The Curse of Home Movies in the Digital Age

As a kid growing up in the 1970’s it was always a special treat when my father brought out the portable movie screen, set up the Bell and Howell film projector and told the family to dim the light… it was movie night! My dad would sometimes rent (or just outright buy) old cartoons and films from the local library and then show them right along side our own home movies from past vacations.

Now that I’m a father myself I want to be able to share our own home movies my my kids just as easily as my father was able to with his kids. Camcorders are cheap and digital, smartphones take better video than cameras and we’re all obsessed with documenting everything around us.  So why aren’t we all watching home movies these days?

Because even though it’s easier than ever to record digital video, it’s still nearly impossible to easily view them on a TV.

Though I’ve gone through several cameras and bounced through different video formats over the years I’m still no closer to being able to easily show my home movies than I was 15 years ago.

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Why Your Daughter is Obsessed with Frozen‘s Queen Elsa

elsa1If you have a daughter between the age of 3 and 10 and you live on the planet earth then there’s a pretty good chance that she’s obsessed with the character of Queen Elsa from the Disney’s blockbuster movie, Frozen.  If your daughter isn’t belting out “Let it Go” then she’s surely running around the house, blasting invisible enemies with her ice power.

My four-year-old daughter lives and breathes Queen Elsa. She demands that we read the Frozen storybook every night, she dresses up like Queen Elsa at least twice a day and she talks about Elsa just about every minute. She regularly commands me to be either Olaf the Snowman or Sven the reindeer, depending upon her mood. When she wants to play with her older brother it’s usually as Queen Elsa, not as herself.

But why?

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2014 Resolutions

Cicada SamuraiWe’re half way through February now so I figured it would be a good time to quickly write out my 2014 Resolutions because – hey, better late than never. They really aren’t “new year” resolutions at this point, but I have been working on these since the beginning of 2014, so that’s got to count for something.

For some people a resolution is something that they want to be mindful of and strive to improve throughout the year. Some people resolve to “be nicer” or to “listen more” which is all well and fine, but those are often subjective judgement calls and at the end of the year it’s difficult to know if you’ve actually accomplished your goal or not.

For me a resolution is a goal. At the end of the year I can look back and point to some visible object or change and say, “Yes! I accomplished my goal,” or “Ooops, I have nothing to show for that resolution.” Resolutions are things that I “resolve” to get finished before the next instance of January 1st (or random day in mid-February) rolls around.

While I feel as though I’m pretty good at handling multiple projects at once, I do recognize the need to keep my list of resolutions a fairly short one so that I can concentrate on each a little more. I originally had three goals, but I think I’m going to bump that up to four goals. Anymore than that and it just becomes a jumbled list of “things I have to do but probably won’t.”

So here they in no particular order:

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5 Tricks for Beating Walmart on Black Friday

I’m not a big fan of Walmart as an institution and I often go out of my way to avoid shopping there. I’m also fairly thrifty (cheap?) so there are times during the year when an advertised item is so darn inexpensive that I simply have to take advantage of the offer.

Here are a few shopping tricks I’ve learned and used to get things at the low, low Walmart price with a minimal amount of shopping at Walmart, especially during Black Friday.

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8 Sneaky Examples of Skeuomorphism in iOS 7

santascanBy now most iPhone and iPad users have updated to the new iOS 7 and have been shocked, dismayed or just mildly surprised to find that the overall visual themes that were so familiar are now, mostly, gone from user-interface. There are brighter colors and more animations, but the most heralded design change is drift away from a “skeuomorphic” design.

The term skeuomorph was most unknown to the general public a few years ago, but now most people understand it to be the a design element which is used to falsely mimic another material or object. The fake wood paneling decals on station wagons is a skeuomorphic design to make it look as though the sides of the car are wood. The buttons depressing and popping up on my various scanning apps are all examples of skeuomorphic design. Though it’s most talked about with computer visual interfaces now, it’s actually been around for quite some time. In the late 1800’s ancient clay pots were found that had fake rivet designs molded into them, imitating the build construction of similar metal pots.

Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive’s design changes have purposely moved towards a brighter and “flatter” design, tossing aside graphic skeuomorphic elements which imitate real world objects. In the old iOS graphics you’d often find textured buttons that looked like they clicked up and down, green felt and brown leather with intricate stitching in the background and different colors paper to “write” on.

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Make Your Own Gutter Vacuum

 

A DIY Gutter Vacuum

A DIY Gutter Vacuum

My previous house was a ranch style home that was surrounded by big trees, so every fall I’d have to climb up on a ladder and spend a good portion of the day manually cleaning out the leaves and other debris from the gutters so that they wouldn’t clog. Clogged gutters allow water to collect and if that water freezes into ice your gutters could become so heavy that they can bend, break, and even fall right off the house.

At one point I had a gutter that was so clogged I could see the pile of leaves flowing over the edges. I didn’t really want to get out the ladder and climb up on my roof just to clean out that section of gutter. I’m always a little nervous climbing up and down ladders and I simply detest sticking my hand in the muck and dumping it out onto the ground.

There are a lot of different gutter cleaning gadgets out there, but most of them rely on pushing, squirting or blowing the leaves and muck out of your gutter, only to have all that stuff land on your roof, your yard or (more likely) you. I also didn’t really want to spend the money for something I’d just use once or twice a year. There had to be a better way. Since I was spending the day cleaning up my yard, I had my Troy-Bilt chipper and leaf vacuum out and I was using it to clean up some sections of the yard.  While I was vacuuming the leaves out of the front flower beds I looked up at my gutter and realized I could probably vacuum out the gutters in pretty much the same way.

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Is Your Smoke Detector Chirping with New Batteries?

smokedetector200A constantly beeping smoke detector outside my bedroom recently taught me something smoke detectors that I didn’t realize: In addition to replacing the device’s batteries every six months or so, you should also consider replacing the entire smoke detector every so often.

I learned this a few weeks ago when we had a smoke detector start to emit a loud, but very quick, chirp every minute or so.  At first I thought the 3AM chirp was part of my dream, but after a few more beeps I realized something was wrong.  I groggily stumbled out of bed, located the beeping detector simply popped the battery out.  My home has a mix of hard-wired smoke detectors with battery back-ups and completely battery-powered smoked detectors.  Luckily, this one just used batteries alone. I stumbled back to bed to deal with the issue in the morning.

When I woke up the next day I checked the batteries by trying them in a little flashlight and they all appeared to be good. I grabbed a new set of alkaline batteries and put those into the smoke detector that had the intermittent beeps. The smoke detector beeped once (as it always does initially) and that was it. I put it back up on the ceiling and it seemed to be okay. But as I was walking away the smoke detector chirped again.

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How To Name A Baby

How To Name A BabyOne of the five million important decisions new parents must face, picking a name for your bundle of joy is one of the easiest tasks to screw up. It’s generally a good idea to make this decision early because as time goes on you’ll begin to second guess yourself and before you know it you’ll be standing in the bakery ordering a cake for your child’s 18th birthday with the inscription, “Happy Birthday Baby Smith!”

Modern psychology has shown time and time again that choosing your baby’s name is one of the most significant and proven ways you can assure that your child will blame you for everything from the ages of 3 to 63. You want your child to be successful and confident in the world. You want your child to take charge of life and be able to face others. You want your child’s introduction to make a good first impressions.

And that’s why very few children are named “Otis” anymore.

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The House Hunters Drinking Game

HouseHuntersDrinkingGameMy wife and I find ourselves watching the HGTV show called House Hunters which is a pseudo reality show that follows someone as he or she looks at three different houses for sale and ultimately ends up buying one of the three homes. It’s one of those shows you never actively sit down to watch, but you always find yourself watching when nothing else is on.

The formulaic House Hunters first introduces us to the people who are looking to buy a house for the usual reasons: sick of renting, have a growing family, moving to another city, clearly got some sort of inheritance and want to blow it. Then the show follows the prospective buyer while he, she or it walks through three different homes with a real estate agent during which they all amuse themselves by making somewhat scripted comments about the home. At the end of the show the buyers pick on of the three homes and we get to see the person a few months after he or she has moved in.

