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PHOTO (permalink) 11.27.2013
a new GALLERY IMAGE was posted today.

QUOTES (permalink) 11.26.2013
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

KIDS (permalink) 11.25.2013
that's the kinda boy i'm talking about
one last minecraft note related to last week's story. to the obvious question of why, if alex was so excited about this herobrine mansion map, did he not play it before. the reason alex had never played the map before is he had heard that installing such add-ons (e.g. maps, mods, and skins), while a great enhancement to the regualr game play, could sometimes cause computers to crash and since his mom was letting him use her computer to play the game, he didn't want to do anything to mess it up. so even though he ravenously wanted to install the map, this young boy never did so because he did not want to cause problems for his mother who was generous enough to share her computer with him. he instead settled for hearing about it, watching videos of other people playing it, and hoping that one day he might get access to a computer, more his own, that he could install such things onto and not worry about inconveniencing someone.

it's safe to say this boy is slightly more conscientious than i was at ten ... or maybe even forty.

VIDEO (permalink) 11.22.2013
bella wants to marry this guy. i'd like to steal his talent and iniative.

KIDS, LIFE (permalink) 11.21.2013
minecraft update
a quick recap. yesterday i talked about making a change in my approach with alex. in short, i made the decision to allow alex's interest to direct our time together instead of me pushing things i deemed more worthwhile for alex and his development (yeah, i know, what a big-time ass). presently, one of alex's premiere interest is a game called minecraft. as a rule, i'm reasonably derisive towards video games believing them to be an unfortunate use of young minds primed and ready to learn real things with a never-to-be-had-again ability or rapacity. in putting aside my agenda and deciding to support my son in his interest, i called one of my best friends, bookguy, who i knew played the game and asked his advice. bookguy defended this particular game saying it was better than most and iterated through the reasons why, a key one being the intensely creative nature of the game which craftily blends lego-like building with dungeons and dragons-like adventure. bookguy also pointed me to a few things to accelerate and amplify our experience.

so monday night, the first night of the new troy, alex helped me install the game on my computer. he then schooled me on the basics and helped me to build, or craft rather, my first house, complete with a roof and bed. i backed away from the computer after night one feeling good about our progress.

on tuesday night i suggested to alex we try to load one of these maps my friend told me about AND to try to get the local network gaming figured out, another bookguy tip. alex inquired about the map and i said i had one in mind. i pulled up the webpage bookguy directed me to and the second it appeared on the screen, alex lost it, and i mean completely.

herobrine's mansion! herobrine's mansion! that's the map we're getting?

i think so. if we can get it figured out.

oh my gawd dad! that is like the most amazing map ever made for minecraft.

that's what i hear.

oh my gawd! oh my gawd! i can't believe this is happening. this is amazing!

and happen it did. we got the map installed, the texture add-on in place, and the networking figured out. alex and i, with anthony enthusiastically watching, ran around a mightily impressive world made by some mightily impressive dude. there were lots of excited explanations by alex and re-spawnings by dad (namely because i kept hitting the bad guys with a piece of steak instead of my sword). let's just say a certain corner of our house was much more lively than it has historically been for a routine tuesday evening.

when i later put alex down for bed he thanked me for playing minecraft with him and getting the maps and figuring out how we could play together. he then said, "dad, this was the best day of my life" and from the dreamy seriousness in his voice i felt that he was not embellishing his mood, not one iota.

had you told me on sunday afternoon that i would be experiencing this moment forty-eight hours later, i would have wondered what major life event had occurred. it just turns out the major life event was a quiet ten minutes of thought. i knew i wanted something more from a very important part of my life, i just didn't know it was so close at hand.

but, there is a bad side to this story. the unfortunate side effect to injecting an ok life with a plunger-full of awesomeness is it can make ten year olds curse like a target stock boy. it peaked as my minecraft character dropped into the newly installed herobrine world when alex, awe in his wide eyes, shouted in my ear, "ohhhh! this is awesome!! this is so fricken' awesome!!!"

i would have chastised him, but i agreed.

