Archive for September, 2013

Archery Release Thoughts

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I continue to keep up with archery practice. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it. I’m beginning to gain the semblance of a repeatable technique, and my shooting reflects that. One aspect I’m trying to figure out is the release.

Here’s a great video of Olympian Jake Kaminski practicing:

I’ve been watching his release, and technique in general, across a number of videos on the web and it’s very consistent through all those videos.

I’m wondering how his release hand ends up almost behind his head.

From what I’ve been able to research, the gist of the release is to increase back tension while relaxing the fingers in the string hand. At some point, the string will “pop” through the fingers and go. Now, in order to make sure the arrow flies straight, it stands to reason the only direction an archer should be pulling the string is straight back. But if the archer pulls straight back, I don’t see how a relaxed release hand can end up behind the head like his does.

There are a few possibilities to explain this. One is that Jake Kaminski has muscle memory for that follow through which he simply taught himself because he was told “that’s how a release should look.” But this kind of implies that he’s doing something wrong and I’m not about, after less than a month of toying with it, to say an Olympian is doing something wrong. While it’s not outside the realm of possibility, I won’t start there.

The other, more likely, scenario is that there are other technical factors at play that cause the hand to end up there after releasing. Certainly, the initial motion of his hand appears to be straight back as expected. After that, his hand seems to kind of drift back there. Considering that the string is well away at that point, perhaps it doesn’t matter where his hand finally comes to rest and it’s just those initial few moments immediately after the string is released that count.

Rivera’s Farewell to Yankee Stadium

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Farewell’s like this:

Don’t happen very often. I’m not a baseball fan. Even so, watching something like that is something any sports fan can appreciate.

Whimsy

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We were heading up to the lass’ dance lessons and the lass was working on an apple. She’d been bugging me for some kind of snack to hold her over until dinner, which wouldn’t be until after her dance lessons were done. I told her to grab an apple. I don’t know why I still have to tell her stuff like that- anytime we have fruit available (which is always) that’s my goto answer for the “Can I have a snack?” query.

Anyway, she’d eaten the lower half of her apple all the way around and she turned to me and asked “Daddy, what does this look like?”

I glanced over and all I saw was a partially eaten apple.

Perhaps it was because my mind was on the road and also thinking ahead to the remainder of my evening. Having to get the boy to his karate lessons, then pick them both up and get them some dinner. Follow that with spelling review and whatever surprises the evening might hold in store and, well, I wasn’t being very creative.

Mostly, though, I think all I saw was a half-eaten apple because I’m an adult.

“I don’t know,” was the lame reply I gave her.

She then held it up in front of herself and said “I think it looks like a parachuter, a mushroom and an umbrella.”

I looked over at her and the apple and thought “She’s right, it does look like any one of those things.”

Whimsy is something that comes naturally to kids. Give them blocks and they’ll create a castle. Stick them in a sand box and they’ll make mountains and chairs and whatever else they can think up. Give them blankets and pillows and they make forts. Give them pencil and paper and only they can explain that thing they just drew with fire coming out of it’s nose and multiple heads.

Kids do stuff like that and they make the world fun. Or if not the world, then at least the moment. Driving along looking at the lass’ half-eaten apple I couldn’t help smiling a little at the silliness of her observations. For all the frustrations that comes with having kids, moments like these have a lot to do with making it worth those frustrations.

Who knows. Maybe, perhaps, I’ll never see an apple the same way.

A Tenet of Computer Programming

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Every computer programmer knows and understands that a computer can only do what it’s told. That’s a simple enough concept to grasp. The catch is what the computer does as a result of what it’s told isn’t always what the programmer wants. More succinctly, a computer does what it’s told, not what we want.

This point of computer programming is flummoxing the boy for the moment. He seems to understand what he wanted to make the computer do using Scratch. The problem is he also seems to be under the delusion that the computer should understand what he wants it to do. It was a recipe for disaster which led me to temporarily leading a tearful boy away from the computer for a while to collect himself.

I then had him sit down and work through the step-by-step guide at the Scratch website. His being able to see how to use the programming tools and create a sample program helped tremendously and he was able to go back and work out his own “game.”

