12 December 2008

The Daughters of December Delight in Their Birthday Celebrations

This month, my two princesses celebrated their birthdays. I, without bias, have the cutest daughters in the entire world.

Kimmie awoke on her birthday to find a makeshift "throne" awaiting her. I got to perform the coronation as we placed tiara on her head, with matching earrings and "royal insignia ring."

Princess Kimmie

Here "wii" see our Princess (Peach?) in her royal throne, proudly holding her royal wand and wii remote; all ready to play Enchanted Journey or Hannah Montana.

Incidentally, as part of the passage-to-princesshood, Kimmie decided she was old enough and too big for her binky and burpcloth (which were the "security blanket" for going to sleep.) She promptly threw them in the garbage birthday morning, never to be seen again. We're proud of our princess.

Later, Kimmie was presented with her palace (which "ruled" because she got to eat it after!) And what's this?! Disney Princess toys to keep and play with after? Uh-BOOYA!

Castle Kimmie

This castle cake was freakin' cute; especially her her royal-higness' picture on top in a fun stand-up frame.

Princess Kimmie and Her Birthday Castle

She wasn't proud of her cake at all. Heck, skip the cake; Kimmie's cute enough to nibble in this picture. :)

Hannah Kimtana!!!

And what birthday would be complete without a microphone that lets you sing with FM radio?! That's right... it's Hannah Kimtana! :) Princess and Pop-Star... Pop-Star Princess; it truly was 'the best of both worlds.'

... Then came Mandi's Birthday ...

Mandi received a new addition to her Littlest Pet Shop collection when she awoke on her birthday.

Mandi excited about her Littlest Pet Shop

... She wasn't at all excited ... Mandi and Kimmie immediately began playing with it; and it must've been some kind of crazy cool, because Brennan even got in on the action for a few minutes. (No I don't have incriminating pictures... and if I did, they'd be saved for his dates when he comes of age.) ;)

Mandi and Kimmie excited about Mandi's Knight Rider game for the PC

Our family has been really into the original Knight Rider show. It has become a family tradition as we watch through the entire collection (we're in the middle of season 3 currently) and all the kids eagerly anticipate the next episode. They nag us on a nightly basis to watch another "new" episode (which I don't mind... I'm loving going back through the show; but that's another story for another day.)

Needless to say, Mandi included the Knight Rider video game on her birthday wish list. We, thanks to Amazon were able to deliver!

Mandi with Daddy and Ryan being silly

This is Mandi after receiving her game... with myself being silly and exchanging giggles with Ryan. Proof that being a Daddy sure has its moments and is completely worth it.

Mandi and her birthday 'cake'

Mandi's "cake" was comprised of pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies stacked together with frosting between for "mortar." It was tasty and we had a good time enjoying it. Mandi's bowling birthday party is this weekend with her friends; and she'll have a cool cake that she picked out for it. I haven't seen it yet, so I look forward to it; especially if it's cool like Kimmie's!

Mandi blows out her candles

I caught a fun shot of Mandi blowing out her candles. The smoke from the candles came flying at me and I started coughing directly after... but was able to snap the shot before that happened.

I hope you get your wish, Mandi!

Mandi eating her birthday 'cake'

And finally, Mandi enjoying her "cake" ... Mommy's food is always so yummy!

For the record, Kimmie took this picture. I'm thinking she has a bright future in photography if she wants.

Happy Birthday Mandi and Kimmie! I love you my sweet darling princesses!

30 October 2008

Thoughts About This Year's Election

1. Educate Yourself
2. Pick Your Candidate
3. Vote

1. Educate Yourself
When I say "Educate Yourself" I'm not talking about watching TV and learning about things through that medium alone. As you may or may not know, they only give the limelight to the two "major" parties.

There are 7 sets of candidates running for President/Vice President this year. You need to know about each and every one of them to truly be an "informed voter."

I'm providing links to all of their websites so you can go find out what they're about on your own without media influence (well, unless you find YouTube videos or other places with these candidates on television programs, etc.)

The Presidential/Vice-Presidential Candidates: (in alphabetical order by Presidential candidate's last name; list comes from the 2008 Utah Voter Information Pamphlet)

Constitution Party
Charles O. "Chuck" Baldwin (President)
Darrel Castle (Vice President)
Constitution Party Website
Baldwin/Castle Campaign Website

Libertarian Party
Bob Barr (President)
Wayne A. Root (Vice President)
Libertarian Party Website
Bob Barr Presidential Campaign Website

Party for Socialism and Liberation
Gloria La Riva (President)
Eugene Puryear (Vice President)
Party for Socialism and Liberation Website
La Riva/Puryear Campaign Website

Republican Party
John McCain (President)
Sarah Palin (Vice President)
Republican National Committee Website
McCain/Palin Campaign Website

Green Party of the United States
Cynthia McKinney (President)
Rosa Clemente (Vice President)
Green Party of the United States Website
Cynthia McKinney Campaign Website

Peace and Freedom Party
Ralph Nader (President)
Matt Gonzalez (Vice President)
Peace and Freedom Party Website
Nader/Gonzalez Campaign Website

Democratic Party
Barack Obama (President)
Joe Biden (Vice President)
Democratic Party Website
Barack Obama Campaign Website

Remember, there are SEVEN candidates, not TWO... learn about them all, then:

2. Pick a Candidate
When I say "Pick a Candidate" I don't mean for you to fall under this bullcrap notion that I've heard all year long that "Well, I really like one of the 'third party' candidates, but they'll never win, so I have to vote for the 'lesser of two evils'..."

I've heard this from more people than I've actually heard people wanting to vote for John McCain or Barack Obama. Think about it, people... if everyone voted for the person they really think should be President (including write-ins) this attitude wouldn't exist and the elections would go MUCH differently than they do now; they'd go how they were MEANT to...

If you truly want to make your voice heard, vote for the candidate you really think should be President; especially if they are third party! So, again, educate yourself and pick the candidate you feel is best suited for this election... (and that's fine if you think McCain or Obama is best-suited... but please DON'T vote for them if you like another candidate better; VOTE FOR YOUR CANDIDATE!)

