Happy 49th birthday Doctor Who!

On this day back in 1963 The Doctor first graced television screens. It would be years before I’d first see him, but fortunately he hung around for quite awhile. He disappeared for a bit in 1989, but he’s back now and better than ever.

What’s really amazing is that he doesn’t look a day over 30*:

*Current actor Matt Smith is 30.

I, literally, grew up with video games.

I can remember Pong and the early days of the arcade where you indicated you were next in line by lining up a quarter on the machine. I remember the Magnavox Odyssey and Odyssey II. I remember PacMan and Donkey Kong and Missile Command. The very first console I ever owned was the Atari 2600 and I played the living hell out of it. I remember the great video game market crash in ’83 and the resurgence in ’85 (via Nintendo’s NES). I remember the following rise in dominance of the Japanese consoles and how in the arcade the future was thought to be Vector Graphics games. Then I remember when the future of arcades was going to be LaserDisc based games. I remember the first CD-ROM titles, the first 3D First Person Shooter, the first 3D graphics cards, and so on.

I was only five years old when the first video games were born. I’ve had a life-long passion for them and my interest led me into computers which has given me a halfway decent career. I’m part of the generation that made the video game industry of today possible. And, boy, has it ever developed in ways we never saw coming. If I could go back and show my ten-year-old self the sort of games that I’m enjoying today he’d flip his lid. Can’t wait to see what the decades to come will bring. #seb #videogames #Birthdays

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How the Video Game Was Born [Design]
This year, the video game turns 40. Let’s call it an occasion to spend a few more hours in front of our TVs, the place where it all started.
In 1951, some 12 million television sets were in existence and Ralph Baer, a television engineer at Loral Electronics, wondered what extracurricular tricks TV sets could do. The company was pushing television tech forward, and Baer mentioned to his bosses that wouldn’t it be fun to incorporate an interactive game element into the experience? Dude was ont…

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Happy 175th Birthday, Michigan!

"If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you."

Today is my home state’s 175th birthday and she doesn’t look a day over 130. Interestingly enough, the founding of the state wasn’t without conflict:

Neighboring Ohio attained statehood in 1803 and engaged in a running dispute with Michigan over ownership of land known as “the Toledo Strip” along the Maumee River. Tensions ran so high in the mid-1830s that both states sent militia units into the region, but no shots were ever fired or prisoners taken.

[…] In 1835, the territory formally applied for admission to the union as a free state, where slavery was outlawed. At the time, federal law required admission of a free state to be offset by the entry of a slave state, in this case Arkansas, which also had applied.

In June 1836, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill admitting Arkansas but, with Ohio kicking up a fuss, told Congress to settle the border issue before he’d approve statehood for Michigan. The resulting compromise awarded the Toledo Strip to Ohio but gave the Upper Peninsula to Michigan.

This looks like a great deal now, but back then, Michigan initially rejected the offer. It took two conventions before the deal was sealed in December 1836. Congress then passed a Michigan statehood bill that Jackson signed on Jan. 26, 1837.

via Ron Dzwonkowski: Michigan is 175 years old and vital as ever | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.

The dispute with Ohio was known as the Toledo War and/or the Michigan-Ohio War:

Originating from conflicting state and federal legislation passed between 1787 and 1805, the dispute resulted from poor understanding of geographical features of the Great Lakes at the time. Varying interpretations of the law caused the governments of Ohio and Michigan to both claim sovereignty over a 468-square-mile (1,210 km2) region along the border, now known as the Toledo Strip. When Michigan sought statehood in the early 1830s, it sought to include the disputed territory within its boundaries; Ohio’s Congressional delegation was in turn able to halt Michigan’s admission to the Union.

Beginning in 1835, both sides passed legislation attempting to force the other side’s capitulation. Ohio’s governor Robert Lucas and Michigan’s 24-year-old “Boy Governor” Stevens T. Mason were both unwilling to cede jurisdiction of the Strip, so they raised militias and helped institute criminal penalties for citizens submitting to the other’s authority. The militias were mobilized and sent to positions on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo, but besides mutual taunting there was little interaction between the two forces. The single military confrontation of the “war” ended with a report of shots being fired into the air, incurring no casualties.

During the summer of 1836, Congress proposed a compromise whereby Michigan gave up its claim to the strip in exchange for its statehood and approximately three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula. The compromise was considered a poor outcome for Michigan at the time, nearly all of it was still Indian territory, and voters in a state convention in September soundly rejected it.

