Sunday, September 26, 2010

Update from Parris Island

The Hall has received a few missives from Recruit McMahon at Parris Island, but this was the most exciting one. In case the Gentle Reader can't make out his hand writhing, here is the text:

Just finished rifle range and qualified with…

A 222 out of 250 possible points!

Expert Badge!

I shot two possibles, which means during the 200 yard sitting and 300 yard prone rapid fire, all ten of my shots fired in 60 seconds hit black for both.

And on that note, here are my current standings:

PFT (Private First Class)

-15 pull ups (when I got here they went down to 12)

-120 Crunches

-20:18 3 mile run

-A class PFT

Rifle Range

-Squad Leader (Just today)

4 more weeks, I’ll see you soon.

RCT McMahon

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A time of clearer twitterings

The sun peeked over the golden hills surrounding the Hall Saturday morning and the preternaturally chipper voice of one of the local news bunnies revealed it was only 50 degrees outside. Perfect weather, said Mrs. H. for cider doughnuts and pumpkins. Since the departure of the younger set, the family flivver sees less use than is desirable for optimum maintenance, so they opted to give it a little airing out.
About ten miles out of town and located on a hill between Otisco and Skaneateles Lakes, Tim's Pumpkin Patch has been steadily increasing its business over the last five or six years. After finally raising its prices from $1, to $2 dollars a pumpkin, they have managed to expand the spread to include not only pick yer own pumpkins, but hay bale mazes, exotic pumpkin and gourd varieties, spooky displays, horse drawn hay rides and a coffee and doughnut shop, filled to the brim with all manner of store bought drollery. They drove into the parking lot and got out. A wave of nostalgia overswept Mrs. H. as she got out her camera to take a few morning shots.
Usually, when Mrs. Hall pulls in, at least 6 to 8 screaming, laughing teenagers explode out of the van and immediately disappear into the fields. After an hour or so of serious deliberation and sacrifice, the pumpkin choices are whittled down to 20 or so odd mega-squash. They are then crammed in the remaining air spaces in the van, and the vehicle manuevered, creaking heavily up and down the hills, until it returns barely clearing the driveway, to the Hall. This morning it was peaceful on the hill. The crowds hadn't arrived yet and the farm dogs roamed lazily around the coffee shop porch, vying for the best spot in the morning sun.
Mr. Hall munched on the warm donuts and wandered around a bit and then noticed Mrs. Hall was not around. After a short search, she was discovered inside the shop, dickering on the price of a huge papier-mache white pumpkin on display. "It's too expensive, " consoled Mr. Hall, as he lead her away "And I'm sure it wouldn't fit in the car." "Then perhaps we can just ask where they acquired that little toy-" and she pointed to a machine bearing the legend: The Donut Robot. As useful an item as he was sure it would be, he assured her, their kitchen was really quite complete without it.
"It's too early to purchase pumpkins right now, anyway" Mr. Hall remarked. "We'll come back in a couple of weeks." Wiping the remaining doughnut sugar off their lips they climbed back into the van and headed home.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You are what you eat

Daylight came about three hours too soon to Mrs. Hall. For some reason, her eyelids weren't working- no amount of effort seemed capable of opening them. Some Saturdays, after particularly jovial Fridays at Daniel's, were harder to cope with than others.
"Com'n, it's a beautiful day. Let's get up and have breakfast at Wegman's", said Mr. Hall, in a voice that seemed altogether too bright for the early hour. The prospect of someone else attending to the coffee however, was sufficient to the cause; Mrs. H. rose and threw on something approximating appropriate attire.
It is common knowledge around central New York (and/or possibly the five or six million strong viewing public of David Letterman*- see below...) that everyone goes to Wegman's. A wonderful grocery store in it's own right, it also manages to draw a healthy crowd of coffee swilling, dessert addicted New York Times reading people watchers. While Mrs. Hall is more likely to be taking advantage of the free wi-fi than reading the newspaper, Wegman's still represents to her the quintessential (highly caffeinated) watering hole to the masses.
Today was no exception. Despite the early hour, the parking lot was already showing signs of becoming the dangerous death match that it usually is, as patrons jockey their luxury SUVs for the closest slots. Parking a safe distance away, they wafted through the automatic doors on a breeze of freshly brewed desire. The coffee carafes stood patiently at attention, filled and steaming. As they paid for their pistachio and walnut muffins, Mr. Hall suggested they sit upstairs for a better view of the action. "There, there, " he soothed, "Isn't that better?"
They sat and looked over the expanse of fresh baked goods, deli meats, specialty foods and flowers. Slowly, Mrs. Hall could feel her senses coming back to her as she inhaled the sweet, sweet smell of copious discretionary spending. The coffee was pretty good, too.
"I'm alright. Let's sit here for a little bit. After we hit the freshly flown in overnight from Washington State organic/probiotic produce section, I think I'll slide over to the magazine rack and indulge in some of those guilt-inducing home and lifestyle issues. I love the way the houses look in them but that Stewart woman always makes me feel like a slacker." Satisfied that Mrs. H. was finally her old self, Mr. Hall just smiled and followed behind. Another weekend was well on it's way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You saw them here first....

