Phamily Foto Phriday 2-5-16

A heck of a week. It started with Catholic Schools Week which is essentially an “open house” for the school on Sunday. I had planned on getting pictures of all the kids in their various classrooms but an active Tevye prevented that. I was able to get one of them all together at the preschool.

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Here is Tevye looking cute as ever. And grown up. He is really transforming from a toddler to a young boy.

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And Xavier came this close to beating me in Stratego one morning.

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Thursday (and Friday) there was no preschool so I took Xavier and Tevye to the Seattle Aquarium. We got there right as they opened and as a result we were virtually the only ones there.

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Because of this I was able to let Tevye out of his stroller without disturbing other patrons.

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Tevye was ridiculously excited to see all the fish. He ran around squealing.

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It was fantastic to have the underwater dome all to ourselves, even for just 10 minutes.

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I love that picture.

This morning Xavier beat me at Elmo”s Lunch Box game.

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Whoops (or There Are No Safe Days)

Well, that was unexpected.

Laura is pregnant again.

Yes, this really was unexpected. More than a surprise, really.

Something more akin to…. well, maybe not shock, but definitely close enough to it.

The baby is due in the middle of August, which, because all of the other kids have come out late, means this baby should come towards the end of August.

There are new tests now, blood work taken from the mother and completely non-invasive to the fetus that can tell if there are chances of a whole host of problems. It used to be a sampling of the amniotic fluid was taken to figure out this stuff, but now the blood draw is… well, I don’t know exactly, but suffice to say there is a lot more to be learned from a simple blood draw.

Bottom line is everything looks good. While there are risks, as there are with any pregnancy, they are minimal according to the blood work. Laura is 44 years old now, which comes with a different set of complications, so having the blood work come out as good as it has is a big relief.

So yeah…. pregnant.

Surprise!

2016 ultrasound 1

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Do My Kids Even Know Me?

I first saw Kim post this on Facebook, then Dawn went and made a blog post about it, so I decided I would take this up as well. These are some interesting questions and answers.

I clearly have some work to do.

My questions in bold answered by:
Xavier – age 5
Ciaran – age 8
Dela – age 10
August – age 12

Additional thoughts or comments in italics

What is something I always say to you?
I don’t know
*thinks for a minute* Not really anything
Sit down and do your homework
There’s a lot of things. Probably “Stop”

Apparently I need to say “I love you” more often

What makes me happy?
I have no idea
I actually don’t know
Us being goofballs
People getting along nicely

The last two are not incorrect

What makes me sad?
I don’t know
Me getting you in trouble
Us arguing
People not getting along nicely

Again, the last two are the closest to accurate

How do I make you laugh?
By tickling me
Being funny
You don’t
By telling jokes

I wonder why Dela says I don’t make her laugh

What was I like as a child?
I have no idea
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know

Not surprised. I don’t talk about my childhood much.

How old am I?
88
47 No, 48 (Yup)
48
48

How tall am I?
An inch high
I don’t know
*thinks* I’m taking a crazy guess 5 foot 11
6 foot 3

I used to be 6’2″ but now am 6’1″

What is my favorite thing to do?
Play Stratego (referencing this)
I don’t know
Be with us
I don’t know

At least Dela got this right

What do I do when you’re not around?
I don’t know
Watch Tevye
Be on the computer
Watch Tevye or work on your blog 

What am I really good at?
Playing Stratego
Changing the baby’s diaper
Being a dad
*thinks far too long about this* writing reviews of stuff

What is something I’m not good at?
Losing (probably because I win a lot)
Helping us with math
Helping me with my homework
Math

Yeah, math

What do I do for a job?
Watch Tevye
Stay at home dad
Stay at home dad
You have a blog

I would prefer the stay at home dad moniker to the writing since that is where my actual skill lies. I mean, how successful has any of my writing been?

What is my favorite food?
Macaroni & Cheese
That, I do not know
Chocolate
I’m not quite sure

It’s chocolate

What do you enjoy doing with me?
I don’t know
I don’t know
Talking
Talking

 

 

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Music Monday: Immersion

I picked up the three Pink Floyd “Immersion” boxes recently and after having dove into them, I’m ready to come up with my verdict on them.

pink floyd dark side moon immersionA missed opportunity that falls short.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, they are good sets, but for the price, even at the discount I got them for, it just seems there should have been more substance. Without getting into the actual music, let’s take a look at the packaging.

