What’s old is new

Isn’t that a common statement for fads and fashion?  Well in this case I am referring to something else.  Once upon a time, one Nolan Bushnell founded a gaming company that would become big- very big.  In 1977 they would put out not the first, but the most popular video gaming system of the time with interchangeable games.  The same company also produced popular arcade machines and computers.  Well, sort of- there was a split at one point into Atari Games and Atari Corp, but I am not sure which company did what- I believe Atari Games was strictly the arcade division while Atari Corp was everything else.  In any event, following the dreaded video game crash of 1984 (1983?), Atari was never quite the same.  The 16-bit successor to their 400/800/XL line of computers, the Atari ST, was fairly successful, but that would be pretty much be the last of the computers, aside from the short-lived 32-bit TT.  As for the consoles, they would never again achieve the success of the VCS/2600 though they would try all the way through the Jaguar in 1993.  Of course, these failing years, and many of the successful ones too, were not run by Bushnell himself as he “left” the company (read: fired) in December of 1978 according to Wikipedia.  The failing years were in fact with the infamous Jack Tramiel in the hot seat, who not only oversaw the failing of Atari but Commodore as well, but that is beside the point.  The point being Nolan Bushnell, who is now in fact on the board of directors of the current company that calls itself Atari.  Make no mistake, this is not the same company that Bushnell founded, but rather the French company formerly known as Infogrames who found itself with Atari’s assets when they purchased Hasbro Interactive in late 2000.  However, it is nevertheless interesting to find Bushnell on the board of directors for Atari for the first time in over 30 years.  Will anything come of this?  I don’t know, but here is a link to an interview with him.  It has some mistakes, like dating the 2600 to 1984 instead of 1977, but is an interesting read:

Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell “Returns”

(added quotation marks mine)

A couple of old Atari commercials on Youtube:

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Nothing much…

But if you have noticed my countdown in the last couple of months, you know there is a movie I am waiting for.  A new trailer has just been released:

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And if you are an old school PC gamer, you may be interested to know that a fan-game based on the old Sierra adventure game series, King’s Quest, has finally seen the light of day after being hit with a cease-and-desist not once but twice by two different companies as the old Sierra assets have been passed around.  Well, the first chapter of The Silver Lining has been approved by Activision and is now available for your enjoyment.  You just have to sign up for their fan club to download it.

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http://www.tsl-game.com/

As long as I’m posting Youtube videos, I might as well add a third item to the post I just read about.  It can be seen as retro-gaming related as well, as it is an easter egg that allows you to play snake in any Youtube video that uses the newer interface.  Rather than trying to summarize the news, let me just point you to where I read it:

Neowin: Easter egg on YouTube lets you play Snake

At war with chickens

What?  It’s time for my weekly post again?  I guess I should wrap up my camp series since I have been back for three weeks now…  Let’s see what I can write about.  How about the annual new thing at camp?  This year it was the water slide.  No, nothing fancy like at water parks- just a large, plastic(?) construction pipe shooting down into one of the camp’s many water holes- one that fortunately did not have a (deserved) name like Leech Lake.  Actually there were two pipes- only one of which the kids got to go down due to their age.  It went straight (well, angled) down into the lake.  The other one had a nasty upward curve at the end- this became the unofficial leader slide.  This pond, by the way, was 14 feet deep at maximum so  the kids wore life vests.  As well, there were a few lifeguards who were fortunately unneeded for our time there.  I helped a little with pushing kids down and managed to go down the leader slide twice during the time.  As leaders, we weren’t required to wear life vests and so I didn’t.   I have to say I didn’t entirely enjoy the experience, though it was certainly exhilarating.  It probably has to do with my paranoia of losing a contact in the water.  I wore goggles, but they were ripped off my head during the landing the second time I went down.  I felt it happen so I kept my eyes tightly closed while swimming, thereby keeping both contacts intact.  Needless to say, that was my last time down the slide.  After that I had a little fun dragging some of my campers through the water by their feet when they approached shore- something that could only be done because the life vests kept them afloat.