I put that in quotes because apparently, the game was figuring out how to play his game. Or something. It involved one little sprite fighting a troll sprite with a bow-and-arrow. The idea is to figure out how to make the bow-and-arrow appear, then shoot the troll with it. The end.

I’m sure EA Sports will be holding a slot for him.

He’s now more curious about real programming languages and wanted to check out one of my books. I don’t have an extensive library for programming languages, as most anything I could ever want to know is available on the web. However, like any decent programmer, I do have a couple of different versions of K&R. So I pulled that down for him to look through. “C” wouldn’t be my first choice for him to learn at this point, but syntactically it’s pretty compact. Versus PERL, the only other books I had.

Once again, he didn’t seem to quite grasp what he was looking at. I even fired up a hello world program for him so he could start to get some kind of idea. He was unimpressed.

I think part of his problem is he’s so used to Google and search that he has a skewed impression of what is happening inside a computer. He goes to a Google prompt and types in whatever he looks for and gets relevant results almost instantaneously. Contrast that with having to cryptically tell a computer to write “hello world” onto a screen which involves writing words and characters into a file with a special syntax and there’s the chasm that must be crossed.

The good thing, at this point, is he isn’t turned off to programming. Yet. Perhaps by the end of the weekend when he first encounters “debugging.”

Is This How It Starts?

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Somehow, a conversation about the video game belt loop for Scouts turned into an interrogation by the boy about programming. The boy had talked to a fellow Scout, whom had explained that he had to write a video game to earn the award. That seemed fishy to me, since writing a video game is so far from non-trivial as to be all but impossible for the average grade-schooler without some kind of serious assistance. Anyway, the boy got it in his head that he would write a video game to earn the belt loop.

So now he wanted to know “How do you write a video game? What are the codes you need to do it?” I could see that, since his friend had claimed to have written a game, the boy had determined he too could write one. He also seemed to be under the delusion that doing so only required some special number, or something.

I started by explaining that he would need to write code that tells a computer what the rules for his game are.

“But what are the codes?” he wanted to know.

I was deliberately trying to avoid using the term “programming language” because that would open up a whole new can of worms. So I said he’d need to put special lines in a file on the computer.

“Well, how do you put them in a file?”

So then I explained about using an editor. When he asked what that was, I told him it was like what he used to write email in. So naturally, he tried to fire up an email program to start writing some code.

He wasn’t going to be dissuaded, but explaining how to use a programming language to him was something I wasn’t up for. I figured there must be some kind of programming tutorial out there for kids. So I commandeered the computer from him and started searching. It didn’t take long to turn up some options, the most convenient of which looked like something called Scratch. I say it’s convenient because it’s a program designed for kids his age and it’s free to download. While it’s been installed, we haven’t had a chance to play with it yet because karate interfered.

While karate prevented him from diving in and learning how to program, it didn’t stop him from asking questions about programming. After a bit, I finally explained to him about programming languages. That only served to make him more curious. He wanted to know what the languages were like, how they made the computers “do things,” if he had to share his code (already worried about copyrighting and he hasn’t written a line of code!), how other people could play his game, if he had to name his program, how to put words into the program and on and on.

When his martial arts class ended, the first thing he said when we got back in the car was “Dad, I hope you don’t mind answering questions about programming computers because I was wondering something else…” At which point, the questions began anew until we got home.

By the end of it all, the boy understood that writing a computer game was non-trivial. He understood that he’d have to design his game first, and then build the program after that. He was excited to have the Scratch program though, because at least he could try to do a little programming with it. He has a half-day of school tomorrow, so he’s already blocked out his time to spend learning programming. “I won’t be watching TV tomorrow,” he proclaimed.

I remember getting interested in computers and programming at a similar age. But back then, the tools were pretty pathetic, especially when compared with what’s available today. We’ll see if the boy has any aptitude for programming. More importantly, we’ll see if he has any enthusiasm for it. While the former is nice, it’s the latter that would provide the potential for this to prove to be more than another passing fad.

The Pot Meets the Kettle

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Another week, another homework set for the lass.

She sat down and started working through it. She has spelling words and reading or sight words as well as math and the like.

