Sunday, December 26, 2010

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010 (Part 1)


One of the games I got for Christmas this year: NFS:Hot Pursuit Limited Edition (NFS:HPLE)!  I am an avid Need for Speed fan, going back to the very first edition.  I've played most versions on the PC and the Hot Pursuit series have always been some of my favorites.  I love being the cops busting bad guys.

NFS:HPLE breaks with the "open world" design and goes for straight up match-up style racing.  The player has to complete certain races or certain tasks at specified locations.  The player chooses which ones to do based on what has been opened up by the game.  As events are won, and as "bounty" increases, new races show up on the map.  In open-world games (like NFS: Undercover), the player drives around the world until s/he feel like taking part in an event (or they can use the GPS to select events from a map).  In NFS:HPLE, the makers decided to use the overlay map system.  It's not a bad system, it's just not as free-wheeling as some NFS players may like or be used to.

The game does offer both racer and police "Free Drive" modes, though.  These modes allow the player to explore the area without triggering any kind of event.  Basically, it's a way for the player to get a feel for the lay of the land.  If you've played NFS in any of the previous Hot Pursuit forms, you may recognize areas of the map.  I have only played the game for a few hours, but the first thing that struck me: how familiar things were.  Maybe because I have been playing around with NFS3:HP (the *original* Hot Pursuit) that I "got it" right away, or maybe I've lived in the NFS world that it's so familiar to me, but in either case, there are homages (or more accurately REMAKES) of many of the Hot Pursuit areas.  For example, the Timber Mill area features huge fallen trees that you can drive your car through (the road is cut into the tree), and this was one of the coolest effects way back in the day.  In today's game, the effect is even more pronounced because the graphics are AMAZING!

Lighthouses with rotating lights, oceans with rolling waves, street lights that cast light and shadows (sometimes to the point that you can't see an oncoming car in your path!), mountain vistas that take your breath away.  Yes, this is a game, and though racing (or avoiding cops/busting racers) is the main goal, trust me when I say you *will* want to take advantage of the free driving just to look around the place. 

For me, it was like visiting my home town with fresh eyes.  Mining tunnels with railroad tracks were fun the first time around all those years ago, but with today's physics models, the railroad tracks themselves are 3d (making it fun to try and drive on them).  Cutouts in cliff sides allow the player to take quick shortcuts (assuming you can handle the tight squeeze!).  There are some new areas I don't recognize, and I don't know if that's memory failing or if those are actually new to this game.  It doesn't matter.  It just looks cool.

Racing comes in the way of time trials (get to the finish in certain time), racing (beat other racers to the finish), escapes (get away from the cops), and combinations of those.  As you win events, your reputation (or Bounty) increases.  The better you do, the more bounty you earn.  Earning bounty unlocks more cars, better weapons (spike strips, EMP, etc), and more tracks.  As a racer, most events have a Gold, Silver and Bronze achievement level.  As long as you medal (at least so far as I have seen in the time I've played), you unlock new races.  Of course, the idea is to score Gold in everything, but some of these events are TOUGH - especially the ones where you have to get to the finish by a certain time.  And even the Nitro doesn't always help!

Every car in NFS:HPLE has Nitro equipped standard.  This is a nice touch.  You build Nitro by driving in the oncoming traffic lanes, accumulating close calls (passing by another vehicle VERY closely without hitting it) and by generally driving recklessly.  You don't want to crash into things though, because that slows your time.  Eventually, you will unlock certain levels where you get Turbo in addition to Nitro.  Turbo rocks!  Well, mostly.  The downside is that EVERY car gets Turbo for the same map, so your racing adversaries and the cops keep up with you.  Really, then, what's the point?  Okay, the point is: screaming through the race at ultra-unrealistic speeds is a HUGE rush (pun maybe intended).  Man, you FLY through level!

On the cop-centric levels (whether you are the good guys or bad guys), cars have spike strips, EMPs, and other tactics to use against the opposition.  I love watching my spike strip take out a fellow racer.  I actually like to see that more than I do taking out a cop.  For the most part, I can deal with cops.  The other racers, though, are tough competitors.  As a cop, you have things like Spike Strips, EMPs, Road Blocks and Helicopters at your disposal.  Road blocks are more effective in crowded area where the racers are forced to crash into the waiting officers.  The racers also get weapons and can jam your signal, drop spikes, etc.  Some of the races are quite furious as you dodge traffic and everything else while hunting down the baddies.

Cops and racers have a "Damage bar" above each of them and you have get their "health" to zero - by use of weapons, crashing, or whatever means you can.

I've unlocked several cars (both racers and cop cars) but do not actually have access to them from the menus.  Not sure how that works.  I have also unlocked several different race types (like highway patrol) that I have yet to take part in.  Guess I see how that works as I keep playing.

I'll post a follow-up review after I've completed more of the game.  In the meantime, I fully recommend snagging it for whatever gaming platform you have.

Next up: I'm taking my dance moves into the "Michael Jackson Experience!"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Let It Be Christmas

There are hundreds of songs I could have chosen to be *THE* Christmas Song for this season.  I think this is one of the most touching, hope-filled songs of the season.  Though any number of artists could have recorded this, only Alan Jackson makes it what it is.  God has certainly given this man a unique and incredible voice.  Today, on the day many Christians celebrate as the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, I pray that we find peace, love, and music throughout the day.

I wish you and yours a VERY Merry Christmas! 



I pray that if you are reading this, you will take at least a moment to think and reflect on what it took and what it means for the God of Christ to have brought down a child who would change the world like no other ever would.  Being a believer is not about "bible-thumping" or "hypocrisy." It's not about ramming religion down other people's throats.  It's about finding a higher power, someone to lean on and to thank.  It's about trusting that everything we are able to do and everything we are not able to (on our own) can be provided to us.  It's about accepting God's only child as the redeeming savior that bridges the gap humans made (and still make) between themselves and their creator.  Not trying to ram anything down anyone's throat, but I think some people have totally distorted what "Christmas" is truly about.

It is not about pagan traditions and religious holidays all getting mixed together for some commercial gain.  Yes, that's what's happened as a side effect, granted.  But, we celebrate Christmas for what it means to Christians: Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  Period.  Without the birth of Christ, there is no "Christ"-mas.  There wouldnt even be an "X"-mas without the birth of Christ because we would have His name to "X" out in the first place!  It is about Christ.  It is about this child that was given to the world, an ultimate sacrifice placed here by the Lord God.

For me, one of the best things about Christ and the way the Lord works: Free Will.  He lets us make the choice to accept what He has offered.  I pray you find Christ one day, but if you choose not to, I pray that you (and I for that matter) will be open enough to love those who think differently without hating, without shouting, without killing.