In December 1836, the Michigan territorial government, facing a dire financial crisis and pressure from Congress and President Andrew Jackson, called another convention (called the “Frost-bitten Convention”) which accepted the compromise which resolved the Toledo War.

It’s hard to imagine Michigan without the Upper Peninsula, especially when the other result would’ve been a much smaller strip of land and would’ve stuck us with Toledo.

Another interesting historical note, for me anyway, is that the first convention that rejected the proposed compromise took place right here in Ann Arbor, but in the end it was money (natch) that prompted Michigan to acquiesce:

As the year wore on, Michigan found itself deep in a financial crisis and was nearly bankrupt, because of the high militia expenses. The government was spurred to action by the realization that a $400,000 surplus in the United States Treasury was about to be distributed to the states, but not to territorial governments. Michigan would have been ineligible to receive the money.

The “war” unofficially ended on December 14, 1836, at a second convention in Ann Arbor. Delegates passed a resolution to accept the terms set forth by the Congress. However, the calling of the convention was itself not without controversy. It had only come about because of an upswelling of private summonses, petitions, and public meetings. Since the legislature did not approve a call to convention, some said the convention was illegal. Whigs boycotted the convention. As a consequence, the resolution was rejected and ridiculed by many Michigan residents. Congress questioned the legality of the convention, but accepted the results of the convention regardless of its concerns. Because of these factors, as well as because of the notable cold spell at the time, the event later became known as the “Frostbitten Convention.”

Turns out the only state that actually lost anything in “the war” was Wisconsin:

At the time of the Frostbitten Convention, it appeared that Ohio had won the conflict. The Upper Peninsula was considered a worthless wilderness by almost all familiar with the area. The vast mineral riches of the land were unknown until the discovery of copper in the Keweenaw Peninsula and iron in the Western Upper Peninsula; this discovery led to a mining boom that lasted long into the 20th century. Given the current value of the port of Toledo to Ohio, it can be reasonably suggested that both sides benefitted from the conflict.

Consequently, the only state that definitively lost was not even involved in the conflict. The mineral-rich land of the western Upper Peninsula would have most likely remained part of Wisconsin had Michigan not lost the Toledo Strip.

Suck it Wisconsin!

If you have lived in Michigan or Ohio for any amount of time you’ll be aware of the intense rivalry between the two states that most often comes up in the arena of collegiate sports, particularly college football. If you’re not aware of the history you might think it’s just a result of school spirit, but it’s clear that it stretches way back in time. These days it’s a much more friendly rivalry that’s generally limited to making disparaging remarks about how much the other state sucks, again particularly it’s collegiate football teams. Ultimately we can’t be too upset with them because the U.P. ended up being a much better deal than we had expected.

If you’re interested you can learn a lot of other interesting facts about Michigan in its Wikipedia entry. Stuff like the fact that we have the second longest shoreline of any state in the Union. Or the fact that you’re never more than 6 miles from an inland lake when you’re here.

Today I am 44 years old.

I’ve mentioned before that as a kid I used to think there would be a point in time at which I would truly feel like an adult and that I knew what I was doing in this thing called life. That day has yet to come and today is not that day. That said, I do recognize that I am a bit wiser than I was in days gone by. I may not always know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m at least wise enough to realize when I’m about to do something stupid. At least most of the time. So there’s that.

Forty-four isn’t a particularly momentous year, I’ve already had the Over The Hill birthday (40) and I’m not quite half-way to 50 yet, so I suppose it’ll pass like most any other day. One difference comes from living in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Before I left the house this morning I had already had nearly a dozen Happy Birthdays to answer on Facebook thanks to the fact that the service tells all your friends that you’re having a birthday today. I’m not a huge Facebook fan, but that is pretty nifty. While Twitter doesn’t broadcast your birthday to all who follow you, the mere mention of it in a tweet provokes a cavalcade of good wishes from persons known and unknown that’s sure to make you feel at least a little special on your special day. But I must say that Google’s new attempt at social networking — Google+ — has both of those social networks beat with this:

My very own Google doodle! Click to embiggen!

You will probably have to click on it for the full-size version to see it, but the tool-tip on the doodle says “Happy Birthday Les!” and when I click on it it takes me to my Google+ profile page. Granted, this doodle shows to anyone on their birthday so long as they’ve input their birth date into their Google profile page, but it threw me for a loop when I first noticed it. “Huh,” I thought, “Google’s doing something about birthdays today. What a coincidence.” It wasn’t until I moused over it and it showed the salutation addressed to me that my mind was blown. Apparently if you don’t have a Google+ account, but do still have a Google Profile then that page will be dressed up with animated party streamers and a Happy Birthday message. Still, it’s pretty cool to pretend Google thinks I’m important enough to make a doodle for.

