We were relaxing on the front porch the other night, enjoying the cool evening air and a little quiet family time when, completely unbidden, a "Yo Mama" joke popped into my head. I shared it aloud because I think everyone enjoys a good "Yo Mama" joke, and because I didn't think the kids would have heard too many of them.
Boy was I wrong! Within five minutes, both the kids had rattled off more "Yo Mama" jokes than I could remember, and most of them were actually quite funny.
To my surprise, Tess shared that she has a "Yo Mama" widget on her iGoogle home page! It turns out that the boys in her class execute old school snaps competitions, where they stand opposite one another and rattle off "Yo Mama" insults to the delight of the onlooking crowd. To make sure she stays up to date, Tess reviews the "Yo Mama" joke of the day every day.
Do please share your favorite "Yo Mama" jokes in the comments, so I can share them back with the kids!
Several weeks ago we had a cookout to celebrate my birthday. A lot of friends joined me, and I think everyone had a good time. The evening flew past, though, and I didn't feel like I got to spend nearly enough time with any one person or couple.
The following weekend we hosted another cookout, this time for my sister and her husband. Another large group of people joined us, and it was a real delight to see so many kids enjoying the backyard and the playhouse. Everyone was well fed, and the afternoon seemed to last a really long time. When I checked the time, though, I was astonished to learn that only two hours had elapsed. Shortly after this, the skies darkened, the winds picked up, and thunder boomed out across the neighborhood. In an absolute flash we had the entire cookout shut down and cleaned up. Literally everyone pitched in, and within seven minutes we were all sitting comfortably on the porch, enjoying our beverages, and watching the rain pour down. I joked that we could all pursue promising careers as carnies, given our rapid tear down of the event.
The air was cool after the rain, and there was no rush to do anything at all, so we simply stayed on the porch. We were all laughing, and feeling good, and genuinely enjoying the simple pleasure of company. We stayed on the porch until the wee hours of the morning, and I was absolutely stunned to realize that many hours had slipped by so quickly!
The following weekend was the weekend in which everything seemed to be happening: Origins, ComFest, PodCamp Ohio, and my dad's birthday cookout. Things started Friday night when Owen arrived in Columbus. He picked me up, and I directed him to Goodale Park, so that he could see for himself what ComFest was all about. We meandered around a bit, and I shared a little of the event's history with him. We both gawked at the people, and enjoyed a little of the music playing throughout the park. At 8 PM I took my leave from him, and started my shift as a bartender at the Jazz Bar.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: selling beer at ComFest is one of the most entertaining ways to volunteer. The other bartenders have always been good-natured, and are almost always in a good mood. The crowds are usually mellow, and happy to receive the liquid gold you provide to them. My shift was over almost before I knew it.
A word of advice to anyone attending ComFest, or any similar event at which large plastic mugs can be purchased: always purchase as clear of a mug as you can. I further recommend against a koozie for your mug. The clearer the mug, the easier it is for the bartender to ensure that you get more beer than foam. Dark mugs, and mugs wrapped up in a koozie, present a real challenge, especially as the evening draws on, and you're often left guessing by weight alone how much beer might be in the mug. Every person with a clear mug absolutely got beer poured to the top of the mug.
I coerced Owen into picking me up from ComFest, and then treated him to a late snack at The Blue Danube. The Dube has been a favorite haunt of mine since college, and I try to expose as many out-of-town friends as I can. It was at the Blue Danube that Chris, Rich, Owen, and I officially conceived and started Habari.
After only a scant few hours of sleep I was up again, in order to help PodCamp Ohio. I had volunteered to help the check-in desk, so I had to be there an hour before things officially opened. There was already a small crowd of volunteers when I arrived. We quickly established the check-in process, and settled in to wait for guests to arrive. We had about 150 people show up for the event, the overwhelming majority of which had pre-registered. Everyone seemed pretty excited about the day's event, and there was a very positive vibe radiating from most everyone. There were a lot of video cameras recording impromptu interviews. I think things got a little silly when someone used a webcam to stream the (by then largely dormant) check-in desk online.