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An activity introduced last year was the pontoon boats.  The kids were taken on a tour over the lake on these boats, and even made a stop for some swimming fun and ice cream.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to partake this year due to overcrowding- only two leaders got to go with.  Notice in the above picture (remember, you can click on them for larger versions!) three different head-band colors on just the boys- that’s three different cabins without counting the girls cabins also present!  So, one leader promptly dragged down a kayak, intending to follow the pontoon boats and another quickly followed suit.  Never having been in a kayak before, I didn’t think following the pontoon boats would be suitable for me, but as I had been looking at these kayaks wistfully over the last few years I did decide to take one out.  I later learned that I could have just taken the kayak out to the swim and ice cream spot but I didn’t know at the time so I just paddled around the kids doing canoeing (an activity my cabin missed out on this year due to a windy day the day before).  It was fun, but I am not sure what I would have done had the kayak flipped.  I guess I would have had to slide out and drag it ashore as I can’t imagine how I could flip it back over while sitting in it or getting back in in the middle of the lake after sliding out and turning it over.  Fortunately I didn’t have to.

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Did I mention Leech Lake earlier? That last picture is Pastor Steve getting tossed into Leech Lake as one of the many rewards for treasures kids could find. After he climbed out, he counted out the leeches as he pulled them off. Don’t worry, there weren’t too many, but earlier in the week he had the service who had the most sign-ups shave his hair into a mohawk- poor Steve! My team lost this one by the flip of a coin (two services tied), oh well.

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My final say on camp week, unless I remember something else I wanted to write, is about the drama.  Every year there is drama included as part of the lesson time, but until this year I didn’t get to do it.  Part of this was due to uncertainty over whether I would even go to camp as summer work was unclear.  This year I was able to say that I was going for sure, but even so I didn’t get to perform until the last evening session.  Originally I was going to play a role as a soldier prepared for battle, but the day Pastor Steve came to get me during cabin rest time, my junior counselor was asleep so I couldn’t leave the cabin, and it was felt that I shouldn’t wake him up.  Instead, they switched my role to the Colonel who was waiting for the soldiers to be prepared (one was Private Slacker, so as you can imagine not everyone was prepared… long hair, wrong uniform, silly things in backpack, lack of understanding…).  On the last day everyone was surprised when Slacker was actually prepared much to the surprise of  his drill sergeant who was afraid to show him to the Colonel.  By the way, my name was Colonel Sanders- we were at war with the chickens of course- now why would chickens be at war with the Colonel?  Hmm…

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EDIT: A couple more waterslide shots I pulled from the camp video:
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One for the Dark Side

In addition to added work these past couple of weeks with new dealers to serve, I have also had the pleasure of a new toy.  Much as I espouse a dislike for a certain fruity computer brand, I now find myself in possession of one of their phones.  That’s right- I now have an iPhone.  Realistically, I knew I couldn’t afford a new Android-based phone, which would probably also require my switching providers as I am currently with at&t, and have been for the last several years- being THE iPhone provider they have not seen fit to add the better HTC Android phones to their lineup.  To make things clear, I couldn’t afford a new iPhone either, but when my nephew decided to jump on the iPhone 4 bandwagon he sold me his 3G for a nice discount.  I now have to pay $20 more per month (was paying for insurance on the other phone), but the difference between the two phones will make it worthwhile.  For the last few days I have been downloading several free apps, mostly games but also the Bible, a camera enhancement app, and a couple others.  I also made the mistake of installing Appminer, an app that finds discounted and temporarily free apps- what a time waster!  I have not tried all the games I installed yet, but as they are touchpad-controlled (and gravity-controlled in some cases- can’t forget the accelerometer!) games they are quite a different thing from normal computer or console games.  I couldn’t find any free versions of games I know, but with a different control scheme they wouldn’t be the same anyway.  Note I write free versions- I could pay $5 for Pac-man (are you kidding me??) and I noted a version of Dragon’s Lair, but cheapskate me is only getting free apps at this time.

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In any event, back to the dislike of Apple thing, at least they aren’t getting a dime of this purchase from me- no contract, no new iPhone, and at least for the moment, no 30% of app purchases.  I had to go to an at&t store to get everything switched properly- ended up waiting about a half-hour for someone as I picked a busy time.  Or are all times busy due to the iPhone 4?  In addition to the phone, the sales rep talked us into at least signing up for an install time for their U-Verse (internet and cable over fiber optic) service.  It seemed like a really nice service and I wouldn’t mind switching over from DirecTV, but I have been on Comcast internet for so long, since it was TCI internet, that I am unsure I would want to switch at this time, though for the start we would get much more for a little less than we are paying now for phone+satellite+internet, currently from three different companies so of course some of the savings comes from going at&t for everything. I am just worried at what will happen after six months.  They promise no installation charges and $200 back for signing up, DVRs capable of recording four standard-definition (or two HD) shows at once, networked receivers so anyone can view a recorded show off any receiver in the house, a complete package with all movie channels (something we can easily drop of course sometime down the road since we have been going sans movie channels for quite some time now), and full HD equipment ready for when we eventually need to replace our analog SD TVs.  Fortunately the appointment isn’t until the 31st, giving us plenty of time to consider whether we really want to make the switch.