During Chris' sojourn to Seattle to participate in PAX 2010, he worked his way up through the ranks of the Omegathon to win 5 out of the 6 rounds. Happily, most of the gamers at PAX are also familiar with digital recording devices and were most likely packing at least three devices that could record in HD on them personally. One of them posted a video of round 4 wherein our intrepid omeganaut Chris was part of a four person band called "Telekinetic Sweaters", performing to Foreigner's "Cold as Ice". Posted here for the Gentle Reader's amusement and delight, is a copy of it. Please enjoy:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wax stax

Over the course of several years, Penguin Hall has been the happy beneficiary of a record wealth of records. Friends and acquaintances, long familiar with the Halls' philosophy of no vinyl left behind, have willingly donated or willed scores of scores, vocals, broadcasts and other recorded buffoonery. The catacombs at the Hall are bursting with technicolor covers and Mr. Hall decided it was time to do something about it.
"Break out the turntable, dear, and dust off the old digital recording software. I require fresh tunes for the MP3 player, and heaven knows, there's nothing on the radio these days worth listening to." Mrs. Hall was just about to open her mouth and offer a favorable opinion of Lady Gaga, but, thinking better of it, held her peace. While occasionally Mrs. H. would hear the lilting strains of Lerner and Lowe, or the Beach Boys rising from his computer at work, she knew that Mr. Hall primarily liked to have music in the big black car. The Halls were looking at a busy traveling schedule looming ahead for the next year and nothing filled the hours on the road like singing along with their old favorites.
It's common knowledge that anything composed after 1965 is suspect in Mr. Hall's mind, so she wisely headed for the section labeled "Oldies" "Classics". She returned upstairs, and brushing the cobwebs off her shoulders, offered up a few selections. "I found these right off the bat and thought you might like some of the tunes. Pick out whatever you like and I'll make sure they get to your player."
Mr. Hall perused her choices. "They're terrific. Get as many of the songs out of them as you can." Mrs. Hall blenched. "There's almost 200 songs just in those albums-" she started, but he cut her off. "Tut-tut! Our next trip's not til mid-October; you have a whole month. Get cracking!"

Monday, September 6, 2010

For those who came in late:

Everyone can take a breath now-

PAX 2010 is over, and as the last of the weary gamers and fanboys work their ways slowly through airport security, Chris, along with his dufflebag o'swag, found himself watching the landscape fly by. Going to PAX is always a thrill; going as an Omeganaut is truly an experience. Chris was pushing through the rounds in fine style all day Saturday, and Sunday morning found him exhausted but having made it to the final four contestants. Unfortunately, he was eliminated after two rounds of high speed play, and the last two warriors advanced to the final game. "Kwolff", the gamer who bested Chris, went on to win the final round.
Kudos to Chris, however, for an exciting run! Now, back to Maxwell AFB and the drudgery of the workplace, until October, when we hope to see him in South Carolina for Ian's graduation.

