That Time I Threw a Nice Lady Across Jack in the Box

I met Von Brown in person for the first time on August 25, 1997, although we had spoken over the phone dozens of times prior to that. Von worked as a Computer Specialist for the FAA in Denver, Colorado, while I worked for the help desk in Oklahoma City. I worked there from the spring of 1995 until the summer of 1996, at which point I myself was hired as a Computer Specialist for the FAA and moved to Spokane, Washington. Both Washington state and Colorado were a part of the Northwest Mountain Region, and so even after I moved, Von and I spoke over the phone and collaborated on projects frequently.

In the summer of 1997, our agency was in the throws of upgrading tens of thousands of workstations from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Both Von and I had volunteered to travel to Seattle and assist with upgrading the machines there. After speaking to one another over the phone for more than two years, I finally got to meet Von in person. She was roughly the same age as my parents, petite, and as sweet as they come.

After meeting Von in the lobby of our hotel, the next order of business was to find somewhere to eat dinner. We hopped in the rental car, and began driving. Back before I had a GPS, I was always afraid to wander too far from my hotel. The first restaurant we passed was Jack in the Box, and so that’s where we decided to eat. (I’m sure the decision was more mine than Von’s.)

After ordering our dinner, the two of us walked through the mostly empty restaurant and picked a place to sit. We ended up sitting in an atrium with one entire wall made of glass. Von sat with her back to the wall of windows; I sat across from her, looking out the window.

What happened next happened very quickly, and I will never forget it.

Out of the corner of my eye, through the windows behind Von, I saw what I thought was a large black bird flaying through the parking lot toward us. It took a second for my brain to realize that it wasn’t a bird, but a black Honda Civic, flying through the air in our direction.

The car landed maybe fifty feet away from us in the parking lot and began to “barrel roll” toward the restaurant. As I leaped to my feet, Von must have heard the crash and instinctively ducked her head down. In the trunk of the car, a toolbox opened and metal wrenches and sockets began smashing into the restaurant’s windows. My natural reaction was to get Von away from the windows, so I grabbed her by her shirt and, much like a bowling ball, sent her sliding across the restaurant’s floor.

Suddenly, all the noise stopped.

I yelled at the kid behind the counter to call 911, helped Von up off the floor, and then headed for the exit.

Through the glass door I could see the car. It was resting twenty feet away from the restaurant, and upside down. Gas was pouring out of it, and I was afraid the car was going to explode. Roughly twenty feet to the left of the car laying in the parking lot was a guy. He was on his back with his knees bent and appeared dazed, but alive.

I pushed the door open and when I did, it hit a woman. She had been thrown from the car, and had landed head-first on the curbed sidewalk around the restaurant. The impact had split her head open, and I could see her brains. You don’t forget a thing like that. I knelt down beside her and tried to talk to her. She made some sounds, but she couldn’t understand me, and vice versa.

I vaguely remember Von coming up behind me, and me telling her she didn’t want to go out there. I stepped back inside, and she gave me a hug.

In my mind, emergency vehicles arrived almost immediately. Unfortunately for us, one of the first things they did was surround the entire parking lot in yellow accident scene tape, which prevented our car from leaving.

One thing I vividly remember is watching one of the firemen reach inside the upside-down car, unbuckle a child’s car seat, and remove a young child from the car. The id looked to be three or four years old, and had been hanging upside down inside the car the entire time. The kid was completely unharmed.

I spoke with one of the officers on the scene and told him everything I had seen. One of the officers told me that the tint on the restaurant’s windows had kept the tools from sailing through them and sending metal and glass everywhere. A few weeks later when I was back in Spokane, I received a phone call from a different officer, asking me to make a statement over the phone. They told me the woman had died at the scene, the driver was in the hospital, and the kid was fine. He also told me neither of the adults were wearing a seat belt, which is why they were ejected. The driver had come around the corner too quickly, lost control of his car, and slid through the ditch, which is what sent the car into the air.

