Friday, January 29, 2010

Game on

“OK, dad it's simple. All you have to do is hit the A button, while holding down the R2 button and moving the left joystick up and the right joystick to the left while pressing the B button. See, piece of cake.”
Yeah, real simple. He explained the move to me a couple of times, but my techno-challenged, middle-aged brain just could not grasp the concept of moving the good guy up and over the wall while shooting a bad guy hiding behind a tree.
I tried several times, but each time the good guy ended up getting stuck while the bad guy unloaded enough ammo at me to kill a herd of wild water buffalo.
Gandhi would have had an easier time bench pressing Volkswagen Beetle than I did trying to clear that level.
I had video games when I was Junior's age, but they weren't quite as complicated as the hyper-gig adventures of today.
When I was his age, Pacman was all the rage.
You remember him - chubby little yellow guy with a big head, no arms or legs and a serious eating disorder.
Everyone was playing Pacman.
Pac would run around the maze gobbling up all the little dots before munching on one of those big flashing dots that turned those ghost things into edible treats that Pac would chow down on for points. To make the game more challenging, the higher the level, the faster the bad guys would move. Ooooooh.
But the man in yellow was just the beginning. Soon the local arcade was crammed full of machines like Defender, Robotron, Asteroids and other games that made a series of stupid noises that passed for sound effects.
Ms. Pacman made the scene and, as games got a little more complex, Donkey Kong arrived. This game required the player to not only move up, down, back and forth, but you had to jump over and climb things things as well. Very challenging stuff.
But it wasn't until Super Mario Bros hit the block that gaming went mainstream. That little Italian with the big nose and moustache could be found pretty much every where as Mario Mania swept the land.
Those games were so physically large, it took two people just to move them. Now, you can get about a dozen of them in a wristwatch.
But, way back then, it was cutting edge stuff and with each new game we were amazing at how stunning the graphics were, or how intense the game play was. Oh, to be young again.
Today, youths have to multi-task and think to a much more complicated degree. They have some very complex electronics to handle, many of which have more technological capabilities and raw power than the Apollo space crafts.
But teens of today handle the electronic goodies with such ease and familiarity it makes a somewhat balding guy like myself look like a Pacman throwback, which I suppose I am.
Pacman was some pretty basic stuff: you had a single controller and you used to move the little guy up-down-left-right. Doesn't get much more basic than that.
Now, even a “simple” modern game requires three hands and a degree in advanced computing just to sign in.
I can watch Junior burn through a game while listening to music on his iPod and talking to someone on the laptop - all at the same time.
I can barely clear a level on its simplest setting if I give it all of my concentration.
But, that is pretty much how my dad reacted to Pacman, so I wonder what kind of gizmos my grandchildren will be playing with.
Whatever they are, I am pretty sure I am already too old for it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Maybe flabby aint so bad

A co-worker, who shall remain nameless, approached my desk the other day and leaned towards me to make a friendly comment about another co-worker - not in a malicious way, but as more of an observance than anything else.
Co-worker No. 1 said it is good co-worker No. 2 is going to the gym and he did so while patting his flat stomach as an indication No. 2 needed to work on that particular area of his physique.
No. 1 then looked at my somewhat enhanced mid section and jokingly asked if I would be signing up for the gym any time soon.
Naturally, I jumped up and stabbed him in the throat with a pen. I mean, who wouldn't?
OK, I did not actually stab him, because I knew he was right. I have gotten rather soft in the middle and the lower areas and the arms, chest, shoulders...oh hell, just pick a body part.
I wonder if it is possible to have a flabby liver.
Anyway, the fact is I exercise at least five days a week, so I poked my belly and found underneath the outer layer of flab were rock-hard muscles.
OK, maybe not rock hard, but hard. OK, more like hard-ish. OK, I know there has to be muscles under there somewhere or I would not be able move.
The state of my girth is not a news flash to me, but thanks No. 1 for pointing it out. It is always good to know your co-workers care enough about your well being to point out something that could lead to me being at risk of health problems.
What he didn't realize is it also put him at risk of getting stabbed in the throat with a pen, that is assuming I could have moved my flabby arms fast enough to actually achieve the act of vengeance.
My doctor told me I need to lose 30 pounds – so I took immediate action and got a new doctor.
Thirty pounds is twice as much as my dog weighs and he is an entire creature.
At first I thought, “No problem, I will just wear lighter clothes” that should be good for a couple of pounds. Perhaps more cotton...
But even if you are planning to wear crepe paper, clothes really won't make a difference.
A different tact was taken when I found really baggy clothes made me look thinner. I was still the same weight, but I looked a little better. Well, not really, but I was able to fool myself for a little while anyway.
Seeing as how the baggy-clothes-method-of-looking-thin was not paying off, I bought a treadmill and I actually use it on a regular basis.
I have also taken up hiking in area hills with the dog at least once a week. I have not lost any weight, but the hound is sure looking buff. Mind you, he runs 10 kilometres for every 50 metres I walk.
Despite a couple of years of this fitness regime, not much has changed.
I still look like I am pregnant with twins as my belly bulge has remained fairly constant.
I know it is going to take more than exercise to get trim, it will mean tackling my addiction. You see, I am an addict, a candy addict. I just can't leave the goodies alone.
I know those sugar-laden temptresses are to blame for the bulging belly, but I just can't stop myself.
I have had a sweet tooth my entire life (and it is the only tooth that has never had a cavity) so at 40 something, I am finding it a challenge to no longer indulge in the tasty treats.
When I was younger, I could eat as much as I wanted of whatever I wanted anytime I wanted. Now, just walking past a cookie adds a pound to my protruding paunch.
They have patches to help people quit smoking, I wonder if you can get one to help you stop eating junk food. If not, there should be.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A cut above the rest