3. Vote
The one thing the media-at-large has done RIGHT this year, is to portray how important this year's election is. I don't need to spell out for anyone how many interesting (and scary) things are going on in our society right now. If we truly want "change" we need to shout out the message by voting for the APPROPRIATE candidate (see section 2 above.)

Remember, "If you don't get in line, you'd better not whine..." and "If you don't make a choice, you don't have a voice."

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for; and I'm not going to reveal who I'm voting for... because you need to educate yourself and make that choice. I'm actually still in the process of making mine... I'm about 90% sure about a couple of people I'd like to vote for, but am still making sure I read up on everyone and make a truly informed decision. I exhort everyone else to do the same...

... and not just for Presdiential/Vice-Presidential candidates; but for everyone you'll be voting for on 04 November.

God bless the United States of America... get out there and vote!

18 October 2008

High School Musical 3 - Senior Year

Our family is a huge fan of the High School Musical series. We're excited to be taking the kids to the first showing on 24 October 2008.

For those of you unfamiliar, High School Musical is a series of films (the first two made for Disney Channel) by director and choreographer Kenny Ortega. We've been a fan of his work since Newsies. If you haven't seen anything he's done, we'd highly recommend checking out Newsies, any of the High School Musical movies, and/or The Cheetah Girls 2. He does an amazing job taking huge groups of young talent and making them shine. The dance numbers in all of these movies are incredible.

The films are extra special to us because the films have been made here in Utah.

So go see the Wildcats' final year together and the end of a fun film franchise. And if you haven't seen the first two, we'll be happy to show them to you. :)

20 September 2008

State of the Art Tech-hot-ogy

Techotogy: That One Gwen; She's tech-savvy, she's hot and she's a blog prodigy.

Welcome to the world of blogging, honey.

19 September 2008

Shopping by Kimmie

Jeff said I have to introduce myself. I'm Gwen. I'm the supermom Jeff tells you all about. I'm the mom of the Q-T-Pie kids in all the pictures. I don't have as much time as Jeff does to blog, and I'm not as great at writing as Jeff is either. But I'm trying my hand at it anyway!

Today, my cute little Kimmie announced she wanted to go shopping. She grabbed her purse, put on her slippers and invited me to go with her.

At the moment I was changing one of the twins, so I asked Kimmie what she was shopping for.

She simply replied, "Shopping."

I realized I had to explain myself. "Are you shopping for food? Are you shopping for clothes? Are you shopping for tools? What are you shopping for, Kimmie?" I asked.

"Dress-up" was Kimmie's response.

I asked where she planned on doing this shopping.

"My room."

Before I was even done changing one on the boys, Kimmie went to her room, gathered up her spoils, and returned with an armful of too-big clothes she had shopped for! My cute little Kimmie is a true girl.

17 September 2008

The Sons of September Slip into Celebration Mode

Part I - Brennan's Birthday

So all three of my sons were born in September. We couldn't break the mold no matter how hard we tried. Whether we liked it or not, we got all our boys in September and our girls in December.

So Brennan's birthday came first... He got breakfast of his choice (pancakes and muffins), a wireless Playstation 2 controller, homemade Oreo cookies for his birthday cake, lunch with Dad and the family (thanks to work being so close to home now!) and some presents that are awaiting shipping from overseas (Kingdom Hearts 2 collectibles.) It was a fun day.

That weekend, we threw Brennan's party at NickelMania. 10 kids and 4 adults, and it was a riot! Though I have to say, I wonder if the adults had more fun than the kids. They say youth is wasted on the young... well, many of the kids blew most of their 40 nickels in about 20 minutes due to throwing them into the "ticket" games trying to win prizes. Brennan and his friend Bryson put 20 of them each into a Simpsons arcade game so they could have 60 lives each. heh.

They certainly don't appreciate the concept of arcades as the adults remember it from our youth (said in the voice of Grumpy Old Man: "Back in my day, video games cost $0.25 and we LIKED IT!!! Oh how we LOVED IT!!!") See, when we hit arcades as kids, the goal was to see how long you could go on one or two quarters on a game.

And these nickel arcades are packed with games we used to play as kids. The really fun ones, like Frogger, Q*bert, TRON, Joust, Donkey Kong (and all sequels), Super Mario Bros, BurgerTime, Defender, etc. they're all there and more. One wall is lined with old-school pinball games. They have some newer ones too, so there is pretty much something for everyone there. The adults talked a lot about ditching the kids some time and having an adults night there. I think we will.

Anyway, everyone had a great time; and it was wonderful to see Brennan have such fun with his friends.

Part II - Ryan's and Andrew's Birthdays

Congrats, Gwennie!!! You survived the twins' first year! You are more than Mom-of-the-Year material, trust me... And we still need to do some kick-butt bash for you and your achievements! Since I didn't have time to do anything cool around their birthdays, we'll have to see about something special come Anniversary time. ;)

So Ryan and Andrew celebrated their first birthday on Sunday with my family gathered round (we had six birthdays to celebrate amongst my siblings' famlies and mine; my own family accounting for three of them. heh)

As is tradition, we like to give large pieces of cake to the children (Brennan got an entire small cake for his first birthday) and enjoy their reaction to it after being placed in front of them. We must not like getting sleep.

Needless to say, Ryan and Andrew didn't delay in devouring their chocolate goodness that tastes infinitely better than that nasty-smelling formula they've been forced to consume throughout their first year.

It was a well-received right-of-passage into toddlerhood, and they accepted it gleefully. The pictures and video will tell all; but for a cliff-notes explanation, Ryan dropped a large portion of his cake down in his lap just before I started taking video of the event. So when his tray already looks empty when you watch the video, that's why. You'll chuckle when he finds it again during the video. Enjoy!

And now our feature presentation...

click play on the video below

And finally, the aftermath... Way to get in to your work guys! Y'all really cleaned house (rather made a mess of it...)

Happy Birthday, the boys! I love you!