Which just goes to show that one thing I haven’t lost with age is my ability to be easily impressed.

Momma’s celebrating her 76th birthday!

Pic of my mother.The woman most directly responsible for my very existence turns 76 years-old today. It’s hard to think of what to say that doesn’t sound trite and cliched. For all the writing I do I find that words often fail me when I’m trying to express the gratitude and sense of good fortune to have had a mother like mine. This is especially true when reading about some other mothers that end up in the news for something very un-mother-like that they’ve done.

They say that you should immediately be skeptical of anyone claiming to be acting in your best interests unless it’s your mother. This is certainly true of mine. Over the years she sacrificed many of her own wants and needs to make sure that us kids had what we needed, if not always what we wanted. And often enough she managed to get us what we wanted as well. More importantly she managed to provide us with what we didn’t know we wanted at the time. Whether that be a sense of responsibility or the strength to do the right thing. The most important thing my mother gave me was the courage to be who I am and not what others think I should be.

She’s not perfect, no mother is, but she gave it her best effort which is more than many seem to do these days. If my daughter looks back on her time with me someday and thinks I was half as good a dad to her as my mother was to me, I’ll consider that quite the accomplishment. Especially now that I know kids don’t come with instructions manuals.  If you’re interested in knowing more about her you can visit her blog at Momma’s Corner or listen to the SEB Podcast she participated in.

So here’s a wish for a very Happy Birthday to my Mom and a hope that she has many more to come!

With all my love. Your son,

Les

Today I am 43 years old.

Pic of a Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday to me, dammit!

Yep, it’s another birthday in what has been a long line of them so far. It seems as I get older I become more and more introspective as the next birthday gets closer. I feel like when the day arrives I should have some insight into life, or at least into my life, and yet it always arrives without any great revelations. I feel no wiser today then I did a year ago even though simple logic would suggest that I must have learned a thing or two along the way and, by pure chance if nothing else, there has to be something of some significance in the past year I’ve picked up.

If there was it fails to come to mind now, though I suspect that one of the aspects of wisdom is you don’t often recognize it until you have to apply it to something. It’s a good bet I’ve learned a number of profound lessons in the past year alone, but until I have some occasion in which to put them to good use I’ll probably remain ignorant of my new knowledge. Which is an interesting concept: To be ignorant of knowledge one has gained until it is needed. I know it’s an accurate description because I’m often surprised by what I know about a subject when it comes up. Especially stuff I don’t have any good reason to know much about beyond simple curiosity. Which isn’t to say I don’t have my moments of stunning ignorance as well, but those aren’t as fun to think about.

So today will be celebrated by heading off to Lansing, Michigan to do another day’s work in my current two-month or so long contract job. Once I get home tonight my buddy Bob will come over to take me out for dinner. Anne is hoping to get out of work early to join us if at all possible. Then I’ll come home, go to bed, get up tomorrow and carry on with the job. No birthday cakes or presents this year, just business as usual with a dinner out with a long time friend afterward.

Which isn’t to suggest that I haven’t been the recipient of massive generosity. Many of you were gracious enough to donate when I put my hat out and asked and I cannot begin to express my gratitude in words. Thanks to you surviving until my first full paycheck from this job arrives on Friday will not be a problem as the deficit we were running is just about taken care of. Thank you, again, for the help. I hope that I will soon be in a position where I won’t have to ask for it again.

As far as birthdays go, all things considered, this one is shaping up to be pretty good. I am still breathing, we still have a roof over our heads, and there is the promise of better things tomorrow. Everything else is, if you’ll pardon the pun, icing on the cake.

Happy 75th Birthday to my Mother.

Technically Momma turns 75 tomorrow, but we’re celebrating a day early because it’s the one day everyone has off and can gather at her place. I can never put into words just how lucky I was to have her for a mother. Especially compared to some of my friend’s mothers or just some of the ones you read about in the newspaper. She taught me well over the years and has always been there to lend an ear when I was troubled, and often times more than that when a car needed fixin’ or an unexpected emergency put us in a bind. She often went without so that us kids had what we needed. She is the reason I do not have a troubled past checkered with various criminal offenses.

So a very happy birthday to my mother, without whom I wouldn’t be here today (quite literally). I hope she has many more yet to come. If you’d like to give her some well wishes you can do so here or on her blog.

