Monday, December 31, 2007

Disneyland Day Two in Pictures

I gotta go eat b'fast and head out for day 3 - aka NEW YEARS EVE! - but wanted to throw up the best pics of yesterday!
As we arrived, Alice, the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit, and Disneyland Band were making some little girl's entire vacation, by celebrating her Un-Birthday!

Cindy trying not to be scared of the giant cobra as we wait to go on the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Happiness on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!

Safety Goggles: CHECK!
Waiting for "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience".
This show has definitely passed its "Pull-By" date, I am sad to report.


Pixie Dust! PIXIE DUST!!!
That sword is REALLY stuck in that stone... Maybe someone who was recently sprinkled with Pixie Dust can help??
Nope.. That sword is definitely NOT moving... But at least it's more fun with two!





Cinderella's Castle at night... From inside Fantasy Land. Wait 'til you see it from the front!
Thousands and thousands of white LED lights make it look like it really is covered in icicles and snow!
Another angle... So gorgeous, I couldn't quit looking at it every time.
And finally, a kiss at California Adventure, where we're heading right now for day three!

Astro Blasters Day Two

Last night we got in another round of Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, and both of us greatly increased our scores!!

We're feeling pretty good about ourselves, even though we met a guy in line who had never played before, and got something in the 140,000 neighborhood...

Tonight: Third Time's The Charm!..?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Disneyland Day One

We Made It!!

After flawless road conditions throughout the entire trip so far, we finally encountered dilapidating traffic this morning on our way from Carpinteria to Anaheim. Turned out to be a 5 car wreck on I-5, with car-remains on both shoulders of the road, so at least there was a good excuse. But enough about that, because as soon as we got past it, it was mere minutes before we were pulling into our hotel, where they were gracious enough to let us check in early!

Found our room, which is pretty much opposite in every way from the roach motel we stayed in a few nights ago, and headed out to D'Land, which you should know, IS The Happiest Place On Earth!

For the Saturday after Christmas, and heading in to New Years, I expected it to be crowded. And the sign outside the park warning that it was "very crowded" seemed to back that thought up. But it really didn't seem any busier than it had been three years ago when we were here - in fact, in most areas of the park it seemed less full. So we were off and running, and hit several key rides today.

First up was the Matterhorn's Left Side. I love that ride, whichever side I'm on, but I *think* I like the right side even more. We'll know tomorrow.

Then we hit up Autopia. The irony of standing in line for 30 minutes to pretend to drive at 5 miles per hour, after spending the past few days in the real car didn't strike until right before we got into our car... And with that irony still thick in the air, and some 4 year old driving in front of us who seemed to keep forgetting that you need to push the gas pedal down to make the car go, we decided we probably won't venture on to the Autopia again...


Also making the first day was Star Tours, which even though it looks a bit aged, is still one of the best virtual reality rides ever, anywhere.


New in Tomorrowland since our last visit (It was actually built, but still under wraps back then) is Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. I LOVED THIS RIDE! When we decided to get in line, I didn't even know if it was a ride, a show, or some hokey kiddie hybrid of the two. What it actually is, in case anyone else doesn't know, is an excellent "Dark Room" ride (like all the Fantasyland ones a la Mr. Toad) that adds a Laser Tag element. Your ride buggy (probably some sort of rocket, but who had time to care while shooting the evil Zurg and his minions??) comes equipped with two Astro Blasters, and all the glowing, neon coloured characters in the ride have targets all over them, which you can Blast for points, as well as feedback from the characters, which is pretty much lights and sounds, like shooting anyone in a normal laser tag game. Only cooler. Lots cooler. Unbeknownst to us going in, they take a picture of you during the ride, like so many others... But then they don't try to sell you an overpriced printout, they let you email it to yourself for free! So I present, as a token of our first day in Disneyland, Cindy and I playing Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters!

You'll note from the scores that appear in the corners, that I (as Player 1) was completely whoopin' her... Although when we got to the end and checked our rank, we were both level 7. I really want to play it again now that I know what I'm doing!

We also hit Pirates of the Carribbean, which has received a few post-movie updates, with Captain Jack Sparrow making 3 (or so?) appearances. The Disney Imagineers have really taken the animatronics to the next level, in one of his scenes, it really, honestly looked like a real person popping up out of the big powder keg. Highly recommended!

I think the favorite of the night for both of us was the Haunted Mansion, which once again was taken over for Christmas by Jack Skellington and his gang of merry morbid misfits. It's just so incredibly well done, so many details making it a truly outstanding experience!