02 September 2008

Tender Moments with My Family

Gwen's grandmother passed away last week and we headed to St. George for the funeral. It was a wonderful and honorable tribute to a great woman that has influenced all of our lives for good and we'll miss her. We're grateful she's returned home to her Heavenly Father and husband who passed a few years back; away from her suffering.

Gwen's family did something very special at both her grandfather's and grandmother's funerals; something I've never seen done before, but would love to see at more in the future.

Each of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren wrote down something special they remember about Grandma on a paper heart. The paper hearts were then affixed to a balloon (one heart per balloon) and we all released them together after the dedication of the grave, while a special song played on the loud-speaker. It was a very precious and tender moment.

As we watched the balloons fly high into the sky, my sweet compassionate Mandi burst into tears. As my loving wife brought Mandi into her arms to console her, my youngest daughter Kimmie cuddled in and my son Brennan came close to lend his support. I feared ruining such a tender moment, but felt compelled to capture it on camera as I was so moved by it myself.

Family is what it's all about, my friends... and it's times like these that are poignant reminders. So draw in your little ones... hug them, tell them how much you love them. Because no matter what life throws at you, they're what you always have, no matter what.

And cherish the special moments like this... they're what stay with you through time while the other things fade away.

01 September 2008

I Saw an Arrow of Light... (the a-"Bridge"d Version)

This month Brennan will graduate from being a Cub Scout to being an 11-year old Scout. His leaders, especially Nic Hales, have worked extremely hard to ensure he met the goal of achieving his "Arrow of Light" award before he moved on.

Now the Arrow of Light is the highest honor a Cub Scout can earn. From the Boy Scouts of America site: "The pinnacle of Cub Scouting is the Arrow of Light Award. The requirements for this badge include developing outdoor skills, gaining an understanding of the values of Scouting, and preparing to become a Boy Scout."

Sadly, I myself never earned this award; and it probably means Brennan is a better outdoorsman than I am. Those of you that know me will testify this is true.

Back to the story...

Last Tuesday was Brennan's final Cub Pack Meeting. He was presented with his arrow of light. As you can see he was proud of himself; and well he should be. We're pretty proud of him too.

After the award was presented, Brennan got to pick which cheer we would do for him in honor of earning this prestigous award. As you can see, he picked one that would make a good shot to make mom and dad look not-so-presigous in the picture (props to Shanette for catching us at the opportune moment!); the "watermelon" cheer.

... And of course, the best part about being a dad ... the hugs of appreciation afterwards (though I must say I didn't do much... Mom on the other hand... she got two hugs; one from Brennan and one from me.) Congratulations, Brennan!

Next came the Bridging Ceremony, symbolic of their crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Brennan got to tell the Pack what his most memorable experiences were going through Cub Scouts, which included Flag Football and a really fun overnight campout at Uncle Keith's in Tooele; where Brennan got to ride a horse and more.

We're all looking forward to the adventures Brennan will have in the Boy Scouts and hope his enthusiasm will continue on.

Our many thanks go out to all of his leaders over the years. You've all been wonderful.

Congratulations, again, Brennan! We love you and are so proud of you! :)

29 August 2008

The Return of Abe and Oddworld!!!

I posted about this on the Friday Night Gamers blog; but I have to talk about it here too.

Abe is a part of my past. A part I almost recently revived when I was cleaning up my office some and ran into my Abe's Exoddus CD. These games will have you in stitches as you help Abe rescue his friends from slavery and impending doom.

Failures in the game are almost as fun as successes; and you'll find yourself repeating them for laughs as you go through the game. You interact with the friends to get them to team up to help you past obstacles. Depending on your actions... your friends will react in different ways (including getting into slap fights...)

The slap is useful when your friends seem "punch-drunk" from happy gas ... and speaking of gas... the games are loaded with farts.

Demos are available for both Oddworld games, so get downloading now... then go buy it, play them and come back and tell us what you think!
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (demo)
Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus (demo)

24 August 2008

Kimmie Rocks Out to Camp Rock Game

Mandi and Kimmie like to play a "Guitar Hero-esque" game based on Disney Channel's "Camp Rock" movie.

Here, Kimmie is watching Mandi play and jamming out to the beat of the music. You'll have to listen very closely and tune out the background noise, but if you can pick out the music, you'll see that she nails a lot of the hard hitting stuff at the beginning of the end of this short clip.

It was an absolute hoot to watch... enjoy!

23 August 2008

The Friends We Leave Behind

Friday was a bittersweet day. I am leaving ProPay to start new adventures at LANDesk.

If you want to see the soul of ProPay, this is IT! (Information Technology that is... swimmin' pools... movie stars...) Anyway... this is one of the finest conglomerations of talent ever "compiled" and I'm proud to call them my friends.

I'll miss you all... but I won't have to if you'll stop playing WoW and start playing TrackMania!!! (And don't forget to start watching Kim Possible... did I mention it's the BEST SHOW EVER MADE?!)

So, the friends I'm leaving behind...

From left-to-right:
Top Row:

Robin Shinkle, Scott Maxfield, Jim Austin, Wayne Peck, Nathan Younger, Marv White
Middle Row:

Rob Lish, Anthony Clayson, Jonathan Godfrey, Lloyd Dison, Rob Sabey,
Stuart Nelson, Ryan Jackson, Nathan Holman, Jason Gifford, Joe Hargadon,
Miguel Jimenez

Bottom Row:

Patrick Cahill

You'll also notice (behind Jim) Nate Younger's styrofoam Space Invaders... excellent!

Clint Lord was in a meeting, so I had to capture him later... I still missed Dave Jensen, McKay Salisbury, Cris Zamora and Danielle Sargent, for which I am bummed... y'all will have to send me your own pictures... heh! (I also missed alumni like Tyler Jensen and Dan Jarvis.)

There are others from other departments I'll miss too... a company full of good people to be sure.

Thanks for the good times, guys (and gals!)

20 August 2008

Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

So I'm driving out of my neighborhood this morning; heading to Bangerter Highway so I can get to I-15 and head to Happy Valley to my place of employment.

Along the way, I see two young girls walking to school. Well, one of them was walking. The other was stopped in somewhat of a crouching stance, periodically jumping as if she were practicing ollies on a virtual skateboard.