San Francisco Saga

The last day of Mrs. Hall's stay on the west coast, she dined again with Colleen and one of her roomies for breakfast. Colleen was insistent that before Mrs. Hall departed that they drive up to Emeryville and scope out Pixar industries, the employer of Colleen's dreams. "But it's a closed campus- they say right on their website that visitors are not allowed!" protested Mrs. H. but it was to deaf ears. Piling in the little black car, they listened dutifully to "Lee" their GPS guide, and then took a different route entirely. They arrived at the gate of Pixar, only to find it immersed in a major construction project. Undaunted by sign or sentry, Colleen strolled around the outside perimeter of the property first and then up to the guard. He politely declined to let them inside but allowed her to snap some pictures.
After leaving Emeryville, they spent the rest of the day checking out the parking situation and ticking off all the loose chores on their list. Finally, tired and full of yummy Asian noodle soup from a charming bistro near Lake Merritt, they waited for the airport shuttle back at the hotel. "Good luck to you, Colleen" sighed Mrs. Hall as she hugged her before they parted. Colleen smiled. To Mrs. H. it appeared she seemed just a tad more confident than before they left; possibly because she was in the good hands of her traveling companions, "Lee", her fuzzy Totoro backpack and her ever present coffee cup- but more likely because in the last week she had really grown up.

Fair Play

All the while Mrs. Hall had been in California, the temperatures in Central New York had been blistering. So it was a pleasant surprise when, upon returning to the Syracuse area, she found that she had brought the lovely cool breezes along with her. Instead of the 90 degree plus heat the fair goers had been struggling with, they enjoyed a seasonal 73 and cool relieving broken cloud cover.
All the usual attractions were there: the butter sculpture in the Dairy Barn (not as nice as last year's, judged Mrs. Hall) and the sand sculpture in the Century of Progress Building (very amusing, remarked Mr. Hall) but overall, the cows and the draft horses and the spiedie huts seemed well, just a little tired this year. They had missed most of the headliners, as Mr. Hall had declined to attend until Mrs. Hall returned from California. "Feel like something to eat?" asked Mr. H. as he steered them towards the Dinosaur BBQ concession. "Alright, but I have to save room for dessert." Mrs. Hall was saving herself for her once a year indulgence: Sugar Waffles. Ever since her first encounter with them at Elmira's famous Eldridge Park many years ago, sugar waffles' crispy hot goodness have always held the ability to conjure up memories of childhood fun and joy. Dropping powdered sugar as they went, they strolled past the living statues and the kiddie midway. New this year: the water bubbles, which when filled with hot air, allowed the youngsters to roll and walk across the pools. It was only by the sternest reproach that Mr. Hall was able to dissuade Mrs. Hall from getting in the line for that amusement. "I'm sure those were only meant for the little ones" he reminded her. For a while they seemed to be followed by the same giant banana with Rastafarian dreadlocks, but then they found the midway game that was (apparently) practically giving them away. Again, it was only through Mr. Hall's solid good sense that one of them did not make it to the big black car. Just as they were exiting the Time Warner building, however, Mrs. Hall turned and said, "Cerie?" A young, blonde charmer at one of the tables, answered back, "You know, I answer to that now all the time!" Kristen Bowman, who plays the character of Cerie Xerox on the hit comedy show 30 Rock was there to sign autographs for the fair goers, but there was no one around. Bypassing the opportunity to comment on the state of CNY's viewing public, Mrs. Hall walked up to the table and engaged the young actress in a conversation. She graciously posed for a photo with the Halls and penned a personal message to them on a photo.
After that, they just meandered about, watching the baby seals perform and stopping by the State Police booth to harass some of Mr. Hall's old buddies. "Are we good for another year?" asked a weary Mr. Hall as they waited for the parking lot shuttle. "I would say so." came the reply. With the rain forming just to the west of them, the Halls slid into the big black car and scurried on home to the comforts of the Hall.

And just in case you were wondering:

Something sinister must have happened to the second, more slight of the two fledgling pumpkins in the front yard, for when Mrs. Hall returned from her trip and went out to photograph their progress, there remained only one pumpkin thriving. However, the remaining squash seemed well on its way to maturity. Shown here, for the Gentle Viewer's pleasure, are recent updates on its growth.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Breaking News from PAX 2010

PAX 2010 is taking place this weekend in Seattle, WA. Gamers from all corners of the world have been gathering in increasingly larger numbers each year since 2004, to game together, cheer each other on, celebrate gaming culture and get the low down on all the newest additions to the video gaming universe. Organized and run by gaming gurus Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade, PAX has grown so phenomenally in the last few years, that this year they held PAX East, a secondary convention in Boston, and it drew over 60,000 attendants. Advance-only tickets are sold, and the tickets for PAX 2010 in Seattle sold out an entire month before the event.

