Browse Month: August 2015

Classic

On Saturday I had some free time in the afternoon– a rare thing!– and I decided to see if I could compile and install a few classic computer games. And when I say “classic”, I mean those games I played in the early 1990’s in college. The first was Doom, arguably the greatest and most popular first-person shooter of all time. It was certainly the first of its kind, and it defined the genre for a while, eventually leading to the ultra-realistic games kids play these days. It all started with the 320×200 pixel 3D magic of Doom.

Sure enough, there’s a surviving (maybe even thriving) port to Linux which I was able to compile and install. I brought up the first screen and the memories came flooding back.

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Ohhhhhh yeah… the little guy at the bottom showing you how “healthy” you are, starting with a pistol and looking forward to the shotgun and eventually the plasma cannon and the BFG, and blowing the holy crap out of all of the monsters. I could tell some stories about hiding the program on the university’s Novell Netware (!) servers and bringing it up covertly in various computer labs. Those were some good times.

Then I did a bit of poking around and found Descent, which was the first three-axis FPS game. I knew people who actually got a little seasick playing it, because you could just as easily be flying around tunnels upside-down. In fact, using vents and side passages was a classic trick to ambush people, much like Spock suggested against Khan in Star Trek II.

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I zipped around the first level a bit, remembering the sluggish alien ships (I’d set it on the low difficulty) and blasting the heck out of them with my level-1 laser cannon. Again, there were memories of late nights in the UMR computer labs, yelling at each other in either triumph at the kill or anguish at the defeat. There were classic quotes like “Mmm… plasma…” or of course “Yee-haa, Jester’s dead!”

Now I just need to get Alex and Zack to join me, and I can blow the dickens out of them. Mmm… plasma…

Blood

This afternoon we all typed our blood. For whatever reason, Laralee decided we should all know our own blood types; she recently had some bloodwork done and found out she’s O-positive. None of the rest of us had any idea what our types are. Yeah, I know– I’m a bad parent.

Anyway, she bought some home blood test kits, and we all sat around the table and carefully read the instructions. There were several misspellings and grammar errors; if the company couldn’t do a simple spell-check on a few bullet points of text, how accurate were their tests going to be? We pressed on anyway.

The test was pretty simple: there were little cards with four circles, each of which contained some magic chemical. You put a small drop of water in each circle, prick your finger, and add a drop of blood to each one. Then you mix it all around, do the hokey pokey, and check the results against a handy chart of the different blood types. Each of the circles would cause blood of certain types to “agglutinate”, which meant it ended up looking like a mix of little chunky bits of blood.

Zack went right to it, pausing only momentarily to prick his finger.

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Kyra had a harder time, holding the little pricker on her finger for a minute and laughing– apparently out of fear. Of course once she finally pressed it and the spring-loaded needle punctured her skin, it was fine.

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Alex apparently had some sort of hallucinatory experience.

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Then all of us mixed the blood and water and watched the magic. It was a little bit like watercolor painting.

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The results? Laralee was confirmed as O-positive (helping us believe that the test was probably legitimate). All of the rest of us were A-positive. Now we know.

Interesting factoid of the day: pureblood Native Americans never have negative blood; they’re always positive. (The words “positive” and “negative” refer to the presence or absence of the Rh(D) or “Rhesus” antigen.)

Summer ultimate league

Today was the summer ultimate league tournament in Boulder. This was my sixteenth season playing in Grass Roots Ultimate, and as usual it was a lot of fun. We were ranked fifth in the standings, out of twelve teams, so with four teams getting a bye in the first round of the tournament, it made us the top seed.

We started off strong against the first team, taking a commanding 6-0 lead. But they did an admirable job fighting back, and we eventually finished with a 9-7 win to advance to the quarter-finals.

In that game, we played one of the teams that had a bye. It’s sort of a curse to have a first-round bye in ultimate tournaments, because you come onto the field without having played a game (warm-ups like stretching and tossing the disc around don’t really count). You’re taking on an opponent who’s just won a game and is warmed up and pumped. The curse held true as we battled back-and-forth, finally winning 13-9. One of the other top-seeded teams with a bye also lost their first game.

In the semi-finals we took on the top-ranked team, who hadn’t lost a game all season. That’s pretty rare, and it proved they were a really strong team. Sure enough, even though we scored a few points at the start of the game, they went on a five-point rally and eventually beat us 10-4.

Because it was such a beautiful summer day, most of the team hung around afterward to watch the final game. The top two regular-season teams played a really good game, taking to a 9-9 tie before the number-two seed managed to score a few to win 13-10. Part of the fun on the sidelines was sitting there eating pizza and heckling the players.