After almost an hour inside the restaurant, the officers removed the crime scene tape surrounding the parking lot and allowed us to leave. Von and I left Jack in the Box and headed back to the hotel with one heck of a story.

Star Wednesday: Sy Snoodles

By the time Return of the Jedi left theaters, Kenner saw its cash cow begin to fade. Ostensibly to squeeze every last cent out of the trilogy’s fan base, Kenner began releasing action figures for any character who appeared on screen for more than a second, including this one: Sy Snoodles.

Sy Snoodles was the lead singer of Max Rebo’s band, the house band in Jabba the Hutt’s palace. The band’s performance lasts just over a minute in the film, with Ms. Snoodles appearing on screen for approximately 20 seconds.

As a kid who loved both Star Wars and movie special effects, I found Sy Snoodles fascinating. Most of the creatures that appeared in Jabba’s palace were either people in costumes or hand puppets, but the body shape of Sy Snoodles obviously prevented this solution. Bringing the character to life involved connecting rods from Sy’s legs to a dancer’s legs beneath the stage, with a second puppeteer above on a catwalk pulling wires and a third that controlled Sy’s lips.

The end result was an alien-looking character that seemed alive without the use of CGI.

George Lucas has publicly stated that he was “never satisfied” with Sy Snoodles, and in the revised special edition of Return of the Jedi he took advantage of (then) modern technology to replace the original version of Sy with a new, CGI version — sans the feather on her head.

The original Sy Snoodles action figure was not available in a normal single-figure blister pack, and was only available in a three-figure multi-pack that also included Max Rebo and Droopy McCool. The pack was released in 1984 (a full year after Return of the Jedi hit theaters), and by then my interest in new Star Wars toys had begun to fade. I picked up a loose Droopy McCool years ago at Vintage Stock, and found this Sy Snoodles figure at a retro toy store in Denver. Based on that, I just ordered Max Rebo and his electronic organ off of eBay. Finally guys, we’re putting the band back together.

Free NES/SNES Controllers (Review)

In early June I ran across an ad on Facebook for free USB NES controllers. The offer was posted by Epictronics, who said all one had to do to qualify for the offer was “Like” their company on either Facebook or Instagram and cover shipping costs. Not a bad advertising gimmick in my book.

I don’t need another USB game pad, but they’re handy to have around, especially when setting up and playing with Raspberry Pis. Besides, Epictronics had me at “free.” Two minutes after seeing the ad I had already Liked their Facebook page and was busy filling out my order. Along with an NES game pad, I noticed the company also offers a free SNES game pad! Cover the additional shipping and you can add that to your cart, too!

(Note that the URL works whether or not you have liked Epictronics on Facebook or Instagram. Your morals are your own.)

It didn’t take me long to figure out how Epictronics can afford to offer “free” (there’s those quotes again…) game pads in exchange for Facebook and Instagram likes. Shipping for one free controller is $10; for two, it’s $16. Conveniently, Epictronics accepts PayPal for their free game pads. The website was optimistic in predicting the controllers will take 2-3 weeks to arrive to the US. My package from Wang Shang took 5 weeks.

The controllers arrived inside an unpadded plastic bag, wrapped in a thin sheet of foam. Each controller came in its own baggie. The USB cord attached to the SNES pad was neatly coiled and tied with a bread tie, while the NES controller had no tie and the cord was just coiled up inside its bag.

When placed next to authentic NES controllers, you can see that the mold for the new controller is essentially identical. The color is a lighter shade of gray and the word “Nintendo” is missing from the label, but from five-feet away it would fool anyone who hasn’t seen on since the console’s original heyday.

Once you actually pick up the controller, all bets are off. The first thing you’ll notice is that the controllers are so light that you would swear they’re empty inside. The NES controller in particular feels about half as heavy as an originally controller. My thumbs instantly noticed that the A and B buttons were convex instead of concave, which doesn’t feel right. None of the buttons, including the d-pad, feel like the original. On the USB controller, all of the buttons have a poppy feel to them, where the originals felt more mushy. I do have to say the almost 5′ long cord was nice.