On this one day of the year, let it be Christmas... Love, peace, hope, music, celebration.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

While typing up my "Christmas Song of the Day" for today, my mind drifted to the now-iconic news clipping from an 8-year old girl to the newspaper asking if there is a such thing as Santa Claus.  It amazes me that this clipping comes from a time more than 110 years ago, and yet my daughter asked us the very same thing just the other day.  This is for her... and for all those who wonder:

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

"VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Christmas Song of the Day - Believe, from "Polar Express"

I love the book and the movie, "The Polar Express."  Though the Christian aspects of Christmas are easily explained (at least for me), some of the other aspects get jumbled and some people believe in certain things and others do not.

Aside from the reason CHRIST is in Christmas, believe in the goodness of others, in being charitable, in being OPEN to receiving charity and well wishes from others.  The story of Santa Claus is as old as the holiday itself (well, okay, maybe not quite), and knowing what St. Nicholas did and what he meant to those children lives in the traditions we have today.  Santa Claus and, even more importantly (I believe), the spirit of Santa Claus should always remain a part of the mystery and lore of the holiday season.

Believe in the wonder of a child's eyes, the love of friends and family, the need to give something to those that require it (whether that be food, shelter, toys, or a warm smile).  Believe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

One of the classic Christmas songs that has been covered by everyone from Sinatra to Coldplay to just about anyone you can think of.  And, while poking around the 'net looking for a rendition to post, I found David Cook singing it in 2008 at the Rockefeller Center:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Broken Apple USB Cable





A friend of mine wanted to know what I meant by a recent Facebook post in which I said that we break our USB cables... Here is just one example.

Wanna Win a Printer?? Read on!

Need a new printer?  WANT one even if you don't need one?  Want one to give to someone else for the new year?  Like to enter contests just to see if you can win?

Well, if the answer is YES to any of those, then head on over to The Pioneer Woman's site for your chance to win: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/special-offers/2010/11/name-your-favorite-holiday-recipes-and-enter-to-win-a-printer/

Wanna know more about the printer?  Well, here's a picture:

And here is more info about this beauty: http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/store_access.do?template_type=product_detail&product_code=CQ140A%23B1H&jumpid=re_r11400_us/en/hho/IPG/ipg20_phototpg_int_buynow

Have fun!  Hey, if you win and don't want the printer, you could always send it to me for helping you win it!

Christmas Song of the Day - It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I probably should have started with this one as the the "Christmas Song of the Day" kicked off, but I'm not that smart nor organized.  I looked around and came up with a group of children singing this song.  As I get older, listening to groups of children sing brings a feeling to my heart that no other styling can do.  I love the sound of kids singing in a chorus, and to have them singing Christmas song brings a joy that is comforting, reassuring, and hopeful.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Andy Williams sings one of the most uplifting, toe-tapping songs of the season that has become a traditional classic!  This makes me want to run outside into the snow (if there any), and dance around as the flakes come falling down around me.  I've been ice skating only a couple times in my life, that I can remember, and this song always brings the feeling of gliding along the ice (not that I would call what I did 'gliding' exactly):

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Ah, how could I offer up Christmas songs without providing the song that parents all over the world use as a way to guilt their children into behaving?  Frankly, I've always had issue with the idea that Santa seemed to have as much omniscience as the Lord Himself - he knows when you're sleeping, awake, good or bad...  I believe it was explained to me like this: Santa gets his info from God.

Well, believe it how you like.  For me, there is hands-down no better version of this song than from the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Santa Claus and His Old Lady

I grew up listening to the bits and antics of Cheech and Chong on vinyl.  Naturally, my favorite is "Dave's not here," but only slightly less well known is a recording they did about the story of Santa.  Politically correct or not, this is classic, funny stuff:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - The Christmas Song

Until a few years ago, I always thought this was called, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire."  Shows what I know!  This video shows Mel Torme and Judy Garland singing the song together!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Sleigh Ride

I think this version by The Boston Pops is one of my all-time favorites.  I know there are versions with the words being sung, but this song has always been great with just the music and little sound effects in it:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Rockin Around the Christmas Tree

How can you provide a different Christmas song each day and not include this one!? You can't.  Well, you can, but you shouldn't. Really.  I am a HUGE fan of the house-lighting-to-music displays, and I found this one done to this song!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - O, Little Town of Bethlehem

Sarah McLachlan has one of the most distinguishable voices ever recorded, and here is her take on this traditional Christmas song:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - It came upon a midnight clear

One of the most beautiful Christmas songs I can think of.  This version is from a couple years ago, sung by Josh Grobin:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Santa Baby

Oh, I know, Ertha Kitt did it originally, and she certainly has one of the best versions!  But, I thought it would be fun to post a more 'current' version.  This one is sung by Taylor Swift:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Today, I present to you one of Shan's all-time favorite Christmas songs. One year, I even bought her a stuffed hippo for Christmas! She still has it, too:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Do you hear what I hear

One of the most beautiful voices God has ever put on this earth, as far as I'm concerned: Carrie Underwood sings "Do you hear what I hear"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Christmas Shoes

Some songs touch your heart and bring a tear to your eye.  Some songs remind us that other people may have much more going on in their lives than we could ever know or understand.  Some songs make us stop and consider our own reactions or make us look inward further than we may care to.  For me, this is one of those.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Email Santa (Santa.com)

From the first time I heard this song, it became one of my all-time favorites.  Must be the nerd in me!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Silent Night

There is something soft, warm, and peaceful about this song and hearing Elvis sing it brings the story of Jesus' birth to a place that few singers can take us.  I am not an Elvis fan, but certainly respect his impact on music and appreciate his talent when I hear something like this.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Do they know it's Christmas

On the heels of "We are the World," a group of 80's stars got together to make a Christmas song to raise money and awareness of the plight of Africans during the time.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit - Yes, you can still play! (maybe)



Do you happen to have a copy of the "classic" (we're talking the original 1998 retail version here) racing game, "Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit" laying around?  Well, if you do (or if you decide to buy the original jewel cased version from eBay), you can enjoy the benefits of some enterprising programmers and still play the game with some remarkable results.

Okay, "remarkable" is used in the following manner: This game is from 1998, when "Voodoo" chipsets were all the rage.  This is not "remarkable" in the sense that today's games are graphically off the charts, though I admit, with the steps I'll lay out here, you can't deny the game looks DANG GOOD for being more than ten years old!

The steps outlined below come from one discussion on the topic, but I am pulling everything together so you don't have to cull through all the comments and back and forth rapport.  And, this allows you to play this classic on XP, Vista, Windows 7 x32 and Windows 7 x64. No kidding.

First, you will need the "NFS3:HP Vista Edition" from: http://cid-94a12102e5094675.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/eXcessive%20Software/NFS3VistaInstall.zip - When you get there, just click on the yellow folder with the zipper on it.

Next, you must have an original NFS3:HP game disc.  Evidently, this Vista version does *NOT* work with the bundled edition of the game (the one with several NFS classic games in it).

Make sure the game disc is in the drive, then extract the files from the ZIP and run the Vista Edition setup.  The setup will verify your CD.  Then, it will ask you where you want the game, etc.

That lets you play the game with decent graphics.  Let's move up to "Ohhh, yeah!"