As I approached and past, I watched her jump a couple of times... one being right as I passed her.

Curious, I checked back in my rear-view mirror a couple seconds as I continued down the road... to see the girl hop a couple more times. Then it dawned on me why she was doing this.

Remember when you were young and you used to do really cool things like floating popsicle sticks down the gutter after a big rainstorm, pretending they were boats? Remember walking home from school on a cold winter day and taking 20 minutes at the end of your street to have contests with your friends to see who could slide the farthest on the ice? Remember walking to school on a spring/summer day and stopping to jump over shadows as if letting them touch you would induce a fate-worse-than-death?

That's the game this little girl was playing, my friends; and I was jealous. I remember hopping car shadows on my way to school... having to try to jump extra high on the ones that drove past slow or were extra big (like garbage trucks or semis with trailers...) Ah, good times... good times!

As if that wasn't enough to sweep me away, all the music cycling through on my mp3 player was stuff I loved in high school. That took me back to memories I have of other dorky things I'd do with friends from that era of my life, like: toilet papering someone's house, driving past a girl's house that I liked half-way across the valley (we won't mention any names... *Gina*), going for slurpees at 1:00am, coming up with silly "insider" code words for discussing things with your friends at school in public, but making sure only you understood them (donut gems and gold chains... *Ben*) :)

Why does life have to get so freaking complicated and laden with responsibilities when we "grow up?" Ok, let me rephrase that... when we get older and are labelled an "adult."

I've become this crotchety, ornery old fart (emphasis on the word "fart") and I want to go back to being the care-free, fun-loving, people-actually-liked-to-be-around-me guy that I was back in the days of pre-adult times... if not for anything else than to have my wonderful children see who I REALLY am deep-down.

My poor kids, they just see this man who is hustling in the morning just trying to get ready for work and with whatever spare time is left, trying to help Gwen get the kids ready for and off to school. Then I go to work all day (and sometimes night) and when I do get to come home before bedtime... am stuck just rushing to get dinner over with, homework finished, kids in pajamas, teeth brushed and whisked away to bed. It doesn't seem like much of a life with "Dad."

Of course, if I tried to go back to care-free with no responsibilities like I was back then, we'd have no house, food on the table, and most importantly to the kids... no video games/computers/TV... Dad becomes more of a loser.

So how do we win in this game called "Parenthood?" How does one "keep the child inside alive" whilst meeting financial obligations and other responsibilities?

I'd love to hear from my other friends in the same sitch and see what successes/failures you've had in trying to find the happy medium of having fun and staying responsible, without dying of ulcers, muscle tension and migraines from the stresses of the latter... because this kid wants to be a kid again!

I think I'm going to start by taking my kids on a walk... and we'll try jumping car shadows.

18 August 2008

Old School RPG Gaming

Going through some pictures today, I discovered some pictures I had taken of some maps I'd drawn up while playing through a couple of Role Playing Games (RPGs) I was into right after I married Gwen.

It's a fun kayak trip down the Nostalgia Nile... and I tell you, it's certainly not like it used to be anymore. In the old days, half the fun of the game was drawing up these things while you played through. Sure, walkthroughs were available on Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) but the maps weren't.

The map above is of a game called Times of Lore. Incidentally, while looking around for links to the game, I found these maps... puts my maps to shame, but I still think mine are cool (no matter how inaccurate they might be compared... Hey, they got me through the game, so they're good for something!)

The map below is of an area of Phantasie III (screenshots), a game I used to play tons in high school with my friend Russ.

Now with the advent of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), especially World of Warcraft (WoW)... there is such a wealth of information online about the game (including character stats, guild forums, etc.) that the "world" of the game involves much more than actually playing the game. It's much more involved (and costs a lot more money) than I'd care to indulge in... but it's enough for millions of others.

For the record, I don't care what anyone says, I had some mad map-making skillz back then. :)

Celebrating the Release of "Camp Rock" and Kimmie - Our Rock Star

Kimmie the Rock StarOn Tuesday, 19 August 2008, Disney Channel will release "Camp Rock" on DVD.

Weeks before the movie's debut on Disney Channel, Kimmie would frequent the web site, listen to and memorize the music.

Gwen captured Kimmie in the moment while belting out the lyrics from one of the songs! I didn't get to witness it first-hand until we watched the movie on ABC the night after the debut. During the final two songs of the movie, Kimmie jumped up and started dancing around singing with the movie. She rocked. We enjoyed.

And now we'll get to do it again with the DVD.

If you (and/or your kids) enjoy the Jonas Brothers, you'll have fun with this movie. The music is catchy and the message is about being true to yourself and your friends. Give it a shot if you haven't.

16 August 2008

TrackMania United Forever only $20.00 This Weekend on Steam!!!

Buy TrackMania United Forever on Steam this weekend for 50% off!

If you like TrackMania Nations at all, you'll not want to miss this offer! Get one of the greatest racing games ever made for only $19.99 this weekend only!

What are you waiting for...?! Stop reading and start downloading! Then come race with the Friday Night Gamers!!!

01 August 2008

KP DVD Boxed Sets... Mission Possible

For some wild reason last night, I decided to start checking around Disney websites and Googling for Kim Possible DVD boxed sets again to see if there was any news about the possibility of Disney releasing any in the near future.

What I first discovered was a forum post at the beginning of this year talking about a release in Germany of Season One; including a YouTube link for a trailer talking about the DVD.

Doing further investigation turned up links on Amazon and Target (provided by Amazon) that talk list a USA version as a future item (if you click on the Amazon link, you can sign up for an e-mail notification when it becomes available.)

So get stoked, Kim Possible fans... hopefully the wait is almost over. I would prefer an entire series boxed sets; but I'll settle for invdividual seasons if that's what we get! Booya! It's bon-diggity...

For Those That Waited So Patiently For Updated Pictures...

I posted a page of updated pictures and movies of everyone but Gwen and Brennan (we'll dig some of those up later too.) There is a really funny movie of Mandi and Kimmie doing sit-ups. Check it out!