Installation could not have been simpler. Windows 10 recognized the controller as a “usb gamepad” almost immediately, and that was that. Ten seconds later, I fired up MAME and played a quick round of Donkey Kong using the NES pad. The buttons felt a little “punchy,” and I suspect they might require breaking in.

Bottom line? You get what you pay for. There are much better USB game pads on the market for just a few dollars more, and if you’re a stickler for authenticity, companies like RetroUSB sell USB adapters for most vintage controllers.

I can only recommend these “free” controllers if, like me, you have half a dozen Raspberry Pi systems that you’re constantly reloading and testing. They’re okay for testing purposes or for letting the kids play with, but real gamers will want a real game pad pretty quickly after using one of these.

RIP Uncle Buddy

If I could only share one story with you about my uncle Buddy, this would be the one.

Around the time Susan and I began dating in 1993 I attempted to impress her with the fact that I visited Chicago “all the time.” What I neglected to tell her was that every time I had ever visited Chicago, I had done so while riding in the back seat of my parents’ car. Susan called my bluff and suggested the two of us should hop in her new car and visit the Windy City on our own. I panicked, and asked my dad for directions (“take I-44 to St. Louis and hang a left at the arch”). Somehow, without a GPS or much common sense, the two of us found both the “big arch” and, eventually, Chicago.

I don’t think we called ahead and told any of my relatives that we were coming to Chicago, but that didn’t really matter as there was always a place to crash once you got there, especially at my grandma’s house. Grandma O lived on the first floor of a two-story house and my aunt Linda and uncle Buddy lived upstairs. Between the front porch, the couches, and my aunt and uncle’s spare bedroom, there was always room for visitors.

Because of our complete lack of planning both my aunt Linda and grandma had to work the day after Susan and I arrived, but uncle Buddy was off and agreed to take us around Chicago.

Let me take a moment to paint this picture. My uncle Buddy was a big guy with tattoos on his arms and damaged vocal chords from accidentally drinking lye as a child. To a twenty-year-old me, he looked like the bad guy in every 70s biker flick (which is funny, once you got to know him). Buddy married my aunt Linda in the late 1980s, so it’s entirely possible that I had only met Buddy a couple of times in person prior this trip, and Susan had never met him at all. So for someone who barely knew us to step up and say “I’ll show you town” on a whim was pretty neat.

The next morning the three of us hopped on the train and headed downtown. We ate lunch at Ricobene’s, and I will never forget it. Susan and I both bought gigantic chicken Parmesan sandwiches that were bigger than our heads. There was no way either of us could finish our sandwiches, so we took our leftovers with us in a paper sack. After lunch the three of us went to the Field Museum and then the Shedd Aquarium, all while carrying around those heavenly-smelling to-go sacks. After a few hours, all that extra marinara sauce and grease began to leak through until the bottoms began to give way. Eventually the bags completely disintegrated and we were forced to dump our soggy sacks and sandwiches into a trash can. If I close my eyes, I can still smell them.

I have lots of memories of uncle Buddy and food. I remember another time Susan and I arrived in Chicago and my uncle said he would throw something on the stove for us for dinner. Thirty minutes later we were upstairs eating fettuccine Alfredo covered with the biggest prawn you ever saw. My uncle Buddy loved to cook and loved food. He loved my aunt Linda, and he loved all of us, too. And we loved him.

Now or Never

I have had many conversations with doctors in regards to my weight throughout the years. Some were lighthearted, like the short chats I used to have with my fellow morbidly-obese doctor back in the early 2000s. “You need to lose some weight,” he would say. “You first!” I would counter, and then we would both share a good belly laugh. Conversations with other doctors were more awkward. My last doctor regularly competed in Iron Man competitions. Googling his name turns up hits of marathon photos. Every conversation I had with him about my weight ended with a condescending “tsk.”

