Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie Reviews

I am going to begin posting reviews of movies that I have recently seen.  I won't go back and review anything that I have seen in the past, that would take me several years to write.  We get about 2 movies a week from Netflix, usually one kids movie and one for me.  I will try to review both and also anything else that I may get a chance to watch.  All of the movie review related posts will be labeled with the Movie tag.  Most of the reviews will probably contain spoilers so don't come complaining to me if you read something you didn't want to.  Sometimes I will like a movie "just because", I am a fan not a critic, so bare with me.  The first one should be coming soon, we have 2 movies at home this weekend and we intend to see them both.

The review format will be something like this:
  • Review Commentary
  • Overall rating - I think I will use a 5 or 10 point scale (yes I like to be that specific)
  • Would I buy this movie/Would I watch it again -  The options will be Never, Will Watch It Again, Will Buy It

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Power Napping

I woke up Wednesday morning about 3 AM and started sneezing for about 2 hours straight.  My condition didn't improve throughout the day Wednesday and by midday, I developed a horrible headache.  The sneezing stopped on Thursday but the headache persisted.  The only thing that seemed to save me the past 2 days has been Power Naps.  I love 'em.  I can't get through most days without at least one.

It started when I was in high school.  I just stopped sleeping like normal people.  I would routinely get less than 3-4 hours a sleep a night.  In order to repay sleep debt, I started taking a nap at some point in the day.  At first, I tried napping for 1-2 hours and I typically woke up feeling more tired than when I fell asleep.  I really didn't think to research the topic because I didn't think that anyone else did it, plus there was no internets back then.  That is until I read a story about Thomas A. Edison.  The story mentioned that to increase productivity, he rarely slept, instead he took power naps.  He would sit in a chair in his lab and hold a spoon in hand.  He would dangle his arm, holding the spoon, over the arm of the chair over a metal plate.  When he would get into a deep sleep, he would involuntarily drop the spoon, which would hit the plate, making a loud enough noise to wake him up.  He would then resume working, feeling refreshed.

Many years later, I researched more on power naps and found that an effective nap should be no more than 30 minutes long.  Sleep longer than 30 minutes puts you into a deeper level of sleep, making it more difficult to wake up. 

Here are some of the things that I do to take effective power naps:
  1. Prepare for the nap.  I know when I usually need a nap (mid-morning or mid-afternoon).  When I start feeling sleepy, I try to slow my pace down, nothing which would increase my heart rate, etc.  I like to take about 10 minutes of diminished activity before I am ready.
  2. Set an alarm.  I use my cell phone which a great alarm clock built into it.  Set the alarm for 15-30 minutes from the time you are ready.
  3. Find a nice spot.  I work from home so during the day, quiet, comfortable spots are bountiful.  I pick the big sofa next to my desk.  But if you can't do this, find someplace away from the hustle and noise. 
  4. Cover your eyes.  I usually cover my eyes with the arm of sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt.  It serves three purposes, it covers my eyes providing near perfect darkness, it covers my ears blocking out some background noise, and it is also a pretty nice pillow.  You may look silly, but it is effective.
  5. Clear your head and sleep.  Don't think about you are going to do when you wake up.  Don't think about the stuff you did before you laid down.  Think of something calming and sleep.
  6. Wake up.  Don't hit the snooze button, don't lounge.  Jump up and get back to work.
Well, that's what I do. It may not work for everyone, but I firmly believe it helps me.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Step Closer... the edge and I'm about to break.  Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of the few days in the year when the kids and I have the day off and my wife doesn't.  What does this mean?  It means that I have to singlehandly watch all 3 children under the age of 8.  I watch the kids all the time, but only in pairs, never all 3 at the same time!  I don't think I am certified for this.  I must have slept through this class in college.

