Sunday, December 22, 2013

Robots help kids with Autism

Forget about The Terminator and Skynet, the robots are here to help (at least for now ;-)   New research has been released about how robotics can help with Autism.  Don't get too excited just yet.  For now, they cost about $16,000. Unless you are extremely wealthy it is most likely out of your price range.  However, as with most new technology this price will come down as the technology matures.  

Even though my son is not Autistic, I know several parents who struggle with a child on the Autism spectrum.  Autism is one of the most pervasive known childhood issues.  One in eighty-eight kids in the U.S. is affected.  If your family has not been directly impacted by this issue, chances are you know know someone who has.  Autism is an issue that affects everyone in some way, and we all need to be vigilant because, as with most things, early intervention makes a big difference in the outcome.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Importance of Good Conversation

To give some background for the conversation below:


I live in the Dallas area and we were in lock down for most of this past weekend with 3-4 inches of ice.  For many areas in the country this might seem paltry and somewhat laughable. However, this is Dallas and we are not equipped for ice, or rain for that matter. In some areas the highways were shutdown with drivers stuck for over 20 hours.   Power lines were down in several areas and over 100,000 homes did not have electricity to heat the house. Now that the stage has been set you can read my uncles account of his weekend.

Email from my wife's uncle.   The youngest 82 year old man I know.

This last weekend we were iced in, unable to leave the house. A good friend of my wife's stayed with us because her area had lost power (she got a ride here because a neighbor had a pickup with snow tires). She's a nice person, single and about mid between my wife and my ages. Our home was without conversation, humor or laughter for the weekend. Although she is a very nice person, she also is rather boring to be cooped up with. I don't mean to be hard on her, but to observe how fortunate I am to have met my wife and benefit from her personality and what she has to offer. Life is about "throwing things up in the air" and talking about them and not taking things so seriously that you cannot kid around and laugh at life. You don't realize how important small things are until you are deprived of them.

My response

Great conversation is the glue that binds a couple, and humanity for that matter.    I find that the people I am most inclined to spend time with must be good at conversation.  Conversation is not merely about what I want to say it is also listening and learning from those around you.   I have several friends who will not stop talking and that, in my opinion, is not conversation.   That is only a dissertation on what they know.   
Good conversation, like wine, must be allowed to breathe to attain its full measure,  and like wine age is usually a good thing. This weekend, it appears; instead of opening a fine vintage you uncorked a bottle of vinegar, and apparently still have the foul taste in your mouth.  Hopefully today you will fill your day with good conversation and cleanse your palate

My conclusion

Don't miss the point of the conversation starter.   He is praising his wife for her good conversation and had forgotten its importance.   Good conversation in a marriage is vital.  Sure everyone wants an attractive spouse,  but if you can't talk to each other you have an attractive wasteland that will crumble around you someday    
Attraction fades quickly when trouble comes, and it always comes.   Good conversation is not the only thing that will help you weather the storms of life, but it is a very good umbrella.   If you make it a priority to talk to your spouse regularly, and I don't mean about bills or who will take the kids to ballet, then you will be able to talk more easily about the harder things in life.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Let's build - Fantastic Father-Son LEGO® Christmas Commercial

Cool Father and Son Lego Commercial. .   As with any you tube vide don't let the little one's read the comments from the trolls.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mom is playing Minecraft.

Minecraft is addictive....  

I now have the ultimate proof my wife, after years of saying no, finally gave in a month ago.    She played for a couple of hours and decided she did not like it..   Basically,  my son wore her down and she did it just to make him happy.  

Over the thanksgiving holidays she made a deal with the boy that if he did the dishes she would play Minecraft.   This time however, she played a little longer, actually engaged in the game, and enjoyed herself.   She was not hooked yet...   Later, and I believe unintentionally, he volunteered to do the next set of dishes without being asked.    When he was done he asked if she would again play Minecraft.  She relented and this is when her lizard brain kicked in and she got hooked. 

I know she is hooked now because the boy and I are doing other things and she is over on the couch playing Minecraft without us.  I fear she will soon digress into full blown Minecraft addiction.  Should I try to stop her or should I let her continue down this rabbit hole.    If she continues down the rabbit hole she will find a deeper connection with our son.   If she stops she will understand the boys love more but will still be able to function in normal society.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Mywife's uncle Don sent me the following this Thanksgiving morning.  I thought you guys would enjoy the email so I am posting it here for your reading pleasure.


Since today is Thanksgiving (it's after midnight) I though you might appreciate reading President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 15 July 1863. I had to cut the article down from my original pdf since it was 55 MB. This is in a newspaper that my family kept from the Civil War. It is the Winchester Army Bulletin of 23 July 1863, 1st Division, 20th Army Corps. We had six from the family serving in the Union Army.



Proclamation of Thanksgiving

July 15, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the Union of these States will be maintained, their constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored. But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifices of life, limb, health and liberty incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements. It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father and the power of His Hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows:
Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday the 6th. day of August next, to be observed as a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise and Prayer, and I invite the People of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty, for the wonderful things he has done in the Nation's behalf, and invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger, which has produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles and sieges, have been brought to suffer in mind, body or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation, through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will, back to the perfect enjoyment of Union and fraternal peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Here is the Original scan Don made last night..












Friday, November 22, 2013

When does a discussion become an overbearing lecture?