Last month Susan changed doctors, and I changed along with her. I made an appointment with the new doctor this week for a general physical (including lab work) and to discuss some lingering aches and pains and concerns of mine, mostly weight-related. The new doctor responded in a way I hadn’t seen before — with kindness, sympathy, concern, and just a touch of sadness. She went over my concerns with me and explained, if I don’t change my ways, what comes next. I appreciated her frankness, but her sadness had a deeper effect on me.

I have spent the past twenty years trying to lose weight. In that time I have made a million deals with the devil and not once has he come through for me. I have tried many things, including weight-loss surgery, and none of them have panned out for me. It has been a long battle of mind-over-matter that, quite frankly, I lost. To have a doctor tell you you’re fat is one thing. To have one give you one final chance before putting you on a litany of medications is another.

This is it. It’s now or never.

My 24 Greatest “Greatest Hits” CDs

Over the weekend my family and I drove to Denver and back to attend my friend Robb’s wedding (and did a few other things while we were in town, too). Many years ago prior to embarking on a cross-country road trip, picking out the CDs I was going to take with me was an important part of the trip-planning process. Today there is physical price to pay for cramming thousands of songs onto our phones, but back then, more CDs meant more space. Back in the 1990s, the solution to this problem was to purchase lots of “greatest hits” and “best of” compilations that packed lots of great songs onto a single CD.

The first CD wallet I ever owned for my car held a total of 24 discs. In honor of that wallet and my recent trip to Denver, I present to you (in no particular order) 24 of my favorite “greatest hits” CDs. My self-imposed rules for this list were that I had physically purchased the CD at some point in the past, and that each disc was a “greatest hits” album that contained songs from a single performer.

