Sunday, June 29, 2014

Happy 80th Birthday Grandma

Wow, this weekend was super fun. So my grandma turned 80 this past weekend. I'm just finishing up from the fun festivities. If you want the short, it was great. All my relatives on her side from all over the country came to our neighborhood, and we live in the USA, and people are from EVERYWHERE. I got off work for 4 days so I could enjoy it all. Now I think I'll get to the details.

I normally work on Fridays. I was able to get Friday off and enjoy the big pre-birthday dinner with everyone. My great aunt and uncle (grandma's brother and sister), 2 of my aunts, and their kids tan-man and MMT. My one aunt is my mom's sister, the one with tan-man and my other aunt is my mom's cousin with MMT. They were there when I got there. I haven't seen tan-man in years. He used to live relatively close to my family, but then he moved away like 10 years ago, across the country. I haven't seen him in 5 years. When I asked "so how have you been?" he gave the normal "I've been good, got my first year of college done." Then I said "yeah, but what about since the last time I saw you?" He chuckled and was all "well lets see, I graduated high school, I decided on what college to attend," and other things that happened since the last time I saw him. I told him how I took the NES home since it kind of was my grandparents for us to play with as kids, but it wasn't working anymore. I told him "yeah, the 72 pin connector is shot, we were rough with it as kids." I saw MMT 2 summers ago so it wasn't such a big deal, but it was still fun to catch up.

After awhile my other aunt and her daughter showed up, and both of these relatives are geeks like me. It was so fun to see peperBC (my cousin) again. We talked about geeky stuff like Dr Who, Monty Python, and Pokemon. I also asked her how her first year of college went, but since we live in the same state (just kind of on opposite sides), I see her a little more often than my other cousins, so there wasn't much catching up to do. Mainly what we did was make plans for what we would do together if we got away from the group. The big thing was this comic book/video game/all around geek store that's right by my house. We never got that far, but we did have fun planning. She's a little quiet, so I kind of did most of the planning. Another big thing was I wanted for peperBC and her mom to listen to Pac-Man Fever with me. Why? Because it's wonderfully 80s and is about classic arcade games, something all 3 of us really enjoy.

The dinner was fun. I got to talk to my aunts and uncles that I haven't seen in years. One thing about my family is that we get really silly. Like you would think that we had a lot to drink silly, but we we could all pass a sobriety test. We went out to the little park right by my grandparents house and took some pictures that were reminiscent of our youths. And if you think I'm talking about my cousins and I, no. We did that yes, but not to the extent that my mom and aunts did. We looked super serious compared to them. Like one of the things they did was all slide down the slide and not get off so that everyone was right up against each other. One of them yelled "straddle me!" Yeah. That's my family everyone.

This wasn't even everyone. In my generation, we were missing turtle girl, and my mom's generation was missing one more of my aunts and my one uncle. Funny thing with my family tree; my grandma had 2 daughters, my great aunt had 3 daughters and 1 son. When they all got together, and when they still get together, all the girls get really crazy and silly, and my uncle just kind of sits on the side line. Now he has some of my uncles to talk about how crazy their wives are, but he still is like "I'd rather sit this one out." Well if I didn't have my brother and tan-man, or if peperBC wasn't a geek as well, I'd feel the same way, because we're all very much like our mom's and aunts when we get together; and then my one male cousins who's MMT's brother and didn't come, well he's kind of like my uncle since he's normally left with MMT and turtle girl alone. But yeah, it's all good. We had our fun and then came back to "my" house for the sleepover. My grandparents and my family unit are the only ones that are local to the party, and with our house being funner, all the young cousins stayed at my house. We watched National Lampoon's Vacation and then went to bed.

Saturday was basically a day for us to do what we wanted. We didn't have any party or set-up so us young people were left on our own. All of us went to 2 of our "local" malls. One of them is a very upscale place with a lot of the high end and expensive stores. Also, a lot of clothing and accessory stores. They got rid of all the toy stores, electronic stores, video game stores, and the other fun stuff. They do have a microsoft store and a somewhat novelty electronics store with things like massage chairs and pocket video projectors, but not like anything super fun.

However, the main reason for us going to the upscale mall is because they have Build A Bear. When we were little, my grandma loved taking us to build a bear. We made her a bear with our voices in it, and we would get different outfits for it for all different occasions. Fast forward 10 years, and she still likes it. We don't do it as often, but we still get her a bear outfit for occasions, and since my grandpa accidentally threw out her entire bear's wardrobe, we've been slowly building it back up. Well all 6 of us went to build a bear and made her a birthday bear. We tried using their new voice station thing were it's out in the middle of the store and you talk into the background noise canceling microphone. Unfortunately since tan-man, my brother, and I all have deep manly voices, the machine thought we were background noise and it came out all muffled. The girls voices were fine, but ours weren't. One of the employees got us the old version voice box, took us to the back room, and let us record it there. We did and it turned out great. We picked out the bear and had it stuffed. This was a sight; when you stuff the bear they have the little kids get one of the little stuffed hearts and rub it on different parts of their body so the bear has different attributes; like "rub it on your forehead so the bear has all the wonderful memories." All 6 of us are between 18 and 21 year old young adults, my brother and I have pretty full beards, and we're doing this routine. Rub on our cheeks for smiles, rub on your tummy so never hungry, rub on your muscles so it's strong, etc. After that we did the "wash the bear" station, which is toy brushes and a smart screen that projects an image of a bath. Yeah. We then look through all the clothes to get a good outfit. We chose a summer look. We set up the birth certificate and got the bear ready. Quite fun actually.

After going to the upscale mall, we went to a more low key mall. This one has a lot more fun stores. It has gamestop, FYE, an arcade, hot topic, and the Sears where my grandma used to take my brother, tan-man, and I to get our photo taken. Thankfully for us, Sears Portrait Studio is no more. The 3 of us went to the place where the portrait studio once was, peered in and laughed. The girls didn't come with us, because they never had to endure "birthday pictures," "Christmas pictures," "Halloween pictures," "Easter pictures," "end of the school year pictures," "beginning of the school year pictures," "groundhog day pictures," "we haven't had your picture taken in 2 weeks pictures," etc. After laughing at the demise of the weekly torture station, we went to the food court and had Panda Express. I had beef and broccoli. I also had a taco from taco bell. After lunch, pepperBC, tan man, my brother, and I went to FYE. PepperBC and I looked at the anime and Doctor Who stuff. Tan man and my brother looked at all the movies, music, and TV shows. After FYE, pepperBC and I went to the arcade and had fun playing some arcade games. We tried the DDR clone, and we accidentally set the difficulty to high. We failed missurably. After failing at DDR, we played some pinball. Man I love pinball. Once I get my own place, I'm getting a pinball table. After pinball, everyone was ready to leave. We went back to my house.

