Bowlin’

Julian visited us again this weekend, so we decided to get some lunch at a new sandwich shop in town and then go bowling. Yes, bowling. I figure it’s one of the dumbest games ever invented, but with the right group of people it can be a lot of fun. It turns out we had the right group of people.

Zaque’s strategy was to use a lightweight ball and put just enough juice on it to get it to the pins.

As it turns out, that was often not enough momentum to actually knock down enough pins, even though his targeting was pretty good. So he’d often end up with splits or a couple of stalwart pins in the middle.

I, on the other hand, believed in using a heavyweight ball (15 pounds, oof!) and hurling it down the alley with all the force I could muster. My aim was terrible, but sheer inertia did a lot of damage.

Julian definitely had the best form, and managed to start off with a couple of strikes in the first frames.

Laralee looked good too, although apparently I caught her after a particularly bad bowl:

In the end, we all had a good time playing a dumb game.

Power Grid

At my request, Mom gave me the board game Power Grid for Christmas. I think I described it to her as “complicated but fun”. I’d played it once, many years ago, and remembered it as a great game. We cracked it open on Christmas Day and learned how to play (it had been a while for me, and as I said, it was complicated).

It has cool little houses you build across a map of the United States (or Germany, the “B side”):

There are four different types of “fuel”, represented by little wooden pieces:

In the game, coal is represented by little brown cubes and oil is a black cylinder, but it drove Laralee absolutely nuts because she kept insisting “coal should be black!” So after the game we took permanent pens and painstakingly re-colored all the coal cubes to black, and the oil drums to silver. Actually, she was right– it felt much more clear after we finished.

We’ve played about half a dozen times since Christmas, teaching Hannah and Julian last weekend. Both of them liked it. In today’s game, Julian and I both felt a little bit like this:

… because Laralee is the absolute queen of this game. I can’t quite figure out her strategy, but it’s amazing. She wins every time. Today I was crushing her and Julian, on pace to win the game handily, when I suddenly ran out of money and couldn’t buy one last city to finish victorious. That gave Laralee one extra turn, and she managed to squeak out a victory using tie-breaker rules. Wow.

She celebrates her victory by imitating Wonder Woman:

Despite continual losses, I really enjoy the game and now have a goal to figure out how to beat her. (She reminds me this is pretty much how she feels every time she plays any other game against me, so I guess fair is fair…)

Inflation

Today it’s Retro Day, so I’m jamming to my awesome 80’s music. Young MC just came up in the playlist, with his classic “Bust a Move”. I caught these lyrics:

The movie’s showin’
So you’re goin’
Could care less
About the five you’re blowin’

Hah! Five bucks for a movie… boy, those were the days. (Actually, they were the days, since this song was released in 1989.) The last time I went to a movie, the four of us– me, La, Alex, and Zaque– paid $56 for the privilege. Sheesh, inflation.

It’s new! Except it’s not!

Shopping on eBay is sure fun these days. I’ve been using eBay since its birth, and generally speaking it’s a great platform to buy and sell stuff. But whenever I want to buy something that’s new I struggle because most sellers now use “new (other)” to indicate an item that’s been “lightly used”. In other words, “new” now means “used”. So it’s an exercise in wading through a ton of listings to find an item that’s actually honest-to-goodness new. Sigh.

Pizza socks

Ben just dropped by my office with a Christmas gift.

Pizza socks!

Yep, they’re just as awesome as they look.

Thanks, Ben!

Get Air

Zaque works at Get Air, a local trampoline park where kids pay $13 to bounce on tramps for an hour. The other day Laralee and I stopped by to see him (and also to see Get Air, as we’d never been there). He wears a spiffy “referee” sort of shirt and gets a whistle, which he twirls professionally on his finger.

Sunrise

Seminary started yesterday, so after a nice Christmas break I was back at it early in the morning. Luckily I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise after class.

‘Tis the season

Now that we’ve hit the new year, it’s time for the scammers to start making their fake IRS threat calls. I had one this morning. As a general rule, though, I feel like I can hang up any call that begins with a computerized voice saying “Do not hang up!”

I saw some random statistic that something like 50% or more of calls these days are “robocalls”. What spam has done to email, robocalls and scammers have done to phones. Thanks, guys.

Science!

Physics still works, despite our ridiculous government shutdown, and two NASA spacecraft fulfilled their mission plans in the past few days even if there was only a skeleton crew to celebrate the accomplishments.

OSIRIS-Rex arrived at the asteroid Bennu and took a magnificent photo of it:

Instruments on the spacecraft have detected water ice, which has the astrophysics community abuzz. If an asteroid this small has water onboard, perhaps the substance is far more plentiful than we expected. That’s good news for mining and other futuristic uses of asteroids.

And New Horizons screamed past Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt object a billion miles past Pluto. This is officially the most distant object we’ve visited, and although the picture isn’t breathtaking…

… it’s a monumental achievement. Scientific data will continue coming in, and we’ll be able to learn about the primordial solar system.

As a space aficionado, I love reading stuff like this. We’re doing cool stuff these days, even while our government leaders continue their petty bickering. Learning about the mystery and grandeur and, frankly, surprises of the universe around us puts some of that stuff in perspective.

Zaqueism

“You call it bad at darts, I call it freestyle acupuncture.”

GRINCH

Last night, Alex and I played in the Grass Roots INdoor Charity Hat Tournament, also known as GRINCH. There were 90 people on eight teams, and even though our team didn’t go to the championships, we had a good time.

Laralee came along to watch, and took some pictures with my camera. Since I don’t have a high-speed zoom lens, and the action is usually pretty far from the sidelines, the photos tend to come out a bit blurry or grainy. Still, she managed to capture a few good ones of me and Alex.