One of the first pieces of work she started was a short writing assignment. She has to write a story about a bike. She read through the page, thought about it for a few seconds, then turned the page over and started writing her story.

The boy happened by at that time and took a look at what she was doing. Seeing that she was writing her story on the “finished” page, he said without the slightest trace of irony “You should write that on a separate paper first, then copy it onto that page.”

The lass grunted in his general direction. I facepalmed myself so hard I saw stars.

Next Time Just Ask

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“My mouth has a funny taste in it,” the boy said. Even for the boy, that was a pretty random statement to make. He was watching cartoons at that particular moment and had not eaten breakfast. In fact, he was still in his PJ’s. I was busy trying to help the Wife get ready for her parents visit today; thus, I didn’t really have time to consider random statements about weird tastes in the boy’s mouth. So, I did what every parent does when they hear something strange from their kid, I ignored it.

After breakfast, the boy complained again about the weird tastes in his mouth. By this time, he’d eaten a breakfast of waffles and syrup. At this point, it occurred to me that he’s been on a kick where he thinks every little abnormality requires some sort of medical attention. He’ll spot a red mark on his arm that’s barely visible and decide it’s a spider bite. He’ll complain that he’s injured his finger and that he can’t move it. He’ll insist it needs ice and that we need to look at it. He’ll see a freckle for the first time on his arm and worry he has some rare disease. Clearly, it’s some sort of phase. I figure the funny-taste-in-the-mouth thing is another manifestation of the phase.

So I ignore it again.

I’m finishing some vacuuming when the boy comes up to me and says “Dad, I’ve got a funny taste in my mouth, can I have a mint?”

And everything immediately comes in to focus.

I’d gone to watch UCONN battle Michigan last night with some friends and one of the items I’d picked up for the evening was Altoids. Curiously strong, as they say. I returned home from the game late in the night. Or, early in the morning if you prefer. I’d emptied my pockets upon returning and had placed the Altoids on the island in our kitchen.

The boy had spotted them this morning when he came down and had decided he really wanted an Altoid. They were the “wintergreen” flavor, a favorite of his, making them even more irresistible to him. Rather than ask me straight out, “Dad, can I have an Altoid?” he decided on a different strategy. Thus, the whole “funny taste in my mouth” story line. It was a scheme to justify his asking for the mint to expunge the “weird” taste in his mouth.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to object to my conclusion at this point. Wouldn’t he just ask for it if he wanted one? Why make something up like this all for a breath mint? I won’t pretend to totally understand the boy’s mentality, other than to say he’s deduced that, generally, creating a pretext improves the odds he’ll get what he wants.

I did test my theory in real time, though. I confronted him, playfully. He got a big smile on his face and then turned away to avoid my eye contact. He then replied in a whiny voice “Wwwwwwwwhhaaaaaaat? So, can I have one?” I think most parents will recognize this as a universal kid language for guilty.

I told him to go ahead and have one. Take two even. But next time, just ask.

Initial Thoughts on Archery

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In any research at all regarding archery, the theme that will come up again and again is consistency. It’s certainly easy enough to understand. In practice, however, it’s devilishly hard to do. In fact, I’d say it’s hard to appreciate how difficult it is to be consistent, really truly consistent, until arrows start flying.

In retrospect, it’s an easy mistake to make. After all, a good archer, like a good anyone at anything, makes shooting arrows look effortless. Nock an arrow, pull back the string, release, arrow hits target. Rinse, repeat.

But once a bow is in hand with a nocked arrow, it doesn’t seem quite so trivially simple. How should I stand? How do I grip this thing? Do I put my arm out straight? When do I start drawing the string? Two fingers on the string? Three? All three fingers below the arrow or one above, two below? How far do I pull back? Where do I pull back to? How do I aim? When do I release? How do I release?

After the first couple of days, the most notable thing was I was barely hitting the target and I had bruises on my lower wrist below the guard, on my upper forearm between the guard and the elbow, on my inner bicep and on my chest by the arm pit. That was from twanging the string during release. I’m happy to say that I haven’t twanged myself in the past couple of days with the string, so that’s progress.