Happy 42nd Birthday to Me.

Another year has passed and I’m supposedly a bit wiser than I was. I’m definitely a bit older, by exactly one year. The one cool thing about working afternoons now is that when I go home I’ll share a late-night birthday supper with my wife. So I get to start the celebration a little early. Not that we’ll be doing much else as I have to work again tomorrow afternoon, but it’ll make for a pleasant bit of time together this evening. My daughter won’t be around for the first time in 10 years and that’s a bit of a bummer, but I’ll probably get at least a phone call from her later on in the day.

So Happy Birthday to me. Hopefully the next year will be better than the past one. Maybe I’ll finally reach my goal of becoming rich and famous through some wondrous bit of amazing inspiration. At the very least I hope that by this time next year I’ll be in a much better job with decent pay and benefits. Something with a bit more variety to it. I suppose time will tell.

My company gave me a birthday card today.

Normally I enjoy getting birthday cards because it’s a sign that someone thought of me and took the time an effort to find a card and put it in an envelope and deliver it to me. This card didn’t inspire those feelings for a number of reasons.

First and foremost it was given to me a full 8 days ahead of my actual birthday. Today is August 17th and my birthday is August 25. If the reps didn’t come around but once every couple of weeks I could understand it being so early, but there are company reps on site all day every day so there’s really no reason to deliver it so early other than they aren’t really paying attention to when my birthday is, which shows that it was less a thought on their part and more of a this-popped-up-on-my-monthly-to-do-list.

Secondly the card is pretty much an advertisement for the company itself. The front is decent enough with a picture of a cupcake with a birthday candle in it. All in shades of blue, which is the officially company color, and the words “happy birthday” printed on it. The inside is blank other than the company name/logo in the lower right hand corner. If not for the attempt at personalizing it by the staff it would just say “company name” inside it as though I needed reminding of what company I worked for.

The personalization itself is the sort of generic thing you write—we hope you have a great day—for someone you know nothing about, which is the case here as the reps don’t interact with us techs often enough to know more than our names. Which makes it feel more like a perfunctory exercise more than anything else. The sort of thing you do because you think you’re expected to do it and not because you actually give a shit.

The back of the card again carries the company name/logo along with a listing of the various services they provide (staffing, professionals, etc.). It’s there so that if I should happen to stand the card upright on my desk the little ad pushing the company’s services will be visible to any who approach my work space. Though you’d have to bend down and squint to read the tiny listing of services.

It’s probably yet another sign of my cynicism that the card has the opposite effect on me than what they were probably hoping for. It was supposed to be a nice little acknowledgement that I managed to keep breathing through another calendar year and a small sign that the company cares. From where I’m standing it’s a perfect example of how the company doesn’t know a thing about me and doesn’t really care yet still feels the need to waste paper in an attempt to give me a warm fuzzy. I would’ve felt better if they hadn’t bothered trying in the first place.

A couple of weeks back on Twitter I mentioned the company’s attempts at attaboys that I thought were ridiculous. It was a sheet of paper with a simple block design on it in the company’s colors with the company name/logo prominently displayed on it that said “Good to Know You!” Um… OK. Not “Good Job” or “Excellent Work” or “That’s Some Right Fine Laboring You’ve Been Doing!” No, it said “Good to Know You!” It was like they had the ghost of Mr. Rogers design their attaboy.

That sort of thing just irritates me. All it takes to let me know I’m appreciated is popping your head in the door and saying “You’re doing a good job, keep it up.” If you really feel the need to do more than that then take me out to lunch or give me a few bucks on a gift certificate. Or, best of all, a raise. Popping out a preprinted attaboy with an inanely generic message and the company logo all over like it’s more advertisement than recognition will just kick up my cynical side and make me write bitchy blog posts.

A belated birthday wish for my little sister.

My younger sister Cindy had a birthday yesterday and I completely forgot to post a Happy Birthday Wish like I had intended to. All through the day there was something in the back of my head prompting me that I was forgetting something, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. Then when I logged into my computer at work this morning and saw the date it suddenly occurred to me what I had been forgetting. In my defense, however, I will point out that I remembered to get and send off a birthday gift for her prior to her birthday. So I’m only late in publicly acknowledging it.

So here’s a day-late Happy Birthday Wish for my sister. She’s now 37-years-old and slowly creeping up on having life insurance commercials include her birth year in their ads. Then she can feel old like her older brothers. If you get a chance drop by her blog and leave a comment. Maybe ask her how she’s survived 37 years with me for a brother.