Phamily Foto Phriday 7-3-15

Picking up from last week when we were in vacation here are me and the kids in a dune buggy in the Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area.

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The following day, our final full day of our Oregon vacation we went down to Yaquina Head. There is a cool lighthouse and natural reserve with some cool tide pools along with seals and sea lions to view.

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Upon returning home we spent a day unpacking then Laura had to leave to go back east leaving me with the kids. Looking for things to do we started to play tourist.

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Another development this week was Ciaran getting his headgear.

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Here is a picture of Tevye napping. Because it’s cute.

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Finally yesterday it was so hot (93 officially) I couldn’t think about cooking. We went to Fred Meyer and picked up a couple of things to eat by the water.

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Tourist In Town

Yesterday I decided to take the kids downtown. Laura is on the other side of the country with our good friend Marianne whose mother dies. That leaves me home alone with the five young kids. Rather than simply sit around the house all day I solicited ideas of what to do. Going to the aquarium was the best idea so that’s where we headed out early-ish. Well, we were on the road before 9, which can be an accomplishment in itself.

This was something my wife would never attempt. She wouldn’t want me to do this necessarily, but I wasn’t afraid. I knew I would have to be cautious and alert keeping track of each of the kids. And this is why she wouldn’t want to do this, and I understand. It can be, no, it is scary being downtown with just yourself in charge of a group of kids. The chance for them to get lost or worse increases exponentially the more of them you have.

What I do in situations like this is take a picture of the kids either before we go out or right as we get to our destination so I not only have a current picture but also I have note of what clothes they are wearing. If I need to contact anybody for any reason I don’t need to be flustered trying to remember which shirt which child is wearing. Also several times I stop to impress upon them all as a group to stay together.

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I am constantly looking around, being aware of my surroundings, which child is right next to me, which one is behind me, etc. I don’t get to enjoy the sights but, and this is the whole point, the kids get to have a fun outing. I was thinking of my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, who would not be able to get around so well in her later years. She would still love to go out and do things with her grandchildren, but mostly sit and watch them have a good time. I can only imagine how much joy she would get from watching all these great-grandchildren have a good time.

It was in that spirit I decided to go ahead and venture forth with 5 children. Our first task was getting out off the house. If I can’t wrangle 5 kids out of the house, how am I going to be expected to keep track of them downtown?

We found parking by the Pike Place Market. It was just after 9am and I figured maybe we could spend a little time at the market on the way to the aquarium. As we blew through it was apparent most of the stalls were not set up yet. Many were unloading their cars and trucks. This felt… weird. Shouldn’t Pike Place Market vendors be ready to go at 9, even on a weekday, especially during the summer? There were plenty of tourists there already.

Moving on to the Seattle Aquarium, the kids had a blast. We almost always have a set path we take when visiting – tide pools first, octopus, the fish tanks, marine birds, giant underwater dome, etc. The Seattle Aquarium almost seems to be laid out in such a way that it is meant to be visited in a specific order.

While we were having a great time we wound up having to cut our visit short. We saw everything but could not linger as long as we would have liked. Why? Because the parking meter was going to expire and I needed to go get in the van or pay for more parking. A trip back to the aquarium before the summer is over is necessary.

tourist summer 2015 04Since it was close to lunch time I decided to blast through Pike Place Market one more time now that stalls have opened and visit the Italian market. DeLaurenti sells pizza by the slice and I figured it would be a decent enough lunch in the market for the kids. I didn’t have any cash so we couldn’t get any of the doughnuts from Daily Dozen (and if you know what I am referring to, you understand how disappointing that is) but there is a bakery (aptly named Pike Place Bakery) in the market we were able to get desert from.

Everybody got home (in time to put Tevye down for afternoon nap) and felt we had a great outing. Then I had to go and push my luck.

Today Ciaran’s orthodontist appointment went quicker than expected. So quick in fact we didn’t know what else to do with our morning. yesterday we had discussed possibly going to the International District and Uwajimaya, so I decided to go ahead and give that a try.

There are no pictures of this outing because it was a disaster. A complete failure of a trip. Tevye kept screaming, Ciaran complained because he couldn’t find Pokemon cards, which is the only thing he was interested it, and everybody simply was on the edge of bad behavior. Nothing truly bad, but it was borderline enough that we pulled the plug on lunch and simply headed home in defeat.


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Love Did Not Win

In last week’s decision by the Supreme Court of The United States of America to affirm that marriage between two individuals is a right that needs to be recognized by every state in this country, while there is much to be celebrated, there is still quite a long way to go. Just because slavery is illegal, and civil rights laws have passed, that doesn’t mean blacks are treated equally to this day. The same holds true with homosexual couples – there is still a long way to go before this segment of society will truly be treated as equals in society.

At the heart of the matter are the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. This means each state needs to recognize valid marriages from other states. Legal protection does not equal acceptance or even equal treatment. The fact that racism still persists to this day is testament to this fact.