Here's a preview:

Daddy and Kimmie - Easter 2008Ryan and Andrew chillin' like villains

06 July 2008

Why I Dropped Off the Face of the Earth

I got sick of blogging...

... No, seriously, for those that haven't already heard the story ...

On Saturday, 12 April, I went to the baptism of my nephew Morgan Hansen. It was a wonderful service and our family met together at Iggy's near South Towne Mall for lunch afterward.

The food was alright; nothing to blog about... but we went home and that evening I started getting achy all over my body and nauseous. My first reaction was, "Crap, I got food poisoning from Iggy's!" ... and I took it easy the entire night hoping to ride out the effects with minimal discomfort/damage.

I woke up Sunday with the nausea gone, but the aches remained. I went to Church and decided I was just going to roll with the aches in hopes they'd go away soon.

I reported to work Monday still aching. I started developing a cough; which at first seemed harmless, but with each passing day got worse until I was sounding like a chain smoker.

By Wednesday, I was aching and coughing so bad, I decided mid-afternoon that I'd go to the Instacare after work and find out what on Earth was wrong with me. By the time I made it home, I slumped down on the couch and started feeling cold.

It turns out I'd now developed a fever to compliment the aches and cough. Gwen called her parents (thank you so much!) to come watch the kids while she drove me to the Instacare.

The doctor was very kind and quickly discovered that I had Bronchitis induced by Influenza Type-B.

Now, let me the explain the irony here, cause it's a kicker... I have refused to get flu shots for years, because the first time I got one, I got dang sick from it. I swore I'd never do one again. However, this past year was different. I was so worried about our twins being delivered near RSV season, that I got one in hopes of protecting them some through their first winter.

So... we made it through the winter with no apparent signs of flu... but come April, I was screwed. The other kicker... the shot for that year didn't cover Influenza Type-B; so it didn't matter anyway!!! (Anger ensues...)

It gets worse. The doctor told me that had I come in within 72 hours of feeling symptoms, they could have killed the Influenza with "Tamiflu." Well, I WOULD HAVE gone in, but doctors always tell you to wait like 10 days before coming to see them when you have a cough. Here I had just missed the 72 hour mark, so was forced to ride it out.

So that was Wednesday night. By the next Tuesday, it evolved into full-blown Pneumonia in my right-lung, lower lobe. All I could do was breathe shallow to try to avoid incessant cough attacks that I swear were going to invert my torso structure. Many times I was near meeting my lungs and intestines. I coughed so hard, I pulled muscles I never knew I had.

When I went to my real doctor and was diagnosed with the Pneumonia; by the end of the visit, I had to just sit on the bed with hands on my knees, head bowed barely able to hold myself up. The doctor said, "Are you going to be alright?" and felt quite bad for my condition.

He monitored me very closely and did all he could to make this the least of an uncomfortable ride as possible (which is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE.) He was very good, though and I'm grateful for his help.

So, I continued to work, but via telecommuting for the rest of the week. While at home, I avoided everyone (especially the twins) and pretty much stayed in bed when I wasn't sitting at the computer working. The next week, I was in such bad shape, I couldn't even get out of bed. I would muster up enough strength to shower on some days, but by the time I was finished, my day's energy was spent and it was all I could do to get dressed again and get back to the bed.

Needless to say, I took that entire week off work.

The next week I decided to try the telecommuting thing again, still very weak and coughing up the lungs. We had a deadline to hit, so I felt obligated and didn't want to leave my buddies hanging any longer than I had to. I was an idiot and pushed myself too hard... working til 10:00pm on the Monday at home, then trying to go in to the office the next day for our demo. By 2:00pm my head was swimming, I was short of breath and thought I would soon pass out. I drove home and was forced to work the rest of the week at home.

Even after I finally made it back to work permanently, it took another several weeks to get my voice back (for which I was mocked profusely) and the cough lingered for about as long.

I'm still not conditioned for anything very aerobic and get winded very easily. I have a slight residual cough that aggravates when the allergies are in full swing and on rare occasions my voice starts to go out around bedtime; but for the most part, I'm "back to normal."

I've never been so sick in my entire life; and I hope I never get that sick again. During the climax of what my doctor's intern referred to as a "lung injury" - I coughed so hard it not only sapped all my energy, but felt like it strained every muscle in my torso. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly cough anymore... my body was spastically seize into a frenzy. It hurt so bad, I was near praying for death.

Bless Gwen's heart... she informed me I wouldn't be able to leave the Earth at this time. She was so patient and understanding; and tackled a family of seven on her own the entire time, including our infant twins.

I'm so not worthy of her, nor deserve her; but am sincerely grateful the Lord saw fit to bless me to be with her. I now need to get some free time so I can plan a really killer date for her to get away from everything and escape to fun for some time. Heaven knows she more than deserves it.

Thankfully, none of the rest of my family got nailed with it either. The twins had an ear infection near the end of my bout, but it seems non-related.

So that's the state of my union. I've become so backed up on everything that I'll probably never catch up. My goal for the next post is to get some pics and potentially some video up of the kids.

Talk to you soon; and thanks for not giving up on me completely! :)

16 April 2008

TrackMania Forever!!!

Quiet ride down a country road at night - TrackMania United Forever
TrackMania United Forever - Quiet Ride Down a Country Road at Night

Many people dread April 15th (at least if they live in the United States and they owe the Government taxes...) but not me.

No way, April 15th 2008 (April 16th in France) was one of the best days in video-gaming history for me.

That's right... TrackMania United Forever (TMUF) and TrackMania Nations Forever (TNF) were released today; the latter being the free version.

Nadeo, the game's creator, took the United engine for the Stadium environment and put it into TMNF. Basically, Nations Forever is like taking Stadium straight out of United and put in a standalone game. What makes this great is that owners of TMUF (which contains an additional 6 environments spanning the entire TrackMania series) can connect to TMNF servers without having Nations Forever installed (prior to this release, one had to install both TrackMania United (TMU) and TrackMania Nations (TMN) to play both.)

That's the first really exciting piece of goodness I discovered when I updated my game to TrackMania United Forever... but wait, there's more!!!