Once we got to my house, my great uncle, his wife (Aunt C), and my grandparents wanted to go to the hardcore pawn shop. My great uncle and Aunt C love Hardcore Pawn, and since it's less than an hour drive away, they wanted to see it. I've been there before, so I knew what to expect. I took them down there, and as we pulled into the parking lot, we saw Les Gold making a deal on a classic Cadillac. We stood there and watched for a couple of minutes. Aunt C is exclaiming "THAT'S HIM! THAT'S LES!" She was really impressed. I walk them up to the front door and she's star struck. She sees the front door and is like "that's the front door." We walk in and she sees the loan window; "that's the loan window." We walk onto the showroom and there's Seth Gold. "That's him, that's the Son." She walks over to the small merchandise sections and picks out a Hardcore Pawn t-shirt and mug. My great uncle got a matching shirt. By that time, Les and Seth are right there. They welcome may relatives and shake their hand, except for Aunt C and Les, she gave him a hug and said "I watch your show all the time, this is so cool." They hadn't completed the shirts and mug transaction yet; all together the 2 shirts and mug would normally cost $75, but Les saw how happy she was to see them so he gave her a deal, $50 for everything. He and Seth also autographed everything. That made their trip.

After getting the t-shirts and mugs, they wandered around the shop floor. It's not a huge place, I was able to see them no matter where I was in the store. My grandma wanted to get me something for my birthday, and I saw a couple of PS2 games. I asked how much and the employee said $5 each. These were like madden titles and other games that aren't worth $5 used, new maybe, but not used. She was like "[Pokematic] let's get them," I calmly say no, "why not $5 isn't much, $5 is reasonable," bear in mind, she's saying this rather loudly, not screaming, but loud enough. I whisper to her "those games aren't worth $5 each," to which she loudly exclaims "they aren't worth $5!" I'm hushing her telling her to not make a scene and just drop it. She does. I look around some more. They have a pinball table. See some other things. Well then my grandpa notices the fur coats. My grandma has a fur coat she wants to sell because she never wears it and never really did wear it. He's like "[Pokematic] why don't you bring the coat down here?" I calmly tell him no. He says "why not I'm sure they'd give you a deal." My grandma gets in on it and says "yeah, just sell it to them." I whisper to them "I'll get more if I sell it myself." Like before, "you'll get more if you sell it yourself!" they exclaim. Shhhhhhh, not so loud. "I guess you would get more if you sold it yourself! But we don't care so long as you get some good money for it!" they exclaim. "shhhhh just drop it. Don't talk about it." Really, I was worried we were going to get kicked out because they don't comprehend that you can't openly "badmouth" a place of business at the place of business. Oh well, we were fine. They really enjoyed seeing a place they see on TV all the time.

That was basically it for Saturday. All my cousins and brother went to put put while I took my older relatives to American Jewelry and Loan. All us young ones watched Frozen. It was fun.

Now is the main event. Grandma's birthday party. We all woke up relatively early to get ready.We set up all the tables and food areas. We got the living room ready for the photo studio, and we made sure everything was all set. Then the people started arriving. My aunt, mom of tan man, and her friend the photographer showed up first. The first picture we took was a recreation of a picture we took the last time everyone was together back when we were REALLY little, like 12 years ago. That was fun. Then my grandparents and her siblings showed up. More pictures. Eventually everyone made it and we had fun. Lots of normal party things happened. I talked with people whom I haven't seen in a while. I had snacks. Eventually it came time for my grandma to open her presents. She did that. We then ate dinner. After dinner, my grandma's friend that plays the accordion played her accordion. Always a fun time. We then did a little celebration for my grandpa because his birthday is on Christmas and he always feel like he misses out on something. Since everyone was there, we had a little celebration for him as well. What a day. After the party we began taking things down. Just so much.

Now for the last and final day of the festivities. My grandparents and other relatives enjoy going to Frankenmuth, a very German city in Michigan. If you like chicken, the Bavarian Inn and Zender's in Frankenmuth has some of the best chicken so I'm told. I don't like chicken, so I wouldn't know. Both restaurants also own 1 hotel each; the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Zender's Splash Village. My grandparents used to take my brother and I to those hotels at least twice a year. Splash Village is mostly an indoor water park with a small arcade. The Bavarian Inn Lodge has a giant arcade, 4 different pools, a mini-golf course, and a little indoor playground thing with some free bar games. Memories aside, we first went to this place called the River Place shops. They have a bunch of different shops and boutiques. They used to have a huge and awesome arcade with this nerf ball fun place thing, but then they replaced it with a clothing store and moved the arcade to a different building, significantly downsizing it. They no longer had pinball, DDR, or any classic arcade games. Oh well. We went to this fudge shop and I bought a half pound peanut butter cup. This thing was massive, check out the picture.

We went to a bunch of other shops. There was one place that was kind of a nerd and immature humor store; like I saw some videogame joke t-shirts and Obama condoms. Anyway, the piece de resistance was when I heard the original version of "What's Up" on their radio thing. Not the techno version He-Man sang, the original. I had to use everything in my power to not break down laughing.
This one. Though it would have been very funny to hear the techno He-Man version.

4 Non Blondes | What's Up by phatt n00b
All 6 young people generally stayed together, but then pepperBC and I got separated from everyone else for a little while. We went to some other stores. They now have this hall of mirrors, and an all day pass is $7. If we had more time to just do our thing, that would have probably been fun. The guy let us look in to see it, but we didn't have the kind of time to spend in a hall of mirrors. Oh well.

After the River Place, we went to the Bavarian Inn. They have more than just the restaurant. In the basement, they have the Castle Shops. We went into one shop with some fancy things. They had these clocks that like, dance, when they strike an hour. They were really cool. They also have a candy store, a store with some novelty souvenirs, a toy store, and a wine store. We spent some time in the novelty souvenirs and toy store. My brother and I played checkers. I won. After playing around, it was time for dinner. Almost everyone had family style chicken dinner, except for me, pepperBC, and her mom. I had the rib dinner and they had like the chicken finger lunch. Now the Bavarian Inn has some of the best chicken noodle soup ever. I don't like having vegetables and chicken bits in my chicken noodle soup, only broth and noodles. They do it only broth and noodles, and the combination of seasoning and whatever they use is incredible. I think I had 3 cups of it. Thankfully it's unlimited. The ribs were good.

But now it's time for my favorite part of Frankenmuth, the Glockenspiel at the Bavarian Inn. They have a glockenspiel that "plays" a song on the bells. It has all these bells, but it plays a recording over a loud speaker, no real bell ringing happens. But that's not the best part. The best part is the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin as acted out by these statues that were made in Germany. When I was a little kid, I loved it. My grandparents took me to every showing, because I wanted to see every showing. They were sick of it. To this day I still know the entire story. Watch it here.

