Diablo 3

When I want to escape I usually put on headphones and fire up Spotify. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of music for a couple of hours. Or I’ll check out ESPN or a while before switching over to American Pickers. I know, I know.

But lately, I’ve been playing a PC game called Diablo 3 from Blizzard.

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I can’t recall the last PC game I got into more than a few days. It might have been Half Life 2 so it’s been a few years.

But Diablo 3 is one polished entertaining game. It tells a story along the way, but I really couldn’t tell you much about it because I skip it whenever I can to get back to the fighting and looting and often, getting my butt kicked.

A while ago I bought Skyrim for the Xbox and played it for a few days, but never got hooked. So I sold it.

Diablo 3 grabbed me right from the start. I’m sure one reason is that I prefer a mouse/keyboard to console controller. I also like that I can drop in for 15-20 minutes and still have fun without feeling I have to dedicate three hours in order to accomplish anything.

I’m hooked.

Bare Foot Piggy-Back Rides

Kim and I have a goal of getting our kids in bed by 8 pm on school nights. Any bed will do. We are not beyond bribing when Lost or The Office is on. Whatever it takes. Just find a bed, couch, or sleeping bag and keep it down.

On the weekends, we’re less structured and allow the kids to stay up later. When coercion and bribes have failed, I use the only tool I have left at my disposal: Offering piggy-back rides.

I don’t know what it is about a piggy-back ride, but the kids will do anything for them. Homework, chores, flushing the toilet – you name it and a piggy-back ride will get them in line faster than anything else I can offer.

The fact is I enjoy giving them to the kids. As long as they don’t strangle me by gripping my neck too tightly, enough oxygen gets to my brain and I’m able to make it through three tours for our three oldest.

I have to be careful to follow the exact same route through the house or I’ll be called out as having given a sibling a longer ride.

Tonight, Anna jumped on my back and I decided to change things up a bit. Lucky for me, Child Protection Services wasn’t in the neighborhood because I created a game called “Where Can Dad Put Your Bare Foot”.

The game isn’t complex. As Anna held on to my neck, I walked into the kitchen and held her foot under cold water from the tap. I then put it in the freezer and told her the microwave was next as she laughed and shrieked. She didn’t like the idea of her foot on the stove or in the toaster so merely walking towards both had the intended effect. How about a wet foot getting too close to a wall socket? I’m glad I was there to only simulate the shock!

Of course, Luca and Lincoln demanded the same level of danger on their rides. When I tried to substitute putting Lincoln’s foot in the dishwasher instead of on the stove he said, “Hey, Anna got to do the stove!!”

Games like this one and the Jaws of Death probably aren’t going to show up in any parenting magazines as recommended activities to do with your kids.

But I’m still convinced the games one makes up on the spot are the best.

When I dropped Anna off onto her bed, she gave me a kiss goodnight and asked if we could do it again tomorrow.

“Only if you’re not afraid of the waffle iron”

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A Game of Marbles

As a fourth grader at Grandview Elementary, few things in life mattered more to me than my marble collection. Hong Kong Phooey was a distant second on my list of priorities. All I cared about was my little blue pouch of marbles I carried to school every day.

The most competitive games were played during recess. The game we played consisted of one player dropping a marble on the grass and the other player trying to hit it. If he was successful, he’d take both marbles. We’d alternate back and forth until someone pocketed  all the marbles.

But occasionally a kid would show up with a steely which looks like a regular marble but made of steel. This character would play a fair game until he saw me toss one of my bigger and better marbles. That’s when he’d pull out the steely and let it fly. At the very least, he’d knock a chip off my marble. And sometimes he’d shatter it to pieces with a solid hit.

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The kid packing steelies didn’t care about the competition or the chance to win a few marbles. Nope. All he wanted to do was disrupt the game and then run off laughing.

My pouch of marbles is long gone, but I’m convinced some adults continue to carry around “steelies” looking to disrupt whatever project, meeting, or idea they come across. They seldom bring anything constructive to the table yet they’re ready to pounce on any idea or suggestion with a virtual steely. They aren’t difficult to recognize. They have a laundry list of reasons an idea can’t be tested.  The mock ideas they don’t understand, and have a knack for dreaming up highly unlikely scenarios where the new idea will fail.

I once had a coworker who brought a bag full of steelies to work every day. He liked to argue about the smallest and most random details. He loved to chime in on topics well out of his scope of responsibility. I occasionally fell for his trap and tried to debate him. But the debates never ended because he didn’t want them to end.

Over time I realized he wasn’t interested in solving the problem in much the same way the kid tossing the steely wasn’t interested in the game. His interest was in the debate. If he could escalate it into a shouting match, even better.

I’ve found the best way for me to deal with such people is to ignore them. Don’t play their game by jumping into the fight with your own steely.

Sometimes it’s easier to pickup your bag of marbles and search for someone else who wants to play the game.