But when have I ever been known to end on a high note? As we left the mansion, we saw that Splash Mountain only had a 10 minute wait! I LOVE Splash Mountain! Cindy had earlier said that she didn't want to go on it, but then said she would for me. (Love!! After 5 years of Marriage, there's still LOVE!!) Well the 10 minute wait was an overstatement, we literally walked right on. And it only took the first small drop to figure out why nobody wanted to ride it tonight. They were running the ride in a way that I would call "Very Wet," and after that first little dip, my right leg was more than damp, and both of my shoes were approaching soaked. The next dip finished off my shoes and right leg, and got started on my left leg. Oh, and Cindy, who loves me so much she went on this ride for me, was sitting in the very front of the log, and got hit even harder than me. (Love? After 5 years AND Splash Mountain at Night in December? I Hope So!) But that was all just preperatory for the big drop, after which our coats and hair joined our lower bodies in the "fully soaked" category. They hooked us into buying a picture, since apparantly Critter Country doesn't have the high tech Internet goodness of Tomorrowland. Since the scanner's at home, here's my attempt at taking a picture of a picture of a happy couple riding a log down a waterfall.

After that, our evening was rather abruptly called to an end, as we rushed back to the hotel to take a warm shower and put on dry clothes... But we did get to see the fireworks as we waited for the shuttle to arrive. Now it's off to bed to charge up for day two!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tales from the Road III

I try not to be a brand-centric snob. We drive a Kia, and in fact it's the 3rd Kia we've bought! We really try to embrace the philosophy that if a product or service does the job well, that's more important than the name on the label. That mindset has, in the past, extended to overnight accommodations. And while I won't argue that there's a noticeable difference between Motel 6 and the Red Lion, I'd never been in a M'6 that wasn't clean, comfortable, functional.

Until we were looking for a place to stay in Stockton, CA. (See post below, "More Yup than Hip") So we failed to follow through with our original plans to sleep in the van like hippies. Around 8:30, as we drove through Sacramento, we decided we'd logged enough time in the van for one day, and it was time to quit messing around and get a room for the night. But not wanting to needlessly spend a lot of money when we were going to literally sleep, shower and leave, we opted for the budget lodging. Found the Motel 6 right off the freeway. Paid for our room, and went on in.


Wow.


I mean, really, WOW.


From first glance, the room was more sparse than any I'd ever seen before. Not even an alarm clock. And the sheets appeared to be the original ones they opened the motel with back in 1972. Clean, but they'd been washed enough times that you could not only see through them, but read through them. They had all the silky softness of a mid-grade sandpaper. And we got to sleep in them! Well, I use the word "Sleep", but really it was more like "we got to endure them until daylight."


But the sheets weren't the only issue... oh no... A quick check of the bathroom revealed one - yes, one - towel. So Cindy called the office, and asked if we could have more. The answer was "Yes." But upon hanging up, she wondered out loud if "Yes" meant that they would bring them to us, or we would have to go get them. Good question, but not one I really felt like tackling at that time. No big deal, because a few minutes later, the phone rang and the clerk said that security would be bringing our towels. Moments after I hung up, there was a knock at our door, and the 87 year old security guard (complete with badge!) was at the door with TWO towels. SWEET!! Enough for us to each use one, and have a third one just in case. Ahh, luxury and excess, thou art Motel 6.


So we watch TV for a few minutes, and go to sleep. And the quality of the structure surrounding us really began to show itself. I didn't hear anything from the surrounding rooms, but I don't know that anybody was IN the surrounding rooms. But the exterior walls were paper thin. And I'd guess there wasn't any insulation between the layers of paper. Every noise, every footstep, every car on the freeway, sounded like it was inside the room. At least that kind of stuff eventually fades into white noise and you can sleep through it.


But the heater in the room was another story. Looking at it, it looked good! It was made by Carrier, a company that still makes quality heating and cooling systems today. It even had a digital display! Much newer and nicer than the typical low-end motel heaters, made by companies I've never heard of.


And then it turned on.


Right as I was allllllmost asleep, I heard a click, a clank, and a jet engine big enough to power a 747 spin up for takeoff. After about 45 seconds of warm air hitting me like a hurricane, it clanked, clicked and spun down to silence. (leaving the aforementioned white noise) This thing turned on and off every couple minutes. Ridiculously short cycles... And noisy enough that there was NO way I was going to sleep through it. After an hour or two of trying in vain to sleep through the racket, I finally got up to investigate... Thankfully, there were three speeds for the fan, and it was on High. So I switched it to low, and hoped for the best.


