Hulk Birthday Party

hulk birthday party 2015 01Xavier turned 5 last Friday, and his birthday party was Sunday. His favorite super hero is Hulk, and when trying to come up with ideas for a birthday party for him that we could host here at our house, we hit on the theme of the big green guy. Cost was a consideration as well as logistics. We just weren’t sure how many of his preschool friends would show up. You can invite the whole class, only have half the invitees RSVP. We expected this, which was part of our plan to host the party at our house. Out of the half we heard from some were yes, some were no, so we had a rough idea of who would and wouldn’t show, but were prepared for more.

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Anticipation For Dimensions

My kids are looking forward to LEGO Dimensions. This is an upcoming video game that is apparently similar to Disney Infinity or Skylanders, only this time it has the various LEGO licenses and a few from Warner Brothers. While Warner Brothers owns both DC and the publishing company the game is coming through, it is the LEGO licenses that make this much more interesting.

Did you catch Wizard of Oz? There are other worlds shown in the trailer that have previous LEGO sets released such as Lord Of The Rings and Ninjago. LEGO has licenses for some Universal Studios films, such as Jurassic Park and Back to The Future. In this second trailer we see the return of Doc Brown.

 

It is going to be an expensive game, yes, but I think it will be worth it. The starter pack will be about $100 and feature Gandalf (Lord Of The Rings), Batman (DC Comics) and WyldStyle (The LEGO Movie). Other packs will feature other characters, levels and vehicles from other properties.

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Camporee 2015

2015 camporee 01This was the last Webelos event August would be participating in. By spending the night here he earns his Arrow Of Light badge, which is a distinguished honor he can wear as a Boy Scout. Next month he participates in the crossing over ceremony and will officially be a Boy Scout. But first, to earn his Arrow Of Light he had to attend a Boy Scout event. It just so happens this is one which we went to last year, and he was looking forward to attending again.

We arrived early evening on Friday with a van load of Boy Scouts from the troop August will be joining. We have the 12 seater van so it makes sense to use it. That particular troop helps to run the Camporee, working the kitchen for the staff as well as helping set up and run the events, including the Webeloree, where the older Cub Scouts get a taste of what the Boy Scouts do.

2015 camporee 02After dropping off the Boy Scouts and checking in we went over to our camp site and set up our tent. Friday night was mostly uneventful because it was mostly just that initial arrival stuff. Saturday morning we got up bright and early to see if we could catch any wildlife, but since we were not the first ones up it was a fruitless endeavor. Breakfast was followed by the flag ceremony and announcements, then the activities commenced.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 5-15-15

Previously we had Tevye’s first birthday. Here was have both August and Xavier celebrating birthdays! May certainly is a busy month. I will share pictures from Xavier’s birthday, which was Friday, next week. Until then, let’s look at some other pictures! (And yes, this is going up on Sunday, not Friday, because Friday was crazy busy getting ready for heading out to Boy Scout overnight trip as well as trying to celebrate Xavier’s birthday.)

Last Friday was Habitat Day at the school. The first graders are assigned a zone (ocean, grassland, arctic, etc.) and Ciaran got Forest. He was then told to pick an animal, write a report and create a diorama. He chose the wolf.

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Friday was swim lesson day as well. Here is Dela hamming it up with a “helicopter seed”

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Tuesday Ciaran had his Spring Concert. Just another stop on a busy week.

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Then on Thursday August had his birthday.

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This was one of the busiest days. August had a Scout’s outing to the local newspaper printer immediately after He then came home opened some presents while quickly eating his dinner then it was on to his (and Dela’s) Spring Concert.

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This was an excruciatingly long performance. Partly because we have small kids and Laura had left to go put Tevye to bed, but also because it just took forever to get through the band, 3rd grade, Cantonese, 4th grade, then finally 5th grade. At the end of the concert everybody got up and did the final number.

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THEN we went home and had cake.

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The Battle Of The Blocks

One of the items that August placed on his list for his upcoming birthday – under the section of “Fancy Gift” – was a 6 month subscription to Loot Crate. He created the “Fancy Gift” section for a couple of big ticket items that he doesn’t actually expect to receive, but he’s letting us know what he would like.

We got him a couple of things from the regular portion of his list, but we also decided to, what the heck, go ahead and get him that subscription. The only thing is, Loot Crate doesn’t always offer stuff that is appropriate for a 12 year old. Laura and I started looking into some subscription box alternatives.

Hero Crate was our first choice, but it was just out of our price range for what we were considering. And it didn’t offer a six month subscription. Eventually we settled on Nerd Block. There are several options there so we got the Nerd Block Classic. Only I accidentally subscribed for 12 months instead of 6. Well, it certainly will be a “Fancy Gift”.