Download the nGlide Wrapper: http://www.zeus-software.com/downloads/nglide

Extract and install the wrapper.  Note, it will not affect any modern games, and may actually prove to aid in playing some of the other classic Voodoo-enabled games you have.

Next, you have to download a patch for NFS3:HP: http://www.zeus-software.com/files/nglide/nfs3_patch.zip

Extract the patch files (there are two files in the ZIP) to your game's installed location (where you told it to install during the first step).  It should replace the voodoo2a.dll file and provide a .reg file.

Use Explorer or My Computer to find the installation location of your game and double-click the .REG file to add the Voodoo-enabled information to your registry.

Now, we have to edit the shortcut that the Vista Edition installed on your dekstop.  Find that shortcut, right-click on it, and choose properties.

In the "Target:" line, you need to add one thing.  At he very right-end of the line, AFTER the final quotation mark, add a SPACE (press your space bar once) and type: "-voodoo"

Click APPLY then OK.

Run the game from the desktop icon.  Once inside the game, choose Single Player, create a name, etc, but before you race, click on OPTIONS (bottom right of screen) and set your VIDEO preferences!  Trust me, you can set everything to "HIGH" or "FULL" or whatever.  Also, change the resolution to the highest you see listed.

Welcome to a new feel for a classic game!

*All this info was culled together from: http://my.opera.com/rejzor/blog/need-for-speed-3-vista-edition

One eBay listing that *appears* to be listing a compatible version:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Need-Speed-3-III-Hot-Pursuit-PC-CD-Win-/270667645225?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f050c8129

I took only the iPad

Last week, I had a state technology coordinator's meeting.  That's nothing new, as we have them every month.  What was new, however, was the iPad that I took.  In fact, what was new, really, was the fact that I *only* took the device to use during the meeting.  How did it go?

First of all, I had recently updated to the iOS 4.2.whatever and let me say that the switching of the "anti-rotate" button into a "mute" button has got to be one of the WORST decisions I have ever seen made to a device that freely flips the screen around at the tip of a hat.  Hold the device flat on a table, and it might rotate the screen 90 degrees in one moment, then do a literal 180-degree turn in the next with no rhyme or reason.  The ability to freeze the screen in any given position was one of my favorite features.  Now, that's gone (unless there is some trick to getting it back, which I would love to hear about!).

I do not have ANY type of case for the device yet, so that played into several of the problems (like the freely-rotating screen) I had.  It's a pain in the rear to type on the thing while it is laying perfectly flat on a table, at least for me.  I've heard a lot of folks complain that the keyboard doesn't "work" because you can't "feel" the keys.  Let me tell you, it takes a LOT of getting used to.  Even though there is a 'click' when you hit the keys (unless, of course, you flipped the anti-rotate switch and instead it muted it), there is no real tactile response.  You get no physical feedback.  I like physical feedback.  I eventually got the hang of it, except for the times I "rested" my hand, only to find a bunch of random characters in my notes from accidentally hitting keys.

My next problem stemmed from the 'autocorrect/auto spellcheck' that is enabled by default.  That stupid thing kept trying to "fix" my typing.  That's great for actual misspelled words, but not so great when one is typing acronyms, names, etc.  In the settings, one can turn off auto-correct, but then that immediately and automatically turns off spell check.  Seriously!?  Can we not have it check spelling WITHOUT fixing it!?  Let's see, Microsoft Word has been doing that since...what, 1984 or something?  Stupid.  I'd like the little red wavy "hey, I think this is not spelled correctly" line, in case I *do* type something incorrectly.  Once I disabled auto-correct, though, that went with it.  Again, stupid.

One last editing-related problem: I cannot touch a word and set the edit cursor where I want.  For example, if I typed: thenIwent home, I cannot simply touch between each of the three words run together in order to add spaces.  Seriously!?  Again, if someone know a fix or technique, please let me know.  How ridiculous that I have to type an entire word again just to fix a spelling mistake or a transposition of two letters.  Come on, man!

The rest of the meeting went fine (checking email, looking up resources on web, etc).

And then, I needed to post my notes.  Granted, I used the built-in notepad.  There was no way (that I could find) to copy all the text and paste it into a blog post (or even to just select ALL the text, for that matter). Useless.  I have to email the notes to myself, then copy the text on my computer in order to post it into another document.  Talk about frustrating!  Not only that, but also VERY counterproductive and a complete waste of time.  If I have to do all that, why bother carrying the thing?  I'll just take my computer and save 9, 10, 50 steps. Thanks.

I am still learning what the iPad does (and doesn't do).  So far, the best three apps for me are:

iNet Network Scanner - Scan your network, see what's out there.
Jump - Remote desktop into any machine with full integration.
FlipBoard - The coolest reader for Twitter and Facebook (hoping they add RSS soon!).

I'll keep you posted.

Christmas Song of the Day - Go Tell It On The Mountain

This is probably one of the most "choral-friendly" song ever created, especially in relation to Christmas.  The video is of the great Aretha Franklin singing during the tree lighting while Clinton was President.  This also includes "O Christmas Tree"

Christmas Song of the Day - The Carol of the Bells

George Winston created an amazing masterpiece for this song, and I found this tribute with a lot of cool pictures to go with it.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Add more effects to Photo Booth on Mac

Tired of playing with same set of effects that come with Photo Booth?  Well, after poking around, I came across an article that (sorta) explains how to do it.  So, I took the best parts, cut out the stuff you don't care about and jotted the steps down here for you:

1. In Finder, navigate to /System/Library/Compositions

2. Use command-click to select all the recommended compositions: ASCII Art, Blue Print, Blur, City Lights, Color Controls, Color Invert, Compound Eye, Concert, Crystallize, Dot Screen, Exposure Adjust, Gamma Adjust, Kaleidescope, Line Overlay, Line Screen, Monochrome, Neon, Pixellate, Pointillize, Posterize, Sharpen, Tracer, Zoom Blur

3. Copy the items

4. In Finder, navigate to MacintoshHD/Users/your_name/Library/Compositions (if that folder does not exist on your computer, then you can just create it). If you are familiar with the terminology, you can navigate to ~/Library/Compositions.