I wasn't about to watch it by myself though. No, I took all the young people out to watch it. My brother and tan-man saw it when they went to Frankenmuth with my grandparents, but MMT, turtle girl, and pepperBC only saw it once and they didn't really remember it. Me, I get excited every time. I'm really hyping it up. The pre-show bell song went on much longer than I remembered it. I kept saying "and now it's going to start" every time there was a pause, but the bells kept ringing. Then it finally started. Afterwards, I was happy. My brother remembered it, and he sees it every time just because it's a staple of our Frankenmuth trips and it wouldn't be the same without seeing it. Tan-man hasn't seen it in years, and he told me afterwards "I don't remember it being so dark." Yeah, you kind of don't realize that the piper stole the town's children as revenge when you're little. As for the girls,  well they were kind of "well, OK. I guess that was cool." Mom reminded me, "there's a bit of a difference between first seeing it when you're 4 and watching it every time you're in Frankenmuth since, and first seeing it when you're 18" (the age the girls are). Though here's something I learned. I always knew they told the story in German afterwards, but I didn't know they did the whole statue thing again. My grandparents always told me that they just said the story. For 15 years I've been believing a "we want to do something else" white lie. Oh well.

After dinner, we all went to Broners, the worlds largest Christmas store. It is, the largest, Christmas store, in the world. Everywhere you look, Christmas. They have ornaments for everything. Well, everything family friendly. But yeah. They're also very Christian and good at keeping the Christ in Christmas. That's really good. Tan man, my brother, and I hung out and wandered around the store. We saw all they had, they even had things for Halloween, Easter, St. Patric's day, and Valentines day. We looked at the Halloween stuff and started singing "what's this" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yeah. We got kind of board after an hour, since it is a bit of a boring store if you aren't everything Christmas. I remember them having a larger toy section, but now it's just a little corner in the store. We fell asleep at the end of the store. It was funny. Now it was about time to go home. Some of my relatives left that night, others left the next day. MMT and her mom were the only ones left at my house that night. Oh well. Still good fun.

Such a fun time. I look forward to the next happy gathering of all my relatives, because we're a fun bunch. I wanted to see if mbinski was able to come over because the last time MMT and pepperBC were at my house for something, MMT wanted to have a party with my friends, and mbinski was the only one who was able to make it on such short notice, and since then the running gag is that we want to have him over, because he fits right in with how crazy my family gets when we get together. When my mom and aunts dropped him off when he had fun with us, he told them he lives by the lions at the zoo, so his name amongst my family is "[mbinski] who lives by the lions." Well this has been pokematic signing off and bu-bye.

PS: I started writing this blog post the last night everyone was here because my sleep schedule is all screwed up due to the hours I work at my job. I got up to the end of the build a bear section, then went to bed thinking I'd finish it in the following days. I finished it 2 weeks after the event, but things were still vivid enough to remember. I would post some of the pictures of my family, but that would require asking them for permission, and I don't want to deal with that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Merry Christmas 2013, and the rest of winter break

Merry Knishmas everyone. That's a Chowder reference if you don't know. It was their version of Christmas. As for my version of Christmas, it was great, like always. I saw friends, family, exchanged gifts, made a very special gift for my parents, and so much else.

So I guess I'll start out with the Pre-Christmas stuff. About a week before the end of the semester, I ordered an OUYA on eBay. It was the kickstarter edition and still had all the plastic on it. Since I couldn't be sure it made it to my dorm on time, I shipped it to my house. It was waiting for me when I got back. I really love it. One day Happy Gamer will do a review of it. I told ZeldaMaster93 and the rest of my friends on google plus and ZM93  game me a hard time about it since all the reviews he's read have been negative I guess. When we hung out, I brought it over and we played it. He's still not sold on it, but I still love it. We hung out and that was fun. We watched Akira on We were going to watch his recording off of Toonami, but since he screwed up the recording, he didn't get the first hour, so we watched it on We had trouble with Chrom loading flash, so I told him to get Opera. Opera worked perfectly, as expected. Great movie. We really liked it.

So what is this very special gift I got my parents? Well my parents and grand parents, like many of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, recorded almost everything we did on video tape. My grandparents got a camera that recorded on standard VHS because, as my grandpa said to the store clerk, "I want a camera where all I do is put the tape into the VCR." When we got older, my grandpa bought another video camera because they also have my cousin that needs to be recorded but since EVERYTHING we did was no longer together, my aunt needed a camera as well. He bought a camera that used Hi-8, and since my dad already had extra VCRs for making back-up tapes, we took the Hi-8 camera and my aunt took the VHS camera. We have 36 or so home movies on VHS tapes and I don't know how many Hi-8 tapes. I haven't dug out the Hi-8 tapes. Anyways, last summer we bought an Elgato composite capture card and I was going to convert all our tapes to digital. Unfortunately, the bed bugs prevented me from doing that. I spent a couple days unpacking stuff from the basement trying to find the tapes. After unpacking my vinyl records, penny collection, computer accessory bag, pokemon cards, and lots of other things, I eventually found the tapes. I set-up the converting station in our computer room, complete with our high quality VCR, 2 VHS rewinders, and other computer for surfing the web while the tapes play in real time. I was able to get through 5 or 6 tapes. My parents are happy that I was able to get at least some of them done. Plus they never use that room and it's quite out of the way of guests so they don't care that it's rather messy in there.

Now for the Christmas festivities. We always exchange gifts with them either on Christmas Eve or the 26th. This year it was Eve. As has been tradition since we were little and believed in Santa, we went to the local McDonalds "while Santa put out the presents." Apparently McDonalds was doing an "XBOX ONE and many other XBOX prizes give away instant win peel off" game. I ordered food that would maximize the number of pieces I would get. I ended up getting 2 XBOX 360 XBOX LIVE games; The MAW and Ms Splosion Man. Yay. After eating we went back to their house and exchanged gifts. They bought me my TV for my room so I didn't get much from them. We gave them gift cards to their favorite restaurants, like cracker barrel and red lobster. We put them in Blu-Ray and DVD cases just for fun and unwrapping. It was a nice time. We visited and the like. Really good time. Fast forward a couple of hours, it's now 8 PM and it's time for 24 hours of A Christmas Story and my annual tradition of watching it until it's been 24 hours or I get sick of it. Like most years, it was "24 hours passed."

