Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Memories...

Christmas time is always busy for us, this year was no exception. After working a full week, we ran head first into the holidays. Christmas eve morning we hosted my parents for our yearly swap and then off to my wife's family's yearly exchange. Then on Christmas up early with the kids to see what Santa brought and then off to my Grandmother's to tie off the official events.

It was very odd for me this year as we assembled around the table at my Grandmother's. Each year we all do the "Where am I sitting" shuffle. We all wander around the table reading the name tags that are near each seat. This year I found mine at the head of the table - where my Grandfather used to sit.

I stood there, holding onto the empty chair for a long time. He has sat in that chair at this table my entire life. Last year my Uncle took the seat and this year me. I was very honored, but I could not bring myself to sit down. Sitting down would mean admitting he was gone. Up until then I guess I harbored some hope that he was just away and was going to come back. I sat down, but I've felt off ever since.

It's been a year now and all of my feelings finally erupted. Through my tears I could hear him talking, I could remember flying with him, having lunch at various airports, visiting him at his Cape Cod house and spending summers with him. How he was always there for my Graduations, school events, and how he couldn't bring himself to hold my first child ("too small").

In those moments I remembered a Great man from my childhood whom I feel I barely knew. When he was at his best, I was playing with Star Wars figures and as he retired I was getting married. He was both strong and caring in a way that I've not seen in many people and he changed my life in ways I am just starting to understand.

I still don't feel worthy of the honor my Grandmother gave me. As I sit here writing this, wiping tears on my sleeve, my son comes over to see what I'm playing. When he sees that it's not a game he asks what I'm writing; "Memories of Papa". He goes back to what he was doing and I'm left realizing that the cycle continues and that at some point I may be that Grandfather.

I'll do my best Grandpa, but I still miss having you around.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, My Friend

Merry Christmas, My Friend
Former Corporal James M. Schmidt

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

This is the original version, as printed in Leatherneck 1991 ($$ to see). Snopes Info.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Must be a geek thing....

At my last job a friend and I started a running daily event called "Bug of the Day". It was supposed to be something we, or one of our coworkers, had placed into the software. Over the years we shared everything from little quirks to really nasty ugly hacks. In the end, it worked well, seeing the "Bug of the Day" and being able to laugh, and fix it, kept us all learning. I still enjoy the exercise.

And it looks like I'm not the only one. There is, ofcourse, a Blog for it called The Daily WTF. Check it out!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Follow up on the TSO Christmas Lights...

This guy deserves some major credit. 25k lights and more than one tune! Personally, I'm shocked at how many doubters I've slammed into. So without further ado, resources to help you doubters STFU.

*grins*

Snopes Entry
Claim: Video captures home Christmas light display synchronized to musical score.
Status: True.

Snopes has a nice picture of the family and the house during daylight hours. You can see another of his videos here.

And info on his Miller Light Commercial can be read here and inside is a link to watch the commercial, in full video glory - no image compression issues.

Enjoy!

Linux as a screensaver!

I know many of us now use Knoppix to bail ourselves out when Windows gets into that "forget it I wont boot, but your data is mine! Mine! MINE!" mood. Now the clever guys at IBM have created a Linux screensaver;
Construct and package a Linux® LiveCD so that it will install using the standard Microsoft® Windows® install process and will operate as a standard Windows screensaver. Answering the most common concern about open source software, this article shows that, yes, Linux will run under Windows.
I think I'll stick with Cygwin for now, but I'm just wired (weird?) that way.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

I saw movies in the theater!

Doesn't sound like much till you realize these are the only two movies I've seen in the theaters in the last six (or more, I don't want to know for sure) months. Recently the wife and I have decided we're going to sneak out at least once a month for a date, sans kids. As requested, here's a few mini-reviews!

The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Can I preorder the DVD yet? Go see it while its in the theaters! When I saw the first preview I knew we'd be going to see this one. For my son's birth I bought us the entire series and my wife got hooked. They did an awesome retelling of the story. As my wife put it; "This is how I pictured Narnia when I read the book."

Aeon Flux
We picked this one having no idea what it was about. I knew there was a series on MTV but I hadn't watched it. I hadn't seen previews, etc. And given that I had no preconceptions about it, it met them. It wasn't a bad action film. I enjoyed the story and the plot. Some things were a little transparent, but I'd expect that for an action genre. Am I rushing to get the Anime or buy the DVD? Nope, but it was good enough for getting out of the house for a few hours.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Nice job WoW!

I'm back to having fun in a MMORPG again. My Druid hit 20 and got his Cat form - w00t. Don't worry, understanding references in the post isn't required. *grins*

I was hanging around Westfall after we had finished the instance run with the guild doing quests to hit 20. No big, finished up, and flew over to Stormwynd to get my new skills. As I'm wandering around, I see all kinds of Christmas lights around the town. I explore a bit further and find a vendor selling "Seasonal items" - cookies, nog, wrapping paper. What a laugh!

