Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gaming DNA

When I was in junior high school, I was addicted to pinball. Any quarter I could muster, I would take to Lotsa Fun at the Har Mar Mall in Roseville, Minnesota, or perhaps the Kresge store in the same mall, or the now-defunct and my eventual main hangout, Rose Bowl Lanes, across the street. The video game Space Invaders was introduced at some point in my junior high tenure, shortly followed by Asteroids, and the end of pinball's dominance in arcades was begun. I'm not sure what hooked me, but it's not too surprising, since my dad was a terrific pool player (and still amazes me on the rare occasion he plays). I think there's a similar arcade-like DNA there.

I made the switch, too, becoming a regular at Circus, the successor to Lotsa Fun, using the same mall space with an expansion. There were a few games I was pretty good at. I became a very good foosball player as well (also in the billiards DNA), even winning a couple championships at my Technical College (I know, I know..."real impressive"). The only game I became better at than anyone I ever saw was Wacko, and obscure game where you moved a hovering-saucer-riding alien, shooting other aliens it would meet at different points along the path.  What made it challenging was that you had to multi-task in a way no other game required.

In my adult years, I enjoyed some home video games, with my favorite being Links golf on the PC. I still fire it up once in a while, despite the franchise folding sometime after Microsoft sold it in 2004, preferring it to even the most recent Tiger Woods games from EAS. For a while, and in spurts, I would be addicted to the game, and even quite temperamental when I didn't play well.

This background leads to the point of this post: I'm not a gamer, and I'm not sure why.  My 20-year-old son is, my 7-and-9-year-old sons are hooked on Skylanders, Mario, and most recently, starting to really get into WWE. But not only am I not a gamer, I don't play home video games at all, other than occasionally when my young sons want me to play with them. And I'm not sure why.

Perhaps they have become too realistic, although I can still see myself getting the bug to play Tiger Woods again, and perhaps even Brunswick's PBA bowling game, both of which are quite realistic. Perhaps because I never really enjoyed the personally violent games I say personally violent, because obliterating scores of spaceships were fun. I still enjoy playing Galaga every time I visit Breezy Point Resort.  So, perhaps I only enjoy video games for nostalgia, or if they are realistic facsimiles of sports I enjoy playing in real life.

I guess it's a good thing, as it saves money and keeps me from wasting time.  Then again, I spend plenty on games for the boys, and I really don't use all that free time as productively as I should.

Oh, and I did lie a little. I still occasionally play bumper stars on Candystand.com. It's a bit addictive for me, and I'll binge in it still occasionally. It's basically a video game cross between pinball and billiards.

Yep, I can't defy, nor will I ever totally shake, my arcade-like DNA.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Everything was better at Grandma Ann's

My Grandmother, Ann Malmgren, was laid to rest yesterday. It was truly a celebration of her life.  Tears were shed, and there was sadness, but the joy of stories, memories, and even home movies made it a wonderful time.

As with my Grandpa Leonard (Ann's husband, who passed away 21 years ago), I was asked to deliver the Words of Remembrance at the Mass of Christian Burial.  Basically, it's the non-clergy eulogy.  Knowing I had only a few minutes during which to speak, and that it had to be religious in nature (which I found a little awkward coming from me), I kept my stories short and simple.

I talked about hoping to awe and inspire everyone with my stories, but in preparation, was having trouble coming up with anything other than what everyone else would have said about her. So, as I explained, I started a brainstorming session, writing down a word or two about every memory I had.  Here was my list:

Worms
Well water
Peas
Orange Juice
Baseball
Linens
Ice cream
Popcorn
Tonight Show
Coffee Maker
Poached eggs
Basement smell
Jokes
Laugh

There were more I could have written down, but I realized I was getting nowhere.  It was a  mundane list for sure.

But then,after looking it over some more, I realized that's what made Grandma Ann so special. To have fond memories of her linked to each of these ordinary things could only mean that she truly was extraordinary. 

I had originally planned on describing why many of these held special meaning to me, but for time purposes, limited it to just a couple. As it turned out, less is truly more. Most people who knew Grandma Ann knew exactly what I meant by enough of these that they understood there must be something similarly wonderful to those they did not. It's like hearing a joke that you don't get, but know that you should get, and why, and thus find it funny.

I concluded my personal remembrances with the following, and am paraphrasing here, as it was mostly ad-libbed from the rehearsals that took place in my head:

Everything was better at Grandma Ann's. Some of it is understandable: her cooking, sewing, and gardening, for example. 

As for some of the others, it may not make much sense, and you might ask, "How could all those things, like mass-produced, store-bought ice cream, be better just because it was at Grandma Ann's?" 