I have mixed opinions about PodCamp, which might merit a more complete post after I've had some time to really distill them. The day wasn't terrible, but I don't think it was what I had been expecting. As someone who put up money to help Habari be a Gold Sponsor of the event, I don't think we got our money's worth, which is deeply disappointing. The day felt at several times like it was dragging on, but that's likely because I had plans I was looking forward to later in the evening, and because I only attended two sessions.
Judging from the Twitter and blog chatter I've seen, most people seemed to have a considerably better time than I did, and I'm glad that the event was a positive one for them. Maybe I've just been using Internet communications tools for so long that I'm too jaded to get excited about building communities online -- I mean, I've been building and participating in online communities for over a decade now. Of course, I do so for the value it provides me in its own right, rather than for monetization, which was the focus of at least several PodCamp sessions, so maybe I wasn't the target audience.
After PodCamp, I high-tailed it home, and then over to my dad's house for his birthday party. He had the entire affair catered, so he got to spend the whole evening socializing with his friends and neighbors. There was a marked difference about this party from most of dad's other cookouts, which I found interesting. Usually, there are small factions of people who know one another, sitting together. Sometimes there's some cross-pollination, but it's usually brief, and very perfunctory. At this party, though, I saw a lot of people really mingling, and interacting with one another. That was neat to witness, and I'm glad that dad's social circles intersected so well. Dad seemed to really have enjoyed himself. I only stayed for a few hours, before hustling back down to ComFest, but Carina tells me that the party ran long into the night, and that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
My second shift at ComFest was much like my first of the weekend, except that it ended prematurely. Normally, the bar cashiers sell beer tokens until 10:30, and then bartenders accept tokens in exchange for beer until 11:00 PM. Throughout my shift I kept hearing the supervisors talking to one another about "crowd control". I didn't see anyone causing any trouble in the throng of people waiting for brew, so I didn't pay much attention. I saw a handful of old friends, and was generally having too good of a time to pay much attention to rumblings about crowd control.
As an aside, I only had to turn away one person for beer this year. His license had expired in 2005. I'm not sure if he was a plant by the cops looking to bust a lax bartender, or if he was underage using someone else's expired license, or if he genuinely forget to renew his license for three years. It looked like a real license, and the photo looked like him. I checked ID on almost every single person I served -- save those obviously old enough to purchase -- and only had the one invalid ID.
To my surprise, and without any warning or announcement, we were told at 10:30 PM to stop serving beer, and to step behind the taps away from the line. The police offers on duty walked up and down the row making the announcement that the bar was closed. People were surprised, but I didn't see anyone getting overly agitated or upset. We wrapped up, checked out of our shifts, and quickly left the area. I didn't bother to check the other bars to see if they were closing. I was ready to enjoy some of ComFest!
I meandered through the park for a bit, finally stopping to watch Anna and the Annadroids, a truly captivating dance performance. There was a very small crowd when I sidled up to the stage, but by the time their set was over the crowd had swelled considerably. After this, I called Owen and made him pick me up again. I had intended to take him to Columbus' goth bar, Outlands, but that plan was dashed against the rocks when we pulled into the empty parking lot: the place was closed! I next tried to take him to Bob's Bar, the cultural hub of the Midwest, but he complained that it was too loud. So we retired to O'Reilly's, where we nursed a couple of Guinness, and I nearly fell asleep in the booth as a wave of exhaustion finally caught up with me.
Sunday morning Carina, the twins and I went to dad's house to say our final farewell to Ann and Igor, who were headed back to Ukraine. It sounds like they had a terrific time in the States, and I'm glad we all got to see them as much as we did. I can't remember the last time I've seen Ann that happy. I'm really delighted for her and Igor!
After that, I took Owen to Nancy's Kitchen, and then we stopped by Origins -- an event I've never attended in all my years. I don't have a crew with which to play role playing games these days, so I was primarily interested in just seeing what the current role playing game market is, as well as to see for myself what Origins is all about. As I later mentioned to a coworker, after walking the show floor I felt somewhat better about myself for being as balanced as I am in the things that I do with my life. While there, I picked up two games from Out of the Box, Blink and MyWord!. Both are fast-paced thinking games, and both are outrageously fun to play. I'm really looking forward to playing both with the twins, as I think they'll get a kick out of them.