Mention is made of how the packaging of each Pink Floyd album was meant to be special. Dark Side Of The Moon was a gatefold for instance, and the mini-documentary from the release of the Super Audio CD in 2003 which has the band revisiting the album also has them discussing the concepts behind the album artwork. Not just the front cover, which is iconic, but the back cover and inside the gatefold as well. None of this is present in any physical form in the box set. I am not expecting a vinyl copy of Dark Side Of The Moon, but perhaps some sort of replica of the album cover would have been nice.

dark side moon inside

The inside of the original vinyl gatefold which is missing from the box set.

Included in the original album release were a couple of posters and postcards. Want to guess what is not included in this release? Yep, those very same posters and postcards.

What is included? A replica concert ticket and backstage pass, which are nice additions. Some themed coasters and three marbles (and pouch) which have nothing to do with the album other than they are designed after the album’s theme. A decorative scarf using the motif of the inside album cover is also included, but there is no practical use for it, and as a decorative item, there isn’t much value there. A few postcards with images and notes on the back, mentioning they are “collector cards” and we get 9 out of a possible 57. The three “Immersion” boxes total will not provide the sum total of these cards. A couple of photo books are nice showcasing the band during the time of the album.

Musically the Dark Side Of The Moon seems really good, but scratching the surface you find missing items. There are demos for several songs as well as early live versions which sound quite different. This is good. There is a disc of Dark Side Of The Moon presented live, which offers up a different take on the album. The band played the whole of the album in its entirety when they toured during the recording of the album a well as just after its release. The problem is, this isn’t a complete concert as they would play the album then go on to play several other songs. There are recordings floating around that demonstrate this and are easy enough to find.

Then there are the alternate mixes. Oh, sure the album is presented in its remastered form as well as in a 5.1 surround mix and a quadrophonic mix (more on those in a moment) but I’m talking about the different versions of the songs that are available. “Money” was completely recorded for the compilation A Collection Of Great Dance Songs. “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” are offered up on Works in alternate mixes from the original album. An edited version of “Us And Them” is presented on Echoes: The Best Of Pink Floyd. And those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I’m sure there are others out there.  None of these versions of those songs are present.

“Us And Them” (Demo)

Not quite as immersive as I had hoped.

As for those extra mixes of the album, they are presented on DVD and Blu-ray discs. It would have been better to skip the DVD discs and just offer up the one Blu-ray. I understand this set was initially released in 2011 when Blu-ray wasn’t the default home video format just yet, but the cost in releasing the material on two DVD discs then duplicating it onto a Blu-ray disc seems… pointless.

The visuals presented as extras do not include a full live performance. Instead we simply have two songs presented here. Why couldn’t we have gotten a full concert? And the concert screen films are incomplete We get some of the visuals that are presented, but not the whole thing. What is the point?

Similar problems occur with regards to the Wish You Were Here and The Wall sets. They each have marbles, a decorative scarf, coasters, etc. The album packaging which is supposed to be fantastic, is absent. Alternate versions and mixes of songs are not present. The Wall set includes the live album, but not the concert film from the tour. Nor do we get the film soundtrack which still isn’t available legally. There are a lot of demos and “in progress” versions of songs from The Wall, but frankly, the amount of material missing is staggering. I do not feel immersed.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 1-29-16

An interesting week. It started with a call from the school. Rushing over there I was first greeted with Déla who was on the playground for lunch recess.

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There was a reason I was called to the school was Ciárán. He wound up getting into an argument with a post during his lunch recess.

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Fortunately he was alright (for the most part). He did not need to come home. That night, however, he wore something on his head which he never does.

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And here is Xavier hamming it up just before getting dropped off at preschool.

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This week saw the end of my dad’s visit. He was staying with for almost 2 months. This week he left back for Ireland. I’m not sure when we are going to see him again. Here he is saying “Goodbye.”

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This morning Xavier and I played a couple of board games. First up is an old game that was hard to find when it was in print 15 years ago – Sesame Street: Bert’s Bottle Caps.

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Later on we played a game he received for Christmas – Chutes & Ladders: Marvel Super Hero Squad Edition.

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Clearing The Washer

I am the stay at home dad. That means all the domestic duties pretty much fall onto my shoulders, which is fine. I am, however, not a very “handy” kind of guy. I have a few tools, but fixing things is usually beyond me.

A few years ago we had an issue with our washer – an error code cropped up. Researching a bit online we saw that it was most likely the blocked waste pipe. It took several hours for Laura and I to figure out how to fix this, but we did it. We also subsequently purchased a pan to place underneath the washer for those little drips and spillages which would damage the hardwood floor.