5. Paste the items

6. Open a Terminal window, and execute the following commands:

cd ~/Library/Compositions

for i in *.qtz; do /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c 'delete :excludedHosts:' "$i"; done
(for BEST results, just copy the line above and paste it into your Terminal session, then press ENTER/RETURN)

**Ignore any "errors" you might see during the execution of that command.

7. Launch PhotoBooth, look for the new effects at the right of your effects list and enjoy!

Some Examples:




This information can be found here: http://www.macworld.com/article/143700/2009/11/photoeffects.html?lsrc=nl_mwhints_h_crawl

Christmas Song of the Day - Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I enjoy more upbeat versions of many Christmas classics, and combining Selena Gomez with a 'pop' version of the song makes for some fun yuletime entertainment.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - White Christmas

This is one of my all-time favorite ones.  Now that I live in Arkansas, it is very rare that I see white Christmases.  While growing up in Pittsburgh and the time I spent in Colorado and Virginia, I had seen plenty of them.  I chose this video because I love the setting of the military folks sitting around.  I know there are people serving our country in all parts of the world, and many of them will be dreaming of a white Christmas, too.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - 12 Days of Christmas (Bob and Doug version)

I realize this is not your usual "12 Days" rendition, but I loved watching Bob and Doug on TV when I could, and I love this version of the classic Christmas song!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - I'll Be Home for Christmas

There have been a zillion renditions of this song, but there is something about Rascal Flatts that really gives the song something very moving.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Emily's Christmas Story

Emily has been studying "-ing" words this week in school.  She decided to write a Christmas story using all of her -ing spelling words.  She had me scan it in so she could share printouts with us.  I took the liberty of posting the story here (click on images to enlarge):


*"fanted" = "fainted"

Christmas Song of the Day - Mary Did You Know

"Mary Did You Know?" Written by Mark Lowry, who is most noted for his hilarious comedy.  But, one day, he said this lyric came to him and he paired up with Buddy Greene who wrote the music to go with it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Song of the Day - Where are you Christmas

Each day from now until Christmas Day, I in addition to any "regular" posts I do (and I use that term loosely), I will post a Christmas song for your enjoyment.  I am starting with "Where Are you Christmas?"  This is the Faith Hill version.  The song comes from the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Black Ops for PC - First Impression

I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops on Friday.  I've been wanting to play the game since it came out and I couldn't wait to try it.  I found a web site (cannot recall just now) that let me see if my computer could even run the game.  According to the site, my computer could run it, but with several warnings: Processor was on the slow side and my RAM was a bit lower than they liked.

My system is roughly 5-6 years old.  It is a Pentium D 840 (or something along those lines - 2.8 Ghz) with 1.5 GB of RAM.  I actually thought I had 3GB of RAM, so somewhere in the past years, I must have played swapsies with various computers I had worked on.  Ah well.  I have twin Geforce 8600GT's in SLI mode.  If this is too techie, don't worry, I'm almost done with this part.  I installed the game (more on that in a bit), and fired it up.  LAG city.  I was bummed.  It is "semi-playable" on my rig, but that is being taken care of soon.  As it turns out, I had a mileage check from work that more than covered the cost upgrading the CPU on my motherboard.  I'll be kickin' it with 3.2 Ghz before long.  And for those that are rolling their eyes or are pounding their fists, let me say that I can do this upgrade for about a Benjamin.  Well within my budget, this upgrade will buy me several more years before I have to do a total replacement.  I am also moving over to a Radeon HD 5770* video card.  The video card is something I've been wanting to do for a while now and this presented a perfect opportunity.  Once my new hardware is in place, I will follow this post up with a "second look" for Black Ops.

Let's get down to business... I hate STEAM.  I thought I was okay with it when they solved the issue with my father's game (previously posted), but I've since gone back to my original feelings - I hate it.  STEAM requires the user to connect to the Internet for registration of new software.  That in itself is not bad.  But, then afterward, the STEAM engine needed and update.  Once the game was installed, the GAME needed an update!  Believe it or not, I actually chronicled this:

9:39pm - Begin installation, update steam (and find the stupid login info)
9:53pm - Enter product code after steam updates
9:54pm - Begin installation of actual game
10:16p - Launch game, game needs update, steam reports "Ready to play in 48 minutes" Say what!?
10:40p - Update finished, Ready to Play. Okay, not quite 48 minutes.

As you can see, from the time I put the DVD into the computer, it took AN HOUR before I could even play the game.  I assume XBox, Playstation, Wii, etc players do have this problem.  They can just drop the disc and go.  Yeesh.

Okay, let me say that I know the box says the game is rated "M" for 17+ age group.  But, the language in this game is ROUGH!  Even on the "moderate" setting, some of the scenes play the VERY foul language.  Do *NOT* play this game with youngins around (or kill the speakers!).

The lag was so bad, the game was unplayable in any realistic sense.  I got out of the game, set Avast! anti-virus to "Silent/Game Mode" and killed several running processes (Adobe, Java, iPod service, etc).  I went back into the game and dumbed down all the settings - 800x600, no effects, low quality, etc.  At that point, the game was playable and still didn't look too bad either.

You start out as a guy in an electric chair.  You are being interrogated, including a little shock therapy for good measure.  As you are being quizzed, you are taken back (in flashback memories) to various scenarios that you then get to play out.  After the mission ends, you come out of your daze back into 'the present' for more questions, shocks and then flashback to another memory-induced mission.  There was a Castro mission, a Vietnam mission, and a few others I can't recall.  I am in the Vietnam mission, but cannot continue because the lag has gotten horrendous.  If you've played the game, it's where you are in the trenches and must blow up the tanks with detonators.  The lag is so bad that during the melee where you have to "press the 'F' key repeatedly," I had to play through sevral times because the key presses were not registering fast enough.

Aside from the technical issues, I find myself torn about this game.  The missions you play through are great fun!  They represent what Call of Duty showcases in each of their first-person shooters - goals, objectives, run-and-gun (at least for the parts I have done) with some puzzle-solving thrown in.  On the downside, the whole "flashback" scenario is tedious for me.  Frankly, in the scheme of the "story," I'd rather just play through the missions and forget all the dumb interrogation and dialog junk.  I may be the only person on the planet that feels that way.  Each mission is a different period of time, and they are only 'connected' by the fact the main character is 'remembering' what happened.  UGH.  No thanks.  It's not even a problem of disjointedness (which there is that, but still), but rather that I just don't care.  I have zero vested interest in the main character's plight.  Nothing in the game has made me 'buy into' the premise.  I'm sure the designers thought they were doing a cool, great storyline.  Instead, it comes off as if each mission was coded by a different group of people and then someone said, "Hey, none of this goes together! We need a story here!"  BBBZZZTT... Thank you for playing.

I'll let you know how my experience goes once the new hardware is in place, and maybe things will "jeehaw" better when I'm not fighting lag.  As for now, though, I give the missions an 8 and the story a 3.  I give it a 3 because at least you can look around while seated, and rumor is you can break out of the straps and find a 'secret' computer to enter codes.  We'll see.

*I had previously reported a Radeon 7550, but that was a typo.

Steelers Plurk Timeline


#timeline_holder {
background: url("http://images.twitrounds.com/sports-backgrounds/pittsburgh-steelers.jpg") repeat-x;
}

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 Edublog Award Nominations are OPEN!

The 2010 Edublog Awards are currently accepting nominations for the best in a variety of areas.