Additionally, the bow arm wants to be out basically straight but not full-extension straight. Something like 99% straight. Plus, the elbow wants to be oriented vertically such that if you were to bend the arm it would hinge back towards your body, as opposed to hinging up. The grip is as loose as can be, relaxed is a word that comes up a lot, with the finger tips ever so slightly supporting the bow.

As for my string hand, I’m still working on that but for now I use what’s called a split-finger grip with a “deep hook.” The split finger refers to having the index finger above the arrow and the middle and ring finger below the arrow. All three pull on the string during the draw. The “deep hook” means that I curl these fingers around the string so that it’s resting in the first knuckle joint. I initially was drawing the string with just the finger tips, but I found the draw was taking too much effort that way, so I switched. It took a bit of getting used to the release, but I was able to adjust OK after a bit of practice.

Finally, for now I’ve settled on an anchor point where my index finger goes to the little notch towards the rear of the jawbone. I played around with several and this spot just felt the most natural. Pending someone telling me otherwise, I’ll just work with it. I’ll note that most videos of archers I’ve seen, particularly Olympic caliber, anchor up around the chin. I tried this but it felt like I was expending too much effort holding it there. Plus, the string contacts the lips with that anchor and after a couple of releases I thought I was they might get ripped off and sent down range.

So, even having figured all that out where form is concerned, it is still ridiculously hard to duplicate everything from one shot to the next. It turns out there’s a lot of developed coordination in drawing an arrow and minute changes from one shot to the next mean a big variance in where the arrow strikes the target. If it strikes the target.

All told this past week, I probably shot close to 350 arrows. By the end of today, I was at least feeling like I had some consistency in my form. Even so, I was only hitting a 20″x20″ foam target about 50% of the time at 10-15 yards.

Contrast that with Olympic archers whom shoot at a target 70 meters away. The best of them can achieve groupings with 12 arrows within 5 inches of one another. Now that’s consistent to such a degree that essentially it’s the chaotic effects of airflow pushing the arrow around that cause it not to hit the exact same spot over and over again.

All of this is a long winded way of saying, archery is a lot of fun. It’s simple enough that anyone can go out and practice. After that, it’s up to the archer how far they want to go.

The Boy’s Hero

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The Wife went to the Open House event for the boy’s teacher tonight. For the non-parents out there, it’s a chance for teachers to explain what the kids go through and what the goals for the year. In the boy’s case, it’s reading and math. Shocker.

The first surprise the Wife found was the boy’s desk is immaculate. No paper balled up and stuffed in the desk, books neatly arranged. Either he’s a neat nick or he knew what was coming. I’m guessing the latter until further evidence is provided.

The second surprise wasn’t something the boy had done. It was something a friend had done. The kids filled out sheets so people could learn stuff about them. One of the items on the sheet was “Who is your hero?” A friend of his wrote the boy was his hero because he’s always helping people and he when he grew up he wanted to help people. The Wife dubbed it a “crying moment.”

The boy chose his Great Grandfather as his hero. He wrote it was because his Great Grandfather had fought in World War II and then took care of his (the boy’s) Great Grandmother when she got sick. He also said that his Great Grandfather was a good cook.

Lastly, the boy wants to be a stay-at-home Dad when he grows up.

Kids Eat What Parents Feed Them

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So the First Lady wants companies to stop marketing unhealthy food to kids.

The following statement is probably about as banal as they come- kids eat what their parents feed them. Now, I know in certain details that statement isn’t always true. Some kids hate potatoes, they all hate vegetables and so forth. I didn’t say it was easy.

But parents are the ones who create the food eating habits in their kids. The Wife and I are constantly telling the kids “No” when they ask for candy or treats. It isn’t 100%, but it’s probably 90% or there abouts. When they want a snack, the first thing we mention is the fruit we have in the fridge or on the counter. We use our parental powers quite liberally where food is concerned.

Notice, none of that has anything to do with marketing from food companies.

Sure, the kids want candy or ice cream or whatever sweet happens to be floating around. But the presence of said unhealthy food does not mean they will get it. The Wife or I will allow them to have it, or we won’t and as I noted earlier- the odds are we won’t.