The dude next to him has a quest, shoot over to Iron Forge and talk with Grandfather Winter. Cool! I grabbed the quest and flew back to IF. Found the guy, surrounded by other players, who were having a snowball fight! I was laughing.

Well Grandfather wanted some cookies and milk. Boy was I glad I had eggs on me! Made up some cookies and gave him one of my milks and he gave me a gift - which I still haven't opened! Very cool.

But what impressed me most was what happened next. Near Grandfather Winter was a regular looking dwarf with a quest. Talk to him and he's whining about how the Goblins (the ones running the seasonal shops) are ruining the true meaning of the holiday - and sends me off to learn about the original meaning of the season. I end up doing a few deliveries and find myself before the king to show my interest in the lore of the land.

Simple quests, yet the kind I find most fun - it allowed you to get into the season in-game, added some fun and gave you more background on the world -- making it feel that much more real. Having come from EQ where the banner cry was "what story?" having the various arcs in WoW has been great. Even more so that I see that Blizzard has the same kind of bratty fun that I was having in GuildWars.

It's all your fault Shrike!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No kidding...

It's nice to see some press that isn't bashing video games or portraying them as some oddball sniper school, etc. Henry Jenkins, a professor from MIT, wrote a nice article entitled "Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked". It's a good read.

This type of article always reminds me of a conversation I had a few jobs back with our groups administrative assistant. I am, and will continue to be, a gamer. I started with Pong, graduated to Doom, and am currently playing WoW, Civ IV and recently finished FEAR. She was telling me how all "video game players kill people" - no joke, her exact words.

I looked her straight in the eye and delievered one of those "OMG did I just say that?" lines; "Then you'd be dead."

She looked at me very oddly as I explained that I, and a number of other people in the group, played violent (Quake 2 in this case) games at lunch. Funny though, none of us has killed anyone.

Yeah, she was shocked. Illustrated the point though. Games don't kill people, people kill people.

Miss you Grandpa.

I was browsing the boards for the gaming group that I play with and ran across a video one of the guys had made of him flying around in a flight sim. The memories it back to me were flying with my Grandfather years ago.

Good memories. Hard to believe its been a year since he passed away.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Did someone close the curtain on reality?

Last night I went to donate blood for my 5th or 6th time this year. It's always been a pleasant experience, the people at the donation center are very friendly and adept at their jobs. Usually in and out in an hour including all the paperwork and rest times.

This time I was set to break the speed record. I finally remember to bring a book to read and barely got three pages done before I was through the initial paperwork and was being prepped for my donation.

The first nurse missed the vein on my left arm. So we reloaded and went for the right arm - I've donated from both previously, but who knows. The donation went fine, pretty quick. Got my clearance and walked from the donation area over to the cantina. Water and two chocolate chip cookies please. Good cookies.

As I finished my first cookie I remember looking at the volunteer in the cantina and watching as someone closed the curtains on reality. "This isn't right" I muttered.

"Put your head on the table," she said. I think I did.

Things got really funny. I could sense something going on but any sense of time was shot. The world was completely black, but it was as if there was something on the other side of a really thick blanket. I knew something was going on and I kept trying to puzzle it out. Felt like a few minutes had gone by when I did a "this is wrong" and woke up. I was laying down on the bed near the cantina (always wondered why there was one there) with three nurses around me.

"You've fainted," one told me. "You were out for about 20 seconds."

She proceeded to explain what had happened in terms that I wish I had written down to look up this morning. Short of it was that they were going to take it easy with me this time, no rushing home.

Took awhile before I could sit up and not feel the curtains closing again. A few waters and some slow movement later I was able to work my way down and eventually home. Been fine since.

I had asked the nurse, when I awoke, what caused this. She says they're not sure. Some think its psychological, especially on the first donation, others think there is some physiological cause. For me, I'll go with the latter. I made sure to have plenty of liquids (over 3 liters) but although I ate "normal" for me, I definitely skimped for donating.

When I got home I had a major craving for a calzone, way off my diet. Normally this would cause me to gain a few pounds on my next weigh in. My weigh in today - I lost weight. Woooooops. That would do it.

Next time I'm super-sizing lunch!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thing is, I could see the RIAA doing it...

RIAA Bans Telling Friends About Songs

And I don't think I'd even be surprised....

I agree. Hopefully it won't suck!