I took a bunch of pictures, of course. It’s hard to capture good “action shots” during a game, and I find that I often end up with pictures of people holding the disc ready to throw, or marking an opponent who’s holding the disc ready to throw. Today I worked on different stuff, and here it is:

Off to the races!

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Keith demonstrates his nice high-release backhand, right over his defender:

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Brenda makes a great endzone catch over two women:

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Tessa breaks through a three-person zone defense:

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Vicki makes an amazing catch in the endzone, somehow holding onto the disc with her fingertips:

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Erik makes a running catch in the background; I find the best part of this photo is Rich (on the opposing team) who was wearing a jester’s cap for the whole game.

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Finally, here we are celebrating our third-place finish:

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In truth, we took this picture before we even started playing this morning, which is why we look so fresh and clean. After a typical team shot, I suggested we all hold up one finger as if celebrating our first-place finish, so we took that picture. Then someone else said maybe we should do second and third as well, just in case. Heh.

Road Trip 2015

Our 2015 road trip turned out to be a great time. It all started with a drive from Longmont down to St. George, where we stayed with Tara and her kids. Our first adventure was in Zion National Park… always a fabulous place.

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I’ve always loved the towering rock walls throughout the park.

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It’s been nearly three years since Thom and I hiked the Narrows, and I’ve been itching to do it again. I told the kids how awesome it was, and we headed up the trail. It was a Saturday (first mistake!) near the end of summer (second mistake) and the crowds were astounding. The Virgin River was packed with people floundering around the muddy water.

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In addition to the crowds, the water was saturated with silt. I guess it “runs dirty” at certain times of the year; in October when Thom and I visited it was much more clear. Since it looked more or less like chocolate milk, it was impossible to see what we were stepping on, making the walk a bit treacherous at times. Still, we managed to have a good time.

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Alex demonstrates how to stand on water that’s knee-deep for everyone else!

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Even with the crowds, the canyon can be a humbling place: the walls are so high, and the canyon is quite narrow, so it just dwarfs all of the people. Pretty neat.

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The kids loved it.

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We hiked a little over two miles upriver– it was slow going, for various reasons– and then decided to head back. In the canyon it was quite pleasant: somewhat shady, a bit of a breeze, and of course the water. After we came back out to the trail, though, it was scorching hot. We’d taken more time than we’d intended in the Narrows, so the kids didn’t want to go on another hike. I’d hoped to make it up to Angel’s Landing, but the sun was burning at almost a hundred degrees. Alas, I had to make due with a couple shots of the sheer sandstone cliffs.

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On Sunday we went to church and then lounged around a bit. I suggested we head out to a local park, just for something to do, and I think I heard Tara snicker a bit. Nonetheless, the kids were feeling as bored as I was, so I walked over to the park with them. I was surprised to see it was almost deserted on a Sunday afternoon. Madi was equally surprised to see someone there at all. After about ten minutes I realized why: with temperatures hovering around 100 and the sun shining unimpeded, it was brutally hot. We all soon decided to head back indoors, where we played some games. Our old friend Kindra (from our Aurora days) stopped in for a visit that evening– that was a lot of fun, since we haven’t seen her in many years. Unless you count the time she came to visit Denver two weeks ago. Funny that we saw her twice in those two weeks, first in Denver (where we live) and then in St. George (where she lives).

Monday was Las Vegas. We piled into the van, Tara piled into hers, and we caravaned to the City That Never Sleeps. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hotel suite, which included four rooms encompassing almost 1,600 square feet– bigger than our first house. Sheesh. We spent some time at the hotel pool; they had a huge pool complex, including a big lazy river… it was fun to just do nothing but float for a while.

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In the evening we headed over to the MGM Grand to see Cirque du Soleil’s Ka, which was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it. We all agreed it was awesome and we’d love to see another Cirque show someday. As it turns out, they’re playing in Denver (a different performance) but their Vegas shows are renowned because of the sets and stages. I can see why.

After the show we headed out to The Strip and walked for about two hours, saoking in the neon sights. It was about 95 degrees, but didn’t feel too bad since the sun wasn’t burning down on us. It’s hard to describe how overwhelming Las Vegas can be unless you’ve been there. Everything is over the top. It’s cool, in a weird gaudy sort of way.