I am nominating the following:

Best educational use of video/visual: http://artsnacks.org/
Best educational use of a social network: http://artsnacks.org/
Best class blog: http://room118learners.blogspot.com/



You can nominate your own favorites. Simply follow the directions from

Step 1: Write a post on your blog linking to:

  1. The Edublog Awards Homepage
  2. The blogs & sites that you want to nominate (must be linked to!)
You can nominate for as many categories as you like, but only one nomination per category, and not yourself :) You can nominate a blog (or site) for more than one category)

Step 2: Email the link to your nomination post

Use the form on The Edublog Awards Homepage to contact them, please include a genuine email address (spam free, just in case we need to confirm identity) and the link to your nominations post.

Drinking the Apple-flavored Kool Aid

I am sitting in the living room as I write this.  While that is not exactly novel, this is: I am using a MacBook to type while experimenting with an iPad *and* a 4th Gen iPod Touch.  Three years ago, I would have fallen on the floor laughing my head off if someone said I would be here now in this set-up.  Heck, even two years ago, I would have been scoffing at least a little.  A year ago, we didn't even know what an "iPad" was.

For the record, let it be known that these devices are not "mine," but rather they belong to my place of employment.  I simply get the benefit of using them until one of several things happen: a) something new comes along and I "trade up," b) I decide one or more of the devices cause more headache than they solve and pass them on to someone else, or c) my employment with the education service center where I work is no longer a factor and I have to turn them in.  Okay, I threw that last one in for fun.  I like to create controversy every so often just to keep people's juices flowing.  At least, I *hope* it's a joke!

Let me start with the iPod Touch 4th Gen.  Why?  Because, for me, it has the least amount of impact.  Why is that? Because I have a 3rd Gen (technically 2.5 Gen) iPod Touch that I personally own.  While the addition of two cameras is nice, it's still a Touch.  Frankly, it's not a very user-friendly one either.  You see, the edges are even more rounded than in previous versions.  Not a bad thing in and of itself, right?  Well, pair that with the top and side buttons that are essentially flush with the unit, and everything I do on it feels as though the thing is going to squirt out of my hands and crash to the floor. 

The metal is ULTRA slick, and this is one slippery fella.  In fact, the power button on top is basically on the back of the unit.  Not easy to manipulate, in my opinion.  The camera takes pretty good pictures and can fire off several pretty quickly.  In my unscientific testing, I was able to shoot about 3 pictures (like 2.5, really) every second.  I did a rapid-fire shutter test.  that is, I pressed the shutter button as fast as I could ten times.  The camera took 6 of the 10 shots!  That is impressive for something mounted inside a media player.

Is the device worth the extra $30 over its predecessor? Even with my grumblings about the unit, I have to say yes.  Having the dual cameras is a nice touch, and I'm sure I'll figure out other things once I get to using it more and more.


(note: the reflection of the bookcase in the picture was intentional. I've been letting Kevin Honeycutt's creativity rub off on me!)

Now, let's talk about the iPad.

You may recall, I posted several times about my dislike for the device.  Granted, I had only played with one for a little bit and at the time it was nothing more than an iPod Touch XL.  In a lot of ways, it still is that.  But, in other ways, it is more.  There are iPad-specific apps that take advantage of the resolution and screen real estate.  Other apps have been ported to the iPad.  And, if you do run iPod/iPhone apps, you can use the "2x" control to zoom in for a larger (not better) view.

One of the first apps I installed was iNet.  It is an iPhone/iPod app that I could run from the smaller device.  But, having a bigger screen means that I can READ what it is telling me much better.  Another app I installed is Jump.  Jump is a remote desktop tool that offers all kinds of great options, settings, etc.  I also installed Flipboard for reading Tweets in a magazine-like layout. Oh, man, that is worth the price of admission alone.  It also reads your Facebook feed, provided you set it up to do that.  I wish it would let me add RSS feeds as well, but there is Pulse for that, I guess.  Not a big fan of the Pulse app.  Too much vertical scrolling.  I'm not a good vert scroller, as I've mentioned on here in relation to my DSL at home.

I also snagged several educational apps, and will keep adding those.  Since part of my job is to show teachers what they can do with the device(s), I want to get my hands on as many different apps as I can - weed out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I installed VTrace, but it doesn't seem to work. It locates me via wi-fi, but when I enter an address or hostname then press "Trace," all I get is the empty map (not even showing my location).  Maybe someone knows what I'm missing here.

I'm still learning what I can and can't do on the iPad, but so far, I have done a full 180-degree turn around from my initial thoughts on it.  With the tools I have, plus others that will come along, I'm sure, I can fully understand why so many TECH people are snagging these up.  And, of course with the other apps, it's no wonder non-techs are diving into the thing.

Yes, I have drunk the Apple-flavored Kool Aid.  And, ya know, it ain't half bad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Castle Wolfenstein





I am a child of the 60's.  Not the 1960's, though I was born in 1969, but rather, I am a child of the Commodore 64 era.  Pictured above is the first game I can remember playing that had anything to do with World War II.  The player is the green guy.  The SS guards walked around and the player had to use stealth and timing to open up the golden chests to collect various items.  The zig-zag grid on the right is a set of stairs. 

I actually believe I played the Apple-II version before playing the C-64 one.  For some reason, I remember the game having different graphics, simpler ones if you can believe it.

The sequel to this game was "Beyond Castle Wolfenstein," and I played it all the way through (as I did the first one).  It basically played the same way, if memory serves.

From there, we move to the first 3d 1st person shooter - Affectionately known as "Wolf3d" because that was the file name you used in order to play.  I know I've talked about it before, but I remember first seeing the game in a Sears store.  It was the demo.  This was back in the days of dial-up and floppy disks.  In fact, the kid playing the game made me a copy to take home.  This was a newly developed method of distribution called "Shareware."  You could play a demo (limited) version of a game for free, downloadable on the bulletin boards.  What got me hooked, though, was the fact that it looked 3D!  All I saw was the tip of the gun and the world in front of and around me.  Similar to this:

Eventually, graphics got better, worlds more realistic, gameplay more intense in a game called "Return to Castle Wolfenstein:"


If I remember correctly, this was one of the first 3d shooters my Dad ever played.  He was hooked.  I tried to show him the 'historical' version of Wolf3d (and even Duke3d), but he would have none of that. I still have a copy of this floating around somewhere. I may need to break it out of its shell and fire it up again.

What made me think of all this?  Well, being home sick from work while watching various WWII historical documentaries probably had a lot to do with it.  I watched a show called "Patton 360" along with several other shows on this Veteran's Day, and eventually fired up "Battlefield 1942" for a little Nazi-killing.

The Wolfenstein series is based on fictional experiments that Hitler and his upper echelon were conducting.  Hitler and the Nazis were such a definitive enemy that many, many games have been built around eliminating them.  In fact, there are libraries of games based on WWII - so many, in fact, that at one time there was an outcry for game developers to STOP making them.