That lowered the volume enough that I was able to sleep, though badly, for a few more hours. When Tom Bodette (yep, he really does the wake up calls) called at 6am, I really doubt that I'd slept more than three hours. But wanting to get moving and put the whole ugly ordeal behind us, I forced myself up and into the shower. And if I'd thought the heater's fan was noisy, it was just baby steps compared to the wailing banshee that is the bathroom fan. No exaggeration I can do verbally or bloggally can even come close to the sound that fan made. And since it was on the same switch as the light, and Cindy was still "sleeping" (I use the term lightly), I took a shower in the dark because the sound from the fan would have ended a bad night's sleep with a horrible wake up.


An hour later, we were back on the road, thankful for a shower and sink to brush our teeth in. We were also pretty sure that we'd have slept better in the van, even with the ruts on the floor. So we placed all the value of the motel in the fact that we had clean bodies, hair and teeth. Stockton was quickly fading in the rear view mirror, and we are now much more leery of low-end lodging.

Tales from the Road II

For those of you who didn't know, I run a daily email game called "Fact or Crap." I've been doing it for a couple years, and it's good clean fun, and you get the added benefit of learning stuff!

A couple days ago, the statement which was to be judged was something along the lines of "It is illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon." As an educated reader, you most certainly know that statement as Fact... And to those of us who live on the left coast, it was ludicrous to even ask! But it did get some conversation going about wether it impacts the cost of gas. Well, when we made our first stop for gas in Oregon, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the gas prices there - at a Shell station - were cheaper than what I'd paid that morning at Fred Meyer (with reward card, of course).

So to anyone wondering if they should fill up north of the border, don't! You pay more, and you have to pump it yourself!

Tales from the Road I

I've mentioned before - probably even more than once - that I am terrible at getting the camera out when things happen that really should be captured on film. (or memory card...) Well, here's another case. I present to you, a Mercedes SL, I'd guess from the early '80s.

We passed this car at least four times, in Washington, Oregon and California. Any time we'd pull off for food, gas, or potty-breaks, we'd get back on, and before long, come up on this car again. After the 4th (and ultimately, final) time, Cindy said "You should get a picture of it!" So I did... But if I'd done it sooner, it would have been better.

Now, there are a couple of things that this picture doesn't show. Things that we really wish we'd captured to enhance this post!

#1 - The driver was an old man, we'd guess at LEAST in his mid-70s, with perfect posture, sitting up straight with his hands religiously at "ten and two" on the steering wheel. We were inspired by his adventurous spirit, taking his wife and car on a trip through the Siskiyous in late December. This is the type of life we want for ourselves when we get to those later years.

#2 - The car's left blinker had been on for at least 300 miles, one of the ways we repeatedly identified the car as we were coming up on it from behind. Passing it in Centralia: Left blinker on, car in the right lane. In Eugene: Left blinker still on, car still in right lane. And so on. This is one of the artifacts of aging that we're hoping to avoid, but if that's the worst that happens to us, we'll still consider it a victory. Besides, it confuses, irritates, and amuses the young whippersnappers like us!

Finally, when we passed it after having dinner in Yreka (and what a great name for a town, Yreka!) it was still flashing its ID by way of that left turn signal... But it was in the left lane, and moving to the right. (with the signal indicating otherwise) That's when Cindy made the comment about taking a picture. I decided I'd do even better, and shoot a movie of it! But then while switching the camera to movie mode, framing the shot and starting to shoot it, he finally realized that his blinker was erroneously on. So you get that picture of a run-of-the-mill Mercedes SL... But it had been such a part of our first day's travels that we decided to post it anyway.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Yup than Hip

I'm writing this from the passenger seat of the Rocket Van as we speed down I-5. In a few hours we'll be at Cindy's mom's house, spend tonight and tomorrow there, then get up Saturday and head on up to Disneyland! Good times, for sure.

But how did we get here?


Most of you had heard our plan: "We're gonna be hippies and sleep in the van!"

Well, we've learned some things about ourselves. One of those things is that we're more Yuppie than Hippie. Of course, a little pre-planning would have helped figure this one out. Key to our hippie plan was putting our air-mattress in the back of the van so we'd have somewhere comfortable to sleep. Oops, at 10 pm Christmas night, I finally got around to taking the seats out of the van and putting in the air mattress... which was a good 14 inches too wide. So we brought a couple extra sleeping bags to use as padding. Good, right? Well... we also have a couple suitcases, a case of water, a snax bag and some Christmas presents along for the ride... which leaves not a whole lotta space for sleeping. Plus, the floor of the van has these holes where the seats latch in. Looks very uncomfortable to lay on. Perhaps we're not cut out for this hippie thing...