One of my parenting struggles is fighting the urge to lecture.  I know it happens. I can see my son switch off after a certain number of words fall out of my mouth but I can't stop.   I must be looking for some acknowledgement that he understands and agrees with what I am saying, but instead I get a defeated slump.  If I were smart I would stop the lecture but I can't, I guess I'm not smart.

I get the same thing from the wife.  She just shuts down on me as well. Basically, it is genetic and it's her fault not mine--right?  I would love to think so, but since I am the common denominator, it is most likely my issue. So I need to come up with a plan to curtail this affliction before it becomes a real issue.

Right now it is a minor issue because the boy is pretty compliant and will listen.  But-- and it is a big but --  he is rapidly becoming a teenager which means he will very soon start to show his independence.   My fear is that the defeated stare will morph into aggression or an even further retreat beyond the blank stare. I know that either of these will cause a rift in our relationship.

I think this is a natural issue for Dads. When kids are young they are inexperienced, stupid, and need help with everything from tying their shoes to remembering to brush their teeth.   By the time they get to the teenage years the parent is conditioned to tell  their kids how to do everything.   I know I often forget that the boy is capable of rational thought, and that he does not really need my constant attention.

I would like to ask the readers for some advice and if you feel so inclined share this post with others.   I would love to have as much feedback as possible to get a wide assortment of strategies that would fit my personality.   This would benefit me personally but would also help anyone else that accidentally stumbles across this post.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kerbal: Basic Rocket Science

Kerbal Space Program
The Kerbal Space Program is a simulation game where the player builds a rocket, launches it into space, and returns home safely. Should be a piece of cake right.

Unfortunately it is not as simple as it sounds.  Personally I have not made it in to orbit, but my son has done so several times and is working on getting to one of the planet's moons with a lot of help from Youtube.

Game play

The game is set on the fictional planet Kerbin, home of the courageous Kerbin people. The player designs the rocket, acts as ground control, pilot and Logistics planner.   This game is not heavy on Math but if you are planning to explore the Kerbal solar system a little math will go a long way toward reducing trial and error.   If you don't want to do math you can just force your way in with trial and error.     

Step 1 Build your Rocket 
You start with a pod and add engines,fuel tanks, flight contol systems.   There is a decent learning curve to learn the menu system and where all of the parts are located.  The player will also need to determine which combination of parts are appropriate for their objective.   If you just want to get to space it is pretty simple, add a parachute, a fuel tank, and an engine.   However if you want to get into orbit you will need a different combination.    If you are planning on exploring the univers you will need even other combinations.    

Step 2 Launch the Rocket
Once the rocket is complete you move the game to the launch pad, at this point the game changes into a flight simulator.   I have always been bad at flight simulators which is why I have touble getting into space.   I will build the exact same rocket as my son but I usually just wind up flying all over the place and either crash into the ground or run out of fuel before I reach space and then crash into the ground.  

Step 3 get into Orbit
Once you are in space you will need to set your trajectory for an orbit.
As I said I have not personally made it into space but my son has and I have watched the process many times.   At this point the game changes from a flight simulator and into a planning game.  Since you are no longer dealing with an atmosphere steering basically becomes a matter of thrust.  

Get ready to learn the following terms.
  • Periapsis
  • Apoapsis
  • Delta-V
I know basic rocket science, these are household words all across the world.
Once you get into orbit you can stay stable for a while and cruis around the planet.
Here is a sample view of the launch screens.

Step 4 Land Safely
Once you are tired of orbit you have to begin planning your descent back to Kerbin.   Basically you have to change your trajectory to create a controlled fall.    If not done correctyl you can smack into the planet and destroy your ship..

Other Tasks
Once you have mastered the basics you can begin trying to land on any of the other planetary bodies in the Kerbin solar system, or create a space station.   Each planet has it's own challenges and you will need different types of rockets for each.  

KSP is currently in heavy development but bug fixes come out regularly.  That said the game is extremely playable and we have experienced very few issues with the game play. The learning curve may be steep for some but that, I believe, is the point if it were easy it would not be fun.   The game boasts a physics engine that is supposed to let things fly that should fly and those that should not fly will crash.   During the early days of playing you will crash, blow up, or get stranded in space.   One of the necessary skills the player will need is perseverance.  

The game is currently in a sandbox complete stage, meaning there are no set objectives other than what the player sets for themselves.   As stated on the KSP website there is a Tycoon/Career mode for anyone who wants to play with resource restrictions and goals.   I can't comment on this part of the game as I have not yet attempted career mode.   However,  once I have more of the basic skills required by the game I am definitely going to attempt following the rules.

Is this an accurate representation of real space flight?  

Short answer probably not 100% accurate, however what simulation is 100% accurate.  During game play you will learn tons of things that do equate to real space flight and exploration.   This game is definitely worth your time if you have a budding scientist or engineer.   Someday I expect the Kerbin people to come to Earth to recruit the best player like the kid in the "Last Star Fighter".   If that does not happen then they will will be recruited NASA or ther space programs.

Conclusion and references for more information.

In short this game is extremely educational and fun and should be on the list for the Budding scientist/engineer.  Just get ready for your living room to start sounding like NASA ground control.  

Other respouces

There is a large online community of people willing to share and help.   Listed below are a couple of places to look for more information.

The official KSP Forums
The KSP WIKI read this before posting questions
The KSP subReddit - It's Reddit so be careful with the Kid's
Great YouTube Kerbal 101 Video.