"But sometimes I like to pretend that she knows me, that she holds me. -Life of Agony/Let's Pretend

As with every other day of this trip, this morning started with a trip to the pool. Here is a shot of our pool here in Duck Key, Florida.

They never seem to tire of swimming.

Our next stop was to “swim with the dolphins” at the Dolphin Research Center.

Before we went I had half a dozen jokes prepared about how we got to beat the dolphins with hoses and stuff, but after touring the place I changed my mind. The Dolphin Rescue actually rescues hurt and abandoned dolphins and provides a nice place for people to come study and interact with them. So, no dolphin beating jokes from me.

I have another IOU to write more about the place, but we got to spend about half an hour in the water with the dolphins. We got to pet them and interact with thm and it was simply amazing to be so close to them.

From there, we hopped in the car and headed south to see the Southernmost Point Buoy, the southernmost point of the continental United States. This may have been a misfire, I don’t know. We drove 90 minutes each way to say we saw it. We saw it. By this point in the trip the kids were sick of being in the car and I was sick of being in the car with them. This led to a fairly substantial meltdown on my part that ended with me in timeout back at the hotel while Susan and the kids went (what else) swimming.

Our final stop of the night was at a local Mexican/Cuban restaurant. We got seated next to a couple who were involved in some sort of domestic issue and insisted on screaming the F-word into their cell phone. When the waitress asked if we would like her to say something to the couple, I told her, “either you can or I can, but I’m not having a great day and if I do it, it’s going to be a real interesting night for everyone here.” The guy sitting next to us leaned over to me and said, “If you do, I got your back.” When the waitress asked them to cool it, the lady erupted in another tirade. “This is America, I have a right to say whatever the F I want!” she shouted. “I don’t care who said something,” she continued, “I’m right here, they can come say it to my face!” Finally her boyfriend said, “have some class in front of the children.”

At one point during the meal her boyfriend got up and we got to stare at each other. Based on his facial tattoos I had 50/50 odds on whether or not I would end up dead or just in the hospital. In the end though, the couple got their food to go and on the way out the lady stopped by our table and apologized and handed the kids $10 and told them to buy some ice cream. Before we could do that, the waitress showed up at our table with a slice of cheesecake with the word “SORRY” written on the plate with chocolate syrup.

“My writing, it is not so good with the chocolate,” she said.

So, the kids got $5 each, everybody had a few bites of cheesecake, and best of all, I didn’t get stabbed. Oh, and the food was pretty good too.


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We kicked off this morning with a $70 breakfast at Disney World.

After that, the kids wanted to swim again, and so the four of us swam. No rain today — it was 70 degrees and sunny!

After a couple of hours of that, we hit the road, heading south — er, more south.

On our way to the Keys, we stopped and had a late lunch at Rickey’s Restaurant and Lounge.

If you haven’t seen King of Kong, Rickey’s Restaurant is “owned” by Billy Mitchell, one of the subjects of the film. We were told at the restaurant that it is owned by his parents, run by his sister, and that they “literally couldn’t remember the last time Billy was in the place.” I’ll write more about my experience when I get back home, but for now I’ll just say if you’re looking for a local dive bar with decent wings I’d recommend it, but if you’re going in hopes of seeing Billy Mitchell or anything related to either King of Kong or Donkey Kong, I wouldn’t waste my time.

Back in the car we piled to drive some more. A few hours later, the scenery began to look like this out of both sides of the car:

Shortly before nightfall we arrived at the resort here in Duck Key, Florida. We had dinner in an outside restaurant on the sand before coming back to the room and crashing out.

Tomorrow we swim with the dolphins, swim in some lagoon, and possibly drive down to see the southernmost point in the US… that is, if we can talk the kids into getting back into the car again.


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Last night we arrived at a hotel in a town that I cannot spell or pronounce, Apalachicola, Florida. We got to the hotel late so it was hard to tell how close to the ocean we were or what the view was like. When we woke up the next morning, this is what we saw:

While I had breakfast in the hotel (it was actually a two bedroom cabin, but whatever) Susan and the kids did a bit of exploring. Apparently the ice machine was invented in Apalachicola and they have a museum dedicated to it, which for $2 a person you visit.

We hit the road early Monday. After three or four big sit down meals in a row, the kids voted for Hardee’s and so that’s what we had for lunch. A couple of hours after that, we arrived at the day’s destination: Disney World! Unfortunately the previous day’s drizzle had not only followed us, but had turned into an outright down pour. That didn’t stop the kids from suiting up and heading straight for the Swan’s pool!

Anyone who has ever complained about Disney World being crowded has never been to the pool in the middle of a rain storm. WE had the place to ourselves!