Well it's Christmas morning. I watch A Christmas Story before my parents told me to go wake up my brother. He slept a lot. It reminded me of my first college winter break. Just like how he woke me up 2 years ago, I woke him up saying "I am Krampus, you have been naughty, I will whip you." I'm not going to spend the time explaining who Krampus is. Basically if you were naughty, instead of Santa giving you coal, Krampus would whip you with a switch. Anyways, we wake him up, he gets his coffee and showers, and now it's time to exchange. I open up the stuff I got on Black Friday; DKCR3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Ratchet & Clank Collection, Batman: Arkham City, The Internship, a PSN 20 dollar gift card, and various different candy. Sorry I don't have the camera when writing this so I can't show the picture. I can show you this one though.
This is our hamster Swiffer. We wanted to have him involved in the Christmas festivities. We set-up our little fluffy nativity that my brother and I played with when we were little and wanted to get a picture of our hamster in it. Look at him looking at Jesus. Moments later, we had to tell him not to eat Jesus. Didn't you know that there were giant hamsters back in biblical times?

Well our family of 4 Christmas festivities are done. My brother and I played our games. Well fast forward a couple of hours and it's time for the big family dinner. Instead of being at our house, it was at my grandparent's friend's house, the same one that plays the accordion. What was fun is my nerdy cousin and aunt came as normal. We worked at setting up the host's smart TV, and we successfully did. There aren't many apps that he would use, but now he can if he chooses to. Dinner was good. What was a really nice surprise is that my Uncle whom I haven't seen or talked to in 11 years called. Since his parents are my grandparents friends, the hosts, it made sense that he would call and wish them a Merry Christmas. It was great talking to him again.

Now since the OUYA is really small and all the parts fit nicely in my little cooler bag, I brought it to show my other nerdy relatives and maybe play it. I was able to hook it up to the TV and we played the couple of games I had on it. They have a NES so they know videogames. They enjoyed seeing it and playing it.

Now is when the Christmas blog tends to end, but not this time. Since we haven't seen my other grandparents in a long time, we spent I guess "2nd Christmas" with them. We went to see them the weekend after Christmas. It was really nice seeing them. We talked, exchanged a couple gifts, grandma gave me a tour of the valuable collectables, and just enjoyed each others company. They got me a really nice Coleman bag. It fits so much more stuff than my cooler bag. They also gave me ties and socks. They have a 1 show movie theater by their house and they were showing Frozen. I should review it. It's AMAZING. After seeing them, we stopped at my Aunt's house since she's halfway between us and them. She gave us gum, really good gum, and axe soap. It was fun seeing her.

Well that's it for Christmas. Now just for the other fun things I did during break. I'll start with New Years. New Years was really tame. Normally one of our camping friends hosts a New Years Party. This year one family hosted a little get together on the 29th. I told them that they're having the party 2 days early. That was fun. Back to New Years. I rented The Tuxedo and It's Kind of a Funny Story. After I watched my movies, it was time to watch the ball drop. I watched it with my parents, then they went to sleep. I stayed up a couple more hours.

One really fun thing we did was we went to see my nerdy relatives at their house. It was past new years so no gift exchanging. Since they have a working NES, and I still need to replace the 72 pin connector on mine, I brought my copy of Action 52. I told them I never tested it, and my mom gave me a hard time for spending $200 on 1 game that I didn't know if it worked or not. I told them it'd be awesome if it ended up being Cheetahmen 2. It was Action 52 and it worked. We played a couple of the games. Many of them suck, but some are good and it's a piece of videogame history. However, before playing, we went to my uncle's shop to see where he works. It's really cool. After playing Action 52, we played "Wits End," old people vs young people. Young people lost, oh well.

OK, so what else was there that happened this break? Well I saw mskate. She's doing really well. She showed me her blog, I showed her my blogs, we hung out and talked. Really good time. Another thing I did was I went to target and got some after Christmas stuff on sale. I got many bags of chocolate coins and all the cookies and cream Hershey bars they had left. All 6 of them. They were all broken, but they were 30% off. I also got ZeldaMaster93 a gift card since that's what we agreed on for a gift every year. I got him a happy birthday gift card, and it's a joke since his birthday is in July. He gets me an Amazon gift card. When I gave it to him, he gave me his "Really? REALLY? You're an idiot look." I also hung out with mbinski and we played with the OUYA. Since he's a computer guy and general nerd, he enjoyed playing with this open sourced android console. That was really fun.

So this was my Christmas vacation. It was really fun. Well this has been Pokematic signing out and bu-bye.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday 2013, and my thanks Giving experience

Hey everyone. This year’s thanksgiving blog is going to be a little different. This year, the blog doubles as an assignment for Dr. H’s class. We do an “a day in the life” about our experience with crazy black Friday shopping for extra credit. So instead of talking about this Thanksgiving break in chronological order, I’m going to first talk about black Friday and then about everything else.

First some quick context. It’s Thanksgiving. I get 4 days off for the holiday. This year my brother brought home one of his college friends, an Indian grad student studying at his college. He’s from India and this is his first time in the US. He wants to experience American Thanksgiving and all that comes with it. I was looking forward to showing him the craziness that is Black Friday. He is referred to as “J-man.”

While getting dressed for Thanksgiving, I notice the 2 extra safety vests I have in my closet. I tell everyone that is going shopping with us "ya know, I have 3 vests and 2 hoddies. We could all match this year." Joking definitely, don't want a repeat of 2012.

Black Friday was really different this year. Unlike 2010, 2011, and 2012, all the stores opened up way early this year. They all opened up at like 6 PM and 7 PM Thanksgiving DAY! This made everything quite boring. As we do every year, my Dad went out and bought the Thanksgiving Day paper so we could get all the circulars. I know that I can do that all online, and I did a little bit before coming home, but it just isn’t the same. There’s something about actually flipping through those glossy pieces of paper scanning every ad for something that we might want. Have a look at the kayos.

Since my TV at college died, and I’ve been using an analog TV tuner connected to a 12 inch monitor to get my live TV, the one thing I was really looking for was a TV. All I needed was one that was at least 24 inches, had HDMI for my blu-ray player, and was under $100. That’s actually the same blu-ray player I picked-up last year.

We knew we could get a TV with those specifications. Black Friday always has deals on TVs. That’s how we got my grandpa’s TV. We found a couple in the circulars. Best Buy had the one that was perfect; Insignia 24 inch, $79, perfect. It was a 7 PM door buster. We were still doing our Thanksgiving thing at 7 PM. However, since this was the only thing we were actively trying to get, I was given permission to leave early, try to get the TV, and then come right back. I told Mom, the “ringleader” of both Thanksgiving and Black Friday, that “since I’ll already be in the store, I’ll try to get the one other think I wanted from Best Buy,” and being a reasonable request for this, the craziest shopping day of the year, I was given permission to also try to get the other thing. What was this other thing? The Big Bang Theory Season 6.

Now I begin my trip to Best Buy. On my drive over, I start thinking over my game plan. “OK, if it’s anything like previous years, it will be really crowded with a line extending halfway around the parking lot of the next door bowling alley. Since they’ve been open for 30 minutes, that line will likely be down to a quarter of the lot. Since I’m just 1 person, I won’t need to worry about getting separated from the group when let in and I might get some priority. The lot is going to be packed. The most likely open place will be on the far end of the lot. Now the TVs are in the back. They’ve changed the layout since last summer so I might have to get creative with getting to the back. Everyone wants big TVs. There will be a TV left for me. Insignia 24 inch.”