LIFE (permalink) 11.20.2013
innovation is in the air.
the last seven days floated more innovative ideas before me than any other week in the history of troy. a few you may have heard or seen as well, assuming you too are not enforcing a news embargo, but a few will be new to you.

item one told of "the coach that never punts or kicks off" (video) but instead runs on every fourth down and only does onside kicks. it seems he read this study by some harvard prof who has the math to support the approach, and this coach has seen a great deal of success from it. i'm confident i'm not the only one wondering if this is all true, as it seems to be for skill levels found in the sub-college ranks at least, i'm left wondering how has no one seen this before?

for the second item, a friend over lunch told me of a teacher at his kid's school who has his students learn the lessons at home via web videos (e.g. what is the pythagorean theorem?) and do their homework in class where, if confused, they have access to the teacher and others learning the same concept. when i mentioned this to marty she had heard of it, being in the industry and all, and said the practice is called 'flipping' the classroom. given all the great web fodder out there, cases in point, i can see this as being a highly profitable approach, especially if it means my kids not having to turn to me for help with things i didn't understand the first time around.

the third bit of inspiration i bumped into came from the mother of one of my former students. she told me that when her three boys were young they got very little television. she policed this in the following way:
  • each boy would pour over the weekly television listing that came in the sunday paper where they circled two hours worth of television from the offerings.
  • the marked up schedule would then get posted, like on the fridge, for reference. then everyone knew when they had to be home for tv, being the pre-tivo age, and the boys would look forward to their windows of time.
  • alternately, and probably more importantly, they could look at the movie section of the same paper and direct their two hours at a theater movie instead of television.
i can just imagine the excitement and anticipation surrounding this ritual and how it would make special something that for must of us has become a completely numb and expected part of life. i'm anguished i didn't learn of this practice ten years ago. i find it beautifully thoughtful, inspired even.

the last item comes from my own desk. perhaps all the innovation happening around me moved me to keep up. the everyday problem i held in my hand dealt with alex and the time we spend together. it's not that our time together is strained, it's just not as vibrant and easy as i would describe my relationship with my other kids. as such, i sat down to reflect on this and inside ten minutes came to the conclusion that i was trying to push alex towards things i wanted him to do instead of leveraging one of his many interests. when i considered how i would feel if someone did that to me, i concluded i would think:

1. that the person was an ass.
2. and that the person might be acting a bit like their own father.

these two lines of thought put a quick end to that. minutes after this epiphany i called bookguy, a fellow i knew to be a minecrafter (minecraft being one of alex's core interest at the moment), and asked for some advice. then, minutes after getting home from work, i sought alex out and after the usual check on the day i asked him if he could do me a favor. being the helpful man he is he of course said yes and gave me his attention. i asked him if he would teach me how to do minecraft like he does. his late in the day expression brightened more than a little bit.

if a doctor's mandate is to do no harm i think a father's mandate could be 'don't be a dick' because who wants a selfish dick for a father. i wouldn't be surprised to learn twenty years from now that those ten minutes of reflection might be ten of the most important minutes i spent in regard to my boy aleo.

those are four examples where things that happen everyday were re-thought and from those re-contemplations, life got changed. these thinking organs we got are pretty dang impressive. so think. think hard. improvement is everywhere.

KIDS (permalink) 11.19.2013
gotta pay to play
bella interrupted me doing dishes.

she asked me to log her on to a computer.

i told her it seemed selfish of her to expect me to quit my chore because she wanted to play on the computer.

she thought a moment and offered to continue the dishes, silverware actually, while i got her set up.

i complimented her smart problem solving. she came to the sink, i stepped back and she assumed my spot.

before i left the kitchen i saw her blanching at the task. it looked as though she was just going to bide time until i unlocked the computer and returned. seeing this in the cards i called from the next room that it seemed fair for me to type one letter of the password for every piece of silverware she washed. i heard an exclamation of understanding from the kitchen as well as a clatter of jostled silverware. she counted off the pieces she washed and i in turn wondered aloud why we ever chose such ... a ... long ... password which prompted more clatter and action from the kitchen.

that ole barter system must stand as one of man's finest creations.