What Makes PAX Great? (Thanx and a hat tip to J.J. Games for the description)

It's open to the public.
It's created by gamers for gamers (not just for industry insiders).
The Omegathon video game tournament!
Cool keynote speakers.

One of the cooler things about this convention is Omegathon, three-day elimination game tournament. Twenty "Omeganauts" are chosen from those who pre-order PAX passes and compete in games from every category throughout the convention. During the PAX closing ceremonies a live championship match between the top 2 Omeganauts is held to crown a champion. In year’s past, championship matches included Pong, Combat, Tetris, Halo 3, Excitebike and Skeeball. Last year’s winner received an all expenses paid trip to Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show and $5000 spending money!

About a month ago, Master Chris was notified he was to be one of the 20 Omeganauts to participate in the competition. Naturally he was elated, but since everyone that attends is usually an accomplished gamer, he was not really sure what his competition would be like. (If the Gentle Reader googles the name "Theoselk"- his gaming identity, they are likely to find the first page of results listing his ranking in games.) The Omeganauts are treated like VIPs at PAX and, as such, they are allowed to skip past the lines and enter the convention center an hour ahead of everyone else. When the reports started coming in that he had passed the first round, everyone at the Hall was happy, but still cautiously optimistic. Then came the news that he had passed the second, the third and finally, late Saturday evening, the fourth.
There remains only two more rounds, the final of which is the climax of the convention and usually televised on G4 cable television. The last message from him reported, "Playing Rockband in a fully packed concert hall 2500 strong. Final 4 at PAX- could go all the way!" So get out your rabbit's feet and keep your lucky game tokens close at hand- the whole Hall is rooting for Chris this weekend! Stay tuned! (Special thanx to A Midgett Blog for the pictures of PAX 2007)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Now go to yer room and make art

The following morning Colleen and her new roomies came by the hotel. Mrs. Hall had specifically chosen these hotels for their hearty free breakfasts and the college girls were only too happy to join her for the early repast. After dropping them back off at the dorms, Colleen and Mrs. Hall spent the rest of the day familiarizing themselves with the campus and the connecting highways.
CCA is really divided between two locations: there is a dorm in Oakland and a campus about five miles up Broadway from it, and another large facility in San Francisco, in the heart of the warehouse designer district.
Since they were already in Oakland and parent orientation took place shortly, they headed to the Oakland campus. Closed off from the busy street traffic by high trees and a sturdy brick border, the CCA campus was unique. The walkways slid behind and between the maze of houses as if they were playing hide and seek with each other. Nestled in the trees and alcoves around them were sculptures of every sort, made by previous students and left as reminders of their playful creativity. Colleen managed to find her rooms and scope out the dismal parking prospects. The dawning realization that having a car in an urban environment was not easy, was finally awakening to her, but she would not be daunted.
After the orientation, they drove over the Bay Bridge to the San Francisco campus. A huge warehouse in the trendy interior design district housed the rest of the classrooms. Massive sculptures hung over the atrium and student lounge. Everywhere the elements of modern California industrial design were evident, and Colleen and Mrs. Hall soaked it in happily. Large student constructions were drying in the open lunch room. Wide open laboratory style classrooms were a far cry from old style dark college rooms in the past.
By this time, the pair were getting a little peckish, so they ventured out to the surrounding neighborhood to scout out some grub. Mrs. Hall rounded a corner and was astonished to see showrooms for Roche-Bobois , Bang & Olufsen, Brunschwig & Fils and Poggenpohl. "We're going in these now!" she exclaimed, and lunch waited while they salivated over luxury furniture and appliances for a hour or so. "What a great neighborhood! You will be exposed to the best of design all around you." gushed Mrs. H.
The surrounding homes crowded up and down the hills to the north, and after a brief tour of the area, it was time to go back. "Come back early in the morning for breakfast again and we can have one more day together. Then you can drop me here to pick up the airport shuttle." Colleen gave her a hug and headed back into the city traffic. Next episode: Emeryville, Pixar and jet lag. Stay tuned.

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