There are other unhealthy foods as well of course. Chips and crackers in all their glorious forms come to mind. But once again, if parents make those available to their children, then the kids will one, get chips and crackers to eat; and two, ask their parents to get more when they run out.

Again, this has nothing to do with marketing the food to kids.

While I don’t think companies are saints by any stretch, they are run by people whom are fallible just like you and I, this effort on the part of the First Lady is futile and misdirected. These companies manage to create things that people want. Again, banal, but inarguably true. While they are the creators, they are not the gatekeepers. Parents are the gatekeepers. As such, I think a more effective effort would be to encourage parents to tell their kids “No” a little more often.

We Can’t Fix Everything

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The boy faces the prospect of a three hour review for his martial arts this weekend.  The goal is to go over material from the lower belt levels which they are responsible for as black belts.  While he’s not averse to reviews, he is averse to the ones that take three hours.  Welcome to black belt testing.

We talked about it tonight a bit.  He brought it up, actually.  He wanted to know if he had to do the whole thing.  He then started whining that it was going to be too long and there was no way he could do it.  It culminated with “I like karate, but I don’t like it for 3 hours.”

I’m a bit torn because I can understand that at his age, he’s just not ready mentally.  He lacks the maturity.  That said, it’s not like he’ll just wake up one day and suddenly be mature and capable.  He’s got to try, fail, and try some more.  Maturity is a process, and he has got to start somewhere.  Three hour black belt reviews are as good a place as any.

What he really wanted from me was an out- a “Get Out of Jail Free” card as a gift from me.  It’s perfectly normal, really.  For his entire life either the Wife or I have helped him solve, or outright solved for him, his problems.  As he’s gotten older we’ve tried to push that responsibility more and more onto his shoulders, but we still do a lot for him.  Here was one more case he wanted to foist onto us.

Now, in the short term, there is a reprieve.  The Wife has already spoken with the instructors who informed her that his real testing will start with the Spring cycle.  That means he doesn’t have to do the full three hour review this weekend.

It is only a reprieve, though.  If he wants his black belt he will have to go through several hours of testing.  I have no say in it and can’t make it any other way.  His only option is to delay, which only extends his timetable for attaining his black belt.  If he wants it, there is no way around, he’ll have to go through.  He’ll be better and stronger for it, but he doesn’t get that yet.

The Shotgun Wars: The Word of Power

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The lass first picked up on the concept of “calling shotgun” while watching a Scooby Doo cartoon. Who says they can’t pick up valuable life lessons from a cartoon.

It was amusing they way it played out. I heard the exchange on the cartoon, Shaggy called it for what that’s worth, and I wondered if either of the kids would pick up on it. The lass did, as it turned out. She asked me what it meant to “call shotgun.” I think she’d caught on but just wanted to confirm her understanding of what she heard. I explained it and then continued about my business, which at the time was finishing some coffee.

When it came time to get in the car, nothing happened. They both got in without any issues. I figured the revelation from the cartoon had simply fallen flat.

I’ll note at this point that I’ve taken no active role in the whole shotgun experience. Aside from letting either child feel like it’s their spot, I, and the Wife, have chosen to take no sides in the conflict. Resolving their disputes is an exercise entirely up to them.

It was the next day when the lass attempted to call shotgun. She was behind her brother getting out the door and I could hear her stammering “Shot… shot…. I call shot… ” I called out to her “It’s ‘I call shotgun‘.” She immediately corrected herself as they walked down the sidewalk.

Her brother said, and I quote, “Whatever.” Then got in the car.

Words only have power if they are allowed to.

After that, the notion of calling shotgun was dropped for awhile. I figured that would be it until they had the experience riding with their friends.

Unexpectedly, the lass tried it again recently. Even more surprising, the boy yielded to the call and allowed his sister to obtain the front seat. Most surprising of all was that he didn’t whine about it.

Curious, I asked him why he’d changed his mind about it. He replied it was the rules of the game, so he figured he ought to follow them. I suspect he chose to honor it with the intention that he’d visit it back on the lass someday soon. He didn’t want to afford her the excuse that he hadn’t listened when she did it so she won’t listen when he uses it.