House Hunters is basically a heavily edited and poorly scripted reality show with a tiny bit of voyeurism thrown in as we are shown the inside of homes we’d never normally get to see inside of. It’s paced slowly and the comments are fairly predictable, which makes it a show that simply begs the viewer to perform his or her own Mystery Science Theater 3000 all over it. Which, from what I can tell, most viewers do.

Did I mention that this is one of the more popular shows on HGTV?

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My Four-Year-Old Is Ready For College

Pardon me for boasting a little bit here, but my four-year-old son is clearly ready for college. He has proven to his mother and me that he does not need the basic foundations of kindergarten, the monotony of grade school or the drama of high school. I think my pre-k son is just about ready to fit in with the college crowd and take his place among the slackers, the burn-outs and the party animals who will inevitably become the leaders of tomorrow. Here’s why:

He’s Obsessed With Partying

Whether we’re watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Handy Manny about every third episode revolves around going to a party, finding something for a party, getting ready for a party or preventing something bad from happening at a party.  Without the ever-present danger of a party being threatened there would be no daytime television for children.

Two fingers of children's Claritin.

My son’s drink of choice.

Since my son has a lot of friends there is also no shortage of real birthday parties to attend every month.  My weekends have become an endless blur of bouncy playgrounds, amusement arcades, sports clubs, cold soggy pizza and dry birthday cake.  I feel like a Vegas limo driver most of the time, just standing around waiting for my young charge to demand that I take him to the next debaucherous event on his calendar.

At some point kids got smart with the parties and tricked us adults into having one party at home and another one at school.  I suspect the rapid increase in parties over the years can also be blamed on teachers who are desperate for activities and free carbohydrates. In addition to the multitude of birthday parties there are parties for just about anything you can think of.

Lincoln’s Birthday? Let’s have a party! We’ll make top hats and glue on red construction paper dots!  Groundhog day? Let’s have a party! Everyone bring in their favorite groundhog themed recipe! Arbor Day? Let’s have a party!  We’ll plant pretzel stick trees in cupcakes!  You can bring in 40 cupcakes tomorrow, right?

These kids make Lindsay Lohan look like a homebody.

He Doesn’t Respect Authority

I remember turning 19 years old, being perfect and knowing everything. My son is almost five and already has a self-righteousness about him that makes Donald Trump look like Woody Allen. My son spends a good deal of his time marching around the house dictating what mommy and daddy should do. Mommy and daddy spend a good deal of time thinking about military academies.

If I tell him he can have a cookie after dinner he’ll tell me “No!” and then proceed to argue with me for 20 minutes about why he shouldn’t get a cookie. When I finally agree that he’s right he’ll throw a full-fledged tantrum and demand to know why I’m such a bully. So far he hasn’t tried to organize his 10-month-old sister into a protest march in the living room, but that’s only because she can’t actually walk yet.

My Son Is All About the Babes

While some of his friends are starting to worry about catching cooties from the fairer sex my son has managed to create quite a few flirty friendships with the girls in his class.  He’s claimed two different classmates as his “girlfriends” and agreed to no less than three different future marriages. We don’t even live in Utah!  My son’s a player before he can spell the word.

He Likes To Drink From A Shot Glass

My four-year-old has some seasonal allergies and takes a little dose of liquid Claritin every day. He gets such a kick out of downing a shot of Claritin that he now regularly asks for drinks in his “little cup.” As a good bartender I’m usually obliged to pour him two fingers of milk or water and let him down it in one shot. Most kids learn how to drink out of shot glass when they get to college.  Mine is 16 years ahead of the game. .

He Likes To Streak

After knocking back a belt of Claritin what better way to celebrate your youth than ripping off all your clothes and running through the house naked? My son does this regularly as I get the bath ready for him each evening. He usually accompanies his streaking with screams of joy as he runs up and down the hallway, giving our home the feel of a frat house with a fraternity of one.

 

Fortunately, I don’t think my little guy will be packing up and moving out of this dorm room quite yet. To get into college you usually need to get a pretty solid SAT score, have earned a high school diploma and at least be able to write your own name with a crayon (assuming he’s not attending on an athletics scholarship).

And, for what it’s worth, he’s a lousy tipper.