A couple of days ago the same error message cropped up again for the washing machine. Laura said to call the appliance repair guy (we have a service we usually use for the major appliances when something needs done like reattaching the handle to the oven) but I said I wanted to try and do it myself.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking of saving some money, that’s what.

First thing was to search the internet again on what to do. I vaguely remembered what we did last time, which included scooting the washer out and looking around the back end of it only to (an hour) later realize we needed to access the front of the machine. After re-familiarizing myself with the concepts, since I didn’t find anything about our specific model of washing machine, I set off.

washer filter 01

First thing to do was elevate the front end. I grabbed a couple of bricks from the back yard and placed them under the front end of the machine.

Then I located the screws underneath. This was the best picture I could get. I needed to find the right adapter for my screwdriver, which turned out to be a 1/4 inch hex, which was easy enough to deal with, except the one screw in the center was stripped so it took a while to get out.

washer filter 02

Taking the screws out the bottom front panel dropped out and I had access to the section underneath the washing drum. This is where the waste pipe access is located.

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Opening up the waste pipe access I saw what it was causing the blockage triggering the error code. This is definitely something I need to do every so often.

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Looking down the waste pipe I could see it has been a while so I cleaned that as best I could as well.

washer filter 05

It was a simple matter of reversing the process, screwing in the “catch” for the waste pipe, bolting in the front panel, lowering the washing machine, etc. This is a relatively simple procedure – though it took me nearly a couple of hours, partly due to my relearning how to do it and also partly due to a toddler “helping” me. Next time should be a lot quicker, and really, if you know what you are doing it should take maybe 15 or 20 minutes, maybe less.

 

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January 2016 Geek Fuel

August received the latest Geek Fuel box and it might be one of the best ever.

Here is a closer look at the individual items in the box.

Here is the mug, a great DC Comics referenced item.

2016 jan geek 01

The tin is Mario, pixelated. Alternately in certain Geek Fuel boxes there was a pixelated Link box with mints inside.

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Here is the Umbrella Corp. pin. August wants to figure a way to change it to a Pokemon gym badge.

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Here is the included game this month – Metro Warp.

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2016 jan geek 05

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All together, other than the pin, August really liked this month’s box.

And no, August did not win the Xbox giveaway.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 1-22-16

While it has been a couple of weeks, there hasn’t been much in the way of opportunity or occasion for picture taking. I do have a few to offer though.

Let’s start off with a cute picture of Tevye.

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Last Wednesday Ciaran got to help out with the flag ceremony for the pack meeting.

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You may remember from a couple of weeks ago he and a friend were working on a jet pack made out of recycled materials. Here they are presenting it to the pack.

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Also from that same post you may remember Ciaran teaching Xavier to play Stratego. One morning Xavier and I played a few rounds. He actually came close to beating me once.

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Finally, this being Friday, August and Dela have Math Olympiad which begins 45 minutes before school. August is home sick today and it was raining pretty hard so I decided to drive Dela and drop her off, take the younger three boys to the store so I wouldn’t have to go later, then drop Ciaran off at school on the way home. The plan worked out well, but I wanted to share a picture of something when I turned around at the store.

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Racism And Sexism In Hero Worship

Alright, so the title may be a bit misleading, and I’m sure somebody has already written or can write about this topic more eloquently and with better research than myself, but hear me out. This has been bothering me for a while.

Diversity within the super hero cinematic universe has been pretty scant. For purposes of this discussion I am going to lump the Marvel and DC films together, and only look at those made within this century.

blade 2X-Men
Blade II
Spider-Man
Hulk
Daredevil
The Punisher
Spider-Man 2
Blade: Trinity
Elektra
Fantastic Four
Batman Begins
X-Men: The Last Stand
Superman Returns
Ghost Rider
Spider-Man 3
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
The Dark Knight
Punisher: War Zone
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Watchmen
Iron Man 2
Jonah Hex
Thor
X-Men: First Class
Captain America: The First Avenger
Green Lantern
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rise
The Amazing Spider-Man
Iron Man 3
The Wolverine
Man of Steel
Thor: The Dark World
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Ant-Man
Fantastic Four

elextraThat’s 43 so far since the year 2000. How many of those featured a minority character? The X-Men films? Sort of. Blade, certainly. How about female leads. Well, again, the X-Men have that whole “ensemble” thing going for them, as do some of the others such as Avengers and Fantastic Four, but no female-centric films other than Elektra (which wasn’t as good as we all hoped, not because it was a female character, but because it just wasn’t what it should have been).

