• How I Spent My Christmas Vacation…


    Laura, Kyle and I spent the last two weeks of December in Michigan’s beautiful (and snowy) Upper Peninsula and, apart from several family members coming down with some sort of gastro-intestinal plague, we had what I will call a grand old time. Here’s just a sampling of the fun:

    • On the 19th of December, Brenda, the older of my sisters (Kyle calls her “Benta, Benta, Benta!”) had her tonsils and adenoids removed and her uvula reduced. This isn’t a big deal when you’re six years old, but is a significantly bigger deal when you’re approaching thirty. She’s recovering nicely, but spent several days with a very raspy voice eating only orange sherbet.
    • Carolers, honest-to-baby-Jesus carolers, came to my parents’ house. In all of my thirty-four years of yuletide celebration, never have I been caroled to in such a manner. My heart grew three sizes that day.
    • There were eighteen people living in my parents’ house over the course of the holidays, including my parents, their six children (plus three significant others) and seven grandchildren.
    • On Christmas day, the number of people in the house doubled.
    • My younger brother bought an eight-foot-tall inflatable Spongebob Squarepants, which he set up inside the house on Christmas morning.
    • Kyle made two snow angels (with my help), fell face-first into six inches of snow (all by his lonesome) and greatly enjoyed being pulled around the driveway in his new sled.
    • On the 26th, my brothers and I (along with the younger of my sisters’ significant other) went to see Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. It was a funny, ridiculously violent movie and I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed the hell out of it. Get to the chopper!
    • My parents now have DSL and a wifi router. On the 27th of December, there were eight devices (seven of them wireless, including an iPhone) with outstanding DHCP leases on the router. My mind was boggled.
    • My mother had a laptop for one day, after which it was returned to OfficeMax. The GPU was bad, causing blue screens of death before I even had a chance the screw up the laptop on my own terms.

    There are photos, but I’ve not gotten around to retrieving them from the camera yet. Speaking of photos and cameras, Laura and I had a serious case of camera envy while we were in the U.P. There were a half-dozen digital cameras in the house, most of which were smaller than ours, all of which were faster than ours. I fully believe we’d take more photos if our tired old HP PhotoSmart was more compact and didn’t take 30 seconds to write each photo to the CompactFlash card.

  • Happy Father’s Day


    A few days ago, after changing the left front turn signal and putting new wheel covers on the MVoD, I decided it was time to re-stow the jack that has been rattling around in the back for several months.

    Like folding a map or trying to get an inflatable bad back into its original packaging, stowing the jack turned out to be nearly impossible. The handle comes apart in two separate pieces, which must be inserted into a plastic sleeve that in turn wraps around the jack. The whole bundle is then crammed into a little cubby hole and held in place by a plastic bracket that will not fit around the jack and handle once they are removed unless one is willing to defy at least one of the fundamental laws of physics.

    “Sometimes,” I heard my dad insist from nearly eight hundred miles away, “you just have to talk to it.”

    Mowing the Field
    He grins every time he says it—the same grin I know I’ve inherited—because by “talk to”, he means “swear at”. Colorful invective is one of my father’s specialties; his bilingual tirades (usually directed at uncooperative machines) are practically works of verbal art.

    My mother disapproves, of course. She is appalled that any of her children would heed their father’s horrible advice—which makes it all the more vexing when a stream of profanity proves to be the perfect lubricant for whatever needs unsticking.

    “Come on, you miserable piece of-” I muttered under my breath, trying to wedge the jack and its handle back into the space behind the right rear wheel well, “get in there!”

    Frustration increasing proportionally to the seeming futility of my efforts, my utterances grew ever more inappropriate until, finally, I was able to tighten the wingnut that held the retaining bracket in place.

    “Sometimes you just have to talk to it,” I muttered to myself, wiping the sweat from my brow. “Thanks, dad.”

  • Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown


    Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

    • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
    • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
    • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
    • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
    • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
    • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
    • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
    • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
      • 18 by Moby (CD)
      • Play by Moby (CD)
      • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
      • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
      • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
    • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

    [EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

    • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
    • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
    • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

    Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

  • Non Sequitur: Catching Up


    Despite the lack of activity on the web site, it’s been a busy December.

    The important stuff:

    • My father-in-law was laid to rest on Wednesday the 13th at the Kirtland South Cemetery. This cemetery is the resting place of a number of his relatives and contains a very nice Sperry family monument. Coincidentally, my father-in-law’s grave site is next to one of his old friends who was killed in Vietnam when he was just twenty years old.
    • At some point in the past two weeks, the sump pumps in my mother-in-law’s crawlspace failed and the crawlspace flooded. Among the items stored in the crawlspace were all of her Christmas decorations. Fortunately, the family came to the rescue. My brother-in-law, JayHe’s my sister-in-law’s husband. Does that make him my brother-in-law? I don’t know, but that’s what I call him., provided a real live Christmas tree and Laura and I brought all of our Christmas decorations (we hadn’t planned to put them up this year). We spent the day yesterday decorating the tree and eating leftover KFC biscuits.

    The other stuff:

    • The Round Table has been put on hiatus through January. I suspect we’ll be recording some stuff for International World Creation Month in January, but we won’t be doing a full-fledged round table discussion until February.
    • Speaking of International World Creation Month, I’ll be collaborating with game designer and fellow podcaster Sam Chupp on the world of Yesterday’s Tomorrow in January. We’re using Google Docs for our collaboration tool and Sam has already outlined some very cool stuff.
    • On December 1st, Chris Miller and I put together an audio trailer for J.C. Hutchins’ 7th Son trilogy. Interested parties can listen to it here. Note: Contains some mild language.
    • Speaking of audio shenanigans, Chris, Julia and I also recently did a promo for Leann Mabry’s excellent podcast, Tag in the Seam. Listen to it here. This one doesn’t contain objectionable language (though I suppose that’s entirely subjective), but I think I was channeling the Brawny Man when we were recording.
    • I’ve received a few early Christmas gifts, including a Sudoku Cube, the first and second seasons of The Family Guy on DVD, Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Xbox and a book containing 365 recipes for soup and stew.
  • Thank You


    Whether you’ve done so on my website, over on LiveJournal, through e-mail, over the phone or in person, I want to thank everyone who extended their sympathy and support to me, Laura and our family following the passing of Laura’s father, Tom Sperry, Sr. We have been positively overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and generosity from our family, our friends and acquaintances, and even from complete strangers.

    The visitation on Friday evening was attended by something like two hundred people, and I believe there were more than a hundred people at the service on Saturday afternoon. I can’t possibly thank everyone individually right now, but I personally want to extend special thanks to the following:

    • To my mother, for being here when we needed you.
    • To Ann and Mario, for your friendship, support and generosity.
    • To Matt and Sheila, for making the drive from Lansing to attend the funeral on Saturday, and for spending the day with us yesterday as well.
    • To Coz and the Marauder-Intruder Group (MIGs), not only for attending the visitation and the service, but for sharing your fond remembrances of Tom as well.
    • To J.C., for your kindness and support.
  • Non Sequitur: Diet Coke and Mentos


    Diet Coke Fountain
    If you frequent or Google Video, you’ve almost certainly seen a slew of videos in which people combine Mentos mints and Diet Coke with explosive results. Sunday evening after dinner, we were relaxing on the deck with friends and family after dinner when my mother declared that she wanted to see the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment.

    We had neither Diet Coke nor Mentos in the house, so a trip to the grocery store was in order.

    • One box of Mentos mints: $1.09
    • Three 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke: $3.00
    • Mom encouraging her kids to play with their food: priceless
  • Welcome to Parenthood: Happy Father’s Day


    My first Father’s Day as the honoree has come and gone, and I’m quite pleased. Kyle gave me a big smile when I came down in the morning; he always does that, and it always makes me feel fantastic, but yesterday it was a Father’s Day smile, and that made it even better.