But we're also not quitters, so we jumped in the van yesterday morning and took off anyway! Both Washington and Oregon had some snow on the ground in places, but nothing that impacted driving at all.

Our big fear was Mt. Shasta, which is where we got stuck three years ago when we tried this same trip. But we blew through the entire Siskiyou range without so much as a slushy spot, and even got ol' Shasta to pose for a picture.

Stay tuned for more insight and tales from our California Adventure!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

We've Been Elf'd!


Yeah, we know... Those are the two best-lookin' elves you've ever seen! But a still shot really doesn't capture the full glamour of the Merry Christmas Dance we will perform for you when you click here!

Or, you could watch our four little elflings copy our dance here...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Please Fasten Your Wrist Strap!

It's been a while since I've found a good nintendo related video... This Wii parody is one of the best I've seen yet. Now, if only those airfares were actually that low for anywhere I wanted to fly!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Your Commute Just Got Less Boring

When these kids grow up, I have full confidence that we'll finally have flying cars and hovering Jetsons-like cities! But for now, that train ride home sure is thrilling...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pumpkinfest 2007

It's here! Pumpkin carving time arrived yesterday afternoon, and it was so cool!! All four kids are finally big enough to to nearly all of their scooping and scraping by themselves. And their design skills have also matured at least another year since last time. Case in point, Ellysa, who combined the skills she's learned in her 9th grade Art Class with her love for the Nightmare Before Christmas, and working from a small printout, did a freehand sketch that turned into the masterpiece you see to the left!

Next up on the tour of gourds, is Andy's latest. He decided to star in his own pumpkin this year, and anyone who played his hit Halloween game this year, or has read any of his many comic books starring "Andy" will recognize the face. Excellent Effort, Excellent Results!

Kaylee and Tyler went with pre-made stencils, but chose, attached, poked and cut them all by themselves. And Kaylee added the ears on her wolf/cat all by herself, as they weren't included on the stencil. That's Kaylee's on the left, and Tyler's is on the right.




Which brings us to mine. True to form, I picked out a green one this year, and it tried to thwart me by turning orange while waiting to be carved... But one side of it was still sufficiently green to differentiate itself. And for my design, I went with influence from my childhood... A Sleestak from the Land of the Lost. We've got one huge pumpkin left that I would LOVE to turn into Jabba the Hutt, but I don't know if I'll have time to or not. If I do, Jabba will get hooked up to the smoke machine this year. If not, it'll be a smoking sleestak! Stay tuned for the full spectacle that is trick-or-treating at the Brinkerhoffs!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Funny!


Taking a break from escaping ghosts just long enough to post this... Another tragic toy recall, due to obvious safey concerns...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Halloween Contest: Game On!

Okay, so Andy's Halloween Game proved to be quite popular... Which inspired him to announce a contest for the highest score, with the winner receiving an all-expenses paid Bag o' Candy Corn! But then I discovered a couple of "sweet spots" in the game that enabled you to walk away and let the score climb, climb, climb, without end, amen... And that just wasn't right!

So, I convinced Dr. Videogames himself to re-write the game, making it more difficult, and I think we're ready to launch the contest for real! So here are the Totally Official Rules:
1] Contest is based on playing Andy Brinkerhoff Productions' new game, "Andy's Dad In His Own Nightmare", which is downloadable at the end of this blog post.

2] Without pictures, it didn't happen. So if you want to submit a score, send in a screen shot! To do that is really quite simple. When the game ends, hold down Shift and hit the "PrtScrn" or "Print Screen" key, typically located at the top of a standard Windows keyboard. Laptops often require you to hit their function key... Then open Paint, or even Word, and hit Paste. It's that easy! If all else fails, there are a number of screen capture utilities, and our friends at Google could easily help you find one. If it's too much work, then NO CANDY CORN FOR YOU!

3] All high score submissions must be sent in by email, to contest@mikeymix.com.

4] Deadline for submissions is Thursday, October 25. That gives two weeks and change to master the game, so give it your best shot!

5] Fun must be had!

So there ya go. To download the game and get started, click here!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another Hit On The Music Mafia

Yahoo!Music Well, less than ten days after Amazon's mp3 store debut, an executive at Yahoo! Music is declaring war on DRM (in case you forgot, that's digital rights management, a nice way of saying "strangling restrictions").

In fact, he's taking a stand many of us had hoped Apple's Steve Jobs was about to take when he made his famous "Open Letter To The Music Industry" last year. Unfortunately, business as usual continued at Jobs' house. But Ian Rogers at Yahoo! is making a stand for convenience and consumer friendliness. Here's an excerpt from a speech he gave last week, the transcript of which is now posted on his blog, complete with the slides he used:

I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.

