days leading up to the expected rapture, I sort of let things go and with the weather warming up and the sky not being on fire, I'd like to enjoy some time in my yard now.

4. Pay off credit cards - That pre-rapture party racked up expenses that I honestly didn't think I would ever have to worry about paying off. I'm sure Harold Camping will be more than willing to help me with the expenses.

3. Shower - All that sweat and grime that should have been steamed off by the boiling seas is up to me to take care of now. Time to go get a new loofa and some exfoliating shower gel.

2. Apologize to my boss - Some things were said that I never thought I would live to regret that I am now living to regret.

1. Write blog posts - Just when I thought I was finally free of this weight around my neck.

In other rapture-related news, my wife was inspired by talk of the rapture to wonder whether or not she would want to know when she was going to die. She then asked me and our sons what we would do if we knew our death was coming soon. That lead me not to ponder whether or not I was living my life to the fullest (sadly) but rather to what I thought would be a good poll question for this week: If you knew you only had a few days to live what would you spend your remaining time doing? Partying, purifying, avoiding the thought, or seeking perfectly timed revenge?

When I first heard about the upcoming rapture, which happened about eight hours before it was scheduled (thanks, Facebook), I thought immediately of Bioshock. That led me to make this week's cool-ass thing you will never own, Rapture, the underwater would-be utopian city that the game is set in.

So then, three features into the weekly features, I was suddenly bored with the whole Rapture-Mania craze. That's why this week's sign you are a nerd is that your child of ten years of age or younger is already better at every sport than you are. While I don't fit this just yet due to my own strategic planning on restricting their access to a basketball court, I don't recall kids being as good at baseball already as most of the kids playing in my sons little league already are. While I held my own on the diamond back in the day, I'm fairly certain I would have been permanently planted in the dugout if I had played on my son's team.

Well beyond rapture fears at this point, I decided to make this week's nemesis GLaDOS from the Portal games. Despite its constant efforts to kill me in the name of science, I can't help but like the old artificially intelligent computer. Test all you want on me, GLaDOS, as long as that razor sharp wit of yours keeps me in stitches along the way.

This week's lesson learned is to keep your alarm further than an arm's reach from your bed. On those mornings when you didn't sleep well, perhaps because you were awake, waiting for the rapture (sorry, couldn't resist another reference), you may turn it off without ever fully awakening. Then you end up running around the house like an idiot and scaring your children mostly from your frazzled appearance, but also partially from the constant stream of swear words coming from your mouth.

In a similar theme to our top five, I decided it was time to take care of some overdue business since i was still among the living and used the weekly equation to fulfill a promise to our resident graphic designer (who is not me, by the way) and create a tribute to the nifty chalkboard image that he created just to make our equations look better. In this equation, you see how much better our equations have become with the addition of the new chalkboard graphics which, by the way, have been done on the black chalkboard this week instead of the usual green one, just to show how we love to use what he provides us. E, subscript n, represents the awesomeness of the new equations and E, subscript o, represents the awesomeness of the old versions which was already pretty high, obviously, but has been increased to the power of infinity. That's pretty high.

Finally (relax, just for this week's features, not for life as we know it) this week's Star Wars quote is: "Death is a natural part of life." This may be the only sentence Yoda ever spoke in proper grammar. If not the only one, then it is one of very few.

Congratulations on the still being alive thing, everyone who is reading this. I'll be posting more soon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

No Rapture?

Since the world did not end on Saturday, (at least I sure hope it didn't because this looks an awful lot like what we were supposed to leave behind) I suppose I'd better get back on the horse and produce some blog posts.

Weekly features, with buckets full of rapture references, will be posted soon. Then there's the review of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which I never thought I would get to see, so I've got that going for me.

Stay tuned all you still living, breathing, judgement day surviving readers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Third Person Thursday: And Now For Something Completely Different...

Short on time, yet heavy on commitments, the courageous, creative, ever witty blog author decided that it was time to improvise on his weekly traditions. And so it went:

"Field trip chaperone.
Haikus are nice short poems."
So thought the blogger.

Born on May 19th
were Chewbacca and Fezzik.
Gentle Giants' Day.

Bulls were up one-zip.
The evil Heat stole a game.
The Empire struck back.

Laundry to be done.
Lego box on the table.
Wise man picks the bricks.

Cap best be awesome.
Good like Iron Man and Thor.
Not Fantastic Four.

He thought he might add more throughout the day if he had the chance, but that this ought to do for now. He also hoped his readers, of which he liked to imagine he had millions (shhh, let him dream), would enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Push My Buttons

Spring has been a very busy time for my family and I. We’ve had a First Communion, a birthday, and a ton of baseball. Meanwhile, there have been NBA and NHL playoff games to be watched. Pile all this on top of the usual commitments for a family of four like work, school and eating dinner and it suddenly makes for one overwhelmed Transformer Generation Dad.