After the kids were done swimming we hopped on the bus and went to Downtown Disney. The first thing I wanted to see there was the Lego store and it did not disappoint.

It rained the entire time we were in Downtown Disney so we were wet but not soaked. The kids wanted to have dinner at either TREX or the Rain Forest Cafe and the wait was well over an hour for each so instead we opted for “Pollo Campero,” which is essentially like any fast food chicken place you’ve ever been to. Just double the price and you can pretend you’ve been there. Mason and I had a hot dog, burger, drink and a shake for $29.

Around 10pm we made our way back to the room, changed into dry clothes, and hit the bed. We’re going to do some more swimming tomorrow before getting back on the road to head to our final destinaton, the Florida Keys.


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Woke up in Metairie, just outside of New Orleans.

We had breakfast at City Diner in Metairie. City Diner’s specialty are pancakes the size of pizzas, and they aren’t kidding. For $8 you’ll get a short stack (3) of pancakes, each one about the size of a medium pizza. Susan, Mason and Morgan all worked on the pancakes (with some sides of eggs and bacon) while I dove into a giant bowl of shrimp and grits. There was something else in my grits, and after re-checking the menu I saw they also offer shrimp and grits and crawfish, which is whatI think I ended up with. Oh well — when in Rome, right?

After breakfast we headed over to the famous Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans. I’ve never seen an above ground cemetery like this so it was fascinating and a bit creepy. The kids had an unofficial contest to find the oldest grave and they found several from the 1800s.

By the way, if you ever want to practice your photography skills, head to the nearest cemetary. It’s hard to take bad pictures there, and pretty easy to get good or even great ones if the light is in your favor. I did not bring my good camera with me but was still able to get a couple of neat shots.

Our next stop was Mardi Gras World. This place deserves (and will receive) its own post, but this is one of the places that makes Mardi Gras floats and all the awesome figures that go on them. Some of the figures were ten or fifteen feet tall, maybe taller! The tour was $65 for the four of us so it wasn’t cheap, but that includes a movie, a guided tour, and finally unrestricted access to the 250,000 square foot warehouse. I could have spent another hour or two wandering around in that warehouse! I took probably a hundred pictures that I will share later.

After the Mardi Gras World tour we skipped over to Barcadia, another arcade/bar combo. I am getting a bit jaded when it comes to these places. There wasn’t anything wrong with the place and the staff was more than pleasant. The food was okay but expensive for lunch (burger combo for $12.50). We enjoyed the games although we had to pull Mason off of the Donkey Kong machine after murdering the high score there. The selection of games was good with Tron, Spy Hunter, Missile Command, Star Wars, Dig Dug, and several other classics.

After eating it was time to drive again. Susan mixed up her days and instead of facing a five hour drive we were looking at nine hours. It began raining on us in New Orleans around 2pm and continued until we stopped in Florida around 10pm. It was so overcast that the vew of the ocean during our drive wasn’t that great (we hugged the coast the entire time). The longer we drove we began seeing flooded roads. At one convenient store we were warned that the bridges in our path might be flooded out. We were also warned to watch out for bears (we saw signs warning us of the same). Fortunately we were able to make it through to our hotel in time to crash for the night.


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We hit the road bound for Florida on Saturday, driving east. I can summarize day one by saying that we ate and we drove.

We had breakfast at the Hungry House Cafe in Antlers, Oklahoma. The HUngry House Cafe is the best breakfast restaurant in Antlers. From what I understand, they are also the only one. My Uncle Kenny and Aunt Barbara met us for breakfast along with my cousin David and his family and we got to see my cousin Steven too. For David’s son Caleb we brought a grab bag with 50 toys and action figures that we got from the local toy store, and I’ll have to admit that I was peeking over his shoulder to see if any Star Wars toys ended up in there! We had a great but too brief visit with everyone. After filling our bellies we poured back into the car to continue driving.

We made good time and had a late lunch at Rollin’ in the Dough in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had a shrimp po-boy with coleslaw on it — pretty good! I also had a side bowl of tomato bisque, which was also terrific! Susan had a bowl of sausage and beans and rice that she described as “amazing.” Susan found this place on Yelp and it was worth the stop!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening driving. We arrived in Metairie, Louisiana (just outside of New Orleans) around 9pm. We had dinner in our hotel room, a pizza delivery from Zita’s. We ordered a large pizza, a chicken parmesan sandwich, and a kid’s spaghetti (for Morgan). 10 minutes after placing our order, Zita’s called us back to inform us that they don’t deliver kid’s meals. After a brief discussion of what I thought of their policy we were forced to upgrade Morgan’s order to an adult sized meal at twice the price. I really wanted to push the issue but we were all too tired to care that much.