If, on the other hand, you’ve seen the light too, there’s a very fun road ahead for us all. Lets get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music. The opportunity is in the chasm between the way we experience the content and the incredible user-created context of the Web.

Very well said, Ian. I highly recommend reading the entire post by clicking here. It's good to see that there are still some people with vision in places of power and influence. I really do pray that their vision will succeed and bring us a bright future where the ability to listen to, discover new, and above all else, LOVE music will be greater than at any time in history.
YAHOO!
(thanks to gizmodo for featuring this story)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Booooooooooooooooooo!

Halloween time is here! To celebrate, Andy (age "almost 15", 9th grade) made up a Halloween game starring his dad... also known as... ME! He's been making video games for a couple years now, ever since we got him a video game maker as a reward for a good report card in 7th grade. And he's made several games with it, with varying degrees of success. But this one stands apart, and it's NOT just because it stars me... It's all about good gameplay! Like Bloxors, which I mentioned a couple weeks ago, this is a very simple game. And like Bloxors, it's addictive and gets more and more difficult! The objective is simple. Avoid the ghosts. Points are awarded for avoiding the ghosts. That's it! No boss levels, no power ups, just avoid the ghosts. Click here to Download it! Play it! Have fun with it!
My high score is 1466 - if anybody beats it, post it in comments!!
ALERT: Check the comments section! Andy has decided to make this a contest!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Crunch All You Want - We'll Make More

Meet Sam! Sam is a Seagull from Scotland. Sam likes Doritos! (really, who doesn't?) Unfortunately, Sam doesn't have much pocket-money, so he has to resort to the time honored tradition of stealing to get his chip fix. It's real, you can check it out on snopes, and here's another video of Sam in action.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Funny!

It's been quite a while since the last Friday Funny, but this one was good enough to revive the tradition!

The Moral: Never Kiss A Dog!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Episode IV - A New Hope






















Those of you who know me, will likely also know that I am NOT a fan of Apple's iTunes/iPod empire.


I will shock some people here and admit that the iPod is a cool gadget. I'll even grant that the mp3 revolution was fueled in fairly large parts, by the iPod.

But....

From the very beginning, Apple's plan was to sell you music from its iTunes music store. And that music was laced with DRM, or "Digital Rights Management", a sugar coated way of saying "We will control what you can do with music you buy." And to top it off, no other digital music player is compatible with Apple's DRM. Not because other player manufacturers don't want to be, but because Apple wants it all for themselves. So you buy your player from Apple, you buy your music from Apple, and you can't play that music on other players, so when your iPod breaks, or you run out of room and need another one, your choices are to either jump to another brand of player and re-purchase all your digital music (or burn it all to CDs and re-rip in an open format, which is enough of a pain that 90% of the public doesn't know you can do it, or wouldn't bother to do it), or just shell out the cash for a new iPod, which allows you to easily move your iTunes music library over. People have hassled me for many years for my anti-iPod views, and I don't think I've ever actually spelled out my argument so clearly. In any other medium, that kind of closed-marketplace wouldn't fly. But thanks to the fact that they were the first mainline digital music player, Apple has been given a free pass by the public to fleece them at will.

Okay, now that I've established my gripe with the iJuggernaut, let's take a quick look at the LEGAL music download landscape.

  1. iTunes, with lots of selection, but also restrictions.
  2. WalMart, Buy.com, Many other stores offering music with the Windows Media DRM - which is supported by a huge variety of players, but is still DRM, and has earned my wrath through its ridiculous limitations.
  3. eMusic, which sells all their music as mp3 files, which have NO DRM. Oops, but there's really not much on there that you've ever heard of. The mafia that is the recording industry likes to sell you the same music as many times as possible, so they hate un-restricted music sales. eMusic has lots of independent groups, which is cool in its own way, but largely useless to me...
  4. (well, really 3 and a half) EMI, one of the big four mafia -oops- music companies, announced that they would offer their music in open, DRM-free form earlier this year. Apple made EMI and a few other product lines available DRM-free, but still used their .aac format that isn't supported by many players outside of the apple universe. Walmart and the other Windows-based stores also started selling un-DRM'd files, even going a step further and offering them as universally playable mp3s. But shopping for them was confusing, since they had the crippled tracks available alongside them, and I just KNOW that there have already been people thinking they were getting one, and winding up with the other. If only a major player would step up and do it right, offering mp3 files from the big guys in an easy to navigate way.
  5. (really IV) Amazon unleashed their long-talked-about download store today, offering everything in mp3. And they're even using high quality mp3s, the kind that I'd be happy to welcome to my media server. I've browsed around a little this morning, and their selection is better than I've found on the hybrid DRM/mp3 sites, and their prices are great - 89 cents a song for most songs, and albums averaging $8.99.

