Watching the Wheels in Motion

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"In our personal lives, also, we journey from ignorance to knowledge. Our individual growth reflects the advancement of the species.” Carl Sagan

Watching Judah's brain develop is fascinating. All those cliches about learning something new every day and growing before your eyes are tired and true but are overused for a reason. They are correct. Carl Sagan said it in Cosmos and I've been watching the history of human development on a microcosmic scale for the last three years. We started with grunts and gestures and cave drawings and have moved into the basics of verbal communications. The other day I watched him build a little Stonehenge in the sandbox and realized it wasn't a timepiece or temple it was just a cool exercise in how many rocks can we get standing upright before they all fall down.

Some of the most fascinating parts of my day are watching him when he doesn't know I'm watching. I sneak up and watch him through the window at school or in this case hide a camera in his room when he's supposed to be napping. Yes, there will be time a time when he needs his privacy and I'll stop spying on him but as long as he needs me to wipe is behind I think I have the right to record him at play and publish it to YouTube. (At least I figured out what all the hammering was.)

Now, admittedly, this video isn't for everyone. It's an hour of naptime condensed into 3.5 minutes. As his dad though, I sat through the unedited version riveted and on the edge of my seat anxious to see what may happen next!

I plan on being my son’s Don Draper

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We cut the cable cord in 2007 replacing the DirectTV dish with a $12 pair of rabbit ears.

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Since then, we've experimented with a variety of means of consuming media and have settled on streaming Netflix through the Xbox360 as the easiest way to watch many of the programs that interest us. In addition to Netflix, using a

PlayOn

server running on a Windows computer on our home network we are also able to push Hulu as well as many network websites to the TV through the Xbox... including PbsKids.com for him and ComedyCentral.com for me.

As the boy grows up and learns how to navigate the mostly commercial free content on the TV in our house, I'm interested to study how the lack of mainstream television advertising affects his interest in popular toys. I also plan to splice in some retro commercials from Youtube into our viewing routine to manipulate his 'wants' and convince him hand me downs and toys from Ebay are the must have holiday gifts. One year he's gonna go crazy for Furby's while the next he won't be able to live without Castle GreySkull.

You can by a 1985 Teddy Ruxpin (with 2 cassettes!) for 15 dollars on Ebay.

I think several well placed spots a day between streaming Tom and Jerry cartoons should encourage him to put that on the top of his Santa list.

And these old videos will open up lessons on sensitivity training. Kids rolling their eyes because the boy brings in his Teddy Bear for "Show and Tell". Thats so 1980's.

A tale of two snowmen

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Our neighborhood in Baltimore is situated between several colleges and universities and therefor we have many student renters living on our block. It gives me the chance to often think back and realize what a horrible tenet I must have been - back in the day. When we ran out of oil for the furnace we would burn garbage in the fireplace and all sleep in the living room.During the snow storm last week several snowmen sprung up after the weather cleared. The boys to our right are athletes (I had to spell check athlete) while the boys to our left have a drum kit that they practice on early in the morning. When looking at the snowmen, I'm certain you can guess whom belongs to whom.

Rather than a button nose and two eyes made out of coal their snowman's nose and eyes are made our of beercans. But, it does have a corncob pipe.

They lost some points for the HomeDepot bucket hat. The other guys used a bike helmet.

Susan said she was certain our snowman in college would not have looked like the one built by the athletes. I called and asked my college roommate and asked if we should be offended. He said our's would have had such a huge and unplanned base snowball we would have never been able to go hired with the second and third. We would have built him sideways. It would have been better than the over achievers next door!

Baby makes days hazy

Since Judah's been with us... we've been a little spacey. People had said this would happen... but I doubted them. I run a pretty organized ship, both inside and out of the cockpit. Few things are left to chance and procedures are followed to ensure the desired outcome.

This morning, I forgot the second to last step in making a cup of coffee - Place cup under spout. I didn't forget the last step - Press "brew".