MUSIC, VIDEO (permalink) 11.15.2013
what i would put in a time capsule shot into space.

KIDS (permalink) 11.14.2013
please rise
last week, bella became the president of her school's national junior honor society. i could spend this time going on about how proud we are of her or how anyone who knew me in junior high, if told i would go on to to have such a child, would have called the notion daft, ridiculous, and silly—students and teachers alike—but instead i'll just share the speech i saw days after the event, an event i didn't even know was happening.

when i asked her about what the role involved she described the meetings, what they talk about and her place in it all. when done and after a brief pause she added that parents weren't allowed to attend. she is smart!

her stump speech.

PERSONAL (permalink) 11.13.2013
some call them flaws, others call them character.
to the person who expressed surprise that there is enough of a slope in my garage to cause a car to roll out, my garage (house too) is 89 years old and there is nary an even, flat, or straight surface to be found on the entire lot. and should you luck into a proper plane, give it five months and you'll find it is not what it was. that is one of the exciting charms of owning an old home.

the other selling point of an old home is it will never change its status on you-you start with an old home and you'll end with an old home. buy a new one you have to deal with modern constructions schizophrenia of saying:

it's a new home.
it was new when we bought it.
it's about ten years old now.
it was built in the 90's.

before you get to say the magically constant, "yeah, we live in an old home". those who know know my struggle with transitions know what a boon this claim is for me. and i'm not saying it's healthier, i'm just saying it's easier.

QUOTES (permalink) 11.12.2013
a new TROYSCRIPT was posted today.

QUOTES (permalink) 11.08.2013
love it or leave it
In design, where meaning is often controversially subjective or painfully inscrutable, few things are more apparent and lucid than the presence of passion. This is true whether the design of a product delights you or leaves you cold; in either case it's difficult not to detect the emotional investment of the hands that built it.

Enthusiasm manifests itself readily of course, but indifference is equally indelible. If your commitment doesn't encompass a genuine passion for the work at hand, it becomes a void that is almost impossible to conceal, no matter how elaborately or attractively designed it is.
i recently shared this Khoi Vinh quote with a young man who works for me that has been in a bit of a funk recently. i told him that this was something i read every morning before starting work to remind myself of the import of my daily effort. i then added that as i've gotten older i've discovered that a lot of design and technology theory seems to be fully relevant to our personal lives too (and near-surely any industry you can imagine). i find the above example to be abundantly and beautifully evident of this observation.

KIDS (permalink) 11.07.2013
droppin' the hammer.
over the last few weeks i've taught alex how to work the stick shift in my car. so now when we we're driving, and he's next to me obviously, i'll hit the clutch and call out a gear, like second or third. alex then moves to action changing the stick accordingly and then acknowledges the change by repeating the gear i called for. i'm struck by the cleanliness and efficiency of our dance which has come about most naturally. we're already so good at it, we're able to insert the calls and responses right in the middle of conversations with only the slightest pause in thought or acceleration.

tuesday morning when i entered the garage to take the boys to school, they were both in the car and waiting for me. one of them had already hit the garage door opener and when i slid into my seat alex already had his hand on the stick ready to go. seeing this i cautioned him to be careful to not pull the stick out of gear when i wasn't in the seat (explaining it is possible to do when the clutch isn't engaged lest he thought otherwise). to his question of 'what would happen?' i explained if the car was parked on any sort of grade, it could start rolling forward or backward depending on the slope. fortunate to the moment, there is a slight grade out of our garage so i told him to go ahead and pull the car out of gear. he looked at me with uncertainty. i nodded and said it was ok. so he pulled it from first gear and the car started slowly rolling forward. alex looked up at me. i said if this ever happened when i wasn't here he needed to pull on the emergency brake and pointed it out. as we talked this through, the car's front end moved out of the garage and began rolling faster due to a steeper grade when exiting. i said, "alex pull the brake". more speed. some panic out of alex. more speed. "pull the brake!" panic. more speed. "pull the brake alex!" his hand reached for it, gripped the handle and lifted up with as much force as his slender arm and coursing adrenaline would allow. the car lurched to a stop in the middle of the alleyway and a few feet from the opposing curb. anthony looked up from his book with piqued eyes. alex looked at me with wide eyes. i held out my gimme five hand. after he slapped my hand i smiled big and complimented the successful handling of his first car emergency. he turned from me wearing that glow of earned pride so special to see in one's children.

wednesday morning when we met in the car for school, both boys asked if we could do that rolling thing again where we had to use the emergency brake. we did.