Amazon is big enough that hopefully this will be a success, and more record companies will agree to sell their catalog through their site. Until then, I've actually found music I've been looking for on there, and I intend to support this venture! Viva la Revolution!

(click here to support sensible legal downloads)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brilliant Advertising

Check out this new ad for the Citroen C1 - I actually didn't realize Citroen was still around, but apparantly not only are they around, they're making amazingly cool ads for their cars.

I think it would be great to have a follow up ad where the invisible hands turning the cube turn out to belong to a 6 year old who gets frustrated and decides to pry the cube apart in a final effort to solve it...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Now I REALLY Want A Pool!

I've always loved backyard swimming pools. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in eastern WA, where summer actually means "HOT" and as a result, a good percentage of homes have pools in the backyard. Luckily for me, most of my relatives are part of that good percentage. However, I now know that there is a downside to having a wonderous backyard oasis. But again, lady luck smiles on me, by providing the solution along with the problem. It appears that when you have a delightful body of water behind your house, it not only attracts all your local (and not-so-local) relatives, friends and neighbors. Yes, apparantly in addition to all those generally welcomed guests, the local pigeon population also likes to visit. But they don't want to swim. They want to foul your little slab of paradise with pigeon poop!! But now that this ingenious homeowner has shown me the way, I will fear no pigeon in my pool... When I do finally get my pool, that is.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Diversion

You're looking at a new flash game. It's called Bloxors. It's addictive. It starts so simple - all you need to do is get the square block into the square hole - then before you know it gets so hard that it leads to obsession... I've just spent about 45 minutes playing it, and got to my personal end point... Might actually need to read all the directions, but I'm pretty sure I've gotten how to play it. Anyway, if you're looking for a "simple to learn, impossible to master" game, click here to check it out!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

If Summer Must End...

Tomorrow, our kids start school. (well, except for Andy... we're still waiting for the Tacoma school district to stop proving their superior stupidity so he can start another year at Internet Academy.) It is so incredibly hard to believe that he and Ellysa are going into *gulp* 9th grade this year. HIGH SCHOOL!! Woah. Still odd, but not as hard to swallow, are Kaylee and Tyler, in 5th and 4th grades respectively. Naturally, we wish them all great success in this school year. Also naturally, we look forward to having some good solid routine back in our lives. Finally (and naturally), all the kids are excited to get back to school again, even though some show it less than others. Good to know they're all okay with it.

BUT...

I'm not ready for summer to end!! This has been such a weak summer weather-wise already, that it feels like we're still in early June, not early September. But as if in an effort to soothe my angst at the flittering away of the lack-of-summer, a few little gifts have popped up. I already mentioned the first gift, school starting again... (heehee!) But finally, some of the garden items I've been patiently waiting on are starting to reward me. Today I picked the first two tomatoes of the year - apparently they like SUN in order to ripen - and Cindy popped them in her mouth, so they must have been good. And the sunflowers that have been creeping taller and taller against the front of the house are finally starting to open up. Here are a few shots I took yesterday evening. Something about a nice sunflower provides a good, smooth transition from summer to fall.

(click the pics for the full size version)

Nice, huh? Just makes everything seem okay. But there was one more gift, hidden among the sunflowers. Many of you know that I've had issues with bees over the years. Well, a very industrious spider took the real estate mantra of "Location, Location, Location!" to heart, and built a web right across the face of a nice, big sunflower. That little spider is gonna be a big fat healthy spider with all the bees he's catching! Here's a pic of last night's haul...



Warm, sunny sunflowers and bees falling to spiders... I guess all really is right in the world!

Of Poultry and Hens


Those of you who not yet acquainted with the newest members of our flock, meet Floppy. At the time we got her, she had just molted, and really looked like the chicken equivalent of a train wreck. Neither her comb (the red pointy thing on top of her head) nor her wattle (the red wattly things below her beak) were very red, she looked anemic, she was missing feathers. Floppy got her name because her comb was very floppy, even partly covering one of her eyes. (but she really has a great personality, trust us!) Well, she's been with us since mid-March, and has now assumed her rightful place as "least pretty hen in the flock." But remember, she's got that personality!! And she really does. Our beautiful chickens that we raised from day-old babies run nervously to the opposite side of their yard when we come in, even though we nearly always have food of some kind. But Floppy and her sister Layla (thank Kaylee and Tyler for the names) are always right there, underfoot like cats, waiting to see what wonder and joy and joyness we have for them.