When I went to print out the receipt a couple of days later, to give him something to indicate what his birthday present would be since the box would not arrive until some time after his birthday, I couldn’t find it. Looking on the website there wasn’t any way to directly and immediately contact the company. There wasn’t an email address or phone number. Yes, there is a form automatically sends an email, but it says, after the message is sent, it could take 72 hours for a response. This was on a Thursday. At worst I expected a 24 hour turnaround. I will come back to this momentarily.

nerd block orderSince I wouldn’t have the May Nerd Block in time for August’s birthday I ordered one of the past blocks that was available. It was more expensive than the usual monthly price per block for subscription, but should arrive in time for his birthday so he would have something to open. After placing the order I did not get an email confirmation, so I began to get even more worried. Fortunately I took a capture of the screen when the order was placed – which included a phone number. I called it and received a message saying the customer was not available. After leaving a message I took to twitter.

Note the times.

 

Ultimately I went with The Geek Fuel. When I placed my order I got a confirmation email right away. At least I know THAT order went through. Then I noticed it said the box would ship on June 20, not May 20.

And note the times of the replies from The Geek Fuel. Not only were there multiple replies to my inquiries, but the issue was addressed. The only response I ever got from Nerd Block was that one singular response on twitter. No email response from my earlier inquiries either. As I type this out on Sunday this is where things stand with Nerd Block – unresponsive.

While the first box from The Geek Fuel has not arrived, I have to say that simply from a customer service perspective, The Geek Fuel has already come out so far ahead. And I am already thinking about Christmas.

Monday a little after 10am I get this email:
“Is there an alternate email address or name that may be associated with the Block, as I have searched with the information that has been provided and do not see an active Block associated with your account matching with your email address. If you have any further questions, please let me know!”

I reply with the only other email that it could be for the subscription as well as reiterate my dilemma about not getting a confirmation on the single box that was ordered.

No reply all of Monday, and as of this blog post’s publication (such as they are on the internet) this issue still has yet to be addressed and resolved.

Even without receiving the first box I am recommending The Geek Fuel over Nerd Block.

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Music Monday: The Magic Whip (Blur Part 1)

blur magic whipThe opening riff “Lonesome Street” is like a declaration. First the sirens, then the guitar blast hits you and suddenly it is 1994 again. Well, not exactly, but this is as close to a statement that we are going to get from the band that it has embraced its past sound while still moving forward.

Where the opening track is perhaps a look back the third song “Go Out” sounds very much like a song from Blur’s future. Loud and fuzzy guitars matched with the electronics in a sonic pastiche that somehow works.

The Magic Whip is Blur’s first album in 12 years. Previously Think Tank was…. well, guitarist Graham Coxon had left the band and that left frontman and songwriter Damon Alburn to completely indulge his new musical explorations without any counterbalance. Inspired by his work on Gorillaz, Alburn sort of seemed to have forgotten how to make music for two guitars, bass & drums, and Coxon wasn’t around to remind him. Thankfully the band is fully back together – as is their sound.

“I Broadcast” sounds like something that would have fit right in on the band’s previous album as a four-piece, 13. Prime Blur – essentially taking the “britpop” sound and expanding it.

The basic tracks were recorded in Hong Kong during a period when the band had a few extra days on their hands. This was in May of 2013. A little over a year later Coxon went back and revisited the tracks. Alburn then returned to Hong Kong to work out the lyrics.

Perhaps one of the best things about The Magic Whip is the return of producer Stephen Street. Street produced the band’s first five albums, and I am sure that his ear helped to bring the band back to their more basic rock roots and tempered the more experimental sonic musings that Alburn can be prone to.

The Magic Whip isn’t a perfect album, but it sounds a heck of a lot more like a Blur album than Think Tank does. I have two problems with The Magic Whip, neither of which are that big. First is the lack of “hit single” type songs. This isn’t to say the songs are bad or mediocre, but none of them sound like they belong on the radio. As an album this works most effectively, I like listening to albums as a whole. It might take a few more listens for there to be any standout tracks.

My second issue with the album is the final two songs. “Ong Ong” is the penultimate track and “Mirrorball” the final. They should have been switched. I understand thematically “Mirrorball” is a better closer, but “Ong Ong” has a much better ending and effectively closes out the album. It is a small issue and I know that I am probably the only one that thinks of these things.

I like this record. I have talked about Blur before, but not too much at length. If you have been paying attention or read previous posts you know that I am a fan of the band, but I am also not blindly loyal either. As I type this I’m trying to listen to Think Tank again and it is distracting me because I am not enjoying it. The Magic Whip, however, is highly listenable and bears up under repeat playing.

 

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Phamily Foto Phriday 5-8-15

Last Friday Xavier was not so sure about getting into the pool by himself in the free-swim area before his lesson. Dela said she would go in with him, so he acquiesced. And enjoyed himself. He is getting much more confident in the water lately.

8 may 01Over the weekend the weather was nice enough the ice cream truck came around.

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The big new of course was Tevye’s first birthday on Wednesday.

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He seemed to have a good day. Spacing out giving him the presents over the course of the day helped him not get overwhelmed.

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The next day he was still enjoying his balloons. Even today.

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One Year Old

tevye bornIt seems like almost yesterday he was born. As I write this I am sitting not twelve feet away from the spot where he entered this world. It was a bit of a dramatic entrance, but then again aren’t they all? The end result is the main thing.