Looking back, the entire weekend seemed to slip by in a blur. I did an awful lot -- probably too much, and I didn't get to enjoy any one thing for very long -- but I had fun with what I did. It was terrific to re-connect with Owen in person again. One of these days I'll have to head out his way, so that he can be the host for a change! Maybe he can take me to one of the meetups he keeps talking about; or maybe I can crash the Philly PodCamp with him.
I don't know if it's true or not, but I've been operating under the impression that most marriages that fail do so before the couple reaches five years together. I seem to recall having read or heard that statistic somewhere, and have ever since marked five years of marriage as a real milestone moment.
Yesterday Carina and I reached that milestone. All signs indicate that we have a healthy relationship and are on the path of a long life together. I'm looking forward to the next five years with my best girl.
Our day yesterday was one of quiet friendship and family, launching model rockets at the park and having a cookout with friends. We laughed a lot together, and had a really nice time.
Next weekend I'm taking Carina to New Orleans for a long weekend together without the kids. We're both really looking forward to the trip, and the opportunity to have a weekend without a schedule, seeing sites at our own pace, and enjoying one another's company.
Tyler and Carina had an early morning appointment on Saturday, so I took Tayler with me to run a few errands. Our first stop was at the shoe store, so I could get a pair of shoes repaired. It was 9:30 AM when we arrived, and though the sign on the window said they opened at 9, no one was inside. Three or four doors down from the shoe place is a HobbyLand, chock full of model trains, airplanes, collectible trading card, military simulation and roleplaying games, and a whole lot more. I spent many hours in this store in my youth, browsing through RPG sourcebooks and skimming AD&D adventures. I also purchased a fair number of Estes model rockets, which I loved to build and launch.
HobbyLand didn't open officially until 10 AM, but the employee who unlocked the front door saw Tayler and I peering into the window and invited us inside. I immediately took Tayler back to the model rocket section, and we had an enjoyable couple of minutes perusing the selection. The basic model kits were almost exactly as I remembered them, and they even had Big Bertha, a rocket I remember longing for when I was younger. The rockets that really caught our eyes were the ones with cameras built in -- both film and digital -- though the price turned me off. Tayler was enthusiastic about the idea of launching rockets, and I knew Tyler would have fun with it, so I bought a starter kit with a simple-to-assemble rocket, launchpad and control system.
It took me a couple hours to put everything together and let the glue dry. The kids were both eager to get to the park to see what the launch was like. I mentioned on Twitter that I had purchased the kit, and our friend Matt replied that he would love to watch the launch, so we extended to him and Toddmichael an invitation to join us. After a pleasant walk to the park, I set up the launch platform and spent a few moments reviewing safety information for the kids. I was a little flummoxed that a few kids playing in the park wandered over to watch us, and I was particularly agitated when one them picked up the rocket and began manhandling it: I could just see this kid breaking the rocket before it ever got airborne! Thankfully the kid returned the rocket when I politely asked for it back, and she kept her hands to herself thereafter. She and a few boys both asked if they could launch the rockets with us, but I rebuked them saying that I didn't want to be responsible for them should anything bad happen.
Tyler took the first launch, and she shrieked with joy as the engine ignited and the rocket screamed into the air. The parachute didn't open all the way, so the rocket fell back to earth considerably faster than I thought was safe. I sprinted across the park -- in my flip-flops! -- and managed to catch the parachute in my hand just before the rocket hit the ground. Tayler timidly took the next launch, and she smiled broadly as the rocket launched. Again the parachute failed to spread, but this time I was unable to catch it, so the rocket hit the ground. Thankfully nothing was broken.
It was a lot of fun for me to share this little bit of my own childhood with my kids, and it was tremendously satisfying that they both enjoyed it so much. Toddmichael and I reveled in the nostalgia of it all, since he, too, had enjoyed launching rockets in his youth. We talked about the different models and styles we had launched, or the ones we had always wanted to launch. I agreed to help him launch the legendary Saturn V if he could find one.