  1. Duran Duran – Decade: Fourteen tracks, twelve of which are classics (I skip “Skin Trade” and “All She Wants Is”). If you owned a radio in the 1980s (or watched MTV for more than ten minutes) then you remember “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio,” and “Is There Something I Should Know.” Like all of the discs on this list there aren’t a lot of deep cuts here, but everything on the disc is a classic.
  2. Beach Boys – 20 Good Vibrations: I had this album (or one similar to it) on vinyl when I was a kid. It’s hard to imagine anyone unfamiliar with most (if not all) of the songs on this album — everything from “California Girls” to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” make appearances. Rounding out 19 classic tracks is the more modern “Kokomo“, probably the newest Beach Boys song I know.
  3. The Cars – Greatest Hits: The Cars have released several greatest hits, best of, and anthology collections throughout the years, but Greatest Hits is just what it advertises. Everything from “Shake It Up” to “Just What I Needed” and “Let’s Go” make appearances. You’ll have to buy one of the larger compilations to get tracks like “Moving in Stereo,” “Candy-O,” and “Cruiser,” but there’s not a sour moment on the included thirteen tracks.
  4. Journey – Greatest Hits: With songs like like “Don’t Stop Believin’,”Any Way You Want It” and “Separate Ways,” this album contains an hour’s worth of road trip sing-along songs. The only danger with packing this one is there’s a good chance your passengers may hold their lighters up during “Faithfully” and “Open Arms” and burn your headliner. I can’t think of a single other Journey song I wish they had included.
  5. Billy Idol – Idolize Yourself: With cuts like “White Wedding” and “Mony Mony,” pretty much every Idol classic is included. Growing up, I owned Vital Idol, another Billy Idol compilation that lacked “Rebel Yell” and pre-dated “Cradle of Love,” both of which appear here. Non-fans may bail early when later tracks like “John Wayne” and “New Future Weapon” arrive, but the first 13-14 tracks will have you dancing with yourself.
  6. Blondie – The Best of Blondie: – I grew up listening to my dad’s copy of this album. Originally released in 1981, I don’t see a reason to buy anything newer. With hits like “Call Me,” “One Way or Another,” and “Heart of Glass,” This one has all the hits I need. Plus, it always impresses my kids when I know every word to the rap from “Rapture” and I get to explain to them that Fab Five Freddy was a real guy.
  7. Prince – The Very Best of Prince: – If this disc has any drawback it’s that it only contains four tracks from Purple Rain, which is practically a greatest hits offering in its own right. Along with “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain,” you get tracks before that like “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” and ones after like “Raspberry Beret,” “Kiss,” and “U Got the Look.” There are a few too many New Power Generation tracks toward the end for my taste, but that doesn’t detract from the dozen solid tracks that precede them. (PS: It’s pretty hard to find Prince tracks on YouTube.)
  8. Styx – Greatest Hits: – This album contains every Styx song I love including “Renegade“, “Sail Away,” and “Mr. Roboto,” and a couple that are just okay. This album surprises everyone with how many Styx songs they know.
  9. Huey Lewis and the News – Time Flies…: Released in ’96, Time Flies includes twelve solid Huey Lewis hits including “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “Workin’ for a Livin’,” and “Heart and Soul,” and four previously unreleased tracks that I could mostly live without. Still, a dozen clean, fun tracks on the road makes for an hour of entertainment.
  10. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle: This is the only Creedence album I ever owned. Twenty great songs; not a bad one in the bunch. “Long As I Can See the Light” will break you down on a long, dark road, while “Travelin’ Band” will bounce you right back.
  11. The Police – Greatest Hits: There are other great songs from both Sting and the Police, but this is a great collection of their hits from the late 70s/early 80s. It’s got most of the classic radio singles like “Everything She Does is Magic” and “Message in a Bottle” without all the solo-Sting stuff that nobody (except Sting) wants to hear. The album’s one shortcoming is that the classic “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” has been replaced with an inferior and unnecessarily updated version, a downright baffling decision.
  12. Phil Collins – Greatest Hits: A quick scan on Amazon reveals that Phil Collins has released almost as many greatest hits packages as he’s had great hits, and that’s saying something. The CD I own contains sixteen tracks and pre-dates “I Can’t Dance,” which is just fine with me. “Take Me Home” and “I Wish It Would Rain” are just two of the album’s stand out tracks. To this day, I’ve yet to meet anyone actually name “Sussudio.”
  13. Billy Joel – Greatest Hits Vol. 1&2: Maybe it’s cheating to include a double-disc package, but let’s assume I would cram both discs into one sleeve. This compilation kicks off with “Piano Man” and never lets up. No matter what happens, “She’s Always a Woman to Me“. Two solid discs of classic road trip songs.
  14. Elton John – Greatest Hits Vol. 1: This is a CD you can find for 99 cents in every pawn shop (it’s the one with Elton in a white suit, hat and sunglasses sitting at his piano). It contains 11 classic classics from the man himself including “Daniel” and “Rocket Man“. The only glaring omission from this era is my favorite Elton John song, “Tiny Dancer.”
  15. Elvis – Elv1s: I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Elvis, but it’s tough to go wrong with 30 #1 hits from the King. My only complaint about this one is there are a lot of slow jams that may mess up your road-trip vibe. With 30 songs on a single disc to choose from, the slow ones are easy enough to skip — besides, what’s a road trip without “Jailhouse Rock” and “All Shook Up“?
  16. The Beatles – 1s: Another collection of number one hits, this time from our four friends from Liverpool. Today I keep a dozen Beatles albums on my phone at all times, but back when space was at a premium, this was a great way to keep 27 classic Beatles tracks on a single disc. Includes two of my favorites, “Day Tripper” and “Paperback Writer.”
  17. Hall and Oates – Greatest Hits–Rock ‘n’ Soul, Part 1: There are a couple of different greatest hits packages from this popular duo, but this is the one I grew up with. Here you get 11 solid tracks and a live version of “Wait for Me” that is just as good, if not better, than the original. If I were ever going to sing karaoke I would sing either “She’s Gone” or “Sara Smile,” but since I never will, the next best thing are my car performances.
  18. Heart – These Dreams: Seventeen classic Heart tracks, including tracks from the 70s (“Heartless” and 80s (“Alone“). Like the Police greatest hits, Heart opted to include an alternate version of one of their most popular tracks, this time a live version of the rocker “Barracuda.” This is easily fixable today, but back in the day it was pretty annoying not to have the original cut.
  19. Whitesnake – Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits: I almost didn’t list this one because, to be honest, I’d almost prefer to have the band’s 1987 self-titled album with me instead. Of course you get “Still of the Night” and “Here I Go Again” along with a few older tracks like “Slide it In” and “Slow an’ Easy,” but you lose tracks like “Bad Boys” and “Children of the Night,” two of my favorites.
  20. Rick Springfield – The Best of Rick Springfield: Yet another musician who has recorded a ton of songs that don’t appear on this compilation, but everything I want from Rick is here. Plenty of rock anthems to sing along to in the car here including “Love Somebody,” “I’ve Done Everything For You,” and of course, “Jesse’s Girl.” Unless you’re a fan of Springfield’s newer work, this CD is all you need.
  21. Men at Work – Contraband (The Best Of): Often written off as a one hit wonder by 80s revisionists, Men at Work had a long series of hits, all of which appear here. Sure, “Man Down Under” made the cut, but you also get “It’s a Mistake,” “Be Good Johnny,” and one of my favorite songs of all time, “Overkill.”
  22. Michael Jackson – Number Ones: The third artist on my list who can release an entire album full of number one hits. Occasionally I skip some of the tracks like “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” just because I’ve heard them a million times, but “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “Dirty Diana” always get play.
  23. Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out: Unrelated to Michael, I discovered Joe Jackson through his single (and one of my favorite songs of all time) “Steppin’ Out.” It wasn’t until I purchased this CD that I discovered “Sunday Papers,” the sentimental “Be My Number Two,” and early punk track “Look Sharp!
  24. Queen – Greatest Hits: Yes, we’ve all heard “We Are the Champions” and “Another One Bites the Dust” a zillion times, but so what? “You’re My Best Friend,” “Killer Queen,” and “Bicycle Race” are all road-trip classics. And just when you think your eyelid are drooping and you don’t think you can drive another mile, throw on “We Will Rock You,” pull out the air guitar, and nail that solo as you put the pedal to the metal and cruise off into the sunset.