They're also smart enough to have learned that when a shovel goes into the ground, worms often come up. So as I was working on the backyard project detailed earlier, I'd only been digging for a couple minutes, when who should come walking up, but Floppy. Now, I know what you're thinking! You're thinking "but wait - the chickens are all fenced in to their own yard so they don't get out and trash YOUR yard" and you'd be right. However, a couple of them are quite skilled as escape artists. Traditionally Ginger has been the lead escapist, but she's beginning her first molt, and doesn't appear to be all that spunky right now. So Floppy is more than happy to take her place, and slips in and out of their yard at will. And with a shovel working the ground, her will was definitely to get the heck out there and find some worms!! I just laughed as she started helping me dig. For once, she wasn't underfoot like she usually is, she would wait until I dumped a shovel-full of dirt, then shred it up, snacking all the way. As soon as I was done with the shovel, she hung around a few more minutes, then went back to her yard like a good little hen. I'm sure the next few eggs she lays will have extra high protein from all her extra snacking!

Oh, and what was Ginger, the former queen troublemaker up to? Well... Like I said, she's not feeling too hot right now. But from looking at her, I'd say she was pouting.


She used to always be so pretty, and full of herself... And she used to lay eggs too... But her beauty and production should (aka BETTER!) return soon. Then it'll probably be a whole new round of hen-pecking with Floppy to reclaim the Queen of Mischief crown.

For Labor Day Weekend: Manual Labor!

BEFORE:


Our poor, beleaguered back yard. While it looks approximately 3,000 times better than it did when we bought the house, it's still a bit of an eyesore. And the vegetable garden on the outside of the fence, that just seems wrong. Plus, that whole outside the fence area is completely overrun by weeds. We'll clear it out, and two weeks later you'd never know it! Perhaps there is a relatively easy solution to this problem... Perhaps a couple pallets of landscaping bricks from Home Depot would help! Yeah, and since it's a long weekend, perhaps Mike can carry (we're told the correct term is "hump", but that's just too wierd to say) those bricks around and make a retaining wall...

DURING:

Let me just say: Bricks are heavy.

AFTER:

Wow, it's a wall! And despite the obvious challenges that could have caused it to be a disaster (for example, the fact that I was building it), it turned out really quite nice! How does this solve three different problems? Well, next year the garden will be planted in the new raised bed. It'll even have its own built-in sprinkler system. Woo! And on the outside of the fence, we're going to bulldoze all the weeds and nastiness (one of the perks of working for a construction company, no doubt!), and plant grass along that strip. With a nice, thick, healthy lawn out there, the weeds won't stand much of a chance. And those that do, will be mowed over on a regular basis! Ultimately, we also plan to put some fruit trees out there as well. This is the first of many property improvement projects we have in the works... When they're all done, our back yard is going to be a place where we'll intentionally choose to hang out!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One Amazing Night


The crudely pasted panorama you see above was taken a few weeks ago, before the reality of aging parents and the downside of the circle of life took over. In fact, it was just a few days before that all happened. August 7, 2007 was the second (and final) day of our church's leadership conference. Over the two days, we had awesome teaching from John Maxwell, Matthew Barnett, our own Kevin Gerald, and the awesome United band from Hillsong Church in Syndey, Australia. Then, to wrap things up on Tuesday night, we headed out to the Puyallup Fairgrounds and had a Night of Worship with United.

Now, I had been a little nervous that we wouldn't fill the place up. I know that most churches that feature contemporary music do a lot of Hillsong songs, but would the general public come out to the fairgrounds? Well, my fears were very unfounded. We drove out there, and before we even got to the parking lot, we could see a huge crowd of people lined up outside the gates. Excitement! Extra cool because as conference delegates, we got advance seating. Walked right up to the gate, flashed our badges, and were whisked inside! Once inside, we heard that the people outside had been lining up since 11:00 that morning!! There were already way more people inside than I thought there would be, and about half an hour later they opened the floodgates and the place filled up. Completely. Look to the left and the right in that pic at the top, and you'll see it! We were so thrilled to be part of a church with the vision and ability to put on something like this. I don't know the exact capacity of the grandstand, but it had definitely been met. And when the music started, everybody was swept up in worship and praise, and it was an A.MAZ.ING night.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Family Reunion

Tuesday was quite a day. It was the day my siblings and I bid farewell to our father, lent support to our mother, and it was also the first time since 1991 that all eight of us have been in the same place at the same time. Even though we had an official family reunion two years ago, only seven of us were there. This time, everyone made it, and it was great to have all of us together. To celebrate the occasion, we got together for a group picture. First, just the 8 kids and Mom, then one with our respective spouses. (All except for Kathy, whose husband Tim couldn't make it) Here's a slideshow of the group shots, as well as others from the day.