This ruling has nothing to do with religion, though the dissenting minority opinion might wish to say it is hiding behind state’s rights. The fact that this ruling came down to a 5-4 decision also shows just how far we have to go. Despite clearly being a civic law that marriage be accepted from state to state, it just is not the case in practical everyday use. Secular marriage is about rights, rights of visitation, property, tax, etc. Not one religious freedom is being infringed upon.

While I welcome this decision with open arms, unlike many of my peers I am not going to say that love ruled the day. It has nothing to do with love. It has to do with basic rights that we as a society and a government afford married couples. This isn’t love winning. Do not get confused. We have a long way to go before love enters the equation.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 6-26-15

It’s a vacation filled edition of my (supposedly) weekly post. These are only the highlights that I am showcasing for brevity. I’ll make more blog posts about the individual attractions as necessary next week when we get home.

Sunday we started down and stopped off at the official end of the Oregon Trail. I love history, and with August and Dela having recently studied the Oregon Trail in school, it was a great stop.

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Monday we went up to Tillamook and the cheese factory (which is very different from what I remember) then to Cape Meares and checked out the Octopus Tree.

And we checked out the beach. The next day we went back to the beach at low tide. This was exciting as could be.

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And we even got to go inside Devil’s Punch Bowl.

june 26 2015 04Wednesday was a very busy day. We went down to the Seal Caves, then to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

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Yesterday it was back to the beach, and on to the Hatfield Marine Science Center then to Cape Foulweather.

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As for today, well, I’ll show that next week I guess.


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The Price Of Disney

For the seven of us to spend a week on the Oregon coast cost a fair chunk of change. We rented a house for the week and it is not cheap. Nearly $1500 – but compare that to a couple of hotel rooms that would provide us with enough beds and the cost is comparable, if not in favor of renting the house. Add on to that the expense of eating out which you do not need to do when you have a full kitchen, and you can see where affordability comes in.

disneylandOne of the absolute “classic” family vacations used to be a trip to The Magic Kingdom. My first time going to Disneyland there were still paper tickets with the letter designation for each ride. “Big ticket” rides were more expensive, but eventually this system went away and one price for the whole park was adopted.

While great in theory, the flat rate simply keeps going up and up. A recent article by The Washington Post shows how Disney is pricing its attractions out of reach of many families, despite rising attendance. With that increased attendance comes increased waiting times at the various rides and attractions. While Disney has made strides in addressing this, it has gotten to the point where it is no longer possible to go to Disneyland for a day and do it all. This isn’t a problem for locals, necessarily who can buy an annual pass and go whenever the fancy strikes them, but families will need to purchase multiple tickets for multiple days. And what if you have multiple children?

That’s just to get in the gate.

disneyland2Once you are in the offerings of food have become painfully expensive. And staying there? I challenge you to find a decent hotel that has more than one bed at any sort of reasonable price. What if you have 3 kids? How will you sleep? On the floor? Or will you shell out $200 a night for a suite where everybody can have a bed? What about staying in a Disney owned property that has a shuttle directly to the gates? Those are certainly not cheap.

I have been twice, once in the late 70s as a kid, then in 2000 when we took our oldest son to Walt Disney World as part of a package with my sister-in-law and her husband. And it was pricey then. Now? With as many kids as we have?

No, a once iconic family vacation is out of the question, and it is a shame.

Do I feel bad about it? Yes. It doesn’t change things. We simply can not afford to go as a family – and I’m not even thinking about air fare.

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Music Monday: Vacation

We are away on vacation. While it’s not quite the same sentiment, here are The Go-Gos singing about it.

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Phamily Foto Phriday

It’s been a busy week this first one of summer vacation. It started off with a massive neighborhood water fight.

The street was mostly blocked off as literally half the block was taken over by both kids and adults participating.

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The water fight lasted over an hour and was loads of fun for all involved.

Ciaran and August participated in Chess Club after school in the spring. Ciaran thinks he is a great player, but he is only 7 years old and literally just learned how to play. His is obsessed with playing, so much so he won’t even eat his breakfast sometimes. Who am I to dissuade him?

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Finally we made it out to a Mariners game. I’ll post about that later, but here is a picture of Dela and me waiting for the other boys to exit the restroom.

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Microsoft Going Backwards With Compatability

It was announced at this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) Microsoft’s Xbox One console would be “backwards compatible” with the Xbox 36o titles. To this I am not full of joy like many of my peers are. Well, I say peers, but since I am no longer covering video games in a traditional sense, I will use that term loosely.

While I generally applaud backwards compatibility with home consoles with the Xbox One I am having a problem with what is being offered since it really isn’t backwards compatibility. While you are playing Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One, you aren’t actually playing the disc.

Here’s how it will work. Microsoft will have a shell of code that will allow the Xbox One to play an Xbox 360 game, sort of like an emulator. Rather than changing or altering the code of the Xbox One to actually play all Xbox 360 games, the software shell will be attached to digital versions of individual games to make them compatible with the Xbox One architecture.

Instead of downloading that game specific bit of code and enabling players to play their game disc, Microsoft is having players download a copy of the game to their Xbox One. Supposedly the add-ons and game saves will carry over, which is nice, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is actually backwards compatibility. It is emulation.

Your hard drive is going to fill up quickly if you have a large library of Xbox 360 games.