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Tuesday morning we met up with Kurt and Megan, our friends from Longmont who had driven out separately to see their family while we visited Tara. All three families met at the fabled In-n-Out Burger, well known on the West Coast, for a burger that compares to something like Freddy’s or Steak ‘n’ Shake… meaning it’s so completely mediocre that it’s cool.

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Tara headed back home while we joined Kurt and Megan on the drive down I-15 to San Diego. On the way we passed through southern Nevada, Arizona, and into southern California. The desert is such a wasteland there it’s fascinating. The thermometer in our van registered 105 degrees.

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That was about the time we passed the World’s Tallest Thermometer somewhere near Baker, California. It said 106. We hit San Diego at rush hour (whee!) and checked into our hotel. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as nice as the one in Vegas– it was a suite with a king bed and a sofa sleeper packed as efficiently as possible into two sort-of-separated rooms. Still, for the price it wasn’t too bad.

We went out for dinner at a dive restaurant called Phil’s Barbecue, which involved insane amounts of meat and bones. It didn’t look like much, but the line to get in stretched out the front door and around the building, so I guess that’s an indication they’re doing something right. Kyra managed to wolf down a few pounds of ribs.

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On Wednesday we visited the San Diego Temple, which is a truly beautiful building. Kyra loves this temple and hopes to be married there someday.

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After changing out of our nice clothes we visited the beach and had a great time poking around the rocks and watching the surf.

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There were a lot of little tiny crabs scuttling about; here are the intrepid crab hunters looking for their next find.

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Now that our kids are all teenagers, they enjoy this kind of stuff but don’t have the raw joy you see in younger kids. Kate, who’s four, was excited about everything. Every wave made her shriek and laugh, every crab was the most exciting thing she’d seen that minute, and so on. It was so much fun to see.

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That doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun too.

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On Thursday we went to the Mormon Battalion historic site, where the kids got to pan for gold and learn how to make bricks. Who knew how exciting that could be?

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Afterward it was time for the beach. Funny: the whole reason we ended up in California was because we decided we needed to take a trip to see a beach… somewhere. When Monterey didn’t work out, San Diego seemed a natural choice. So we finally had a chance to spend long hours relaxing and playing in the ocean.

Alex found a huge (live) clam:

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All of us had a great time wading a little offshore and waiting for waves to come crashing over us. They weren’t large enough for surfing or anything like that, but certainly big enough to bowl us over. It was fun to time it just right so we could body-surf along the top of the waves as they rolled to shore.

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Laralee: 0, wave: 1.

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Kyra and I didn’t time this one very well.

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Zack didn’t want to venture too far from shore; I think the larger waves would have just tossed him around.

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Sunset was beautiful. I love the Pacific.

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For dinner we went to another dive restaurant: a burger joint called Hodad’s. In case you’re wondering (as I was), a “hodad” is a “wanna-be surfer”. Again, there was a long line reaching from inside the restaurant out onto the sidewalk… a good sign. As it turned out, the burgers were fantastic. Better than In-n-Out, if I daresay. Plus, their decor was pretty sweet.

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Friday was our last day, and we decided to go to the San Diego Safari Park. It’s somewhat related to the zoo, and for some reason we were under the impression we’d be riding around in jeeps or safari trucks looking at the animals. As it turned out, a little tram takes you around a small corner of the park, but the bulk of it is walking around… just like a zoo.

It would’ve been interesting if it hadn’t been over 100 degrees and unbelievably muggy. The animals were all just lazing around.

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After a few hours of walking, the kids were beat… as was Megan, who’s six months pregnant. We decided to call it a day. We rejuvenated with frosties at Wendy’s, and then Kurt and Megan bought their girls Kraft mac-and-cheese for dinner and warmed it in the hotel microwave so they could join us at Benihana for an amazing dinner to finish the trip.

All in all, it was a grand time and an epic adventure. 16 people, 10 days, 2,500 miles, 500 pictures. It was a ton of fun to do things with these two other families, and we hope to repeat it in years to come.

Baaaaaacon

Last night Kyra, Laralee, and I sat down to play a board game. I was a bit peckish, so I decided to make a quick snack. As I started preparing some crackers and cheese I realized we had an opened package of bacon in the fridge. We’re leaving for our epic trip tomorrow, so if the bacon didn’t get eaten it would spoil. Okay, then.

I pulled it out and cooked it for my snack.

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It made a delicious addition to the otherwise boring cheese and crackers. And it reminded me of my college days, when I’d be doing homework at two in the morning, get peckish, and cook a plate full of bacon in the microwave. And of course I’d wash it down with about a liter of Pepsi.

Yep, I was very diet-conscious back then.