The rocket kit came with two engines of moderate power (a low "B" designation), and I bought two more packs of three engines each: one low power ("A" designation) and one moderate power ("B" designation, but higher than the engines included in the kit). We used the engines from the kit first, and then the "A" power engines. When these were used, I put in the first of the "B" engines and let Matt launch the rocket. This engine was substantially more powerful than I expected, and the rocket went a lot higher into the air than it had before. We all gaped as the thing kept going and going! Finally, when we could barely see the rocket in the sky, the nosecone popped and the parachute deployed. Then we all held our breath for a moment, as the realization set in that the rocket was going to be taken by the wind. We watched the rocket spin lazily during its slow decent, and the twins ran off to the far end of the park hoping to track it back to earth. From the launch site, it looked to us like the rocket landed in one of the trees closest to us, but upon investigation we discovered that it had in fact landed much higher up in a tree further back. The rocket was lost.
I had a lot of fun launching that day, so I wasn't terribly upset about the loss of the rocket. I expect I'll buy another rocket or two in the near future, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other rockets do. I don't think this is the kind of thing I'll do every weekend, but it makes for a fun family excursion!
With nothing left to launch, we packed up and prepared to head for home. On a lark, we invited Matt and Toddmichael to join us for an impromptu cookout at our house, which they happily accepted. We spent the rest of the evening eating delicious food, drinking good beer, and enjoying excellent company. It was the perfect close to a fun day.
Thursday evening we attended a Saint Lucia musical recital hosted by the daycare that Helena's daughter attends. It was extremely cold outside, but the kids were all so adorable!
Friday we struck out for our own in Malmo again, and spent some time in the Malmo Museum, which was wonderful! It's a museum with art, historical castle artifacts, and an aquarium and zoo in the basement! It was quite a lot of fun to explore.
The plan for Friday evening was to take the train back to Burlov, where we'd meet Michael, and then take a bus back into Malmo to go to "Andy's Playhouse", a large indoor playground for kids. We took the wrong train, and ended up in Lund. Heading back we thought we were taking a train that stopped in Burlov, but instead it went straight on to Malmo. The train was packed, so Carina and I stood at the front of a car, while the twins sat several row behind us. At the front with us was a small group of extremely boisterous people, who at first made me feel very worried that we might have a bad situation on our hands. Suddenly, the guy closest to me offered me the beer he was drinking! When I declined he then had his friend offer me some of his beverage, which was explained to me as something homemade. I took a polite sniff, and quickly declined -- it was clearly very potent moonshine! The guy next to me proceeded to talk my ear off while Carina was engaged by the girl in this group. As it turns out, they were all heading to the Marilyn Manson concert in Copenhagen, and although drunk they were pleasant enough to chat with. They continued to offer us booze, and even invited us to join them at the concert. It was at this time that we rolled into the Malmo station, which provided us a convenient graceful exit.
Back in Malmo we called Michael to explain our situation. He told us which bus to take toward our destination, and he said he would meet us there. After several false starts we decided that the time spent trying to figure out the bus system would be better spent walking the dozen or so blocks to where we were going. This was, in fact, a big mistake, and we arrived at the destination bus stop substantially later than intended. Thankfully, Andy's Playhouse was still open, and the kids (and adults!) got to enjoy a lively 30 minutes frolicking there.
The facility was really nice: lots of mesh and rope climbing surfaces, tunnels and tubes, slides and obstacles. We played a bit of chase, and then simply ran abound before discovering a courtyard inside the maze armed with air guns that shot soft balls. We took turns shooting and being shot, and everyone had a great time. If we get the opportunity to go back, it would be a great place to spend several hours in order to wear out the kids!
Friday night we stayed up extremely late chatting with Michael, Helena, and their friend Frank. I went to bed at 4:30, and Carina and Helena turned in about an hour after that. We were all up again at 7 AM in order to catch the train to Malmo. There I bought tickets literally just in time to board the X-2000 high speed train to Linkoping. Carina and the kids stayed at the platform while I purchased the tickets, and it was a scene straight out of a movie as I rushed down the platform, waving the tickets in my hand as the final boarding call was announced! Safely on board we had a quiet ride through the Swedish countryside. The train, to my surprise, had (for pay) on-board wireless internet, and the captive portal splash page showed a real-time display of the train's position!
We've now spent the afternoon with friends of Carina's mother, who remember Carina from when she was a baby living here. They're extremely gracious hosts, and we've had a wonderful time chatting with them and their children (and grandchildren!), talking about the differences between Sweden and the U.S., as well as just sharing personal stories and getting to know one another.