Family photo slideshows - minus the shag carpeting.

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Oh, how I wish I owned a Flux Capacitor, a Delorean and had a friend named "Doc" so I could travel back to the Nixon era and start a family. I'd love to be on the cutting edge of 70's technology and invite everyone over to the den to watch a slide show on the drop down screen above the bar of the baby. I'd set it to vinyl and spin Bowie's "Hunky Dory" and dim the lights. I'd love to sit running my fingers through the shag carpeting while I clicked through slide after slide after slide of baby photos. I'd leave in a picture or two of me in a smokey bar shooting pool or of my Firebird parked outside various U.S. landmarks. And if the audience was begging for more, I'd pull out the 8mm projector and throw up some home movies of us playing on the slip and slide or breaking high-scores on the Atari 2600.

But, alas - I'm stuck in the new millennium with scores of digital photos on my hard drive and endless ways to show them off to my friends and family around the globe. Gone are the days of gathering around the screen drinking beer from pop-tops. I guess there are times that I set up a slideshow on the Xbox360 streamed to our HD-TV from a network attached computer that houses backup's of all the photos. But, no pop-tops!

For sharing photos online, my favorite slide show program is on Animoto.com. Although you can buy a year pass of unlimited slide shows for $30/year, I pay for mine ala carte at 3 dollars a pop. The product is great but I'm not sure I'd make more than 10 a year.

The setup is simple and will leaving people wondering, "How'd you do that!"  One of the great things about Animoto is it interprets the beat of the music you choose to play with alongside the photos and adjusts the speed of the slideshow accordingly. I've made movies with the same pictures but with different audio and each has a different result.

Once the video is made, you have the option to download the file, share it from Animoto or send it to Youtube. Be warned though - I've had the audio stripped from several videos on youtube for voilating copyright laws. I'm not sure why, but some videos don't get taken down... they just have ads put up under them for places online to buy the track? To avoid this, you can choose from some of the audio Animoto provides for the soundtrack... but where's the fun in that? Give it a try... you can make unlimited 30 second videos to try the service out.

Since storms cancelled our evening with The Flaming Lips - I had to go to Youtube.

Well, The Flaming Lips show in Philadelphia turned into “A bit of a bath - a big bath” (to quote the Woodstock documentary - although theirs was in reference to the bath the promoters would take upon getting the bill for the festival.) Although we had a nice evening and some great Indian cuisine downtown with some friends at Karma, our evening of Lips was cut off after about 6 songs when storms rolled in from the West and forced us all into the air conditioned “too unbearably hot outside” tent. Or in our case, the air conditioned and cold “too rainy for outside” tent. Actually, first Susan and I cut through the rain into an unused beer tent that had since closed up shop. We were dry for about 60 seconds until we were forced to vacate our dry dwellings by a water saleslady, “You’re not allowed in there!” In the larger tent we waited for the storm to pass while I watched the Weather Channel app on my Google Phone draw red cells around “our current location”. We were warned about the possibility of storms before the set started and were assured by the band they'd play as long as the weather cooperated and the promoters said it was safe. First came the rain and they played on - then the lightning. After an hour in the tent, and amidst the worst of the thunder and lightning, the staff announced we should leave, "the show is over." Although I was optimistic up until this point, I figured the venue had a curfew and this couldn't go on for ever. We left during the Philly accented and encouraging, “you’s all should leave now” but I knew the tone would turn less pleasant as I already heard a few staff grumble about how they were supposed have gone home 5 minutes ago. Into the rain we went. We regrouped with friends at Dave and Busters next door and played video games in wet clothes to wait until the weather gave us the time to walk to the hotel. Sitting in wet clothes at video games took me back to Adventure Island in Tampa and playing Pole Position in a wet bathing suit. Much like then, I’d have hated to be the kid in the seat after me. Ah well, all in all the bit of the set we saw was fun. Lots of confetti and balloons and great music. Next time, we will have to see them inside in August.