At this point I make it to Best Buy. I check the back, no spots. I drive to the front, no spots. While at the front, I notice the line is quite short, like not even beyond the end of Best Buy. I circle back to the end, and I see people getting into a van. Bingo. I stalk the spot like a lion stalking an antelope. I back just far enough to give them space to pull out. I’m sitting in an “intersection” of the parking lot, and at this point, a big pick-up truck pulls up in one of the lanes. I could tell it was eyeing my spot. I’m driving a little vibe. This pick-up had to be twice my size. But this was my spot, and I wasn’t about to let it go. It pulls up a little, but I pull up even more. It pulls up a little again, and I completely block the intersection. I’m the alpha car. I get the spot.

My precious spot was at the spot furthest from the line. I get out of the car, lock the car, and jog over to the line, paying attention to the vehicles around me. I’m wearing my thick safety yellow hoodie with the reflective stripes so I know I’m visible. I weave between moving cars to get to the line. Here’s a video of me in line.

I get in quite quickly. I was expecting to wait in line for over 10 minutes, but I’m in the store within 5 minutes. I see the wall of display TVs, on the other side of the store, with all these obstacles in my way. I see an opening, strait to the cell phones. I briskly walk to the cell phone section. When I get to the cell phones, dead end. Well, it would be a dead end on a normal day, but today was not a normal day. There was a gap in the corner of the walls of merchandise just large enough for someone of my size to sneak through. Using my amazing powers of agility to step over a storage bin of stuff, I get through and make my way to the TVs. No products were harmed in the use of my secret passage.

I get to the TVs, and I see stacks of TVs, all different brands and sizes. I look for mine making a sweep of the area, but I don’t see the Insignia 24 inch for $79. Now as a man, I would normally not ask for help finding my stuff and just circle the area until I find what I want, but time was of the essence. I asked an employee where the Insignia 24 inch TVs were. I was standing right next to them, and there was a relatively large sign that said $79. I didn’t have time to feel embarrassed. I grab my TV, walk to the checkout, grab Big Bang Theory Season 6 on my way, and get in line. I’m expecting a 20 minute wait, but it was quite fast again, like 5-10 minutes. I pay for my stuff, and walk out to my car. Here’s a video I shot in the car.

I head back home with my score. All the guests are still there. They are impressed with the score. J-man was the most impressed. “My cell phone was $79, and it’s 21 inches shorter.” Yeah but your cell phone can do a lot more.

At about 9 PM, our guests leave. Only the guests that will go Black Friday with us stay. Normally the BF team is my mom, her friend, my brother, and me. Later in the night, one of my old high school friends will typically join us. Check out previous blogs for more information. This year however, things were different. This year, mom’s friend’s son, Z-man, and my brother’s friend J-man came along. J-man wanted to experience the American cultural phenomenon that is Black Friday and Z-man just wanted to see what it was like since he was now legally old enough to be out so late unsupervised. We split into 2 groups, mom and her friend, and the under 30 group. I took over as “ring leader” for the under 30 group. We wanted to go to K-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and then check Walmart for the scraps. Those 3 stores (K-Mart, Target, and Best Buy) happened to be within a 1/4 mile radius of each other. Sure, there’s a K-Mart and Target closer to our house, but those are much further away from each other.

First stop, K-Mart. Here, I wanted Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D and Animal Crossing New Leaf, both on 3DS. I’ve never been to this location before, but I found the electronics easily. They blocked off the electronics section and only let 5 or so people in at a time. They said it was because that’s where they were holding the door buster tablets, and to get the tablets you had to exchange a flyer you got from a wandering employee for the tablet. Understandable. I had to request my games because of this. I was able to get DKCR, but not Animal Crossing. Oh well. The rest of the group is doing some more browsing, and we’re in the store for about 30 minutes. My brother and J-man get headphones 50% off. It didn’t take very long to check out because there wasn’t many people there. Next stop, Target.

This particular Target was in a strip mall, next to Dunham’s Sporting Goods and across the street from Best Buy. At Target I wanted to get The Internship and Simpsons Season 18. They had The Internship, I got 1 of the 2 copies left, but they were out of Simpsons. Oh well. Z-man wanted to get Monster’s University. Here’s a funny thing with Target; the Black Friday deal movies were mixed in with the regular priced movies. While in line I saw that they had a special rack of BF deal only DVD and Blu-Rays, but in the normal DVD and Blu-Ray section of the store they also had the deals but they were mixed with the normal movies. At the price check there was a pile of movies that weren’t the correct edition. For example, the DVD version of The Internship was on special, but the Blu-Ray version wasn’t. Also, the Monster’s University DVD/Blu-Ray combo was on special, but not the stand alone DVD, the stand alone Blu-Ray, the collectors edition DVD/Blu-Ray combo, nor the Ultimate 3D Blu-Ray/normal Blu-Ray/DVD/digital copy combo. The line for the check-out was quite long. It snaked in and out of many aisles, most of which were personal hygiene. Here’s a video of the scene.
I told the team to bring me their stuff and I’ll wait in line. Z-man gave me Monster’s University and the money to pay for it. While I waited, everyone else went to Dunham’s. That was a good 45 minute wait. When checking out, there was a group of women that wanted to buy a bottle of wine. For some reason the computer said that they couldn’t legally sell alcohol at that time. The clerk checked with the manager, and he checked with someone even higher up, and they said “just ring it up as other.” Turns out that the group of women were from Canada and they wanted something alcoholic to drink in the hotel after the shopping was over. The rest of the team was done with Dunham’s by the time I finished checking out. In true stupid, young adult, 4 guys having fun late at night; my brother pulls up the car, doesn’t stop and instead coasts, I jump in while the car is moving, and yell “GO! GO! GO!” as if this was some sort of get away scene.

Before we head to Best Buy, we decide it would be a good idea to stop at 7-Eleven first. This way, we would be able to get some Slurpee sugar to keep the adrenalin up in addition to not having to make a left onto a really busy street. To get to Best Buy, turn left without a light onto a super busy street. To get to 7-Eleven, turn right onto the super busy street and then make a left at the light. This was J-man’s first Slurpee. After we get our frozen sugar, to Best Buy.

At this point it’s 10 PM. They have been open for 3 hours now. There was no line to get in. We just walked right in. Just about all the door busters are gone, including my TVs.