Whatever his reasoning, we now have the opportunity for more civilized determination of who rides shotgun. We’ll see if that comes to pass.

First Fire

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I got our first fire of the new Fall season going tonight. Mainly, it’s to keep the house from getting too chilled overnight. With temps expected to dip into the high 30’s, I figured why not. I recall that last year our first fire was in September as well. Prior to that, typical first fires were in October.

No idea what the cooler-than-average weather portends for the rest of the year and yes, I’ve heard about the Farmer’s Alamanac forecast. I’ve been around long enough to just say, I’ll believe it when I experience it.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the flames here.

Flinging Arrows

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I spent the afternoon flinging arrows at targets. It was fun. What more is there to say?

Well, if you start poking around the internet at all, the answer is “plenty.” Frankly, I had no idea archery as a hobby was so popular. That doesn’t include all the hunters and sportsmen and women out there flinging arrows. Really, participating in archery is hardly a unique thing at all.

My setup isn’t complete yet. I’m still waiting for my limbs to come in. But the setup I have now is more than enough to start developing some impressions and technique. A not unimportant part of the experience are the arrows, which need to be the right length in order to start developing any technical prowess. I’d been shooting arrows that were a bit short for me because we didn’t have the right nocks to fit the shafts we got. Now that the new nocks are in, I can use arrows of the appropriate length for me.

My impressions so far are, I’ve got a ton to learn. In addition to the vocab, and archery has a very extensive vocabulary, I’ve got to develop a feel for drawing (not the pen and paper kind), target picture and consistent anchoring.

In fact, consistency clearly is the key to archery. That point is repeated often enough in any reading on the subject, but it’s quite another to experience it. Because of the distances involved, minor changes in angles lead to major differences in where the arrow strikes- assuming it strikes the target and not the surrounding land behind the target. Every draw can feel a little different: the bow shoulder might be a little too stressed, the bow hand might not be in the same position, muscle fatigue, trying to draw with the arm instead of the body and shoulder, fingers not quite aligned properly. Plenty of things can happen to make things feel a bit different from arrow to arrow. It’s a bit surprising considering the act of pulling a string seems such a simple thing.

I think it’s the simplicity that keeps people coming back. Really, what can be harder than putting a stick on a string, pulling it back and letting go? It seems so simple that I don’t think the mind can accept that so much can go wrong on every shot. So one shot follows another shot follows another shot and before too long, there’s an afternoon spent practicing archery.

Google Needs to Address This NOW

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Via Instapundit, WOW. Because of Android’s backup capabilities, Google has millions of WiFi passwords and keys.

I tweeted it earlier, but this is serious enough that I felt compelled to write a post about it. It’s one thing for Google to collect information about spending habits and the like. I’m not particularly fond of it and I don’t take advantage of much of it. I do use Google search pretty exclusively and I have a gmail account as my main email account.

It’s quite another to have the capability to snoop my home WiFi because they have plaintext versions of my password. I don’t care what the law says, that’s an invasion of privacy. Full stop. If I wanted people to see what I was doing over my WiFi network, I’d never have setup the encryption. I don’t even let the router broadcast it’s ESS ID, just to make sure people have to go the extra mile to find the network in the first place. This is so serious that I’m considering ditching everything Google.

This isn’t about having anything to hide. I’d say it’s the equivalent of having a fence around your yard that keeps the neighbors from looking into the yard. I want that barrier, it’s just the way I’m wired. I’m not doing anything nefarious, I just value my privacy.

I’m not a reflexive Google hater either. I can almost see the logic behind this happening. It would go something like this:

Hey! Let’s unify everything behind a Google account to make changing devices as simple as possible for the user. But that means we’ll need all the user’s info, including passwords. Gee, that’s some sensitive info though. We’ll have to encrypt it somehow. Yeah, but how do we put it onto another device? We’d still need access to the unencrypted data so we could put it on another device. Oh well, it’s for the user’s benefit.