Well, that's a question that pretty much answers itself.  Everything at Grandma Ann's was better...just because it was at Grandma Ann's.

Here is a link to her obituary: http://www.andersonfuneral.net/obituaries/Anna-Malmgren/


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Things I think about when my team is sucking

What better way to cheer myself up over the pathetic Christian Ponder-led Vikings showing in Green Bay tonight than to criticize a sports announcer? No, not one of the football game's announcers, but the play-by-play guy who did the Giants-Pirates Wild Card game last night.

I don't recall who was on the play-by-play, but it's not about picking on him. Rather, it's about any announcer who does this, including former Twins announcer John Gordon:

"(Batter) is up, and (On-deck Batter) would be next."

Gordon used to do that all the time.

"What's wrong with that?" you ask. "The on-deck batter would be next. if the current batter keeps the inning going."

Well, that's all fine and dandy, except there was one out and no one on base.

So unless by "would be" the announcer meant, "(On-deck Batter) would be next, unless he gets knocked out like a sacked QB by a foul ball, or the manager does something incredibly stupid and puts in a pinch-hitter for Hunter in the third inning."

Until last night, I thought Gord-o was the only one who ever did that. I suppose I'm going to notice it all the time now. Funny how things work like that. For example, my ex-wife was the first person I ever noticed using the non-word "acrossed." She said it while we were doing a crossword puzzle together.

(She gave me quite the lashing for correcting her, but dang, if you ever catch me doing something like that, if you're my friend, I expect you to correct me immediately!)

Then I started to hear some sports announcers use it, as in, "He passes the puck acrossed to Parise."

And then I heard it in a production of Oklahoma!, which means two things, probably: 1) That its use has been around a lot longer than my ex-wife, and 2) That it probably wasn't meant to be used any more than "Caint" (as in "I caint say no") or "Whatcher" (as in "Whatcher gonna do when he starts talkin' purty?")

Yes, I'm quoting old Broadway tunes instead of watching football.

I should turn the game back on to see if Ponder is still playing QB.  Chandler Harnish would be next.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grandma Ann

I just got word tonight that my maternal grandmother slipped into a coma and may not make it through the night.  She is 95 years old, and has been living in a nursing home for some time. I haven't been able to have a meaningful conversation with her for several years, but that won't make it any less sad when she goes.

Whenever she does pass, among many other things, I will remember her wonderful cooking, and her amazing ability to tell a joke, no matter what joke, and make everyone laugh. She was pretty amazing; she had to learn to be.  She basically raised her siblings from the age of 12, as the oldest, when her mother passed away and her father was away.

If her time does come soon, I am very glad I got to visit her one more time recently, a visit during which she was unusually sharp. Below is a picture of her with my two youngest boys and me.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

(Not) Finding Bigfoot

I am watching the season finale of Finding Bigfoot. The episode is called, "Biggest Search Yet," so I'm guessing they capture the beast, and needed to make this a special two-hour episode.

See, I am being facetious with that comment (my ongoing joke with my wife is that THIS is the episode they finally find him!), but despite my overall skepticism around Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, etc., I have no problem suspending disbelief when it comes to the subject.  This includes Bigfoot-themed movies, regardless (usually) of how awful they might be.

In my 2010 post about having Bigfoot dreams, I noted the source of them being a belief in the being from my childhood. I was an impressionable child, willing to believe just about anything a reasonable-sounding adult was willing to believe. So movies like those from Sunn Classic Pictures really had me going.

Today, I call myself a skeptic, and not just of mysterious monsters, but of everything, by the true definition. That is, make a claim that I haven't heard of or formed an opinion on yet, and I'm going to want you to back it up, and as Carl Sagan would say, the more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence I'm going to need.

But I still find Sasquatch an interesting subject, and the only reason I can figure is what I said about suspending disbelief. I suppose I can in other subjects, too. I enjoy some good ghost movies, despite my disbelief in them.  Ghost-hunting reality shows, on the other hand, I have no time for.  And while I find the Bigfoot hunters just as silly as the ghost chasers, I still get a kick out of watching them.

Perhaps it's the degree of my skepticism, and that it hasn't yet reached 99.5% certainty of its non-existence. Whereas I find all psychics and mediums to be frauds and/or delusional, ghost-hunters as kidding themselves, and a host of other things too obviously ludicrous to mention (although I'll mention one to give you an idea; dousing), I'm ever-so-slightly open to accepting that there is a small chance of a species similar to ours, yet capable and wanting to keep hidden.