Photo by Nico Cavallotto

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Nothing

The Friday commute home is shorter than other days. Maybe it just feels shorter because I’m more relaxed. Less anxious. My phone is tucked deep into my jacket pocket with the ringer on “silent”. I’m done with email and meetings for a couple of days. If I’m lucky, I’ll have saved a good podcast for the drive home. The BS Report or TWIT will do.

The best weekends have nothing planned.

No church activities.

No soccer.

No yard work.

Nothing.

Except maybe chasing the kids around the couch. Or getting trounced at a game of Wii bowling. Or having my son show me the skyscraper he built with wooden blocks. I know he’s built something noteworthy when he takes me by the hand and leads me to his creation. As if I’d get lost on the way.

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As I walked on the treadmill tonight I laughed as I watched Kim swinging her hips side to side as she made her way through the hula hoop exercise on our new Wii Fit. Our three oldest children had climbed of out bed and were standing behind her making similar but more animated motions.

Kim didn’t seem to mind the company until Lincoln described her Mii avatar as “puffy”. I worked off more calories chasing them back to bed than I did walking at my leisurely pace on the treadmill.

“We’re bored”, was the excuse they’d settled on tonight.

“Read a book”, I said.

“I’ve read all the books in the universe”, replied Luca.

I kissed each of them on the cheek and forehead, pulled the blankets up tight and made sure none were following me down the stairs.

Maybe nothing turned into something.

Photo by Shelly Rich

Stripes and Solids

The only rule we followed was never play anyone who brought their own cue stick. Otherwise, we had no problem taking money from students at Weber State College. All winnings went straight into the jukebox or the Space Invaders pinball machine. You know, the one with 4 flippers and extra wide lanes. Back when games were a quarter, 500k secured a position on the High Scores board and free games were easy to come by. 2221804368_b46e238063

My next door neighbor was cool. He even had a cool name: Guy.

Guy had his own paper route. I filled in for him one week and he gave me five bucks and a Guinness Book of World Records paperback. I would have done it for the book. Who can forget the guy with the longest fingernails? I thumbed through the book until the pages fell out.

Guy was going to be an architect. So, of course, I wanted to be an architect although I had no idea what one did.

I don’t recall how we got started hustling students, but I remember Guy telling me it was easier than landing papers on porches from the sidewalk on his Schwinn Stingray. The key was to select the right hits, and jocks were an easy target. They couldn’t back down from an 8-ball challenge. And we certainly didn’t look like a couple of pool sharks. The tables were located near the bowling alley. The perfect hit was a jock who could bowl a 225 or better.  Then we knew he had little time between studies and bowling for a little “stripes and solids”.

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That was our brilliant line of reasoning.

We didn’t lose very often. I’m surprised we were able to find students willing to play us through the summer. I suspect many were embarrassed they got hustled by a couple of teenagers and decided it was best to keep it on the low.

No more than few dollar changed hands, but that was enough to keep the jukebox going. Any 6 songs for a buck. If we had a few quarters left over for pinball even better.

We couldn’t play pool without queuing up tunes on the jukebox. Bennie and the Jets was always part of the mix. Those first few piano bars Elton laid down were magical. We had no idea what the lyrics meant. It was the music that grabbed us. It was impossible to listen to and not imagine myself pounding the keys while the crowd clapped and whistled.

When the jukebox stopped, it was time to jump on our bikes and race each other home. As we crossed Harrison Boulevard it was all I could do to keep up with Guy. Occasionally I’d catch him along the curve bordering the hospital parking lot. Nearing the home stretch, we’d be neck and neck until I slammed on my breaks at the stop sign just yards from my house. Guy never stopped. He celebrated each win by doing a wheelie in front of my house.

He wasn’t just cool. He was lucky.

Photo 1 by Sean Wakefield
Photo 2 by Thomas Hawk

Snow Angels

Over the past few days the threat of snow has paralyzed Seattle residents. You can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about “Winter Storm Watch 2008”.

This massive storm has dumped at least 3 inches of snow at our home. It was so deep I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the mailbox this afternoon.

As much as I love Seattle I miss the big snowstorms of Utah. Not the storms that dump a few inches, but those that dump a couple of feet in a few hours. I loved the storms that hit early in the evening. My mom would make hot chocolate before sending us outside dressed in our parkas, moon boots, and gloves that were a couple sizes too large.

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We’d build snow forts, have snowball fights and make snow angels. Did you ever make snow angels as a kid? I’d fall back into a fresh patch of powdery snow and wiggle my arms and legs until I was out of breath. Then I’d look up at the sky and try to catch snowflakes on my tongue. Every so often a flake would come down right on my eye sending a chill down my spine and tears down my cheek.

I don’t know how many snow angels I made as a kid. Easily a few hundred. I liked to pretend each snow angel I brought to life would watch over me. Sort of a guardian snow angel.

The night would end when mom would call us back into the house and we’d warm up again on hot chocolate.

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