Thus, the content of this blog has suffered and I fear its readership has as well. How can I blame you? If I’m not producing quality posts on a regular basis, how can I expect you to continue visiting and reading my drivel?

So, while I personally think the Third Person Thursday posts of ate have been fairly successful, please consider this my apology for my recent lack of posts worth reading on a daily basis. Stick with me and I promise that I will step up my game.

In the meantime, I’d like to ask a few favors form you.

Ahhh, there’s the catch, you say. Here comes the real reason why he’s being so humble and coming to us hat in hand. He’s only initiating the give of the give and take so that he get to the part where he takes.

You sound awfully cynical thinking that way, but I have to admit that you’re right. I have a few favors to ask of you, but since you’ve already read this far I hope that you will hear me out.

I make a pretty big deal out of the left hand column of this blog. That’s where the weekly features are…featured. If I could divert your attention to the right hand column, however, we can get to the favors I’d like to ask of you. On that side of the blog you will find several buttons. Please use these buttons to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog, follow it on Facebook, Twitter and/or Google (if you don’t have a Google account already, you might as well create one since they are going to rule the world quite soon and you will need to have one them by law), vote for me on Bloggers’ Choice Awards and donate to the Red Cross either for their relief funds in Japan or Alabama (it’s not all selfish).

Click on one or all of the many colorful, pretty buttons and satisfaction shall be yours…and mine, but I’m more worried about it being yours. Sure I am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

PRODUCT ALERT: Do Not Buy Moon Hopz! Stupid Spelling Makes for a Stupid Toy.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed, if they ever bothered to scroll down in the left hand column, that I recommend toys for your children that I think perform well and that they will be interested in. I would now like to take the opportunity to do the opposite. I would like to educate you and encourage you to further spread the word about a toy that you should avoid at all costs.

The product in question...well, it's not really in question. There is no question about it. These things suck. They are called Moon Hopz and they are made by Big Time Toys and I love run-on sentences and they (the Moon Hopz, not the run-on sentences) look like this:

The child in this picture looks awfully happy. I can only guess that this is due to the paycheck he was promised for this modeling opportunity or possibly because he is starved for attention and was really excited about having his picture taken. The one thing that could not possibly be making him this happy is having those monstrosities strapped to his feet. I suppose it's possible that he is in the midst of shouting at someone to help him remove them.

Moon Hopz are billed as "anti-gravity shoes" and show kids apparently flying through the air. They do not, however, say anywhere that they will make you jump higher or that they will even bounce. On the contrary, when you open the box and read the instructions, they tell you that using Moon Hopz will increase your child's balance and coordination. This claim is the only one they make no doubt because children need to be careful not to fall flat on their faces while wearing them.

If you look at the construction, you will see that they are inflated balls attached to the bottom of a plastic shoe. Think of what happens when you try to bounce a beach ball. It makes a loud thud and doesn't bounce off the ground and higher than any other hard plastic item you would throw to the ground. Well, these shoes do exactly that. Essentially, instead of buying them shoes that will make them bounce higher, you are buying them exercise shoes like the kind Kramer wore in that politically incorrect (but hilarious) episode of Seinfeld. You know, the one where Mel Torme was singing to him at the end?

This is an example of a product that takes advantage of children's excitement and innocence. Kids are not the savviest of consumers and Big Time Toys is charging thirty-five bucks for a product that they know damn well does not do what they are intentionally making it look like it does. That, I cannot abide.

So, please, loyal TGD readers, do not purchase Moon Hopz from Big Time Toys. It is a poorly represented and terribly made product. It will not help your kids jump higher. It will only cause them misery.

However, if your parenting style happens to be one which calls for inflicting intense disappointment, misery and the distinct possibility of severe injury upon your children by their own hands (or feet), then this is the toy for you!

Spread the word.

The Gift of Weekly Features

A busy weekend left me unable to update our weekly features on Sunday. It would seem that updating them late is becoming a weekly tradition of its own on this blog.

You all decided in last week's poll that coffee was the second best drink to have with chocolate chip cookies. It went without saying that milk is the best. I personally thought beer was the best backup choice. Regardless, we need a new poll. This week, I want to know which Lego video game you think is best. When I was my sons' age, I would have thought this a ridiculous question, but Lego has created some legitimately great games. Your choices are Lego Star Wars I, I, or III, Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones or Lego Harry Potter.