Tevye is such a happy little boy. Right now he is walking everywhere. He brings a lot of joy to our house and it is difficult to imagine how we got on without him.

In so many ways things changed for us all, but also, so much didn’t.

Last year we flew across the country when he was just a couple of months old and had a family vacation. Having another child did not hold us back at all from doing things as a family.

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The toughest thing about having Tevye has been the sleep. Logistically it has not been any trouble (well, except car seat arrangements). Right now we are sleep training him, and it is going about as expected. We should have started earlier. Thankfully he is (mostly) sleeping through the night when he does go to sleep.

And walking everywhere. Overnight he started walking. Trying to keep up with his siblings. He doesn’t seem to have the same curiosity some of them had, but he does want to be part of the mix, what is going on. He hates being alone.

And where is that 4th bottom tooth? It may never come in which is… odd.

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Happy birthday Tevye!

 

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Free Comic Book Day

This last Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. My son August was able to hit a few of the comic shops last year with a friend of his and it was his first time attending this event. He loved it and couldn’t wait for this year’s event to roll around.

I am so glad that I went this year and took the kids. My only regret is not getting any pictures of this year’s participation.

Last year August picked up the Free Comic Book Day edition of The Tick for me. He knows I love The Tick. This year? I picked up The Tick for myself. And I am glad I did. I picked up a few other of the free comics on offer as well.

free comic day 2015 01August and I went to one comic store that wasn’t in our neighborhood, but it was where we had an errand to run. We stopped there and that’s where I picked up my Tick comic as well as a couple of others. There was a “sidewalk sale” of a bunch of stuff T-shirts, and there was a Godzilla shirt that August liked. $5, I thought it was worth it.

I picked up Star Wars issues 1 -4 here as well. My first comic book purchase in decades.

I haven’t set foot in a comic shop in over 20 years. The last time was to sell my collection for rent back in 1992. I have what can be referred to as “a past” when it comes to comics. While I was looking forward to taking August and the other kids to the local comic store this year, there was a part of me that was dreading it.

Much of what stopped me from buying comics in general is the cost. It is too prohibitive to actually get invested in the stories. Sure you can buy one or two a month, but the stories and characters interconnect and the whole of a universe tells a much larger story. Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a prime example of this. Now picture that on a monthly basis with, say, 30 titles at $5 or more each.

I had been sitting on the fence about getting the Star Wars comics ever since it was announced Marvel would be publishing them. Ultimately I was enticed to try them because I heard good things about them, but mostly because they would be considered canon, officially tying into the film and television series.

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Looks like I’m going to have to subscribe.

Back home we picked up Ciaran and Xavier then went to pick up Dela from dance class. On the way home we stopped off at the local comic shop, the one that is a few blocks from our house. This is where I truly regret not getting any pictures because there was much cosplay going on here.

Each of the kids picked up a couple of the free comics – and no I don’t have a picture of them because the are all squirreled away in their rooms. Oh well. There I purchased a Marvel Adventures Hulk collection for Xavier (his favorite character) and a Spiderman collection for Ciaran. August picked out some old Superman comics from the 3 for $1 bin.

For myself I picked up Munckin 1 -4 and noticed that a new Flash Gordon comic was being published. There seemed to be a few older issues of a limited series, but the current series was also available and I picked up issues 1 – 3 of that.

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I was asked at the check out if I had borrowed some of these kids in order to get more free comics. I assured the clerk that these weren’t even all of my kids.

When we got home I looked online at the Flash Gordon comic publisher and there is a lot of great comics that publisher has. And that newer Flash Gordon comic was part of another limited series. Issue #4 apparently was already published and should have been available at the comic shop. I ordered the last issue as well as an omnibus of the previous limited series and a couple of other things.

At least the Flash Gordon has a finishing point. I’m going to be subscribing to the Munchkin and Star Wars titles. Free comic book day? Yeah, not so much.

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Music Monday: Tim Still Needed

replacements tim albumThere is one Replacements album I still need to get. I can’t find it anywhere as it is apparently out of print to the point that even Amazon and other online retailers do not have it. Finding it used is a challenge to say the least. I am referring to Tim, the band’s major label debut.

I have the original CD, but I am looking for the 2008 Rhino reissue that has the album remastered as well as including some bonus tracks. I managed to pick up all the other CD reissues from the band except for this one. Somehow it escaped my attention.

The album is great and features some of the band’s best material with songs such as “Waitress In the Sky” and “Kiss Me On The Buss” along with one of my all-time favorite Replacements songs – “Left Of The Dial”.

Let me know if you find a copy of the album. It’s not just having the bonus tracks. If that was the case I would purchase them individually. No, there are liner notes that I want, I’d like the remastered album as well as simply preferring the physical format.

Those bonus tracks, man, I might have to just go ahead and purchase them separately and hope to come across a copy of the CD at some point in the future. There are a couple that are really appealing to me, especially the two different outtake versions of “Can’t Hardly Wait” (a song which would appear on the band’s next album, Pleased To Meet Me, which I do have in the reissue format).

 

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