Luckily, I did all my needed shopping and I was just there for the ride at this point. I did a little looking around, just seeing what else was out there, but nothing really interested me. Since Black Friday is their busiest day of the year, all the terminal stations for each section become registers. I don’t know if they are retrofitted for today only or if they have this capability year round. Either way, there are registers in the middle of the store. My brother wanted to get a video camera, some accessories for that camera, and a couple of CDs. Unfortunately there was a problem checking out. Since we were at a center store register and no one was waiting for us, I suggested that they ring up the camera separate from everything else. That worked for the camera, but everything else, still problem. He “put back” the spare battery and that solved everything. He didn’t put enough money into his debit card account, so the problem was insufficient funds. I found out after all the shopping that I overdrew my account, but because I used it as credit instead of debit, I was able to overdraw because the transfer wasn’t instantaneous.

It’s 11 PM, all our main shopping was done. We head to Walmart in the off chance that there was some craziness to see. On Black Friday, Walmart has its doors open all night and they wrap the door busters in what is essentially cellophane. Read more about it in a previous blog here. This year, since they did their door buster’s so early, all the door busters were unwrapped and all the craziness was over. Only the “vultures” were left to see what we could still get after the initial crazy people. I went to the movie and game door buster scraps to see if anything caught my eye. I found Batman Arcam City and The Ratchet and Clank HD collection, both for PS3. I bought them on a whim since they’re both supposed to be great games. Then I see it, the one that got away, Animal Crossing New Leaf. When compared to other stores, this was the cheapest place to get it, and since it’s such a great game, I expected it to be gone. It was gone at K-Mart, and it was $5 more at K-Mart. And there wasn’t just 1 copy left. It was as if only half the games were gone. There had to be 2 shelves of it. I couldn’t believe it. I got my copy, looked around a little more, found the team, checked out, and left.

This year was definitely the most boring Black Friday. After all the shopping, we got back at 11:52 PM. It wasn’t even Friday yet. Since every store opened so early, all the crazy fun was done and over with by the time our Thanksgiving party was over. I think we even ended Thanksgiving earlier than we normally do, but that wasn’t enough to get there in time for the crazy. By doing door busters so early, all REALLY crazy people are done before the fairly crazy get there. Once the “normal” crazy are ready to head out, all the REALLY crazy and fairly crazy are gone. Most of the fun is diving over people once the cellophane comes off. Unless all 3 species of crazy are there at the same time, there’s no diving, there’s no reaching, there’s no fun. Normally my high school friend joins us at about 12:30-1:00 because his family’s Thanksgiving festivities last until around 11 PM. He wasn’t able to join us this year, and he’s the rest of the fun. I offered to do a second round of shopping just with him since this is pretty much the only time I get to see him in the short time I have with Thanksgiving break, but since it was just going to be the 2 of us and he wasn’t really interested in anything this year, he didn’t do Black Friday this year. I still had fun with the team this year, but it just wasn’t the same. Hopefully next year, all the stores open at midnight so the fun actually happens. Oh well.

Now for the rest of my short break.

Like every break, I came home on the train. Normally the train is 5-10 minutes late because another train had to pass it or it took longer than expected to load and unload passengers at the stops before mine. This time, the train was delayed 1 and a half hours. Apparently there was an obstruction on the track and it took them a while to move it. My train that was supposed to leave at 4 left at 5:30. I went through half a stack of newspaper comics waiting on the delay. Because the train got so behind schedule, it threw off the rest of the train routs. We had to let 2 different trains pass us, and that set us back another hour. I was scheduled to get to my destination at 7:30 PM, but instead got back at 10 PM. My grandparents were going to pick me up, everyone would get to see me and be happy I made it back, meet my brother’s friend, and it would be a little welcome home celebration. But since 10 PM is late for my grandparents and my brother wanted to see his best friend from high school, only my parents got to welcome me home. I’d get to see everyone tomorrow so no big deal.

Begin Thanksgiving Day. Mom, my brother, and J-man went to the parade. I got to wake up in my own house, eat a chocolate muffin, and enjoy being home. I watched some TV channels I don’t get up at school, played some video games, and use my electric blanket. I helped some with the getting set-up for the Thanksgiving festivities, mostly moving chairs and making sure there was enough room for people to visit. We expected people to show up at about 2 PM. My grandparents showed up at 2, and then their friends showed up at 2:15. My grandparent’s friend plays the accordion, and she brings it whenever there’s a family gathering. I jokingly told J-man “now this a normal part of Thanksgiving. Everyone’s grandparent’s has a friend that knows how to play the accordion and everyone gathers around and sings songs.” After the accordion, it was time for dinner. We had the normal turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and everything else. We also had ham and some kind of yogurt cucumber salad J-man made. We all enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner I went Black Friday shopping. You’ve already read about that.

The day following the shopping, Friday, I got my hair cut, hung out with mskate and later mbinski, the high school friend who missed Black Friday. Nothing super special there, just some fun with friends. I head back to college on Saturday, and now here we are. Well this has been Pokematic signing off and bu-bye.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A robotastic skating weekend

Hey everyone, so how does robotics and figure skating go together? Yes, I could have built a figure skating robot. That would be cool, but no, that's not what I did this weekend. It's actually 2 different things; built a robot for a contest and watched a friend skate in a figure skating contest. I'll go in chronological order.

So here's my story with the robot, warning, engineering jargon ahead. It's the only way to tell the story properly. About 2 weeks ago, I was drafted to represent my college in the 4th annual Stryker Engineering Challenge over at Stryker Medical. In this challenge, a team of 4 engineering students competes against 5 other colleges by building a robot that can complete 3 challenges, the teams learn what their challenge is the day of the competition, and they have 17 hours to build a robot that will do these challenges, all for a $1000 scholarship and an interview with Stryker. The challenges change from year to year. This year, our challenges were "locate a magnet placed inside this rig and drill a hole in a piece of wood directly beneath it," "with a similar size piece of wood, cut a section that is exactly 2.54 CM, aka 1 inch," and "using LEDs running on different frequencies, be able to raise and lower a power Stryker emergency stretcher to make a bridge to cross between 2 tables." The first 2 events determined the order at which each team would compete in the final bridge event and at what handicap. Speed and accuracy were the 2 deciding factors as to the order and handicap. Accuracy was weighted higher than speed.

Before we started, we were given the run down as to what Stryker does, the history of Stryker, and some of the tools and equipment they've made in the past. Sorry, I can't really give you more details beyond that. Confidentiality and stuff. I don't want to get sued for leaking trade secrets. It was really cool. The events I mentioned earlier, well they based them off of actual medical situations and when you would use the tools we had to use to make our cuts. The drilling a hole was about cleft pallets and how surgeons use the drill to make precise holes in that surgery. The cut was about removing an under bite and how surgeons use the saw we used to cut bone. The LED signalling of the stretchers, well that I think was more showing off their tech. But hey, it was cool. During the build, we were given 2 "office hour appointments with our professor." With that, we could ask a professional Stryker engineer any question and he would answer it like a college professor, by not directly giving you the information, but cryptically answering it making you think. If there was something flat out "hey, this isn't working and I've tried everything, even your cryptic answers," then he would kind of answer directly, but other than that, cryptic or "google it." We also had a resident Stryker staff member to answer questions about the rules, what is and isn't allowed, and basically be our connection to the officials, but he couldn't help us beyond that. So let's begin the night.