KIDS (permalink) 11.06.2013
monday's riddle
bookpimp reminded me i forgot to post the answer to monday's bonus riddle. apologies.

The riddle:
you go into the woods and get it
you sit down to search for it
and you bring it home with you because you can't find it?
what is it?

The answer:
A splinter.

LIFE (permalink) 11.05.2013
the scoop
for those who know of my practice of not reading news or websites, save a few friends, i have new evidence of how diligent i am to this practice—i just learned two weekends ago that james gandolfini died several months ago. an article i read mentioned his passing. i re-read the sentence three times wondering if there were two james gandolfinis or if i was mis-remembering the name of the recent sopranos star. even at that point i didn't look it up on-line but days later asked a teacher at the boys' school when it occurred to me in a semi-related conversation. after expressing some shock at my ignorance, the teacher confirmed the information. after learning of my news embargo, he offered to let me know if any more celebrities of merit died.

in thinking on that later, i have one friend who sends me funny news stories and another who sends me everything about circumcision. maybe i just need to find a few more genre specific folks to filter through the deluge of news and send me the items they know would be of interest to me. heck, i'd be willing to make an annual steak dinner for anyone who provided such a time-saving service.

KIDS (permalink) 11.04.2013
halloween 2013 answers
i promised answers to the jokes posted last week. here they are:

question: how do you tell if you have a dumb dog?
answer: he only chases parked cars
note: saying the word 'parked' proved quite effortful for anthony and caused a lot of people to scrunch their faces in thought while they ran through the options. it was neat seeing the moment they got it as their countenance relaxed going from strain to smile.

question: what do you call an elephant in the arctic?
answer: lost
note: i continue to marvel how easily alex carries himself with strangers. in the early days he seemed to be a guy who would be forever fearful and intimdated by unknown folks, especially grown up ones, but recent years have exposed a quiet charisma in him that is so unassuming it for-sure sneaks up on most people.

question: what do you ghouls and ghosts wear?
answer: boo-ties
note: while you might have expected more from bella, on this day, all her focus is given to better, faster coverage of the homes she hopes to hit. i need to tell her that some people reward smart jokes with extra candy.

while trying to find their jokes last week, here's a riddle the kids stumped me with.

you go into the woods and get it
you sit down to search for it
and you bring it home with you because you can't find it?
what is it?

i'll let that slide through your fingers for a bit before the reveal.

QUOTES (permalink) 11.01.2013
something for everyone
if you prefer something with some meat on it:
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence
New York City, April 4, 1967
and for those who are more hankering for a chicken mcNugget:
Wife texts husband on a cold winter's morning: "Windows frozen, won't open."

Husband texts back: "Gently pour some lukewarm water over it."

Wife texts back 5 minutes later: "Computer really screwed up now."

- author unkown

KIDS (permalink) 11.01.2013
halloween 2013 debrief
for those that might not know, st. louis has a tradition where the trick or treaters have to (are supposed to) have a joke to tell before getting candy. this ritual initially annoyed me but has grown on me over the years. here are the kids' jokes this year:

how do you tell if you have a dumb dog?

what do you call an elephant in the arctic?

what do ghouls and ghosts wear?

i'll let you chew on those over the weekend. i'll post the answers next week.

marty has started telling bella (12) she is getting too old to trick or treat, news that proved reasonably devastating to both bella and i. for bella, more than the dressing up or the boons of the candy, she loves the challenge of hitting as many houses as possible in her allotted window. obviously she has gotten dramatically better each year, namely through good planning and strategy. the last two years she's graduated from the orange plastic pumpkin container to the pillow case to carry her candy, the inside sign of a real gamer. as for me, i'm one who believes, that like with many facets of life, one's entry into and out of halloween deals more with their personal love of the ritual than an actual age. so as long as one is willing to engage in the rules and requirements of the tradition, one is eligible to play. i feel i aged out of the dressing up thing at around seven but surely know several people, my age, that haven't lost their love of it yet. more on bella's status as a pillowcase carrying participant in years to come i'm sure.