I have to tell you, I am a lucky man to be married to such an amazing woman.
Aside from being an excellent mom to our little tribe, taking care of the books, looking after the home and working on a solution for global warming, she also knows how to keep her man happy.
And last Christmas, she proved it in spades.
How many ladies out there know a lot about tools? Not that many, and my wife is among them, but she does know a lot about me.
A few months back I accidentally broke my beloved compound mitre saw. It was a sad day indeed when I watched if fall off the work bench and smash into a dozen pieces – darn those stupid plastic handles.
I briefly contemplated trying to glue everything back together, but alas my beloved saw was already in the big tool box in the sky and deep down I knew it.
Following a period of mourning, a burial at the city dump and thoughts of all the stuff we could have done together, I forced myself to carry on.
No one said life would be easy.
Anyway, this past Christmas I noticed a very large box under the tree.
Nooo, it can't be, can it?
There it was, this big ol' box, wrapped in its Christmas finest and there was not a thing I could do until the morning of Dec. 25.
I had my suspicions, but how could I confirm what my heart was all a flutter for.
I know, I would wait until no one was looking and then lift the box to see how heavy it was. The perfect plan had been hatched and the moment the room was empty, I bounded over to the tree like a kid on a sugar high and carefully lifted the box of potential happiness.
Yeehaw, it was as heavy as I hoped it would be.
Now I really couldn't wait for the morning.
I had visions of me and my new saw spending hours together in the garage, building shelves or planters or arks or whatever else came to mind.
When I finally had a chance to open the present, I was not disappointed. Inside was a compound sliding mitre saw with a 10-inch blade, which was even better than the one I accidentally killed.
Like I said, what a woman.
After doing the happy dance and thanking my lovely wife, I asked how she knew what kind to get.
“I didn't. I found one we could afford and bought it.”
Works for me.
She may not have known diddly about mitre saws, but she still managed to find a perfect saw for a great price.
I had mentioned a similar saw that was on sale and the little gears in her brain started to turn so she went to the knower of all things worth knowing - Google – to gain some knowledge on the implement of construction.
She did a bit of research, learned about the saw and decided that was the one for her charming, witty and devilishly handsome husband (that would be me in case you were wondering.)
And the fact it was around 70 per cent off also helped her make up her mind.
So now I am looking for little projects to do.
“You want to buy a free-standing shelving system?! Not as long as I have my trusty mitre saw. I shall build the best darn shelving system you have ever seen. It shall be hailed across the land for its beauty and perfect mitred cuts.”
This spring, I anticipate a lot of sawdust will be flying around the homestead, generated by one happy hubby.
Dogs may still be man's best friends, but power tools come a close second.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Zap me once, zap me twice