So we are able to start the build at 8:30. We get our stuff and go to our conference room we will be working in. Since my specialty is product design and concept generation with a minor in build, I took the lead as to how we were going to design the robot. I had us break down each event and what we would need to be doing, paying extra attention to not letting people give "hows" at that moment in time and only letting us say the "whats." Once the whats were cemented, we started to focus on the hows. As a group, we only really stayed together for the general frame of the robot. And that's when we came up with our genius idea of "3 wheel frame with 2 drive wheels and a caster wheel." This would give us a zero degree turning radius, and that proved very effective in the 3rd challenge. The first thing we built was the caster wheel. One other member and I built it. After that we assembled a rough frame to make sure that it worked, and after adding a direction bar, it did. We also did group brain storming as to how we would make the robot do the different tasks. We came up with the general ideas as to what we would do, and we went from there. This is when we basically broke up into teams.

Here's how the teams went down, one member worked on programing the controller and motors, one  member worked on the electrical circuitry for the LED lights and the magnet sensor, and one other member and I worked on the physical building of the robot. We had the engineering drawings of the rig that holds the wood and from their we based our building. We went with a design that, when the robot was in place in front of the rig, it would move the tool at hand left and right, and then it would move the tool in further to do the actual drilling or cutting, and do it much more precisely than if we just ran the robot into it. At one point we were thinking about adding an up and down 3rd axis, but then decided that it's just overcomplicating things when we all we need is for things to stay at one height. So now our task was "how will we make a device that moves a tool along the x-axis and the move along the y-axis?" Us build guys went with "first it moves along the x-axis (left and right), then it moves along the y-axis (in and out)." We decided to keep the frame and we made before, it was just what we needed. We had to choose between a chain and a gear system. To keep things doable, we went with a gear system. Next we had to choose between making the rigged track stationary or making the gears stationary. We also had to think of how we were going to do this double carriage device. We spent about 3 hours trying to figure that out. We even brought in the programing guy for consulting.

Before I tell you about how we did the different axis motions, I need to tell you about our first major mile stone. The programing guy got the motors running with the speed and control we needed to move a robot. We hooked up the control unit and motors to the robot, set-up the wireless communication and controller, and got our first robot movement. We were able to drive the robot. We had a wireless robot. That was so cool. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

We eventually decided on doing the x-axis motion first. The other build guy came up with a great idea for that and we decided we'd make that and let the chips fall where they may. We went with a stationary drive gear system, where the gears stay mounted in one place, and the carriage is on a base with rigged pieces that match the gears. We had 2 drive gears, both attached to the same drive shaft and and lining up so they provide front and back points of stability. We also had 2 gears on both sides that freely spun to add lateral stability. It worked out really well. We had a hiccup getting the 2 drive gears to align properly, but I eventually figured it out and we got a successful x-axis movement. We noticed that there wasn't really anything keeping the carriage from falling off, so we added some guard bars. Worked great.

Now we needed to figure out how to hold the tools and get them to move forward. I grab 2 L-plates and put them together in a u shape and said "how about this to hold the tool?" It's about time for our first office hours appointment. The programing guy was having some trouble getting the software to run properly, and that was a technical issue and the professor was able to answer his question directly. The electrician had some trouble, but his answer was "google it, it's all online." Ours, we had him look at our design, and gave us some cryptic suggestions, and told us that "cutting off zip ties counts as adding/removing parts, and that's against the rules." The cryptic was "isn't there something in your kits that would hold it better than a zip tie?" And with that, we were done with the office hours. We went back, went with slightly smaller L-bars, and then used hose clamps to hold the tools in place. That worked out well. Really well. With that out of the way, now it was "how will we get it to move along the y-axis?"

Somehow, the motor to drive the y-axis movement had to move with the x-axis carriage, and that proved to be a big challenge. We didn't have much room on the x-carriage, nor really the parts, for a similar set-up with the y-carriage. So how will we do this. After some brain storming, lots of trial and error, we came up with using a worm gear and rigged piece to control the movement and figured out a way to mount that motor to the x-carriage. Once that was done, it was all fine tuning from there.

We had some trouble keeping the y-carriage steady, and there were other things, but this was our primary focus at the moment. At this point, it was time for our second office hours. We took the robot to the professor and basically said, "what are your thoughts? Let us know what you think." We showed him how the robot drove. We showed him the x and y movement. He pointed out how we had a 3-bar stability system set-up with the x-carriage, and he suggested maybe something similar to that to solve the y-carriage problem. He was really impressed though. We basically spent the entire office hour testing on the test course he had set-up.

After the office hour, we added a stability bar to the y-carriage. That really helped in keeping it steady. Now we just need to get the rest of the robot set-up. We came up with a claw design that would grab on to the sides of the rig. Now, even if we lost friction with our massive wheels, we would still be able to keep driving the tools forward. That came in handy. Now we just needed a mount for the magnet sensor. The other build guy was burned out at this point. I built the sensor mount rather quickly and we were able to get it on the robot easily. Now all that's left is getting the circuitry and controls on it.

It's now 11 AM, we've been working on this for 14.5 hours strait. Our programer had the programing done and our electrician had the electrical work done. Now it was just getting it together. The team got it all together and did some tests. At this point I've been up for 24 strait hours, and I don't do well on no sleep. I did pretty well up until then because I was running on caffeine and a raw drive to keep working; mostly the raw drive. I started crashing, but I knew I couldn't even take a small nap because then I wouldn't be able to wake up. I didn't have much to do because all my stuff was pretty much done. We had some troubles with the LEDs. That sucked because we weren't able to get the test sensor to read an "up" signal. We were able to get a "down" signal, but no up. That really sucked because we're coming in to zero hour, but we were able to successfully do challenge 1 and just hoped for the best with challenge 2. We worked on getting the lights set up on the robot, and after some hot gluing, we got the lights set-up on the robot so that if we get the lights working, the sensors will be able to read it.

Now it's zero hour, the robot is as ready as it'll ever be, and we'll just have to go with it. We turned in our robot, cleaned up the work space, and got ready for our tour of the facility. We got to see the cafeteria, the "what is Stryker" room, and some conference rooms before the challenge began, but not the actual build line. After an all night build session, we got a tour of the build line. Again, no details due to confidential information. Sorry guys.