From an interview with Peter Jackson;
Question: You're still producing Halo?
Jackson: Yeah.
Question: What attracted you to Halo?
Jackson: I'm a fan of the game.
Question: But video game movies suck.
Jackson: They do.
Question: So what will be different?
Jackson: Hopefully it won't suck.
Brutally honest, you have to admire him for that. To his credit, he is picking a game that has a solid universe, a decent backstory, and a character that is rarely, if ever, alone (/wave Cortana).
Halo is more like a good action flick, there is a central character, a key problem, and a lot of explosives. Toss into a blender and hit puree. Makes you wonder which will happen first; Will the Halo movie finish up where Halo 2 left off? Will Halo 3 make it out and finally put an end to the story of Halo 2?

Or will they both require recalls for overheating and BSODs? *evil smile*

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

... when you snatch the pebble ...

My eldest had been asking about learning Martial Arts, well, she's five and had really been asking to go to a "Kicking school" - still, I knew what she meant. I started looking around the area for somewhere that she could go that met my ideals of what I would like her to learn. Any fool can be taught to fight, it takes a different type of school to teach how not to fight.

Of all the calls I made , the one conversation that stands out was the one where the school assumed I was pushing my Daughter into it. This was my daughter's choice, neither my wife nor I pushed her into it. She pushed me for two months to find a school (yes, I'm that picky).
"The Sensei has found that children who start this young don't continue when they get older."
Aye, I can see that. If you push your child into doing something that they're not interested in, they're going to stop the moment they have a choice in the matter. The rest of the conversation was the student who returned my call convincing me that putting my daughter into a school was bad, but they'd love to have me come!

I could only shake my head. If you can't trust my word, trust my parenting, why should I trust your school?

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Remembrance 2005

I'd like to welcome all first time readers to my yearly Remembrance. This is the first Remembrance I will be posting to my Blog as well as sending out to friends and family. I'll even be sending it to a few people that are going to do a "Who is this?". Thank you all for your help and support this year.

This year I ran into an immovable wall; My brother-in-law. We locked horns about veterans, war, and combat. Before we jump into the story, it'll help to have a little background on both of us.

I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam war around veterans and active personnel. My baby book has the first .22 caliber shell I ever fired, it was that important to my Father. I got a personal view of what war can do to people, both positively and negatively. I knew Vets who forgot who they were and others who kept trying to forget. When I was old enough to enlist, my parents said no - my Dad had already paid the check for our family.

My brother-in-law has traveled the world, never settling in one place for long. An artist at heart, he's lived in some interesting locales, and near-by to some bombings while he was in Israel. Aside from meeting a few veterans at parties, he's never been close to one.

The discussion started at a family party with his assertion that all US servicemen in Vietnam killed civilians. I did my best to stand up for the veterans, and was told to shut-up; this wasn't a debate. I could feel my anger rising as I tried to interject a few more times. Finally I decided my best course of action was to walk away, before I said something I'd regret. We'd speak again.

The next family gathering he said he wanted to understand. I've learned a lot from speaking with people that held views that were opposite my own so I went with him to discuss it. In hindsight, I should have asked for his definition of understanding as what happened was closer to my definition of arguing.

Although we spoke at length, covering topics from combat to veterans, individual choice to following orders, he seemed more focused on finding a point to argue about rather than exploring our different experiences and trying to understand. After a few hours of this, I realized that we were not going to agree and walked away. I was angry at myself for not adequately stating my case. I could not get him to understand, to see what I had seen. It was very hard for me to walk away and even harder to let it go.

The day after the debate with him I read Ben Stein's article in the NY Times "Lessons in Gratitude, At the Basement Sink" (NY Times requires a fee, the full article is linked from a different site). The article talks about being grateful for what we have, and for what we don't have. That may sound odd, but I think you are grateful that you are not in a combat zone. I bet, given the choice between being shot at by an angry Al Qaeda and commuting to work tomorrow, you're probably grateful for your job too.

And in some odd way, I'm grateful for the debate with my brother-in-law. Were it not for that debate I wouldn't have found a new strength in myself. I've never backed down or walked away from a debate on our Armed Forces. I may not serve on the front lines, but I do what I can back home. I had to retreat this time, it was hard, but it was the right move.

It is unlikely my brother-in-law will ever understand me, how I grew up or why I stand by our Armed Forces. I will always support our Troops. They stand up for us in the worst places in the world.

And I am grateful to them for it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Are you going to buy an Xbox 360?

NO.

Surprising how many people have asked me if I was going to upgrade my "Original XBox" to a new 360. Aside from the price, lack of support, etc. This is a ".0 Microsoft product". You can't trust those. ".0" releases from Microsoft are guaranteed to be one thing; buggy as termite mound. Do a quick search today and you'll find people complaining about overheating problems. I'm not surprised. There were also murmers of people saying that it was BSODing ... well, it is a Microsoft product after all.

Wait for the service pack. Then, if you still want a game that has some titles, but not many, and "kinda backwards compatibility", but not all.... go for it.