Cindy and I would like to thank all of you for your incredible support over the past week. We feel truly blessed to have so many people in our lives to care for us. You're all awesome!!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Jesse Reed Brinkerhoff, Rest In Peace


Yesterday, August 11, 2007, my dad passed away. (at 11:48 am, to be exact)

We hadn't always had the closest relationship, but it's still very hard to wrap my brain around the idea that I don't have a father here on Earth anymore. I'm sure after enough time, it will become normal - God built us as amazingly resiliant beings, who can absorb the shock of life's events and keep on going. Definitely one of my favorite design features.

Dad had been sick in some form for nearly a decade. It started with a surprise announcement that he needed to have a quad-bypass open heart surgery. But while the surgery was called a total success, it took several weeks before he regained any sort of normality to his life. After what seemed like an endless battery of tests, an in-operable brain tumor was discovered. Sadly, that brain tumor pretty much defined the last years of his life. It had pushed up against various glands in his brain, throwing off the delicate balance of chemicals, amino acids, nutrients and minerals. For the most part, he rode the wave well, and even the most shocking downturns were quickly followed by a nice, comfortable "back to normal."

But last Wednesday I got a call from my sister that things had taken a bigger nosedive than ever before, and immediately I could feel that this one would probably be the last. Still, we debated wether to head over to the Tri-Cities right away, or wait it out... As of Friday, we had decided to wait. Saturday morning, I woke up with a feeling that I needed to be there, so we hopped in the car and headed east. About 90 minutes before we got there, the call came in that he had passed on to be with the Lord. Odd silence for the next few miles, accented by tears... Then gallant attempts to put it in perspective and be happy that he's not suffering any more... By the time we got to my parents' home, his body had already been taken out. The funeral's this Tuesday.

Please pray for my family. Particularly my mom, who is lost and alone, without her husband of 53 years. Pray for me and my siblings, that we will have peace in our hearts and remember that he IS in a better place now, with no pain and is finally rid of that tumor!

Finally, I'd like to say that my dad was brilliant. He was an ingenious inventor, who developed a sonar system for the navy back in the '70s, and in the mid-'80s, a dimming system for fluorescent lights, which was impossible up until then, but is now in use in supermarkets, warehouses and office buildings all over the world to save electricity by not running the lights at full power during the night time when you don't even notice that it's not as bright. He also could fix ANYTHING with some duct tape and a few paperclips. Yesterday as we looked around his home, we saw countless items that had been enhanced by my dad's inginuity. We're hoping to get a photo gallery, and if we remember the camera, you can be assured that some of the best examples will be showing up here!

Love you, Dad. Hope you had a great trip!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Funny!

OK, so I've known for a while that there's a BBC America cable network... I've even caught a few episodes of the import version of "Who's Line Is It Anyway", but they've always been already in progress. Since I've never actually set out to tune in at a set time and watch something on BBCA, I've missed this little gem that was brought to my attention by a friend with much more refined TV viewing habits.


It's nice to see that they admit they talk funny, and their futile dig at reminding us that they were once the boss of us just gives me an extra chuckle! You Go, Britain! You SO used to have power and stuff! =)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New CD Released!!

Faithful readers of this blog will undoubtedly remember that back in January, we invited all of our friends to come to a special night at our church, when we recorded our second CD and DVD of home-grown Worship music...

It was a great night, and now here we are six months later, and the project has finally made it out of post-production and was officially released tonight - and it's a GREAT disc!! From explosive anthems of praise to reverent, passionate worship, it's on here, it's all good, and it was all written by members of our church here in Tacoma!!

It is so awesome to be part of a church with not only great vision, but also so many committed members driven to see that vision fulfilled. There's already talk of our third album, and I have no doubt that it will continue down the path of excellence we've established with the first two.


If all this leaves you feelig inspired to pick up your own copy, just click here! Otherwise, just hang around us long enough, and you'll undoubtedly hear it playing loud 'n' proud!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Funny!

Leave it to Japan, truly the nation where if you can dream it, you can also find it for sale somewhere. Case in point: For all the times you've looked at your ordinary cat, your non-hello-kitty, and wished that he/she/it were MORE Hello-Kitty, you can now make that dream a reality!! Just buy the new Hello Kitty costume and dress that finicky kitty all up. Of course, for some reason, the cats shown wearing the costume don't look all that happy about it... Not so much saying "Hello!" as they are saying "WHY?" or even "I will cut you deep!"