It’s clear from these nice shots of Alex and me scoring in separate games that we have the same form in our catches:

Here’s another one of Alex scoring without all the drama of a big leap:

And I’m reaching above Rhonda a second time:

Alex did a great job on the field, especially considering he hasn’t played ultimate much lately. (I don’t have a good excuse, as I play weekly.) It was fun to be on a team together.

The card

Continuing the tradition of ghastly Christmas cards, I decided this year to do something completely different. Like the last four years, there was an added challenge of incorporating one of our kids who was away on a mission (Alex for two years, now Kyra for two). Without an opportunity for a “photo shoot”, I turned to the Renaissance.

After a bit of searching, I found a painting by Charles le Brun that would work. It was a family portrait featuring an incredibly homely group, with the added bonus of Charles painting himself painting (note the creepy guy in the mirror on the left).

This particular guy had more kids than me, so I had to do some cropping. I was able to remove a daughter, Charles himself, a dog, the weird bust and globe, and the marble head on the floor. The result wasn’t half bad:

Laralee thinks “her” hair looks awful (it does), and Zaque was less than thrilled about being a chubby naked baby. But all the girls who saw the card remarked “You’re so adorable!” which lessened the trauma a bit.

I had the cards printed on “premium textured” stock, thinking it might make it seem a little more like canvas. I’m not sure the effect was really there, but it was fun to hear what people thought of the card when they opened it.

For an added bonus, as part of a 25-day Christmas gift game with Kyra and her mission companion, we were asked to send a family photo. Naturally I couldn’t resist printing this and framing it for her. Apparently her companion thinks our family is weird. Go figure!

Merry merry

Christmas was, as always, a rousing good time. We spent some time in the morning opening our presents…

“Who needs a pocketknife when you have a katana?” said Alex as he cut through the wrapping paper and packaging tape.

Laralee was a little nervous about her 12,000-piece jigsaw puzzle:

I managed to score not one, but two ties: a snowman that plays “Jingle Bells” (of course) and a cat-taco-burger-space monstrosity that I love.

Zaque enjoyed the unicorn head we took home from our white-elephant gift party; it even included hooves and a little sound machine called “Emergency Horse: providing you with horse sounds when you need them!”

As usual, Kathy won the Coolest Packaging Award with her custom name tags:

After a traditional breakfast of cinnamon bread, we talked to Kyra for a few hours. She’s still in California, with 56 days left of her mission.

A game of Sheriff of Nottingham, some homemade pizza, and watching Miracle on 34th Street completed a great day. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

BoomFlag

After spending literally hours looking at random combinations of words and figuring out which ones were (1) available as domains, (2) easy to say, (3) easy to spell, (4) short, and (5) totally meaningless, La and I settled on our new “personal” domain:

boomflag.com

Oh yeah. So now I’m going to start “transitioning” all of my personal email away from Zing, and using boomflag for everything. I figure with a six-month runway it should be okay. I’ll also eventually retire most of the other domains I own, which frankly aren’t used all that much anyway.

And that means this blog is moving from cyberschroeder.com to boomflag.com (it’s redirecting automatically). So if you’re one of my six loyal readers, it’s time to update your bookmarks!

Monkeys

Over the next few months, I’m going to have to transition away from using my @zingstudios.com email address, since I won’t be part of the company any more. So I’ve been thinking about domain names. Although I’ve had cyberschroeder.com for over 17 years now, I find that spelling it for people is a real pain. And an email on that domain is doubly bad for Laralee, since no one can spell her name either. I need something short, sweet, and memorable.

La, Alex, and I have been brainstorming ideas. Of course my first idea was thoughtmonkeys.com, based on the name of my latest business, but sadly it’s taken. Using the theme of “monkey”, which is a great word, easy to spell, and will definitely be memorable, we’ve been coming up with all kinds of combinations and checking whether the domains are available. shadowmonkeys.com, lightningmonkey.com, monkeytreat.com, and so on.

That led to talking about old 80’s TV shows, and what happens when you substitute “monkey” in the title. You end up with things like…

Mork and Monkey
Monkey, She Wrote
Monkey P.I.
The Greatest American Monkey
Little Monkey on the Prairie (or, Little House on the Monkey)
Monkey Days
Who’s the Monkey?
Quantum Monkey
Saved by the Monkey
Bosom Monkeys
Monkey Who
The Twilight Monkey
Monkey Night Live
The Love Monkey
Punky Monkey (possibly my favorite)

La and I are laughing so hard. Alex is chuckling, but since he doesn’t know the original shows, he can’t fully appreciate the jokes.

White elephant

Every year our friends host a “white elephant” gift exchange at Christmas time, and I often struggle to come up with a creative idea for a gift that’s both cool and lame at the same time. But a couple of years ago a thought struck me, and I’ve been working on it since then.

Behold, two thousand dollars in Amazon gift cards!

Because my credit card rewards program offers gift cards as an option, both Laralee and I have been cashing out our rewards as Amazon cards for years. It’s an easy way to buy books and games without feeling too “guilty” about spending the money. Well, I’ve been saving them for a couple of years now and have a stack of eighty that have all been used. I’ve slipped one unused card into the pile, so the lucky recipient of this gift will get twenty-five dollars. However, they’ll have to type in the fifteen-character codes on the backs of every one of these before they find the one that’s valid. Mwah ha HAAAA!

Cool! And lame!

Choices

I’m ordering a Christmas gift, and I have two shipping options.

Hmm, tough decision. Free, by Christmas, or pay fifty bucks and get it four days later?