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I will continue on the camp topic probably next post.

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Failure…may result in elimination

A little something about the up front games.  They were based on a TV show apparently- Minute to Win it.  On one rainy morning the worship and teaching times were held inside and so we even got to see the blueprint for the game, chocolate unicorn:

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If I recall, my team actually won that one though nobody completed “the task”, even with the required number being reduced to six.  Another up front game involved bouncing quarters into a bin that my cabin had happily colored for Miss Lisa, another leader of our church’s kid’s ministry.  No pie-in-face surprises that I know of like last year happened.

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One of the biggest changes from last year was the elimination of the morning competition in favor of a longer instructional time.  In some cases this new, longer instructional was two normal related instructionals tied together in the longer time, such as archery/riflery and wacky water games (actually two competition games from last year that didn’t count for points this year).  There were some new instructionals too.  On Tuesday was one of them- outdoor survival.  This was actually a combo of an older instructional, fishing, with a survival extension to it.  The first thing that happened was Jim, a leader in my cabin from last year, caught a bass which the first group cooked up while my group fished.  He later caught a trout for our group just before we switched.  For outdoor survival the instructor demonstrated cutting the fish, hopefully dead of lack of air by that time, and then taught how to start a fire with a magnesium block (with a flint strip on one side), a little paper and more natural fuel like leaves and twigs, and a pocket knife.  It looks like I failed this course as I was unable to help one of my 5th graders start and maintain a fire.

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A night event turned instructional was a hay ride.  Well, there was hay in a stack elsewhere in camp but not on the trailers.  One trailer was pulled by a 40s-era tractor, and ours (the “boys” trailer) was pulled by something a bit more recent- a little bulldozer like one of those Bobcats, but somewhat larger.  This was in one of the longer morning timeslots so this was a lazy time with a couple of stops, one at a big sand pit.

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We later returned to sand pit in the afternoon bike/hike instructional, though the kids didn’t get play time there this time around, being a shorter instructional.  We had the first day so the assigned instructors were still working out a few bugs such as taking the smaller group biking first, which would have been fine except we were to meet the hiking group along the way instead of back at the tent so there were not enough bikes for the second group- some of us had to run back to the tent and retrieve extra bikes.  I hope my advice of taking the larger group first was followed the rest of the week.  For the hike we walked through the woods for a time, off the literal beaten path.  And mostly downhill.  Did I mention the bike/hike met at the top of a very steep hill?  Well, at least we ended up back near the boys cabin area, so we were able to easily get ready on time for the flag-lowering.  Well, as much as my cabin was able to be on time anyway.  I learned quickly that I needed to organize their bathroom and changing time better.  Not that I did said organization in a timely fashion mind you, just that I learned it needed to be done. 😉

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In any event, this post is getting kind of long, so… more to come.

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PS- A couple sand fort pics! Note: Click on any of the pics for larger versions.

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In the beginning…

Sunday morning.  Most of my things were packed the night before, so I thought I would make it on time without a problem.  Big mistake.  The few things left still occupied enough time to make me about 20 minutes late.  There were no worries of course about missing the bus as leaders were scheduled to be there before dropoff time, so instead I got there in the midst of things.  Good thing I was only assigned to help load gear onto the bus.  At about 9AM everyone was checked in and we were off on our four-hour bus ride to Michigan.  The kids watched videos all the way there, but I later learned that our friends from Iowa only got to watch one video- on the way home.  In case you missed it, they are from Iowa and therefore had a trip time over double ours.  That means a lot of time remained for social activities, to put it mildly.  Anyway, we arrived at about 1PM (time zone change, you know) and were welcomed by big banners held by a cheering staff.  After unloading and moving into our cabins- I had a group of six plus a junior leader- we headed to the swim front for swimming tests and a fort-building competition.  Note the non-mention of lunch.  The kids brought their own lunches, and I even remembered my own this year (it was last year or the year before that I had left it sitting on the freezer at home).  This year I was a representative for the army team, moving out of the air force from the last two military themes prior two and four years ago.