Day one down!


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Happy birthday to the World Wide Web! According to news reports, the “WWW” turned 25 years old this week.

My gateway to the internet was BBSes, which slowly began carrying Usenet newsgroups and offering internet e-mail addresses in the early 90s. I first got direct access to the internet in 1994, thanks to a co-worker who loaned me his college account. It was a Linux shell account, which meant text only — no graphics at all. With unlimited access to that account I used IRC to chat with people all around the world, FTP to download files, and Gopher, which was kind of like a text-based version of web sites. There were no global search engines back then so I bought an “internet phonebook” full of Gopher and FTP sites and spent months flipping through the pages and connecting to interesting things. My first six months of internet access looked a lot like this:

That was my introduction to the internet. It was command-line only, fast, and amazing. It wasn’t until the spring of 1995 that I first saw the “World Wide Web.” Like I said, up until that point my experience with the internet had been completely text based. My friend Justin showed me my first website, a horribly designed Star Wars tribute page that included animated lightsabers and a MIDI version of the Star Wars theme. It was the most awesome thing I had ever seen and heard.

“This internet thing is going to catch on, I tell you!”

While I wasn’t there for every minute of the World Wide Web’s life, I’ve been there for 4/5 of it. I remember spending hours (if not days) looking up random topics on AltaVista and Yahoo Search using Netscape Navigator and thinking things just couldn’t get any better than that. To this day I remember the first URL I saw in public. It was a billboard for Wrigley’s chewing gum that had “www.wrigley.com” written in the corner. Funny how back then I couldn’t imagine an established company putting up a website and today I can’t imagine an established company not having one.

It feels odd to be writing a “get off my lawn” speech this soon, but if you weren’t there at the beginning, you missed out. The days of hacking together websites using notepad, the days of dial-up internet access, the days of getting disconnected from your ISP every couple of hours because you were tying up their phone lines… some of those memories seem like a million lifetimes ago. I’m guessing a majority of the millions of people today who access the internet today on their phones don’t remember the days of getting busy signals when trying to dial up to the internet. Back then connecting to the internet was a process, a ritual — something you had to consciously do. Today it’s the opposite. I have to be conscious about disconnecting from it occasionally.

I could rattle off a thousand ways the internet has changed my life. I’ve had conversations with thousands of people and met hundreds of them, people I never would have met if it weren’t for the internet. I’ve laughed and cried, created and destroyed, and made friends and enemies, all from behind this keyboard. Most of all though, I’ve shared my life experiences with other people and they’ve shared theirs with me. I’ve met close friends through the internet. To say the web has been a game changer for me is an understatement. It’s been a life changer.

So, happy 25th birthday, World Wide Web. I can’t wait to see what you look like on your 50th.


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For close to ten years, most of my carded Star Wars figures have been stored away in plastic bins. I just haven’t had a good way or place to display them. While out shopping this weekend I had a moment of inspiration. After moving a few things around, I freed up a 4×8′ wall area in the Star Wars room.

I picked up a 4×8′ sheet of pegboard from Home Depot for $15. I quickly discovered that the pegboard was exactly 8′ tall and the wall is only seven foot, eleven and a half inches. The first thing I had to do was convert my podcart into a makeshift sawhorse. One cut later and the pegboard now fits.

You have to put space between pegboard and the wall (to give room for the pegs to go through the holes) so I sawed a 1×4 in half, screwed it into the studs, and then screwed the pegboard into them.

Years ago at a garage sale I picked up a giant box full of pegs for $5. The next step was to get out all my figures, sort them by release (color), add pegs and start hanging cards. I found on average that I could get 5 figures on each peg, although because of varying thicknesses a few have 4 and a few have 6.

Adding the figures to the wall took much longer than cutting or mounting the pegboard did.

A much better use of space, I think! A couple of people have asked me if each peg has duplicate figures. For the most part, no. (There are a few duplicates, mostly card variations.) Believe it or not I had some other things I had wanted to hang on the pegboard but I ran out of space! Regardless, I think the end result turned out pretty good. It makes me a lot happier to see them this way that to know they are sitting stored away in plastic tubs out in the garage.


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Well… not “new” new.

While it’s no secret I’m a Commodore fanboy, I do like to give credit where credit is due. Although pretty much across the board the Commodore 64 versions of games looked better than their Apple II counterparts, there was one thing I was always jealous of — the Apple II’s second fire button. While Commodore opted to use the standard Atari 2600 DB9 joystick port, Apple went with an analog format that supported two fire buttons. Both designs have advantages and disadvantages, but there were several games that took advantage of that second button on the Apple.

