Congratulations to my son Nathan, best Fathers day gift ever!


I don’t normally write much personal stuff on my blog but I was so proud of my son Nathan last night I have to put this on my blog so I will always have this here.

Last night my son had his “moving up ceremony” from fifth grade to sixth. This is a pretty big deal because three elementary schools merge to one school – about 240 kids total. What I did not know was what I was about to hear when the awards ceremony started. At all of these events I record as much as I can during the introduction and if my child is announced I get the video, if not I usually just delete the video. This time I was actually surprised three times!

In the end, there were five categories of awards and Nathan received three of them. I was truly impressed and proud when I heard he got the last award, which only one boy and one girl in the school get.

  • National Association of Elementary School Principals Outstanding Citizenship Award
  • Presidents Education Award – link
  • The Hal Gehrig Memorial Award presented to the Outstanding All Around 5th Grader – which included his picture on a plaque at the school, a framed certificate, and a $50 savings bond.

I posted the video on Facebook if you want to watch it.

Our first time using the Disney Vacation Club

Our first experience in the Disney Vacation club was overall excellent. We learned a lot about the club, Disney, and how to effectively get around. I will be posting some pictures soon – we took a lot! The kids were great and everyone was pretty much exhausted by day 3 – next time it will be a much more relaxed approach. The older kids got to go off on their own for one day and it worked out great. We all met in Epcot for some famous fish and chips and I had some great beer to go with it! They used their cards to buy water and snacks and I even got an itemized bill for each child – very cool. My nine year old (Nathan) went on every single ride – I was so proud of him. He seemed to not be phased by even the scariest of rides. Here is a picture of the four oldest on the Rockin Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios:

Our suite was a two bedroom suite with a common area, full kitchen, and a laundry room (came in very handy). We pre-ordered groceries and even though we spent $160 on groceries it probably saved us a few hundred. We had breakfast and snacks in there the entire trip – big savings for seven people. I loved how we just showed up and the refrigerator and cabinets had all of our groceries packed away – great surprise. Our place was the Bay Lake Towers, right next to the Contemporary. It is pretty centrally located and getting to any park was in a matter of minutes – not too mention Magic Kingdom was right across the street! We actually walked back to the hotel one night from Magic Kingdom. The kids pretty much went on every major ride and never waited more than 10 minutes thanks to the Vacation Club Fast Pass system. I wish we got them every time we went there but apparently they are hard to come by. Our last day in Disney we simply chilled by the pool, ordered pizza pool side and drank pina colada’s!

Next year we plan on renting some jet skis and boats for the lake right behind our hotel – it looked really fun. We are also going to take it a little slower on the park side of things – running around for 12 hours in 90 degree heat with crazy humidity was a bit crazy.


For the last month or so I began a project to get kids reading and writing online. The project was!

I started KidWrite to promote reading and writing in children as early as possible. I am a writing advocate and want to see children advance in the art and science of writing and reading. I truly believe using the computer for writing is a way to get children comfortable with a computer in a safe and educational way. I hope to see KidWrite being used by all schools where they promote writing and reading in the cloud.

KidWrite was designed to let kids start writing and expressing themselves through written content. All kids are encouraged to write and share their work with others on this site. This site will promote writing through sharing and writing contests. Kids can optionally just use the Journal feature to keep a private online journal where their writing and thinking skills can remain private.

Check it out and send in any feedback on the site or back to me on this blog. The site is pretty new and some kinks are still being worked out but I feel it is in good shape to publicize.



Got the kids into animation!

Today I sat down with my eight year old and showed him a little bit about Blender.  After the first video he immediately took interest and I also showed my two oldest kids the video and pointed them to the YouTube tutorials by Super3Boy and Blender site so they could play around if they wanted.  In the end, Nathan came up with the animation below.  I helped by doing the actual work but he pretty much directed the entire animation – which was cool.  He seemed to have a pretty good interest level.  You can do a Save As on this link if you want to download the blend file.

All software should implement CTRL+ and CTRL-

I must be a FireFox advocate or at least like the zoom in and out shortcuts because I find myself using CTRL+/- in many places like Notes, Symphony, etc.  The only problem is the keys do nothing in them!

Who is with me?

Getting better with GIMP

So I have been using GIMP for all of my graphic needs for the past year or so. Unfortunately for me I am not a graphics person so 90% of what I do is very basic.  My youngest son just had his first communion and I decided to make a picture for his gift table to show the holiness of the occasion.  I used GIMP to merge the two photos of him and Jesus but the hardest part was cropping out him from the original picture.  I took his picture near my stair case (he put on his most holy of faces), here was his original photo:

In the end I took a picture of Jesus, made it black and white and put some what of a haze over Him by making a circle that was filled with a gradient from white (in the center) to black (the edges) and then setting the transparency very high.

Kids writing games with XNA

Bradley Jones has two great articles for programming XNA (XBox games).  I really like XNA and played with it for quite a while.  I think it is the perfect tool set and framework to get into game programming.  The framework hides a lot of the dirty details with video, sound, and synchronization but also allows you to really dig into the concepts at a fairly low level.  Check out these two articles and when you mix the tooling with other freely available tools like GIMP, Blender, Audacity, and ImageMagick.

Development with Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and XNA Game Studio

Moving Items with Microsoft Visual Studio, XNA Game Studio and A GamePad

Oh Canada…

2010-canada_034_tnThe trip is over, after 4 days with 5 kids and just me and Kim I think I need a vacation!  I lived in New York almost my entire life and I had never been to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls.  As you can see from the pictures the falls are a lot different from the other side – it was very cool!

We went on just about every attraction related to the Falls as you can.  The Maid of The Mist boat ride was awesome, of course it was like taking a shower but the ponchos came in very handy.

2010-canada_036_tnThe horse shoe falls are much more exciting than the American Falls.  We went behind them in one of the tours and then we watched the Niagara Fury video along with the new attraction – the kids loved it and learned a lot.  Going behind the falls was somewhat anti-climatic since the only thing you saw was falling white water – which, in the pictures just looked like a bright white wall behind everyone.

There was certainly a lot of mist on the boat ride!

My favorite quotes from the 5 kids (who ranged from 7 years old to 15) are these:

“Is France in Canada?  No.  Then why do they speak French?”

“Can someone roll down the window, someone is breathing all of my air?”

“Are most Canadians left handed?”

On the way home – “What state are we in?” (btw, we live in NY and its attached to the Falls).

I also wanted to say thank you to all of the kids, you were great!


I love Sync!

So I got a new vehicle from Ford and it has the Sync feature in it.  I get a three year subscription and I am already totally impressed with it after only a days use.  I get USB connectivity for MP3 players, its totally integrated through blue tooth with my iPhone for both hands free and voice activated calling and I can also stream the audio from the iPhone (meaning anything from YouTube videos and songs to videos on the phone itself).  The streaming audio is amazing, it picks up right where the phones player left off and the quality is superb.  The kids totally get a kick out of calling someone with the voice activation.

The only shame I see is a big Microsoft logo in the middle of the car next to the shifter “Powered by Microsoft”.

Good stuff Ford!

Help me fill my kettle!

I thought I would try this out this year with a modest goal of $150. I am reaching out to all of my communities and readers to help support my kettle for the Salvation Army.

No donation is too small!

Personal fundraising widget for 2009 Red Kettle campaign