Discounting the ensemble casts but still including the Fantastic Four (because I’m feeling generous) there have been only 6 out of the 43 films with a minority or female lead. And the directors? Only one minority I can see (Ang Lee’s original Hulk) and one by a woman (Punisher: War Zone).

wonder woman 1And only NOW we are concerned with minority and female directors? The upcoming Black Panther film has a black director attached to it. The Wonder Woman film has a female director. Wouldn’t it be great if more minority directors were handling the other films? How about a female director for a Batman or Spider-Man film?

Why is it a female director was sought out for a female-led super hero film? A big deal is being made that Wonder Woman is being directed by Patty Jenkins. Ever hear of her? She directed 2003’s Monster. Other than that, little else. It really feels like the studios are pandering to the audience and material with the various choices being made.

Why has it take so long for a woman to get behind the camera of a super hero film? Same question regarding minority directors. It is disappointing we haven’t gotten more women and minority representation in super hero film, both behind and in front of the camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Marvel films, but needing a black director for Black Panther smacks of racism.

 

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Dungeoneering Developments (or An Iconic Foe Returns As The Guild Opens)

As I looked at the next chapter for the Lost Mine Of Phandelver from the Starter Set, I noticed it mentioned players should be at level 4 by this point in the adventure. The problem is, most of the players are smack in the middle of level 3. What to do?

dm guildA recent announcement from Wizards Of The Coast came to my aid. The Dungeon Master’s Guild has opened up shop. This means user created modules as well as tools and other errata can be found. Think additional character classes, pre-generated characters, Adventurer’s League encounters, playtest encounters (for when the new edition was still referred to as D&D Next), some user created modules and more. And that’s just for the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

There are several ways to sort the contents of the Dungeon Master’s Guild, by edition, world setting, and even product type. This last one, however, poses a major issue I hope is rectified soon. Within the product type of sourcebooks, we are given an absolute mish-mash of items. Yes, you can sort out the various adventures from the new classes or character backgrounds, but the user created and those by Wizards Of The Coast are presented side by side. Yes, you can sort by publisher, opting to omit those published by Wizards Of The Coast, but what you have left is a list of adventures as well as some other sourcebooks which are decidedly not adventures. This is a problem with the back-end of the website and needs to get fixed before it grows in content too much and becomes unwieldy and impractical to do so.

wild sheep chaseI downloaded one of the free single-session adventure, The Wild Sheep Chase, which I had hoped to use to get enough experience points for the party so at least one character might advance up to 4th level. The problem with having 5 members in your party is that experience points get divided among those present, rather than stacking (as in 200 experience points divided by five players rather than 200 for each).

It was a good adventure, featured some laughs and a decent unique monster.  I don’t want to give anything away, but will say that I completely jettisoned the introductory portion of the adventure. Gone was the town and instead had the tower placed in a remote area between the town of Phandalin and the mine the party was headed toward. Easily folded into the already existing adventure.

But still nobody in the party was level 4. I am going to have to figure something out.

Curse of Strahd CoverWizards Of The Coast announced one of its most famed adventures would be revisited, one off the most iconic adventures of all-time. Ravenloft is returning to Dungeons & Dragons in a new adventure. Curse Of Strahd will be made available March 15, and this looks like it might fulfill a couple of requirements for me.

First, I am going to need something to have the party tackle next. While March 15 is a bit of time, I might be able to stretch out this last bit of dungeon until then. If not, there are plenty of other small session adventures I can use that are available on the Dungeon Master’s Guild before Curse Of Strahd becomes available.

The second reason I am looking forward to this is it will allow me to explain what the party’s wizard is doing here. You may remember (though probably not) when I helped create backstories for each of the player characters I allowed for the wizard to come in at 2nd level because the player was bringing his already generated and in-use character. I had constructed a mechanic for him to suddenly appear with the party, but not an actual reason for his presence. Now I have a reason. At least I think so.

Curse of Strahd Key Art 1As I ruminate on both the original Ravenloft adventure and the one about to be launched, the idea forms in my head I may be able to turn this adventure on its ear. I was thinking about figuring a way to incorporate that classic module into the current campaign. And now? I am thinking I can run both adventures simultaneously. The magical mist that surrounds the area could easily transport players through time as it does across dimension or planes of existence. How awesome (as a dungeon master) would it be to have the party enter one room of Castle Ravenloft and then enter the next room 400 years earlier?

Obviously there will need to be some planning. I need to read through the new adventure as well as reread the original, but from what I have seen so far, I am excited.

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