something that has become my favorite part of halloween in our home is the post-trick-or-treating trading session that happens just inside the doorway. bella introduced this practice a few years back and early on it proved to be little more than her figuring out how she could get her favorite candy from her brothers' bags. in this routine, each kid dumps out their bucket and starts assessing the stock, pulling their favorites aside. this obviously leaves a less coveted circle of candy before them which they start offering for trade.

does anyone like almond joys? almond joys here.

yes. yes. i want them.

what do you got?

i got ... i got ... i got skittles.

ok. skittles for almond joys. here's three. you got three?


their hands exchange the goods quickly and begin the desperate search for the next trade. now that everyone is older, the bartering is much more even, heated and raucous. last night we had three extra kids over and the decibels hit new heights--although this happens with birthday party pinatas too and while there are more kids, there is less variety which makes things a bit more sedate. last night's trading was a furious affair given the ages of the kids and volumes of candy. the craziest bidding war happened when bella raised a mini pack of swedish fish over her head with both hands looking like she cradled a sacred chalice above her. she loudly called out "swedish fish! i've got one bag of swedish fish here!" this announcement silenced the room as everyone stopped and stared over bella's head. they then looked down and started calling out candy names. when someone said kit-kat bella lit up and said yes. when someone heard her response, they yelled "i'll give you two kit-kats". you know what happened next. the one bag of swedish fish ended up going for eleven kit-kats to alex. when bella stepped over the segregated ponds of candy to alex's spot, he counted out six kit-kat packs in her hand while she held the prized swedish fish in her other. when he stopped at six she looked at her hand.

whoa buddy. where's the rest?


you bid eleven.


there's only six here.

but there's two in each pack. that's twelve. so really, you're getting an extra one.

(after a pause) ok. since you're my brother, i'll let that slide. but next time, no funny math.

i felt bad for anthony as he had problems reading the candy names so just had to hold things over his head and in a tinny voice shout, "i have these. does anyone want some of these?". his small call couldn't compete with the din of the room so i'd see what he had and tell him the name so he could upgrade his marketing to, "i have a heath bar. does anyone want a heath bar?" which usually did better to get the attention of the frenetic, sugar-addled audience.

and this, this post-collection ritual, is mostly why i think bella should be allowed to continue trick-or-treating. what would ever happen to the candy trading-floor were she to be benched. she brings an attitude and fierceness to the affair i don't think will be easily replaced. and bella and i are not the only ones thinking on her potential forced retirement. while we were between houses with a lit porch light anthony told me that because this was bella's last year trick-or-treating they, the three kids, were going to create a 'candy bank' they each put candy into each year so that when mom said they were all too old to trick-or-treat anymore, they would still have some halloween candy. i wonder how a limited supply of stock would amp up the trading floor. i could see it getting physical right quick.

and speaking of cogent points made by my seven year old, while playing twenty questions with anthony's classmates at his room party earlier in the day, anthony raised his hand. when i called on him his question was mildly different than the others kids questions. one kid's first question to a new game was not 'is it an animal' or 'is it bigger than a breadbox', but "is it an ardvark?". when i said no it was not an ardvark, the next kid i called on asked, "is it blue?". when i said no it was not blue, the hands continued popping up. when i called on anthony, he asked, "what kind of matter is it?" all the adults all looked at each other and then to me for the answer. here i had the embarrasing task of having to say i wasn't sure aside from the fact that the thing i was thinking of did have matter. my first grader then assisted me by adding, "no dad. i mean is it solid, liquid, or gas?". now that i could answer but wished he said that in the first place so i didn't have to so publicly reveal to the room why i chose the liberal arts over the sciences. they say with modern studies there comes a point where parents will not be able to help their kids with their homework. i think that point has come at an embarrassingly early age for me.

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