There are some days in your life that stand out more than others.
The birth of my children are days I will never forget.
There’s also my wedding day and my wife’s birthday. Mind you those last two are more self preservation than anything else because if I forget those days, I’ll be sleeping in the garage in January.
A day of personal significance is Oct. 20, 2003. That’s the day I got to see the inner workings of the emergency room from a patient’s point of view.
I have had atrial fibrillation my entire life and normally it has not been a problem. I like to call it A-Fib, kind of like J-Lo or A-Rod.
I also call it the flippity-flop, because that’s what it feels like your heart is doing in your chest – flopping around. In reality, the atrium is beating at a different rate than the rest of your heart, causing the sensation.
Millions of people have it, and considering it is a heart murmur it is not too hazardous. It is not something to trivialize, but it will likely not lead to a heart attack.
Worst case scenario is the blood pools in your heart – which now that I think about it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun – and can form clots which can enter your brain and cause a stroke. That does not sound like much fine either actually.
Fortunately there are meds to keep the flippity-flop under control.
It is a strange sensation to feel your heart beating in a bizarre manner. It does get your attention.
Anyway, I woke up Oct. 20 with my heart jumping around my chest like one of those cartoon characters when they see a pretty girl.
I waited for it to settle down, which it usually did, but on this day it refused to go away so I got to go on an all-expense paid trip to the ER.
It’s not the first time I have been to the ER, but it was the first time I went there for myself. On past visits, it was my young daughter who needed medical attention for her asthma.
Of course, an asthma attack can’t happen during the day. That would be too easy. It has to happen at around 3 a.m.
During one family visit to the ER, police escorted a young man into the ward wearing a bloody shirt-handcuff ensemble complete with tattoos and bad attitude.
I am not sure what he was doing there, but I heard someone mention an accident and I thought if he got into an MVA while he was DUI he is SOL.
There were drunk people in there, or people on drugs or someone who had been in a fight – all in all it was an interesting crowd.
When I went in for my heart, it was in the morning and I was surrounded by the geriatric crowd so it was much quieter.
Nurses hooked me up to a variety of machines to see what my heart was doing only to come to the conclusion I was in full AF. No kidding.
They gave me a couple types of medicines, but nothing worked so the doctor said they were going to have to zap me. I am sure he used a much more professional doctor type phrase like intentional electrical introduction or something, but you get the idea.
The nurse said they were going to put me under and she injected some sort of knock-out medicine in my arm.
I can remember looking at the nurse as she asked how I was doing.
“I’m feeling pretty groovy,” was the last thing I remember saying before waking up 15 minutes later.
My heart felt normal and I felt good except for the small burns where the paddles jolted me with hydro juice.
“We hit you with 100 jules at first, but that didn’t work so we had to hit you with 200,” said the doctor who looked younger than my dog.
My first thought was, why didn’t you just hit me with 200 in the first place, but I am not a doctor and I am sure he knew what he was doing.
Or he just wanted to play with some of the cool machines he had lying about and he thought it looked neat when I got zapped.
“Watch how his leg sticks straight up every time I push the red button. Cool. Sure, you can try it. Hey guys, c’mere you gotta check this out.”
Either way I left feeling much better than when I showed up.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I said stop

What part of hit the brakes don't you understand?
It was a simple request, or at least I thought it was.
We were careening down a hill on a GT Snowracer and as we neared light speed I had but one request: Hit the brakes.
Somehow the suggestion of applying the life-saving braking mechanism before our imminent vapourization seemed a little too complex for the person guiding the craft that was blazing down the snow-covered hill so fast the ice was melting from the friction of the tracks as they screamed over the landscape.
Three little words: Hit the brakes.
In the 12 inches between my head and his ears the request of “Hit the brakes” translated into, “Turn left really hard.”
Hmmm, I am not sure how those collection of words were so transformed, but they were and instead of jamming on the brakes and coming to a leisurely stop, the dude at the controls went with plan B and cranked the steering mechanism hard left.
Bad idea. You see, on the left was a rather imposing wall of snow, a very hard imposing wall of snow.
As the craft turned left, I realized there had been a serious breakdown in communication. My mind raced as the scenario unfolded before me.
Here I was, out for an evening of fun, and my life was about to end in a jumble of mush as we hit the wall and burst into a bright ball of fire, pain and death.
A scene from Star Wars flashed through my mind, the one where the Rebel X-Wing hits the Death Star and explodes in a shower of spark and flame.
I had a feeling we were about to do that without the benefits of special effects. It's funny how time slows in a situation like that.
Seconds seem like minutes and as our impending destruction from the white wall of disaster loomed, several thoughts echoed through my somewhat hapless cranium.
Thoughts like: Why are we turning left when I said stop? Why did I let this bozo drive? If I survive the crash, I wonder if I can hide his body in the woods and claim the accident did him in?
Because I was in back, I had already determined I was going to use my 'friend' as a personal airbag. The idea was to place him between myself and harm's way.
That seemed fair considering it was his lack of ability to follow a simple request that was leading us to our untimely demise.
Besides, he would want to sacrifice himself for me, and I wanted to let him.
OK, I had a plan. I would sacrifice my buddy to save my own skin. Hey, it works for me.
The problem was, the laws of physics obviously did not get my memo on the whole use-my-buddy-as-a-human-cushion plan and when we hit the wall things went kind of wonky.
Or at least, I assume they did.
I remember seeing the Everest-sized mound of snow before there was a bright light – where I am pretty sure I saw Elvis.
The bright light was followed by a lot of tumbling, rolling and eventually blacking out.
There are a few minutes after the crash I have no memory of and my shoulder was in a considerable amount of pain.
The aftermath may have been fuzzy, but the cause was not and I looked for my friend – or the Mr. Left Turn as I had started calling him.
While I suffered an injured shoulder, he seemed to have emerged unscathed, and his quick reaction time, once I regained conciousness, ensured he stayed that way.
We eventually made our way back to the house, where our friends finally realized that we had been missing for the past 10 minutes.
With friends like these, who needs enemies.