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Starting a new paragraph just because I can, the fort contest began while various cabins two-by-two (or one by one in the case of a few very large girl cabins) took their swim tests.  The sand forts (remember- this is a swim front so there was a beach) generally had moats around them because digging in the sand was probably the easiest thing for the kids, but there were buckets for making buildings like garages for tanks and whatnot.  No air strip this year, though I suppose they could have done a helipad had one of us had thought of it.  The Iowa team, the marines once again, was not present for much of this but they did arrive in time to take 2nd place.  Army ended up 3rd, the highest we would ever get this week outside of the upfront games.  As for the swim tests, just about every cabin has its non-swimmer.  Mine had three, half the kids.  Well, it doesn’t mean quite as much for this age group as water activities are limited anyway.

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Since this along with cabin check-in and welcome/rules took up most of the afternoon, we can move on to after dinner.  Throughout the week post-dinner would mean the daily game competition, but for Sunday we just moved on to the teaching time.  It was here the theme for the week, the armor of God in Ephesians 6, was introduced.  Each day would focus on a different part of the armor but not until Monday.  the format was typical of a weekend service, but longer.  Game activity time (the competition game in the case of this week, gym or crafts in the case of weekends) followed by worship, teaching, and small groups.  Mornings would replace the field game with an up front game- unfortunately I missed most of these as I took this time to put in my contact lenses while the Nico, my junior leader, stayed with the kids.  This first small group time was a great way to really start to know the kids, most of whom I already knew through small group time over the weekends.  This year they tried to keep small groups from the weekend when possible- a matter simplified by there being three service times plus Iowa to make the four teams, each team then being divided into 4th/5th grades and boys/girls. four cabins per team.  Since I stuck with my 4th-graders from last year, my cabin was all 5th grade.

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Finally, there was free time on the courts where kids could play tetherball, nuke-em (played on a volleyball court where any number can play catch with the ball- dropping or missing causes an “explosion” so someone is out), four-square, trampoline basketball, regular basketball, or just hang around and talk or play in the sand.  They also had the opportunity to buy treats at the canteen.  I was disappointed to see that they doubled the price on pop this year, though I think they also lowered ice cream a bit though I didn’t buy any.  They told me that the higher price on drinks balances with the loss they take on ice cream, and keeping most things at $1 just makes managing the accounts that much easier.  I can’t argue with that, but I did make sure to stick with the one 20-oz offering all week- Dr. Pepper.  Everything else was in cans.  Of course, being right before bed, many kids chose Mt. Dew…  Speaking of bed, it was a little difficult getting my six to sleep that night. I could blame the Dew, but it was really mostly the excitement of being there.  Unfortunately Steve, the man in charge and two cabins away, had to visit our cabin not once but twice that evening.  Oops…

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more to come.

Getting behind

Ugh.  I ended up working late the last two days, no interest in blogging.  I guess I do need to write something though considering my last post was from before camp.  That turned out to be an enjoyable experience which I’ll write about shortly.  We left the morning of Sunday the 20th and returned last Friday.  I could have stayed another week had it been a two-week experience, but then again the possibility exists for a trip with my OH friends next winter so I wouldn’t have wanted to get in the way of it.  So this week we started work on two new stores.  There are actually four, but someone else is doing the other two.  In fact, I won’t be doing these stores for more than a couple months because I’m training someone to hopefully take them over if the two who have been training don’t snatch them up first.  In addition, I am now in charge of the equipment and so had to order some yesterday.  They attempted delivery today- that’s quite the service but too bad nobody was home.  I’ll have to call them tomorrow to find out how to proceed, whether they will try again or I’ll have to pick the packages up- I know nothing about this delivery company.  Today’s training went s-l-o-w by the way.  I started the morning with a technical glitch that cost me almost three hours to fix, and then was only able to do one store afterward.  Hopefully the other store won’t be too upset.  I wanted to call them but it seems that I have misplaced the business cards they gave me.  Sigh.

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Sorry- more positive ramblings next post I hope!