Here are a few honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut. Like all the albums listed above, I own all of these on CD and have them on my phone as well.

  • Fat Boys – The Best of the Fat Boys: While technically there’s nothing wrong with this greatest hits package, it’s a little light on tracks from the first two albums and contains all the group’s novelty tracks including “The Twist,” “Wipeout,” and “Are You Ready For Freddy.” Plus, there’s just so much of the Human Beat Box my wife can handle on a road trip.
  • Weird Al – Greatest Hits: The problem with this disc isn’t what’s on it, it’s what’s not on it. Weird Al is one of two artists (along with the Beastie Boys) of which I have purchased every single studio release. I’ve converted them all to mp3 and have them all stored on my phone. Limiting Al to only ten tracks (even if they include classics like “Dare to Be Stupid” and “One More Minute“) isn’t just a crime… it’s WEIRD.
  • Def Leppard – Vault (Greatest Hits): The problem with Def Leppard is that I like the earlier stuff and not the later stuff. “Photograph,” “High and Dry,” “Foolin’” and even “Rock of Ages” are still classics, but by the time the band dips into “Animal” and pouring sugar on each other, they lose me. I’d rather just bring along the first two albums.
  • Rod Stewart – Greatest Hits: Nothing bad to say about this one. If my CD wallet held 25 discs, this one would have made the cut.
  • Public Enemy – The Best of Public Enemy: Another album with very little fat on the bone. In 11 tracks, PE takes listeners from “Welcome to the Terrordome” and ends with “Bring Tha Noize,” with all the band’s best classics in between. Like the Fat Boys, the only reason it’s not on in the virtual CD wallet is because my wife can’t take me shouting “Fight the Power” over and over on long stretches of highway. I have the first four or five PE albums on my phone at all times and will have played something from each of them by the time I get to Arizona.