Think about it this way, if they’ve got passwords to WiFi networks, then what other passwords do they have? I’m beginning to wonder if Google isn’t a subsidiary of the NSA. This is the sort of thing that could seriously hurt Google in terms of customers and users. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to switch over because of the tight integration. But I just don’t think it’s worth the price. At this point, they’re worse than Facebook.

Knowing Your Kids

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The boy didn’t sleep well last night.  I didn’t either.  That’s just coincidence.  When he has trouble sleeping, he typically comes into the room and wakes up the Wife to let her know.  Last night, he got my attention since I was already awake.  It was very late and I told him he needed to relax.

He went back to his room.

After a second visit from him, I got up to check on him because that seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  I doubt too many of us enjoy getting out of bed at late hours like that and I’m no exception. When I got to his room, I saw that he was curled up on the bed facing his alarm clock.  He was just staring at the display.  I looked at it long enough to note it was after midnight, then turned it away from him.  I told him he should never stare at a clock when he’s having trouble sleeping because the light from the clock will make it harder to fall asleep.  I went back to bed and that was the last of it for the night.

He wasn’t particularly pleasant this morning.  The Wife was a bit appalled with him.  Then I explained his troubled sleeping last night and she softened a bit.  He’s never particularly pleasant when he doesn’t sleep well.

Tonight, when we put the kids to bed, I reminded him not to stare at his clock.  I’d already said “Goodnight” to the lass, so I went to take care of putting away some laundry.  Along the way, I had a premonition that the lass would ask “Why shouldn’t we stare at the clock, Dad?”  I went so far as to plan a response should it come to pass.

A few minutes later, the premonition proved prophetic.  I was in the middle of putting my shorts away when she called out, pretty much exactly as I’d imagined it, right down to the tone and inflections. Since I’d heeded my premonition, I already had a speech in mind to explain to her, and the boy, about Circadian Rhythms and why staring at a light can make it difficult sleep.  When I finished, she reached over and turned her clock so it wasn’t facing her.

This happens fairly regularly anymore with both the Wife and I.  A benefit of knowing the kids better than they know themselves is being prepared for what we know is coming.  It doesn’t always work out as well as it did in this case, but it’s satisfying when it does.

My First Archery Shot

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I recently got a new bow.

I’d had a chance to play with archery while at the boy’s Scout camp and realized it was the sort of thing I could sink my teeth into. Fortunately, my Texas-born neighbor is an archer and has some coaching skills to boot. So after talking with him, I was all setup with a nice recurve style bow. We ordered it last week; it arrived yesterday; he brought it over today to set up.

The only caveat was the limbs we had ordered are on backorder. Fortunately, the Neighbor is a generous chap and he’s loaned me a spare pair of limbs for the interim. So, after mounting the limbs in the riser and then stringing the bow, I went and grabbed the boy’s target and went outside to take a few shots.

Here are the results of my first shot:

The shot was from roughly 10 yards away. I missed the target high and hit the slide. There was an impressive BANG from the impact. It was one of those moments where my first thought was “I didn’t really just do that, did I? … Yes, I did.”

Here’s the piece, it’s about 1/4″ thick as well:

The arrow itself was unharmed. It’s flight path seemed basically unaltered as well as it buried itself in the dirt a few feet beyond the slide. I was astonished. The arrow shafts are thin tubes with thin walls. The points are somewhat beefier, solid with about 1/2″ exposed and then another inch-and-a-half or so stuck back into the arrow shaft. While I was sure it could pierce things easily enough, the level of power demonstrated here was unexpected. I suspect a direct shot on a bone would result in a pretty severe fracture, among other things.

Several shots later, and with the target moved over so I wouldn’t hit the slide, I missed high again and buried an arrow in one of the timbers I used to frame a sandbox for the kids. We couldn’t pull it out. I ended up having to drill into the timber in order to release the arrow. It had buried itself about an inch into the wood.

After that we completely changed course and placed the target in front of a hill. Now, when I missed, the arrow would go into the hill immediately behind the target. That area of the lawn will get well aerated.

Joining Night!

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We’re having our Pack’s Joining Night tonight at the school. Any parents happening by this site who haven’t thought about it should give Cub Scouts a look see for something to get your son(s) involved in. The boy has grown to enjoy it and has a lot of great memories from it and his time isn’t done yet. It’s a great way to be involved in your son’s life.