Some of my favorite additions:
  • Easier Player/Server search functionality

  • The TrackMania Original (TMO) environments have all had major graphics engine revamps done to them and they're incredibly beautiful. I'll post pics when I get some time.

  • We can now change video settings in-game; which we've been dying for!

  • Rumor is there are two new block types: a blue block in Stadium that makes it easier to carve a turn; and a "rainbow turbo" that is timed to be 100% power for 1 second, then amp up to 150% for 1 second, then 200% for 1 second, then cycle back to 100%, etc. I haven't seen these yet, but am looking forward to them. An "Engine Killer" block was added to TMU and it added a whole new dynamic to the gameplay; so I look forward to these two new blocks.

  • Tracks seem to load faster (though that might be due to the new hardware some too...)

  • All environments seem to play smoother and look prettier (even the ones that didn't get the face-lift seem to have better lighting, etc.)

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg; as I only got to play for a couple of hours tonight.

I will say this: Nadeo has put a TON of time and effort into enhancing this game and it shines like the sun. I can't believe they made it a free upgrade. I'd pay for it... in fact, I'm considering making a donation to the cause anyway; the enhancements are more than worth it.

I can't wait to see what else lies ahead as we play TrackMania Forever... you know where you'll find me late Friday Night! (Dang I need to get some time to update that site... holy old...)

Rumor was that the people in the USA that bought TrackMania United from Steam wouldn't be able to get the Forever update yet... but I pointed the update installer at my "Program Files\TrackMania United" folder and it worked fine... then when trying to launch TrackMania United from Steam after I played TMUF from the manual update, Steam decided to update the game automatically in its install folder... I just hope it didn't overwrite my car skins and gamepad configuration :)

See you at the races...

(By the way, if you're interested in getting into the world of TrackMania; contact me first... TMUF has a feature where I can invite friends to get the game... and if you get it from the invite using the same email for your account, I can be your sponsor. I'm not sure what that means, but I'd like to find out... so let me know.)

26 March 2008

The Night I Nearly Burned My House to the Ground

It's now been over a month-and-a-half since I've blogged... there is good reason; most of which I've been busting my butt at work trying to help fix problems after a major data-center changeover and trying to meet a deadline for some software we're working on.

Nevertheless, the wait will be worth it I promise... look at the title after all!

So I'm having a LAN party this weekend. I have one every year around this time; it's been a tradition for several years.

As fate would have it, last Friday during Friday Night Gaming, I was playing a game of Starcraft with Jarin. Right around midnight my computer took a dump and I saw the first Blue Screen of Death I've had on my computer in 3 years. Unfortunately, Death is the keyword in this sitch.

After rebooting several times, I found my computer auto-rebooting itself every time after reaching the agp440.sys file (a video driver) during Windows initial loading process.

Not knowing what caused it (it could've been anything: bad hard drive, bad hard drive controller on the motherboard, bad CPU, etc. etc.) and not really having any time or resources to troubleshoot it right now; and needing to have my computer running wonderfully for my LAN party this weekend... I pursued looking at what it would cost to snag a new motherboard, CPU and memory (I already have a new video card and hard drive to throw in there.)

This would eliminate the major potential failure points, allow me to REALLY enjoy the LAN party and provide a machine that will meet all of my requirements until we finish our basement, yard and fence.

Gwen agreed and I purchased the product. It arrived yesterday and I spent the late hours of the night gutting my old parts out and replacing with the shiny new ones.

All was going well (all things considered) thought it was taking quite a bit of time since I'm out of practice with this sort of thing (for those that don't know I was a professional technician for a Utah distributor for around 5 years and got to the point I could build 10-15 new computers in a work day.) That's not to mention I really enjoy the rare times I get to play with new hardware now to really try to make the inside of my computer a work of art.

I made it a work of something this morning.

I completed the rebuild of the hardware a little after midnight this morning. I brought it upstairs, hooked it up and turned it on.


Huzzah! Successful post on the first try - we always like that. So I happily go into the BIOS and look through the settings to make sure I have them to my liking. Through the process I'm getting stoked to see what my computer that now has 4 brains built onto one CPU core can do with my shiny new 8800GT video card.

While starting the Windows XP Pro installation process, I stuck a floppy disk in to provide drivers for my hard drives. I noticed that the floppy light was on constantly which usually meant it wasn't going to read disks for you because it wasn't hooked up correctly.

"Minor setback," I thought to myself as I shut down the computer, flipped the power switch on the back and walked around the side of my desk to start making the changes.

This is where I earn my spot on the Darwin awards nominations for 2008. Instead of being the smart technician I used to be and getting a flashlight for my office which doesn't have adequate lighting in that part of the room at that time of night... I decide to just go ahead and "feel it out" to get it plugged in correctly.

After my switcharoo, I walked back to my seat, flipped the power switch on the back of the power supply, and hit the power button on the computer to fire it up, literally.


Huzzah! Happy post again! I rock...

The POST information starts appearing on my monitor, but for some reason it looks a little hazy on the monitor. Looking over to my left, I see smoke coming out every crevice of my case; especially around the DVD-Rom drive that sits above my floppy.

Immediately I start taking every possible step to disconnect power to the machine before it sends me to oblivion and takes my family along with it.

Thankfully, the Lord blessed me, even in my moment of stupidity, and I was able to avoid flames... barely.

Praise the lord that whoever makes these cables does so in a way that the melting that takes place when you plug the wrong pins together stops at the next power connector point (at least, if they don't work that way, I must've powered down fast enough to not let it spread further.) Here's the results of my not taking 2 minutes to go hunt down a flashlight because I was so in a hurry to see what this new kick-butt hardware was going to do... (click the image to see it close-up)

Look at the cable and the connection point on the back of the floppy drive. Yes, they're toast. Part of the power cable is completely gone... char spread partly on my desk, partly in my computer case, and partly outside where I promptly took the computer to blow the crap out.