Then, when I read what I just wrote, I think, "That's ridiculous," and get close to 100% disbelief, and my skepticism is again equal to my skepticism of all other things paranormal, supernatural, etc. For a while, anyway.

I guess it's like this: If I saw a psychic and was impressed with something he did (like say something about my deceased grandparents that I wouldn't think he could know), I would think, "Nice trick, but I'm not buying."

If I were dared to stay in a "haunted house" for a nice little fee, I'd gladly accept.  Then, upon hearing scary noises in the dark, I'd think, "Hmm, weird noises in an old house. How original. Come out, come out, wherever you are, ghosts!"

But if I were alone in the woods, and I came upon a Sasquatch, while I might try my best to think, "Man in an ape suit," my guess is I would probably shit my pants.

And that's the difference between my Bigfoot skepticism v. all the others.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

2014 USBC Open Championship

This will hopefully be the beginning of my posting more often again. I used to try to post once per week; then tried to make sure I posted at least once a month.  Now I don't even necessarily rush to get an 11th-hour post on the last day of the month just to keep that going.

The main reasons for the fewer posts are: 1) I've run out of ideas that take more than a couple of sentences to cover, and 2) I've used Facebook to express my couple-sentence thoughts. 

It's a lot like the songwriting I used to try to do.  When I was younger, I would just write, and even if I felt the writing sucked, I'd just go with it.  It eventually, however, turned into less and less writing because instead of just going with it, I'd wait to write until I had a complete thought to go with.  Those became less and less frequent until I did virtually no more writing.

I don't want blogging to go that route.  So instead of, say, waiting until I have my complete post about technology and hobby sports (bowling, softball, and golf, for example), I'll start the thought here and just go with it.  I won't complete it today, but hopefully will piecemeal it until it's a "finished product."

I had remembered an old newspaper clipping a friend of mine had saved on the sudden increase of sanctioned 300 bowling games.  It was largely due to advances in ball technology, lane technology, and relaxed rules. 

You might think the article was from the early 2000s. It could also be from circa 1992 when reactive equipment became the norm.  Or perhaps you remember the short-oil trend of the late '80s that saw a spike in perfectos. (My first and only sanctioned 300 was from this era.)

In fact, the article was from circa 1983, and when I find the image in my old cell phone, I'll reproduce it on this blog (or have my friend re-send it). The reason at the time was the advent of urethane balls like the original AMF Angle, and I would also guess that lanes, even though still nearly 100% natural wood, were much more consistent with their resurfacing.

So look for that in the near future.  

I also wanted to discuss my 2014 experience at the USBC Open Championship, which was my most successful yet.  Even though scores are up this year, I was quite pleased with my 1857 score in all events. Some of the success came from bowling with bowlers who were more on the same page with regard to how we were playing the lanes.  Part of it was the slightly easier conditions. Part of it was that I truly have become more educated and just better at bowling on a sport shot.

While it was by far my best Open Championship yet, by 153 pins in fact, I have plenty of reason for optimism in future tournaments as well.  I attribute that largely to the education I've received from bowlers like my Pro and old friend, who gave me post-tournament tips in starting out better.  You'll see from my scores that I had poor starts in each of my events, largely due to leaving splits, either of the wash-out type (e.g., a 2-8-10 split), or from going through the nose.

Cashing in every event was very gratifying.  Doing so despite averaging 166.33 in my first games gives me hope for better things to come.  

Here is my final scoresheet:



Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

It was a pretty darn good Memorial Day weekend.  Golf and leisure time with friends and my wife. I just finished mowing the lawn and had a 16 oz. Grain Belt Nordeast on a less-than-full stomach. I can feel it, although it will take one more to count as a "buzz."

I rarely drink past the buzz phase.  Perhaps because the gut-rot of too many beers or the headache that comes later are a part of the reason.  Mostly, however, it's simply that I don't need any more than a good buzz to feel good.  I don't get the appeal of drunkenness beyond that.

I especially don't get it for those whom it makes violent, weepy, pass out, or anything other than simply happier than they were before drinking it. I've seen so many types, and I just don't understand why they'd drink past the "happy" state if they knew it would lead to something bad.

Yeah it's easy to wonder and judge and all that. I'm trying to come up with an analogy, but nothing comes to mind.  Perhaps watching Vikings games. They make me happy, until eventually, they blow it and break my heart.  And yeah, NFL football is close to an addiction. So I should know better and just turn the TV as soon as it becomes apparent the Vikings might blow the game.

That actually wasn't a bad analogy, even if tongue-in-cheek.  I'll try to come up with a better one, but first, I'll crack open another one.

Thanks to all who have served, by the way. I don't drink to forget, and I won't forget.  Cheers to you.