Here is what Microsoft says on their Xbox One website:

The digital titles that you own and are part of the Back Compat game catalog will automatically show up in the “Ready to Install” section on your Xbox One. For disc-based games that are a part of the Back Compat game catalog, simply insert the disc and the console will begin downloading the game to your hard drive. After the game has finished downloading, you will still need to keep the game disc in the drive to play.

So yes, you’ll need to download the full version of the game onto your Xbox One but still be required to have the Xbox 360 version of the game disc in the drive.

Not every game is going to be available, either right at the start or perhaps ever. The easy to code games will be first, then some of the more popular ones. Because many of these games were made available digitally it won’t be too hard to convert their code or wrap that shell around those games. I suspect, however, some of the earlier Xbox 360 releases won’t make it. There is no word on when and how many games will be available. “Over 100″ titles will be available this fall but that could mean 102 games, only 3 of which you may care about. Then how long will it take to get the rest? How about titles like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? It’s a big title. And like, literally big. How will that conversion go? What about lesser remembered games such as Chromehounds? Bullet Witch? Quantum Theory? TimeShift?

If you have a lot of Xbox 360 games, why do you need to play them on your Xbox One?

The only reason I might have to use this is for Rock Band. I have a number of tracks that I’d love to see carried over to the Xbox One. Being able to play all my Rock Band games on the same console would be great. Other than that, wouldn’t it be easier to just keep the Xbox 360 you already have?

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The New Klondike Rush

I have kids. Kids love ice cream. When I was approached to check out some of the newer varieties Klondike has to offer, I jumped at the chance.  Here is the disclaimer I am supposed to include.

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Klondike. I received free product coupons to facilitate my review as well as compensation for my participation.”

What follows is my family’s honest reaction to some of the Klondike varieties.

klondike summer 01It was a hot day and ice cream was definitely welcome.

We started with the Oreo Klondike Sandwiches. I had to cut them so everybody could have enough. Honestly, I thought they were a little thick. If they were thinner, perhaps a slightly thinner cookie and a third less of the ice cream, they might be able to fit 6 in a package – like the regular Klondike Bars. This variety was Ciaran’s favorite.

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Next we tried the Cookie Dough Swirl. This one caused a bit of confusion among us as we had difficulty discerning the true flavor of the ice cream. Was it vanilla with cookie dough swirled around or simply cookie dough flavored ice cream? It wasn’t bad, but didn’t taste as distinctive as we had expected. Don’t get me wrong – it was eaten up.

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Our attention moved on the the Heath variety of Klondike Bar. This was a unanimous crowd This is much like the original Klondike Bar, but the chocolate shell has bits of toffee in it. Yes, this is in a way an ice cream treat version of the candy bar, with more emphasis on the ice cream part of the equation.

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Finally we tried out theCaramel & Peanuts Klondike Kandy Bar. My wife didn’t like it because the peanut taste was too heavy. In general it fell between the Heath and Cookie Dough Swirl in appeal. That there are only 4 in a box makes it difficult for this to be a regular purchase in our household. Even at $3.99 suggested retail price we have to pick up two boxes for everybody to have their own. It is simply more cost effective to get the regular 6 pack Klondike varieties.

Klondike offers up a number of varieties of their “traditional” bars, other than the Heath and Cookie Dough Swirl. I had wanted to try the Reese’s variety but it wasn’t offered at the two different stores I visited. Other varieties include Mint Chocolate Chip (which Xavier would have loved), Krunch, Caramel Pretzel, Dark Chocolate, Rocky Road, Double Chocolate, Neapolitan, and of course, the Original Klondike Bar.

I like the concept (or should it be koncept) of the Klondike Candy Bar and wish my local retailers had something other than the Caramel & Peanuts for us to try. Other varieties to look for are Mint Fudge Cookie, Fudge Krunch (which I am particularly interested in), and Cookies & Cream.

While I am being compensated for this post all opinions are my own, except for those of my family members. They have their own opinions. Everybody liked the Heath, and many stated it was their favorite. Ciaran’s favorite was the Oreo, and a couple actually disliked the Caramel & Peanut Kandy Bar as too peanuty. We might need to pick up another package of the Cookie Dough Swirl to get a definitive opinion on that one.

Over the summer it looks as if we are going to be searching through different stores to find new varieties of Klondike Bar to try. Some of these newer varieties are of great interest to my family.


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Music Monday: Something To Believe In (Ramones Part 5)

While this isn’t one of the best Ramones songs, it is arguably their best video. Released as a single in 1986 the video, and to a lesser extent the song itself, pokes fun at the plethora of various musical charity singles and concerts of the era. While it is amusing today, back then “Something To Believe In” was highly satirical.

Written by Dee Dee and Jean Beauvoir it was released as a single off the Animal Boy album. It was the only music video from that album, and while it was a hit (relatively speaking) it didn’t have the lasting power that “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” did as the latter song stayed in the band’s live set up to the end.

“Something To Believe In” would be covered expertly by The Pretenders for the tribute album We’re A Happy Family. Total change in mood and makes the song all the better.

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