As I get older, I am drawn more and more to the desire to role-play the scenarios and battles that so many people lived and gave up their lives.  I don't mean that as anything suggesting a trivialization of the lives lost or what veterans went through during those battles.  In fact, I am seeking just the opposite.  I am not a vet, instead growing up at a time when I was free (because of the sacrifices of those who came before me) to go to college instead of being required to enlist.  Now that I am passed the age of being able to serve, I love to learn more and more about those who DID serve, those who DO serve.  And reliving those battles gives me a sense of connection to a time and place that I would not have otherwise.  Even watching the documentaries on TV is not the same as taking on the role of some of the personnel in the midst of those scenarios.

I am so grateful for the men and women who dedicate their lives, or have given their lives, so that we may enjoy the life we have in these United States.  Though I did not mean for this post to take on a message for Veteran's Day, there is really no way that it could not have.  I am free because others paid a price which I will never be able to pay back, and I am forever indebted to our armed forces.  Thank you from the deepest part of my heart.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Hail to the King, Baby!

 Yeah, this follow-up to yesterday's post brings Duke Nukem to the forefront once again.  You see, while poking around the 3dRealms website, I went to the "Store" and lo and behold - Duke3d Atomic Edition is available as a DRM-free download for just $5.99!  Oh, yeah!

I snagged that puppy up quickly.  What's even cooler about the game is that it comes with DOSBox as its means for execution.  This means that it should run on any version of Windows!  In fact, I fired it up on XP and it ran beautifully - er, well, as beautifully as it could for the time it was created.

I understand there are higher resolution add-ins one can download, and I may do that at some point.  Right now, though, I am simply enjoying the walk down memory lane. 

"Heh-heh... What a mess!"

Want your own copy?  check this out:
http://www.3drealms.com/duke3d/index.html

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Come Get Some!


I received the "Holiday 2010" issue of PC Gamer magazine the other day, I was greeted by the face of an old friend.  You may recognize him by description alone: Blond hair, crew cut style; Dark sunglasses; Smoking a cigar; Wielding a hefty weapon; Muscles to carry anything; Signature smirk on his face.  Recognize him yet?  How about this:
Yeah, that's right.  Duke Nukem really is back for the game that has been on the "waiting list" since 1998.  Seriously.  If you were a gamer back in those days, Duke 3-D (and its spin-offs) ruled the 1st person shooters, and then there was word that a bigger, badder, be-all/end-all of Dukes was coming out.  It would be called, "Duke Nukem Forever" and the buzz was everywhere.  And then, it was nowhere.  Duke Nukem has got to be one of the longest-running pieces of vaporware known to gamerkind.  The game was coming, then it wasn't.  Then it was back on, then off again, then revamped, then scrapped, then back again then tossed into the bowels of 3d Realms.  It was an emotional roller coaster that only those who grew up in a world PRE-3D games, through "BattleZone," "Wolf3d," "Doom," and "Duke 3d" would ever truly come to appreciate.

Duke 3d was the first 3d game that I am aware of (or that I really cared to play, really) that featured a blend between linear and not-quite linear gameplay.  You had to walk through the various levels, but you could generally get where you needed to go under your own terms.  And, it featured a jetpack.  Oh sure, you could win the game without using it, mostly, but where was the fun in that?  We were no longer glued to the ground ala Doom (though you could "fall" in Doom).  We could jump, jetpack, you name it.  All the while, the smart-alec comments from the main character spat out the things you were THINKING ("Your face, your (butt)? What's the difference?").  It also had a wonderful interactive world.  Tell me one person who played the game that never once went up to the urinal and pressed the spacebar.  Of COURSE you did it!  And when word got around of other fun things to try, gamers fired up ol' Duke just to find those hidden gems.

Of course, for me, the real prize was getting into the editor!  Oh yes, we could make our own levels and play against our friends over the local network!  I know that sounds trite by today's standards, but back in that day, this was HUGE.  The guys I worked with would spend many lunch hours downloading the modified levels we could find online at the time, blasting each other silly as we ate.  Once I had the editor in hand, I was making all kinds of goofy levels (one designed around a not-to-scale replica of my house).  I learned how to make exploding walls, moving trams, deep pits that would leave you with one hit point (if you fell fully healed to begin with) only to be blessed with every kind of weapon in the game. 

Duke 3d was the game everyone upgraded their systems over: more memory, better video cards, enhanced sound cards.  We mucked around in config.sys and autoexec.bat to eke out as much memory as possible while getting the IPX networking right for our LAN parties.  Okay, that's a stretch.  In truth, DOOM is what started all of that, but Duke 3d is what MADE you want to follow through.  Er, well, made *me* want to, anyway.

So now, all these years later, Gearbox announces (and actually shows off) Duke Nukem Forever really is coming in 2011.  And much like the first go-round, I want to know the requirements.  I want to make sure my machine is ready for the smart-mouthed, cigar-chomping, muscle-bound alien killer.  "Forever" is the first game in a LONG time that I have been so genuinely excited to see coming to fruition.  It is so top-secret that PC Gamer had to hire a courtroom artist to sketch pictures of the gameplay.  Oh, I know. You're thinking, "That is ridiculous."  Yes. It is.  And those of us waiting, are eating up every single morsel.

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaNoWriMo - SLOW start...

The site is down.  My user account shows up as an invalid user with a php error on the site.  Things are off to a slow start in the world of NaNoWriMo this year.  To top it off, I gave up writing after just 350 words this evening - the first night.

Where is my motivation?  What is going on with me this go-round?  Is it the World Series?  Is it the knowing how some of the story will go?  Is it the weather?  I have no answers.  I just know that I've got a long road ahead if I am going to reach that 50,000 word goal.

Like the little train that has graduated from children's story to cliche', I know I can do it.  Once I find my rhythm, things will flow from my fingertips.  Right now, I have nearly written more words for this blog post than I have for my next novel.  It should come easier than this.  After all, I know the characters.  I know the setting.  I know some of the plot elements.  It is lying in wait, bubbling just below the surface.  I can feel the words coursing through my veins, my capillaries, my arteries.  I feel the ebb and flow of story movement, and like a flood of water behind a dam, once the crack is forged, things will come fast and hard, leaving certain death and destruction in its path.

"Lost Summer" may start out as a trickle, but soon, it will rush through, over and around the folks of Appleton!  What will remain in its wake?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stepping Out Into the World of Authorship

Note: Portions of this article appear at my writing blog: http://davidwhenderson.blogspot.com, but I thought I'd edit it a bit for inclusion over here.


The photo above was taken by Jessica Hartman
(one of the daughters of our best friends, Greg and Michelle)!

For quite a while now, I have been promoting the "Gathering of Authors" that eventually took place in Texarkana at the Four States Fairgrounds this past weekend.

I woke up very early Saturday morning, realizing that I had not printed any kind of business/contact cards!  I went to the home office frantically searching for the business cards I knew we had for our printer.  Er, make that "thought we had." No business cards.  Okay, I could just print some out on heavier stock parchment paper, but that seemed a bit cheesy and very flimsy.  I rummaged through the various types of paper we had and I found about 15 sheets of some trading card paper I had bought quite some time ago to make custom baseball cards.  I considered using it, then decided not to use it, then thought about it again and finally decided to create cards using each novel as one side of the card.