Needless to say, it's now 2:14am here and I sit basking in the sweet sweet smell of burnt electrical wiring and melted plastic, blogging about my mayhem instead of the ten-thousand cooler things I've wanted to blog about for the last month-and-a-half. Hopefully I'll get to those soon because I have some REALLY cute pictures of my family that we had done on President's Day.

Anyway, I digress... so now, instead of getting XP loaded tonight and being able to set all my games up Wednesday night so I could be more than prepped for this weekend... I get to now spend Wednesday night re-gutting the computer to make sure it's cleared of all burnt debris; and I can confirm that no other damage was done (remember, my computer was still booting up, desptie the fact that the floppy drive didn't like where I'd plugged the power in and was deciding to get smoking mad about it...)

So yes, I'm quite confident the new hardware will kick butt (barring that I haven't singed anything else and caused permanent damage to my XION power supply.)

I certainly hope I didn't do other damage... I don't have money to replace what I just replaced. heh.

This happened once before when I was with Supercom. When the first motherboards that provided SMB (System Management Bus) arrived and we were building our first computers with them... they had a pin set on the motherboard identical to the pin sets for external USB port brackets that had been coming with motherboards for several months prior.

Recognizing the familiar pin set, and not paying attention to what this particular pin set was labelled, I ended up plugging the USB bracket into the SMB pin set. Their power pin configurations were different, so when I fired that sucker up, it smoked like my computer tonight.

Again, we thankfully caught it before the damage spread to more than just the cable. We were able to simply grab a new USB bracket and plug it into the correct place and the system worked flawlessly.

Pray for me that the same happens with my new hardware. I'm really not in the mood to have more mayhem than I already have.

And I hope you've been able to laugh as hard at this entry as I hope to be laughing at it on Friday when I re-tell it to my LAN party guests that haven't already heard the story. Right now it's not very funny...

Moral of the story... go find the flashlight! Shortcuts never were happiness (except in TrackMania)

04 February 2008

Faith Can Move Mountains...

... Apparently, so can a snow shovel ...

Mountains of snow, almost as tall as Brennan

Our mountain is almost as tall as Brennan! Let me show you how we got to this point today...

Looking out the garage door just before opening it for the first time this morning

We woke up at 7:15am this morning and saw that the snow was coming down. We proceeded to get the three older kids ready for church while the snow continued to fall. A little after 9:00am when it was past time to leave for Church, I decided to devise my plan of attack for getting myself, Brennan, Mandi and Kimmie without getting ourselves killed or ultra-wet from the snow. (The funny thing about that is, the Church building we attend is right behind the house across the street from us.)

Anyway, I went into the garage and opened the door to see about taking the kids in our minivan. The photos above and below show that the snow had drifted up against the garage door nearly as high as our minivan bumper...

Vantastic; I can't even get out of the garage!!!

So, time for "plan B"; we'll *gulp* try to WALK to church. So I open the front door and see that we have a lovely foot-and-a-half of snow drifted up against it.

Snow drifted up against the front door.

This is around 9:15am; mind you it snowed continuously the entire 2 hours we'd been awake... and who knows how long prior?! All I know is that it looked like the photo below when it was time to leave for Church.

I knew I couldn't take the van because, not only would it not make it out of my driveway, but even if it could, it WOULDN'T make it out of the cul-de-sac.

Morning blizzard

So we waited it out more, and it finally subsided around 11:45am. By then we saw most of our neighbors out trying to shovel/snowblow/plow their sidewalks and driveways. We learned that Church had been cancelled after Sacrament Meeting so that everyone could dig themselves out; then help unbury any neighbors that were unable to do so.

We made our way out to start the moving of the mountain. We let the kids come out with us. It was up to their knees/waist and it was amusing to watch them try to traverse the fluffy white obstacle course that was our sloped driveway.

3.5 hours after starting the shoveling process, we reached the result you see at the top of this entry.

Fortunately while we were accomplishing this goal, the good city we live in sent their plows out to clear our cul-de-sac. The fine gentleman driving the plow not only pushed the snow out of the cul-de-sac; but helped us clear the end of our driveway, so our cars could actually get out into the circle.

When he finished, he stopped to talk with us for a couple minutes; letting us know that Riverton will always send a plow to handle our cul-de-sac on the days we get 6 inches or more of snow. Kudos! I might actually be able to get to work now...

29 January 2008

In Honor of Our Beloved Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley

For those who don't already know, God's most recent Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away Sunday evening around 7:00pm Mountain Time.

I know there are thousands of tributes to this great man in many forms out there; and I would be entirely ungrateful to not post one of my own.

This great man has been an inspiration in my life for as long as I can remember; even before he became the Prophet. I could always relate to President Hinckley when he would address the Church in whatever capacity he served in.

I think part of it had to do with his quick wit and fun sense of humor. He was always good for a one-liner at the most opportune of times. He always made us feel good about ourselves, even when he needed to call us to repentance. :)

There was one experience I'll never forget; one that affirmed to me of his divine calling as the Lord's chosen mouthpiece. I had prayed about President Hinckley when he was called to be Prophet and knew from the promptings of the Holy Spirit that he is a Prophet of God. I'd also had subsequent re-affirmations that this was true when I'd hear him speak and felt the same feelings.

Our Church schedules conferences at different geographical levels at different intervals. As many of you know, there are Worldwide General Conferences held bi-annually. We also hold Stake Conferences (more localized) and Ward Conferences (even more localized) bi-annually.

Every three years there is a Region Conference where several Wards/Stakes are invited to attend and this particular one was held in Downtown Salt Lake City; in the beautiful LDS Conference Center.

We obtained tickets to the Conference and had seating near the back row of the Conference Center. We arrived around an hour early to make sure we were ready to go when the conference began. While we waited for it to start, we chatted about various things.

My wife and I wondered if maybe President Hinckley would appear at our Regional Conference; but that seemed silly to me as there are tons of these for many different regions held every year; I was sure the Prophet didn't make it to all of them in-person. He wasn't scheduled to be at this one; but, of course, we thought that would be really cool.

About 15 minutes later, I felt the Spirit extremely strong and wondered if he really was there. The next thing I knew, a reverent hush fell over the entire Conference Center and slowly, the crowd started to rise to their feet. Several seconds later, President Hinckley stepped in a side door near the front of the Conference Center auditorium.