This week's top five list is birthday gifts kids are not likely to return. It's always disappointing to think that the present you bought for a kid for his/her birthday will not be suitable or be something they already have. I've discovered this by fielding numerous phone calls this weekend regarding what my youngest son wanted for his birthday. Everyone wants to create that moment when they know the kid will like what they open. Here are your best bets in my opinion:

5. Lightsaber - There are a ton of varieties out there now depending on your budget from plastic, non-electronic to fluorescent bulb collectible. By getting the simple ones, you guarantee that the child in question will have plenty of backup sabers to loan to friends for epic battles.

4. Games involving a ball - This once again feeds on simplicity and the concept that they will always have something to participate in with extra friends.

3. Nerf darts and accessories - The darts are constantly getting lost and the accessories can be mixed and matched on various weapons.

2. Craft supplies - A big roll of white paper and some markers or paint are always a great and creative gift idea for kids.

1. Lego sets - I personally refuse to include gift receipts with Lego sets because if you already have the set I'm giving you, then I just gave you the equally awesome gift of a whole box full of spare specialty pieces.

This week's cool-ass thing you will never own is a pair of anti-gravity boots. Beware. There are children's toys that pretend or claim to be gravity defying. They claim to be trampolines for your feet, but if you think of the simple laws of physics and notice that the commercials never show any kids hitting the ground with said boots, you'll see they are frauds (watch for a post about this coming soon). But wouldn't real anti-gravity boots be awesome? First thing I would do would be to walk up a wall like on the old 60s Batman television series.

This week's sign you are a nerd is that you get excited when your kids ask you to finish building their Lego sets. The opportunity to sit by yourself and put plastic blocks together gets you all tingly. You even delay letting them know you've completed it so that you can move it around and play with the finished product a little before them.

This week's nemesis is the packaging of the full boxes of Lego minifigures. You get six of some lame figure (cough, sailor, cough, cough) and then only three of the figure you really want more of like the hockey player.

This week's lesson learned is more like a lesson I am reminded of and that is that there is no i in team. When your team plays well together the good players make the other players better and that creates depth. Depth then makes it difficult to compete. The Miami Heat should be writing this down.

This week's equation helps one calculate how excited a kid will still be after actually opening and playing with a toy after that excitement is tempered with reality

You can reach this by multiplying the level from 1-10 of how awesome the picture of the product being used on the box is (a) and the brand name reputation on a 1-5 scale (r) then adding to that the monetary value of the toy (v) and multiplying that sum by the initial excitement level on a scale of 1-10 (E, subscript i). This product should then be divided by the product of the number of commercials shown per hour for the toy on the kids' stations (c) and a value of 1 if there is no "Buy It Now" phone number to order the toy from featured on the commercials and a value of 10 if there is for (p) to the power of how many scientific laws the product demonstrations seem to fly in the face of (s).

Finally, this week's Star Wars quote is, "You can't win, Darth."

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope to post s few other items very soon. Check back often.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Special Birthday Wish

Today, my youngest son is seven years old. I can still remember how excited my wife and I were as the date of his arrival drew closer. We were both excited and worried about how our home would adjust to a second child (third if you count me, which you probably should).

My eldest son was but seventeen months old and didn't quite grasp the significance of what was to happen. He was about to have a best friend for life, even though he already refuses to admit it. But he must have known his little brother was something special, because the first time they met, two days after we went to the hospital for his delivery, he tried to share his french fries with the new baby. They have been thick as thieves ever since.

My wife had a more difficult delivery with our second son than our first. While he's not a problem child by any stretch of the imagination, it fits his personality in a way. My wife always refers to our eldest son as her Tuesday morning baby and our youngest as her Friday night baby due to the times of day and day of the week each was born. She also uses this to accurately describe the differences between their personalities. Our youngest son will enter a room with more reckless abandon. He's the first to start wrestling with my wife and also the first to cuddle with her. She loves and appreciate his fearlessness. She adores his straightforwardness both with aggression and affection.

As for me, despite my (over-)willingness to play with toys or video games with them, I tend to be more of the disciplinarian with my boys. While my eldest will take a scolding and walk away ad go on with his life, my youngest son is more apt to give me a look with his big, brown eyes and break my heart. Sometimes he'll just say, "You're being mean," and it brings me back to Earth and reminds me that they are just kids, and good kids at that.

But just as my youngest son gives me a look and makes me feel like a heel, he turns around and praises me for things I do right. He'll go out of his way to tell someone they did something good. You never have to tell him twice to give someone who was nice to him a hug. A few months ago at school, he wrote this and reaffirmed that my relationship is nowhere near as adversarial as I feared:

Perhaps most impressive is my now seven-year-old's self awareness. He's an amazing, bright, compassionate and happy boy. And on the same sheet of paper, he summed up the aspect taht described him best:

Happy birthday, little guy. I'm proud to call you son and I can't wait to see the kind of man you will grow up to be. But please take your time.