The paper has adhesive backing that you remove the protective coating and fold the paper in half.  Everything (for the most part) lines up perfectly and each half sticks to the other half, creating a two-sided trading card-sized item.  In this case, my contact cards!  

I hung out, gathering up books for my outing.  After everyone else was awake, we cleaned the house and then it was time for me to head to Texarkana, about 45 miles down the road.  Emily wanted to go with me and since Shan was going to do some shopping, they would meet up at the Gathering and Emily would go home.  Well, that was the plan, anyway.  Emily and I headed down the road.

I have been to the Four States Fairgrounds a couple times, and have passed by it MANY times on my way to a couple of the schools I service as part of my day job.  As we approached the exit, however, my daughter and I began to play a game of some sort and that was distraction enough for me to miss the exit.  It also proved distraction enough that when I realized that I should be exiting soon, I knew something was amiss.  I was seeing restaurants, stores, and other landmarks that only added to my confusion.  The fairgrounds aren't down this far, I told myself, second-guessing everything before my eyes as if awakening from a dream.  I took the last exit before going "way too far" and pulled into the Best Buy parking lot.  Firing up the Droid and asking it to route me to the fairgrounds, I discovered I overshot the exit by several miles. When I posted that fact on Facebook, my boss greeted with, "Only you could get lost in Texarkana."  I'm sure that's not true... Surely not.  I mean, there has to be someone else that could not only get lost in T-Town but get lost while driving down the INTERSTATE!  Okay, so maybe that's a pretty narrow group of folks.

Now, a normal person would find the quickest route back to the Interstate and head for the correct exit.  Not me. That would be too easy and lack the adventuring spirit I evidently possessed that day.  Instead of heading to the road behind the stores, I drove through bizarre construction patterns, missed one on-ramp, and kept driving until I found myself on a road that would eventually get me back on the correct path.  Really, I'm not even sure how I found my way.  I call it God's grace.  You call it what you want.

Once I took the exit for the fairgrounds, I followed the various signs that led to the entrance and ultimately to the building where the event was taking place.  By that time, I was sure I was the last person arriving and that everyone was standing inside tapping their shoes on the floor and checking their watches.  I was wrong on both counts.

Emily and I unpacked the car and hurried into the building.  Inside, a large circle of tables occupied the middle area of the open floor while many other tables lined the side walls.  Some people walked around, purposefully looking at each table's display or examining the displays on the walls behind those on the outer edges of the building's main room.  Other folks were still putting their displays together.  Still others sat behind their tables, reading or looking around.  I am pretty sure I saw one guy reading his *own* book.  I wouldn't wager money on it, but the book in his hand sure LOOKED like those on his table.  I approached the first table to my left (where I saw event bags, t-shirts, etc) and spotted a placard with my name and book titles on it.  It also had a picture, but the person in the photo was definitely *not* me.  I met Tammy Thompson (author and event header-upper).

"Is this," I held up the sign, "my sign? 'Cause, I don't think this is me."  I smiled and chuckled a little, hoping to make light of things.  She bit.

"What!? That's not you?" She said jokingly.  She laughed and tossed the sign aside after taking from me.  "No, you're..." she looked around the room for a moment, "Over here! Next to me."  We walked to the table where my *real* placard rested on top of a six-foot table with a red tablecloth.  A stack of event bookmarks also sat on the table.  I thanked her, and my daughter and I began unpacking my box.  I created a small twin-stack of "All This Digging" and then laid out five copies in something not quite like a fan and then did the same with "Summer Breaks."  I laid the trading card contact cards out on the table. 


Emily didn't care for my decorating, and she arranged the bookmarks and moved the contact cards.  Inspiration struck!  I stood a copy of each book upright with the BACK facing outward so that passersby could read the synopses while standing at my table.  In retrospect, I'm not sure that was a great idea.  I've read that the key to sales is to get the book into the readers' hands.  I was effectively giving them "an out."  They could read about the book without actually TOUCHING it.  Not smart, granted.

Emily and I decided to look around a bit, checking out other author's books and displays.  There were several children's book authors, many fiction authors and several non-fiction authors.  I met secular authors, Christian authors, a couple fantasy writers, and more than a few southern writers (which would stand to reason given the location!).  Some authors had big posters and banners, while others had their own signs.  Still others thought to bring candy in dishes.  Most of the folks had their pricing and "checks payable" info on their signs.  I was feeling more and more like the novice outsider who had mistakenly received an invitation to the ball.  Emily found an author she liked and we bought three of his books (Tom C Greer's "Adventures of Honey" series: http://www.honeyadventures.com).

Luckily, the woman next to me on my left (Tammy was on my right and I forget her name just now) was in the same boat I was - new author, first-timer.  Though, she had a VERY cool model to go with her novel and she *did* print the price of her book on her sign.  I removed my sign from its holder and wrote the prices next to the images of my covers.  I also invented an "event special" in which folks would get a discount for buying both books at the same time.

Opposite of my table, the "Kids Corner" took up a nice portion of one corner, and children of all ages were in there coloring pages, writing for a contest or listening to tories being read to them.  My daughter never left my side (at least not for a long, long time) despite my best efforts to shoo her over to the kid-friendly area.  At the other end of the room, a woman in a clown suit made balloon creatures.  Emily ended up with a monkey climbing a tree and a fishing pole with a fish on the line!  Very cool and creative - not to mention talented!

I talked with visitors and other authors.  To my surprise, a co-worker appeared and bought a copy of each book!  Then, another woman I knew from one of my area schools also bought a book!  I had sold three books within just a few moments.  Based on a talk I had with a "regular" to these things, I was told to expect to sell about half a dozen.  I was halfway there! 

Throughout the day, patrons (or authors or anyone for that matter) could buy raffle tickets to benefit St. Jude hosptial.  Drawings were held roughly fifteen minutes apart.  There were a LOT of prizes, and by day's end, even we had won four things!  According to an email I received today, the event raised $1000 for St. Jude! That is quite a success considering the number of bodies that came through.  That is, it was a small endeavor by many standards.

At one point, Shan came by and hung out with me for a couple hours.  While she was there, Greg, Michelle and Jessica dropped by, which was a total surprise!!  We had a lot of fun chatting, checking to see if Emily was letting everyone else in the tri-state area ahead of her in the balloon line, and generally making noise.

In addition to books, kids' activities, and folks, the event also featured free sandwiches, snacks, and drinks! 

Around 6pm, the kids all went outside for a pinata busting and my daughter came rushing back with a double handful of goodies!  I sold a couple more books during the day and at 6:30 or so, Kathy Patrick (the featured speaker) got up and told us about her "Beauty and the Book" endeavor, some of her life story and about her author event "Pulpwood Queen's Book Club" (and the guy version, "Timber Guys").  She is a  lively, fun woman who is taking full advantage of her time on this earth!