    A big smile wasn’t all I got for Father’s Day, either. I also received:

    1. Membership in the William Shatner DVD Club: William Shatner has “assembled a series of films that run the gamut of Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy, including underground hits, genre classics, and even some gems pulled from the far reaches of independent cinema.” Each month, one of these gems will be delivered to my mailbox. The long and short of it: more movie reviews.
    2. A pair of Arizona Jean Company Rapids: Sandals to replace my current pair, which have served me well over the last several years and taken a lot of abuse. The new pair is very nice, but I won’t be getting rid of the old ones; they’ll be relegated to lawn mowing.

    I’m pretty sure that Laura helped Kyle with the selection and purchase of those items.

    To escape the heat and humidity of the International House of Johnson, we fled to the Manhattan Deli for breakfast, then assembled at my in-laws’ air-conditioned abode for a day of Carpocalypse, Ultimate Obstacle Course and drag-racing.Kyle and I also watched a show about the bloodline of Dracula on The History Channel, but we both fell asleep on my father-in-law’s comfy recliner about halfway through. Our involvement was fairly passive, but it was Father’s Day, and I understand that it is my duty as a patriarch-American to sit on my fat ass and watch TV all day.I’m very good at my duty.

    After an afternoon of watching television, we enjoyed shishkebab for dinner, followed by homemade strawberry shortcake. My in-laws gave me a Superman Returns alarm clock, a picture of which I’ve been unable to find on all of the Internets.EDIT: It would seem that my searching of “all the Internets” was a bit lacking in scope. In fact, I did only a Google Image search. Thanks to my other apprentice, an image of the alarm clock in question has been located. Laura, Kyle and I gave my father-in-law a new, wireless Microsoft optical mouse.This was my suggestion, and a fairly selfish one, as my primary motive for giving the gift is that I don’t like cleaning the mouse every time I sit down to run maintenance on my father-in-law’s computer. He really did need a new mouse, though.

    Late in the evening, we returned to our sweltering abode and I closed out the day by taking out the garbage and then shooting some filthy Communists. Not bad for my first Father’s Day. Not bad at all.

  • New Photos


    There are a few new photos up in the photo album, but I’m not going to tell you which ones.

  • Friday the 13th’s child is apparently bad luck, if you’re a 1994 Pontiac Sunbird.

    Laura has taken Kyle out three, possibly four times in her car, the aforementioned 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. On two of those occasions, we had to have the car towed.

    On Wednesday of last week, after bringing Kyle to see me at work, Laura found herself at an intersection in a car that would not go. The car 1I used to call my 1980 Chevy Malibu—which was totaled on Groundhog’s Day, 1995—”Puff the Tragic Wagon,” and I would transfer the name to Laura’s car, but I don’t … Continue reading would start, but stalled as soon as she put it in gear. Laura called the police and a cruiser shortly arrived to push her out of the intersection. AAA sent a tow truck to transport the car to our mechanic, and one torque control convertor, two front stabilizers, a couple of transmission hoses, two front rotors, four brake pads, one oil change, two days and six hundred junior bacon cheeseburgers later, Laura had her little blue sedan back.

    Now it is today. Laura ran some errands with Kyle in tow. 2Actually, he was in a car seat. At the insurance agent’s office, she noticed that the car appeared to be… leaking. She drove a (very) short way to Panera Bread for a late lunch and called me. I advised her not to move the car anymore and drove out to meet her and assess the situation. By the time I arrived it looked as though Laura had parked on top of a hobo; the ground beneath the driver’s side tire was soaked with transmission fluid.

    One tow truck later…

    By the time we got to the mechanic, they were long since closed, but they know the car will be waiting for them in the morning. I’m hoping it’s just a hose, and I’m hoping that they’ll just fix it and send us on our way without requiring additional junior bacon cheeseburgers. After all, the car certainly wasn’t leaking transmission fluid before they fixed the transmission.