    That’s the end of my list! What other greatest hits albums should have made the list, and which ones shouldn’t have?

  • June 27

    Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate June 27.

    My wife’s birthday is June 26. As of this year, 2017, the two of us have been married half our lives. That’s a lot of birthdays to celebrate together. June 28, two days later, is Morgan’s birthday. Today, Morgan turns twelve — a “tween” now, officially, although I feel like she’s been a tween for quite some time.

    I associate Susan’s birthday with good times from the past, the memories of road trips and vacations and adventures. Morgan’s birthday is more about looking forward; youth, and the road ahead that awaits them.

    June 27, the day between those two dates, is a lull in the motion — a break from the whirlwind of parties and plans and celebrations and cake. It’s one day in the middle of a crazy week where I can pause, appreciate all the great memories we’ve made together, and dream about all the adventures yet to come.

    Happy birthday Susan and Morgan. Here’s to all the birthdays we’ve celebrated together and many more.

    Fifteen and a Half

    “Dad, do you need to go to 7-11?”
    “Dad, do you need to go to the post office?”
    “Dad, do you need to go to the store?”

    Guess who turned fifteen-and-a-half last week and got his learner’s permit?

    (This is a staged photo. Mason will never drive the STI.)

    When Mason turned fourteen he got a license to drive a motorcycle, and for roughly a year and a half he’s been riding to school and around town on two wheels. I grew up riding motorcycles, as did my dad, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch your kid leave the house on one. Having him surrounded by two tons of metal and airbags will actually be a relief.

    The process of obtaining a license has changed since I originally got mine. To get a learner’s permit in Oklahoma today, you need to have completed (or be enrolled in) a driver’s education course and provide proof that you are enrolled in school, among other documents. When you turn sixteen and have had a learner’s permit for six months, teens can then apply for a intermediate license. It’s similar to a driver’s license, but with a few restrictions. With an intermediate license, teens can only drive between 4:30 a.m and 9 p.m., and can only carry one passenger that does not live in their home. To obtain that license, teens must be enrolled in school or have their GED. After another six month period, assuming the teen did not acquire any traffic convictions, they can apply for an “unrestricted class D license.” Each license sets you back about $40. (Link:

    Even though Mason has been mobile for over a year, “four wheels” is new. His stops are abrupt, his acceleration is uneven, and his turns are inconsistent. That being said, the second trip was better than the first, and the third was better than the second. He knows the rules of the road, but being behind the wheel of a bigger and heavier vehicle takes getting used to.

    Riding in the passenger seat of your own car is a bit like riding in the front car of a roller coaster at the fair, if it were being operated by someone not old enough to operate it. The pit in your stomach never fully subsides. Like the roller coaster, you tell yourself nothing bad will happen, but you give the safety equipment an extra tug, just in case.

    “Dad, do you need a ride to the convenient store?”

    And, we’re off!

    Podcast News and Consolidation!

    When I started my first podcast (You Don’t Know Flack) back in 2008, I envisioned it as a complete package. I stood up a separate webpage and WordPress installation for it ( I also created a dedicated email address and Facebook page for the show as well. The late 2000s were all about branding.

    Time went on, and I launched more shows. I registered more domains like and, and created Facebook pages, email addresses, RSS feeds, iTunes pages, and Twitter accounts for those shows, too.

    This was a great idea that didn’t scale well. Each time I launched a new show I registered more domains, created new social media accounts, installed more instances of WordPress, configured RSS feeds, tweaked iTunes, and so on. I set up mail forwarding, automatic updates, and a bevy of notifications, but things continued to grow. It seemed like something was always broken either an email account stopped working here, or iTunes got clogged on a feed there. I was spending more time on all my behind-the-scenes podcast stuff than I was actually recording podcasts. Each time a WordPress update was released I had to set aside time to back up databases, upgrade WordPress, upgrade plug-ins, and fix whatever broke. No bueno.