I don't mean to be irreverent here, but I can't think of any other way to describe it. It was as if someone had hooked the feelings the Holy Spirit brings up to a Gigawatt amplifier and blared it throughout the entire Conference Center. I knew I was truly in the presence of a man of God.

He took the liberty of addressing us in that conference, and to be honest, I don't recall what was said that day; but the feeling will always be remembered every time I remember that experience.

I hope to be half-the-man President Hinckley was. In his late 90's, he exhibited more energy than I have; travelling the world and spreading the love and message of the resurrected Savior of the World to all that had the blessed opportunity of interacting with him.

He feared no man, stood steadfast and true to the principles he taught and lived; yet was gentle, down-to-earth and made all who interacted with him feel welcome and at-ease.

So I pay my tribute to you President Hinckley, legendary servant of God and the legacy you leave behind. Thanks for being such an inspiration to me; I will miss you greatly, and am happy you get to be reunited with your sweet wife, other family members, past Prophets and most importantly, our Heavenly Father and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.

God bless...

24 January 2008

My Children Are Picture Purrfect...


... at least, Mandi is. We had our friends Mike and Jessica over for dinner and before they left (around the kids' bedtime...) Jessica discovered Mandi nearly zonked out at the top of the stairs to the office, wrapped up in kite string. She's our little Mandi-kitten.

Ryan and Andrew

I almost caught Ryan and Andrew smiling together, but coupling our camera's shutter-stutter and their quick grins, it's nearly impossible to catch them both at the same time. One day... :)
(Can you tell which is which?)

Kimmie playing with Ryan

Here is Kimmie playing with Ryan. I can't believe how big and grown-up my baby girl looks compared to my baby boy.

Big Brother Brennan and his two little bros. Now THAT'S a size difference. 10 years does a body good.

18 January 2008

The World of TrackMania Just Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Nadeo announced, in an interview with TMX that they will be releasing upgrades for their popular TrackMania Nations and TrackMania United franchises; called TrackMania Nations: Forever and TrackMania United: Forever.

Nations lovers will be happy to know that the Forever upgrade will still be free; though the ladder will be reset (which has been needed for a long time anyway.) Nations players will also look forward to getting the updated Stadium engine enjoyed in TrackMania United.

United lovers will enjoy some enhancements as well; one of the majors being a truly No-CD system without the 3-install crap we had to deal with through the online distribution apparatus so many of us have come to know and not love. Steam resolved this for players in the USA thankfully, as well as provided an inexpensive license to the game.

United lovers will also be happy to note that the TrackMania United: Forever (TMU-F) upgrade will also be free.

Nadeo also mentioned they had originally planned two new environments called "Toy" and "Moon"; and holy crap how fun would those be?! My mind starts racing when I think of what kind of tracks those would bring.

Sadly, they need to use the talent that would've been putting those together in other arenas for now and there is no scheduled plans of making these come to fruition. We'll just have to keep begging for them to still be born in a future release; I'd so love to see them!

United lovers that enjoy Stunts mode will enjoy knowing that there will be a Single-Player Stunt campaign (and hopefully an easier way to launch Stunt tracks in multiplayer when starting a server from in-game; as opposed to a dedicated server.)

There is a buttload of information on the upcoming changes in the interview, so I'll leave you to go research on your own. I'm stoked for the new releases and will continue to enjoy TrackMania in all forms until then.

Read the Interview

CrackMania Forever... ;)

12 January 2008

Portal - Energy Ball Fireworks

It's 4th of July time at the Aperture Science Enrichment Center! (Note: No Weighted Companion Cubes were harmed during the making of this film...)

BTW, this film brought to you by the ultra-cool custom level for Portal called "Weighted Companion Cube Map" by MrCow (hosted by myApertureLabs.com)

The map contains some anti-gravity beams that are part of the puzzles of the level - it's really quite cool. Download it and enjoy - I highly recommend it!

11 January 2008

Portal: First Slice - Free Demo for nVidia Gamers

Portal: First Slice - Copyright Valve Software - used without permissionCopyright Valve Software - used without permission

I can't believe this is my first post about Portal since the game's release... probably because what little free time I finally get in the middle of the night is spent playing it. :)

Portal is a unique game where you run an android through a test center course armed with only a gun that shoots blue and orange portals. When you enter one portal, you're ejected out the other; and you must use these to navigate your way through interesting puzzles in order to advance to the next level.

Portal is based on a fabulous free game created by Nuclear Monkey Software called "Narbacular Drop" which I raved about last March.

For those that own nVidia graphics cards, Steam will detect your card when you click the image above and confirm you have nVidia, then allow you to download FOR FREE: Portal: First Slice demo, Half-Life 2: DeathMatch, Peggle Extreme and Half-Life 2: Lost Coast. Pretty generous (and good bait to get you sucked into buying Half-Life 2 as well...) :) Smart move, Valve.

The full Portal game (only $19.95 on Steam or comes with the various versions of The Orange Box that Valve sells...) comes complete with the Source SDK which means custom levels can be made.

I found some cool sites for obtaining custom Portal maps, but the best one I've seen so far is myApertureLabs.com

The game is highly addicting and has gained quite the following. People everywhere are chanting "The cake is a lie..." and mimicking cool female computer voices that remind you that the companion cube cannot speak; but if it does, the Enrichment Center urges you to disregard its advice.

Give it a shot, then buy it, play through it, and hit up myAperatureLabs for more Portal goodness.

And remember: "There's no use crying over every mistake; you just keep on trying til you run out of cake... and the science gets done and you make a neat gun for the people who are still alive."

EDIT: It looks like Portal: First Slice is the first 10 levels of the real game. You don't get to play with the Orange Portals, but you get enough of a taste for how the game works to want to play through the rest of the fully enjoyable levels. I highly recommend purchasing the game as it unlocks 9 more levels (the last being quite a bit longer than the rest) as well as challenge versions of the original levels, and the ability to import custom maps made by other players. Start thinking with Portals!