Here's my plan:
1)  Surround the 6 MO with pillows, give her soft non-swallowable toys.  Feed and change according to the instructions.
2)  Turn on Xbox and put in Rock Band for the 2 boys.
3)  Suppress the urge to scream every time they play One Step Closer. (it's not a bad song, but, dear Gods, there are only so many times that you can hear a 7 YO sing it before you lose your last grasp on sanity)

I guess I shouldn't have stayed up until 2 AM playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  I could stop at any time.  It's just a game.  I don't need to play.  Who the hell am I kidding?  I am addicted.  I blame this addiction on Patrick.  I would have been fine playing other Xbox games like NHL or Rock Band, but no, Patrick had to introduce me to first person shooters.  It all started with Halo 3 and it only got worse.

Well, the Rock Band lasted only a short time and we quickly discovered that Discovery was hosting an all day Mythbusters Superfan Marathon.  I am a huge fan of Mythbusters and thankfully, my kids are too.  They actually ask to watch it instead of cartoons!  All throughout the marathon, they have been hyping the Mythbusters Superfan Sweepstakes, a chance to win a trip to Comic-Con 2010 and meet Jamie and Adam! All you have to do is 1) follow Mythbusters on Twitter and 2) tweet a sweepstakes message each day.  I am accepting gifts, bribes, etc. for a chance to come with me when I win.  I figure my odds of winning this are much better than my odds of winning a Megamillions jackpot.

Lower Back Pain and WeDo

I spent my Sunday on the floor of the basement.  Why?  I was resorting all Lego WeDo kits for the robotics club.  I sorted over 3,600 Lego pieces into individual piles of similar pieces.  I am the Chairperson of our PTA Robotics Club.  This is our first year and none of us have done this before.  So we are learning as we go along.  One of the most painful lessons to date, is letting the kids mix and match the pieces from the WeDo kits.  So I spent about 6.5 hours on the floor sorting all of the pieces and making complete kits again.  (We'll see how long this lasts...)  I was trying to take regular breaks and stretch my back and legs, but it was pointless.  There was too much to do and little time to do it.  By the end of the day, it was time to give the kids a bath and get them ready for bed and I could barely move. 

But I feel much better after having done it.  The main reason is we can start a new program in the club (the secondary and more controlling reason is my OCD kicking in).  We are going to try rewarding the kids when they complete a project using the WeDo kits or something using the Scratch animation/programming software.  At the end of each meeting, we are going to give the kids who complete a project a small prize.  We'll see if this has a better result in keeping their attention.

The WeDo kits are great.  They are perfect for kids between K and 5th grade and the adults find them pretty fun too.  The kits contain 160 pieces, about 140 of the pieces are the standard Lego pieces.  The remaining pieces are what make it special.  There is one USB interface, one motor, one optical sensor and one motion sensor and a handful of gears and rods that allow you to give your creations motion. 

The kits come with 14 projects that you can build and then program using the WeDo software.  The projects include stuff like an alligator that will close his jaws when you put something between them, a device that spins a top, a boat the rocks back and forth, etc.  Each project takes about 45-60 minutes for someone to put together, so you can build them and get through them in one session.  The building of the each individual project may be too basic for older kids (4th & 5th grade), but the fun for them seems to be programming them.

I'll post some more on the Robotics Club later, including on some of the freestyle projects that we work on and also include what worked and didn't work over the course of the year.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Late to the game

Wow, it has been a long time since I actually wrote something other than a technical document.  I think the last time I wrote a blog was almost 9 years ago, I stopped blogging sometime back in 2001.  Let me begin by welcoming you here, you have either arrived completely at random or I must have said something interesting (most unlikely). 

I don't know yet what I will be posting here, but I figure it will mostly be an outlet for me to vent on parenting, corporate software development, movies, music, or something similar.  I am a father of 3, currently they are 7 YO, 5 YO, and 6 MO.  I work for a large corporation where I herd cats, or manage software development.  So my home life is very much like my professional life.  Thanks to the wonderful invention of Netflix, I actually get to see movies.  They are mostly kid flicks, but I sometimes sneak something for Daddy into the queue.  I listen to a wide variety of music, but tend to lean more to the metal scene.

I think that about somes up the welcome.  I hope to have some actual content shortly.  Thanks for stopping by, come again soon.