Now is the time for the main event, the 3 challenges. We get our robot and set it up at the designated site. Here's the rules, we can't add or remove any parts during the competition. This does not include the $1,000 medical drill and the $1,000 medical saw. I don't think they'd very much appreciate us dropping $2000 worth of equipment 3 feet off the floor and having a 20 pound robot fall directly on it. Those we can remove and exchange between challenges. We can however, make adjustments to the robot between challenges, or if need be, during the challenge for  2 minute penalty.

First up, the drill a hole challenge. As it turns out, some wiring got loose in transit and our set-up that tells us if we're over the magnet (an LED lighting up when over it) failed to light up. Even after we scanned the entire section twice, we decided to cut our losses and just make our hole right dead center. Now we're have essentially a 50-50 chance of hitting it. I don't know the exact probability, but whatever. We had a little trouble of the magnet sensor getting in the way of the drill. What we decided to do was just ram it as fast as we can, and keep going at it until we were through. We also had some trouble with the drill vibrating. We made a rather big hole, but we were able to make a hole. We were the first ones done, and we were the most accurate, by luck. We got first place in that event.

The second challenge, cut a chunk of wood exactly 1 inch long. Before we started, we had time to make adjustments. We moved the magnet sensor to a different part of the robot so it wouldn't be in the way. We also put the saw on. Now it's time to make the cut. We roll up to the wood rig, and start making the cut. The saw wiggled itself low and wasn't making cuts through. We then took a time penalty and made some adjustments. This time, we got it up, but it went a little to high. We took another time penalty, made a second adjustment, and we were able to make clean cuts through the one side. Now we just needed to get the second side cut through. I was watching on the back side to let them know if we made it through, and that's something I just did halfway through the event. I did it unconsciously. I've been up for 28 strait hours at this point. I had no conscious thoughts to be found. I'm running on basic engineer and team player instinct. We had to make 2 more adjustments for a total of 8 minutes of penalties, but they were worth it. We placed second in that event, being almost spot on and finishing 2nd, penalties included. And we didn't practice this event at all. Not to shabby for not practicing.

(Insert explanation of the points here.) We were only 8 points behind the team in first. We were in second place. We only had an 8 second handicap when going into the final round.

Now is time for the final, winner takes all event. In this timed event, the team that crossed the finish line first wins the scholarship and interview. We went in knowing we were having some troubles with our signals. Well, as it turns out, the signal we needed was the signal we couldn't get right. We couldn't get the up signal. We rolled right up to the sensor, shined the light right where we needed it, but no up. After all the other teams crossed the finish line, we tried to suicide, but the caster wheel caught us. We just put the robot on the other side of the gap. We lost, we admitted defeat. We just wanted to cross the finish line. Technically we were supposed to start back at the starting point if we go off the table, but no one cared at then, the contest was over, they let us have our finish. We fought valiantly though.

So after the 3 events, we got interviewed for a local news paper. The reporter might have just went to get everyone, but here's what made us feel much better, everyone was interested in our design. Everyone else used a 4 wheel design. We're the only guys that did a 3 wheel design. We were answering so many questions as to what we did. That made us feel good. We may not have won, but no one was interested in the wining design. They wanted to see our design. I guess we could say we were the "fan favorite."
Here are some pictures I got.

So I get back to mane campus Friday evening. I eat dinner, shower, and after being up for 32 strait hours, I went to sleep. Here's a quick little video I filmed after 32 strait hours of no sleep.
I slept for 16 hours.

So now it's Saturday. The event is over, so why am I still talking about the weekend? Well now it's time for the skating part of this weekend.

So one of my high school friends is a figure skater. I've talked about her a couple of times on my blogs. Remember mskate? Well the team she's on was in a competition that was hosted by my college. Since I live basically next door to the ice arena she was competing in, of course I'm going to go watch and support her. I'm not about to pass of a chance to see a good high school friend when she's right next door. She competed in 2 events, individual and team, both about 12 hours apart from each other.

The first event was the individual routine event, and was at 9:35 AM. Now normally I'm not up and moving that early on a Saturday, let alone alert enough to be able to find a place I've never been to before. Yes, I've never been to the ice arena at my college. I've never had a reason to before today. I look up directions online and the directions looked easy enough. I leave an hour early, just in case I get lost. As it would happen, I needed that extra time because the directions I got were crap. They took me to some catholic church that's close to East campus. I turn around and decide to follow the signs that say "ice arena this way." That was much better. I got there with enough time to spare. I walk in and find an open seat. She did very well based on my "the fact that you can skate backwards is amazing" point of reference.

After the event, I went out in the hall to wait for her to come out. While out in the hall, I ran into a former band mom. Apparently her daughter also figure skates and was at the competition too. She asked if I went to the same college as mskate. I replied with "no I'm here, this is just a 15 minute walk from my dorm." There was a little other small talk, but that was the most memorable part.

So mskate and the rest of her team come out to the hall, mainly to check their scores. Mskate sees me, we say our hellos and she introduces me to some of her teammates. Basically things were "Hi, I'm an old high school friend, I'm here because I'm local." We exchanged the usual "how have things been? what's new?" while we waited for the scores to be posted. Good news, she got 3rd place in her section of the individuals. Looks like I wasn't the only one that thought she did well.

After she got her medal, mskate and her mom took me back to my dorm, but we took the long way back so I could give the driving tour of the campus. That was fun, and it basically took us all the way around campus. I got the stuff the brought up for me from home, and I showed mskate my dorm. Apparently she's never seen a real dorm room before. She was rather surprised with the level of mess. She got to see the couple of things she sees when we Skype and that I talk about. After the grand dorm tour, they left to get ready for the next event and all the team stuff that goes with it, and I worked on my paper.

Fast forward 8-10 hours, and it's time for the team event. This event is a team event. This time, the team picks certain members to perform specific tricks, like the axle thing. She asked me to record the event. Sure, no problem. I know how to do proper camera work with the rule of 3rds and all that, and I'm here so why not. I get there and this time I was able to find her mom to sit with. It must have been nerves or adrenalin or something that caused mskate to forget that I needed her phone to be able to record it for her. Luckily I was able to use her mom's phone. Afterwards she felt rather foolish forgetting that crucial aspect.

In the team event, her team placed first. Woo hoo. Though I do feel rather conflicted, since one of the opponent teams is my college. Eh whatever, I don't follow sports. I'm just glad my friend's team won. After the event they drop me off at my dorm, but this time we take the short way, and that was just a 4 minute drive.

It was good seeing her again, in person, no matter how short the time was. It would have been fun to be able to actually hang out, but whatever. I was dead tired on Friday and went to bed at 6:30 PM and she was busy with skating things all throughout Saturday, and they left on Sunday, so no time. Oh well, I never get visitors so it's more than I normally get. Plus, there's always thanksgiving. Well this has been Pokematic signing off and bu-bye.

If you noticed a change in my writing style between the engineering section and the skating section, that's because they were written on 2 separate days, at 2 different levels of brain fried.