I offered a copy of "Summer Breaks" to each Ms. Patrick and to Ms. Thomspon, and they both gladly received their copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and my daughter not only stayed to spend the whole day with me (she was given the chance to go home with her Mom but refused), but she also finally went to the kids corner to color a couple pages.

I made several contacts, and may have even convinced a couple folks to give Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com a try for self-publishing.

(The "gathering." I am standing to the right of the woman in light blue near the center. You can see my head and a portion of my navy polo.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Losing it


I remembered using my ATM card at walmart about a week ago.  I bought a candy bar, an all-purpose usb cable, and some batteries.  See how I remember it all? 

Fast forward to wednesday this week. I went to the tire shop where Nick works to get a new tire for shan's van.  When I went to pay, I had no card in my wallet.  Uh oh.  I searched the van. Nothing. I ran to the bank and got money to pay.  Back at home, I searched for it and came up empty.

On Thursday, I searched the Charger and came up with nothing.  I called the hotel in Conway and they had no record of it being found. Hmm.  Well, I called the bank and no one had used it since my trip to wally world.

I went to the bank and had a new card ordered, cancelling my current one.

When I got back home, the card was sitting at the foot of the bed, propped up on a little fold on the bedspread.  I had checked everywhere in the house.  Weird.

Well, at least I know it wasn't lost or being used...

Friday, October 15, 2010

While waiting for the kids...

While waiting for the kids to get done at church on Monday, I took a few random pictures inside my car.  I know, I know.  Eventually, someone will take the camera away from me...







Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recent Random Photos

Here are some random photos I took recently (all except the flowers at the church were taken as "drive-bys"):






Monday, October 11, 2010

Misinterpretation of "The Stream's Secret"

While working on my Master's degree, I took a class that focused on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  One of Dante Gabriel Rossetti'smost famous poems is "The Stream's Secret."  It is a haunting, romantic tale.  At least, that's how *I* took it.  In fact, I wrote a short-short story based on what I thought was happening in the poem.  Turns out my interpretation received very mixed reviews.  At least it sparked conversation. Note: When this was written, I was still pretty 'young' in my writing development.

A Misinterpretation of "The Stream's Secret" by David W. Henderson (c)2000, 2010

Peter knelt in the long, thick grass along the stream. Intently, he watched the water flow over rocks, under branches, and around a few grassy knolls. He could see the bottom of the stream perfectly. The rocks and pebbles danced along the bed without moving. Light played with the rippling water, animating the inanimate. He tilted his head slightly, his right ear bent ever so carefully toward the bubbling brook. He held his breath. The bubbling, fumbling stream did not speak to him. He sighed deeply and shook his head.

"Did you not see?" Peter asked the stream. "Did you not hear?" he yelled out, clenching his fists at the brook. He stood, his well-pressed trousers now wrinkled and stained green from the grass. He paid no attention to his pants. Slowly, he turned, stretching his arms out in a wide arc to the place that had been behind him.

"She was here," he told no one. Taking two steps away from the stream, he pointed at the ground where he now stood. "She was right here," he repeated loudly. He fell to his knees, slumping over himself until his hair rested on the ground. Tears fell from his eyes onto the grass. His body heaved as he sobbed, still crunched like a child hiding from the seeker. The mucus from his nose dangled toward the ground, swaying with each sob-ridden breath he took. Finally, it broke, landing in a pool beneath his nose.

Suddenly, he slammed one fist into the ground. Absently, we wiped his pressed jacket sleeve across his face, taking with it tears and snot and pain. He stood, ignoring the grass stains on his sleeves where his elbows had rested on the ground. Spinning on one heel, he turned to face the babbling brook once again.

"Why won't you talk to me?" he scorned. He took two steps back toward the stream, brought his leg back and kicked his patent leather shoe at the water. A plume erupted as his foot surfaced from the depths of the stream. Ignoring the soaked sock in his shoe, he kicked at the stream once more. Again, the stream answered with a fountain of water where his foot exited through the surface. Now, the stirred dirt from the bed hid the stones and rocks that were once visible. The stream's flow carried the sediment away from Peter, as it carried Sarah not long ago.

Sarah was beautiful. He long, coppery hair flowed down over her shoulders and covered her breasts. She was exquisite. Her long, cream-colored arms could reach the night sky and pluck out a star. Her shapely, toned legs coulee leap a rainbow and land her in the pot of gold at the end of it. Her satiny smooth skin glistened in the morning dew as she lay in the grass.

Peter turned, looking over his shoulder at the spot where he had been sobbing. "As she lay in the grass," he said aloud. His eyes darkened as he turned his gaze back toward the stream. That horrid stream. That keeper of secrets. His heart pounded in his chest. His breathing had become deep, heavy. He clenched his jaw tight, then spat into the water. "Keeper of secrets," he growled.

His mind flashed - Sarah lay in the grass, nude. He blinked at the stream. Flash - her lover beside her. He stared at a rock on the stream's bed. Flash - her lover slain. Rippling waves cannot break his stare. Flash - his around her throat. His jaw clenched tighter. He dragged her into the stream. His jaw moved, emitting a sharp "pop" as his teeth rubbed against each other. Sarah kicked, squirmed, twisted. Her face plunged into the stream. He wide eyes stared at Peter in disbelief. Her mouth moved, "Peter! Peter!" Her lips formed words, but make no sound. "No! Peter!" Air rushed in and out of her lungs, making bubbles at the surface. The babbling brook became violent at the intrusion. Dirt, rocks and sand all tossed and churned wildly as Sarah splashed in the water.

A small, wry smile crept on Peter's face. He blinked twice then focused his gazed on the spot where Sarah drank her last breath. The smile on Peter's face softened as he pictured her there in the water. The stream bubbled around and passed her. Her face rested above the surface, peaceful and calm. Sarah stared blankly at the stars above. Peter leaned over her and slipped his arms around her. His lips covered her soft, smooth cheeks with tender kisses. He took one hand from behind her back and gently stroked her hair as it waved lazily in the stream. Tenderly, he kissed her lips as softly as a new lover on his wedding night. He gazed into Sarah's lifeless eyes, then closed her eyelids, sealing each with a gentle kiss. Again, he slipped both of his arms around her and embraced her, pulling their two bodies together. After a few moments, he released her. She lingered at first, not wanting to leave her lover. But, finally, the stream urged her along and she relented. She began to move, but stopped suddenly as she planted her feet into the stream's bed.

Peter's eyes widened at the sight of his Sarah's hesitation. His heart raced as the gravity of his mistake comes to his full attention. Sarah was not dead after all! She had stopped to be with him! He smiled - a small, shaky laugh escaped his lips. He stood, meaning to help her out of the water. As he bent over her, she moved away from him. Her feet still seemed planted, but her body drifted away from his reaching arm. The stream continued to push her, helping her along as it turned her body away from his. Her head pointed downstream. Peter's arms dropped to his side and she slumped to the ground beside the stream. Sarah drifted away from him, forever.




If you'd like to read the poem, you can find it: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=174291