    When I began to meet and interact with other podcasters I learned that most of them were smarter than I am. Guys like Carrington Vanston, Doug McCoy, Rick Reynolds, and countless others had combined their multiple podcasts under their own respective umbrellas (MonsterFeet, McCoyCast, and RickAndViv, respectively). After years of juggling and maintaining multiple sites and accounts, I have decided to do the same.

    I have spent the past week exporting, importing, and consolidating all of my podcast-related WordPress sites down into a single website and a single Facebook page.


    Consolidating all of my podcasts down to a single website has advantages for both you and me. For me, things will be cheaper and easier to maintain. If I decide to start a new show, all I need to do is create a new category and start uploading. If I, for whatever reason, decide to retire a show, the old episodes won’t go away. And if you want to find out whats going on with one (or any) of my shows, now there’s just a single place for you to check.

    Each of my podcasts have and will continue to have their own individual RSS feeds and iTunes pages. Using these, you can subscribe to one, some, or all of my shows. None of these should have changed during the migrations.

    RSS Feeds:

    Cactus Flack’s:
    Multiple Sadness:
    Sprite Castle:
    You Don’t Know Flack:
    All RobOHara-Podcasts:

    iTunes Feeds:

    Cactus Flacks:
    Multiple Sadness:
    Sprite Castle:
    You Don’t Know Flack:
    All RobOHara-Podcasts:

    The only podcast I record that hasn’t been migrated over is Throwback Reviews, which is hosted by my podcasting partner Sean, and still has its own website. Nothing has changed for it. Throwback Reviews still has the same RSS feed and iTunes link.

    Thank you to all of my Patreons who support me over at Whether it’s $1 or $5 per month, my Patreon supporters are the people who keep my shows going. Without them, none of this would be possible. Thank you all!

    Old Skool NES Raspberry Pi Case

    Last year, Nintendo released the NES Classic Edition. It was a game console that looked like a tiny version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) from the 80s. It had 30 built-in games and cost $59.95. Nintendo woefully underestimated demand for the console. Stores couldn’t keep them in stock, and when they did hit shelves, scalpers scooped them up and resold them online for huge profits. And then, with thousands of potential customers begging Nintendo to ramp up production, the company confusingly cancelled the product instead.

    This led lots of techie people to roll their own solutions, the most common of which was to install emulators on a Raspberry Pi (which made my list of NES Classic alternatives and which I wrote installation instructions for). It’s a nifty and inexpensive solution, but physically it’s missing the nostalgia form factor.

    Enter the “NES inspired” Raspberry Pi case by Old Skool Entertainment System.

    Not shaped exactly like an original NES, the Old Skool Entertainment System is the perfect shape for a Raspberry Pi. The case, which was designed to hold a Pi 3, 2 and B+, splits apart at the middle and includes four screws that goes up from the bottom into the top while holding the Pi in place.

    Like any good case, there are openings that line up with all the Pi’s ports, so you won’t need to remove the case to access anything on the Pi. The front flips open to provide access to the Pi’s USB ports. While I appreciate the throwback to the original NES design, this does mean that all your USB cables will be routed out the front of the case. If you have an Ethernet cable running to your Pi, the lid will always be in the up position.

    The case currently sells for $20 on Amazon and is available for Prime shipping, but there’s one thing on the packaging that worries me:

    The absolute worst thing you can do when making a third-party product is mention Nintendo licenses by name. Claiming that your case was merely inspired by the original NES might be enough to skate past Nintendo’s lawyers, but mentioning characters by name and including instructions on how to download emulators and install ROMs is usually enough to draw the ire of suits. Hopefully when (not if) Nintendo’s lawyers come calling, all Old Skool will have to do is change their packaging, and not pull their case completely off the market.

    So yeah, I like it. It’s no custom Commodore 1541 Raspberry Pi case, but it’s close.