Do check it out.

A Footnote for the Kids

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I don’t really recall how exactly it came up, but the boy was asking what was special about today. Or something to that effect. I was a little surprised- in previous years the school had discussed the day and what had happened with him so I’d assumed the same thing had happened this year. Perhaps I was wrong.

Rather than starting an inquiry, I went over the rough outlines of what had happened: terrorists had flown a plane into what was then the World Trade Center and the buildings had collapsed. The terrorists had also flown a plane into the Pentagon and tried to fly a plane into the White House. I told him they had failed because the passengers on the flight had revolted and attempted to retake the plane and that it had crashed in Pennsylvania.

He said “I thought something had happened to the Twin Towers.”

I can still recall many details of that day- where I was at work, how they’d setup a TV so we could watch the coverage, how co-workers simply sat there all day watching the events unfold, conversations, images. I can still recall moments where co-workers simply sat down with their head in their hands, not wanting to believe what they were seeing. It is a day I’ll never forget.

It’s also a day the boy and the lass will never remember. They were not yet even born. Come to think of it, I wasn’t even married yet.

As such, they have no ties to the day or it’s events. Everything they experience as they become more aware of the world around them will have been affected by that day. Yet, to them, it will all simply be normal. They didn’t know about life before terrorism was a political football. Their first trip on a plane (yes- they have yet to fly!) will set their expectations and they’ll have little reason to think that things were once different.

Obviously, in many respects, there is little tangible affect on their own lives. They go to school, they play with their friends, they do their extra-curriculars. I’m not trying to say there are terrorists around every corner and hiding in every bush.

I think it just struck me that the impact of this day emotionally on them will be next to nothing. While I and the rest of us who lived it will remember it for the rest of our lives. Certainly, they will learn about it and come to understand the impact it had on the world as time went on. But I suppose it will be for them like Pearl Harbor was for us- a day that will live in infamy. But no true understanding of what that means.

Part of me feels that’s for the better and wishes that they will never have cause to empathize with us. There’s another part that doesn’t think they will be that lucky. Only time will tell that tale.

We Must Lead a Boring Life

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Today was the big day for the Wife. Today was the day that we got our brand spanking new kitchen stove and refrigerator. The stove is a gas stove, which we had converted to propane. The fridge replaces an older one that we’d had forever and it’s main feature improvement was the dual front doors. She’d been pining for the stove in particular for a long time now as our electric one has been slowly but surely biting the dust.

It’s to be expected that the Wife be excited about the new toys. What wasn’t expected was the excitement of the kids for the new appliances. They got up this morning asking when they’d arrive. When they got off the bus, the first question out of their mouths was “Do we have a new refrigerator and stove?” When I confirmed for them that they were here and installed, they both sprinted down the driveway to the house. It was Christmas come early.

They were buzzing around the new appliances like bees around a flower bed. How does this door open? OOOO! LOOK! This door pulls out. OH WOW! FIRE! Dad LOOK! There’s a blue flame like on the grill outside. So are we basically grilling in the house now? COOL! Look how both doors can open! OH MY GOD! The stove is huge! I could like, sleep in there! What’s this do, Dad? Wait, there’s a water dispenser in the fridge?!? AWESOME! Cool touchscreen! We have an ice dispenser? Where does the water come from? When will we have ice? What’s this button do? What’s that up there?

Of all the things about the two appliances, the ice dispenser was the biggest curiosity. They wanted to know how long before ice would start popping out. Would it overflow the freezer? How does it know when to stop? Where does the ice form? Questions like that make you realize they are totally on autopilot and literally, questions are forming in their brain and being shunted straight to their mouth.

Then, for the remainder of the evening, every time they heard CLUNKing from the fridge, they’d rush over to the freezer to check out the newest haul of ice cubes. The even counted them at one point trying to determine how many came out at a time. They also were trying to guess how many ice cubes would be in the tray by the morning. They wanted to know my guess. I told them 467 because, well, why not? They didn’t like that answer because that’s a lot of counting.

Frankly, I’m surprised they are able to sleep.

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