    Perhaps Friday’s child is attempting to do away with the 1994 Pontiac Sunbird, fearing that it might pass into his possession on 13 January 2022. If that’s the case, it strongly suggests that his telekinetic powers are already quite well developed.

    Where did I put that damn midi-chlorian count tester?

    1 I used to call my 1980 Chevy Malibu—which was totaled on Groundhog’s Day, 1995—”Puff the Tragic Wagon,” and I would transfer the name to Laura’s car, but I don’t want to incur any more unfortunate vehicular woes.
    2 Actually, he was in a car seat.
  • P is for Plastic People.


    Busy, busy weekend.

    On Friday we had a “team event” at work. My team consists of five peons and one overlord, and we decided a month or so ago that we’d all like to see the Bodyworlds 2 exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center. Most of us 1All but one, who opted to drive his motorcycle and wound up having to leave before dinner. piled into the MVoD at noon and within moment escaped the gravitational well of the office. We had lunch at ¿Que Tal? and then it was off to the Science Center.

    The exhibit was fascinating. That Gunther Gebel-Williams von Hagen is either a straight-up old school mad scientist or a stone-cold serial killer. Either way, he put together an impressive array of human cadavers that provides unprecedented insight into human anatomy. I came away amazed that the world doesn’t break us into tiny pieces on a daily basis.

    After the exhibit 2We also saw Mystery of the Nile at the OMNIMAX theater. It’s the story of the first expedition to ever successfully navigate the Nile from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. It was … Continue reading we proceeded to the New York Spaghetti House for dinner. We all split the mozzarella marinara appetizer and I enjoyed a raspberry martini, house salad (excellent dressing), lasagna and tiramisu. It was all excellent.

    HALO 2
    Saturday morning I was supposed to go cycling with Bob, but it rained, 3Well, it threatened to rain. We argued that the precipitation factor was simply too unpredictable to chance. We’ve both got caliper brakes on our bicycles, and they don’t work all that … Continue reading so we opted to forgo the cycling in favor of breakfast at IHOP. To make up for not doing 10+ miles on the bike, I practiced my power-eating on four pancake-wrapped sausage links and a large orange juice. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as aerobic exercise.

    Project Gotham Racing 2
    After breakfast, the Xbox LAN party commenced. 4While I was getting my game on, Laura and her mother spent the day shopping for porn corn. I’m told that they actually bought some sweet, juicy porn corn, too, but I won’t get to … Continue reading There was much playing of HALO 2 and Project Gotham Racing 2, which lasted until at least one wee hour of the morning. I got home at about a quarter of two on Sunday morning and was just as surprised as Laura to find me still in bed when she got home from church at one in the afternoon.

    Laura and I had lunch at Red Robin, did a little shopping, then went home so I could get the printer connected to her newly-moved PC. I played a little Tetris Worlds while Laura napped, then I mowed the lawn. It was just the sort of hectic, fast-paced, action-packed day that separates our thrill-a-minute lifestyle from the mundane, humdrum existence of “normal” folks.

    Apart from learning that Laura is eighteen weeks pregnant, that pretty much sums up our weekend.

    1 All but one, who opted to drive his motorcycle and wound up having to leave before dinner.
    2 We also saw Mystery of the Nile at the OMNIMAX theater. It’s the story of the first expedition to ever successfully navigate the Nile from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. It was breath-takingly beautiful and the music was excellent. I’m hoping there’s a soundtrack CD available online.
    3 Well, it threatened to rain. We argued that the precipitation factor was simply too unpredictable to chance. We’ve both got caliper brakes on our bicycles, and they don’t work all that well when wet.
    4 While I was getting my game on, Laura and her mother spent the day shopping for porn corn. I’m told that they actually bought some sweet, juicy porn corn, too, but I won’t get to experience it until this evening.