For the past few months, I’ve been using this this Apple compatible Kraft joystick, and while it works, I’ve never liked the feel or the layout of the buttons. The actual joystick itself feels weird, and the button on top of the joystick isn’t very comfortable.

So, lucky day; last week I ran across a different Kraft joystick on eBay.

It was listed as “untested,” but it arrived earlier this week and works great. The first game I tested it out on was Lode Runner. On the Commodore 64 version of Lode Runner, because you only have one “dig” button, you have to be facing the direction you wish to dig. On the Apple II version, one button digs left and the other one digs right.

My Apple IIe is now happy. Between the CFFA3000, a floppy drive (that allows me to transfer physical disks to disk images and back) and a working joystick, all is good.


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Back in December I wrote a blog post about trying to make one working Apple IIe out of four parts machines. The project hit a snag when none of the parts machines I had acquired had drive controller cards. For the past three months I’ve had a table out in my garage that looks like this:

While digging around in a “junk drawer” upstairs over the weekend, I found the missing piece: a drive controller.

That’s kind of how I work; a project that’s been dormant for months will suddenly leap to life. It’s the offspring of too many projects and a short attention span.

With the newly found card in hand I headed out to the garage Saturday night. I ended up using the case from one computer, the guts from a second, and the keyboard from a third. Once I got everything reassembled I inserted the drive controller card, attached two untested floppy drives I’ve been hanging on to for ten years, inserted an old floppy into one of the drives, flipped the power switch and stood back to see what would happen. Moments later, this happened:

She could use a little cleaning but, yup, she works. I already have a working Apple IIe up in my computer room so I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with this one yet, but having one working one is always better than having three parts machines tying up garage real estate. On to the next project!


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You could say I’ve been collecting “Star Wars stuff” my entire life. Some of the oldest toys and action figures in my collection are the ones I got Christmas morning, 1978. Throughout the 80s I acquired a lot of stuff, and in the mid-90s when Star Wars was re-released in theaters and they began making new toys, I began collecting those as well. But it wasn’t until the late 90s that I began collecting vintage toys. Up until that point in time, other than a few things friends had gifted me, my collection of vintage toys consisted of the vintage toys I owned as a child.

The main reason I hadn’t added many vintage toys to my collection back then was that they were difficult to find. Occasionally you would run across a loose figure or ship at a flea market or garage sale, but it wasn’t until the advent of the world wide web (and specifically, eBay) that finding vintage toys for sale became easy.

According to my account, I signed up for eBay in June of 1998, and one of the first things I bought was a vintage Star Wars Landspeeder in the box. This one:

I paid $25 for it (not a bad price) from a local seller, and actually picked it up instead of having it mailed to me. That picture is from the house before the house before the one I live in now. We moved into the house before this one in 2002, so that picture’s at least 12 years old. That Landspeeder prompted me to “go retro” and beginning filling holes in my original collection.

And now, I can’t find it.

The first and most logical place I looked was in “the Star Wars room,” where all (or most) of my Star Wars things are. It’s not there. The next place I looked was in the couple of yet-to-be-displayed 30 gallon tubs with Star Wars toys in them out in the garage. It’s not there, either. There was a time when I had dozens of tubs and boxes full of storage items, but the size of our current house has afforded me the luxury of unpacking almost everything and labeling the few storage tubs I still have out in the garage.

It’s gone.

Whenever I lose my keys, or my work badge, or my coat, or my Sam’s Club card (all of which happen regularly), I retrace my steps. I was here, I did this, I drove that car, I sat here… and eventually, things show up. Unfortunately, the last time I can say for sure I remember seeing thing thing was 12 years ago. When we moved from “the house before the last house” to “the last house,” Mason was less than a year old. Based on some good advice from a friend, I boxed up my Star Wars collection and stored it away until the kids were old enough to know the difference between “toys we play with” and “toys we don’t open.” Other than my loose figures, the majority of my collection remained boxed up at the last house (from 2002-2011), and I really didn’t get my Star Wars display set up here at the new house until 2012, meaning I haven’t thought about the whereabouts of this thing for over a decade.

A few other things from my collection are also missing, which leads me to believe a box of Star Wars stuff went missing at some point. Did it get lost at the last move? Did it get lost at the move before the last move? Hard to say. During our last move, we used a storage unit for several months. Did it get left there? I just don’t know.

If there’s an upside to this story it’s that this isn’t my original landspeeder. That one — the one I got for Christmas in 1978 — is sitting right here beside me. It’s open (just the way Santa delivered it to me) and shows a few scuffs here and there from being played with (just the way I like it).


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