Friday, August 29, 2008

Sports Update

Since the Olympics started, I have made a conscious effort not to look at any sports news. No, none of my favorite basketball weblogs, no Bay Area or Oregon sports columnists...nothing. I love the Olympics and I hate knowing who wins events before I get to watch them. Because of our crazy schedule, I was Tivo-ing all of the Olympics and would often watch events 2 or 3 days after they happened. I haven't been looking at any sports news to avoid accidentally find out who won something.

Last night, 4 days after the closing ceremonies, I finally watched the last of the Olympics. So this morning, I was looking forward to catching up on my Warriors!

Know what the first thing I saw was?

"Warriors' Ellis out at least three months"

If you don't know who Monta Ellis is, he's the Warriors best player right now. Since Baron Davis left for the Clippers, Monta's the new face of the Warriors.

I think my stomach hurts a little bit...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back Home

We got back home from our trip down to my dad's house yesterday. We had a good time, but it wore all of us out. Lots of good stuff always happens when we take trips like this. Here are some of the highlights:


1) Kid Conversations - Sometimes when we're driving, me and Mrs. BigKat will just be quiet and listen to the goofy conversations that are going on in the back seat. Here's an example of a time where LilKat1 was being a good big brother and explaining all about dinosaurs to his little brother...

LilKat2: Why is it called a Triceratops?

LilKat1: Because it tries a lot. It tries and it tries and it tries and then it...(pause)...ceratops!

2) The big bang - We had been driving for a little while. The kids were in the back quietly coloring in their brand new coloring books. We started to pass a big rig when, suddenly, on of its tires blew up right next to us. The noise was pretty loud, and I had to swerve a little to avoid the flying tire bits. It caused quite a commotion in our car. From the back I heard LilKat1 exclaim 'It almost made me...'

Now, at this point, I was very curious to find out what the big noise almost made him do. Because when a grownup starts a sentence like this, it is very likely to end with something that I might not want my kids to say. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was anxious to find out because I figured it was going to be good, whatever it was. And LilKat1 did not disappoint me. He said...

'It almost made me SCRIBBLE!'

I realize that this may be one of those 'you had to be there' moments, but it made me and Mrs. BigKat laugh for a couple of minutes.

3) Golf - I got to play golf with my dad on Sunday. Now, I'm not the best golfer in the world at all. I'm actually pretty bad. I play only once or twice a year, but this time I was quite happy with how I played! I was hitting my driver nice and straight, and I made a bunch of long putts (the part in the middle was not so great though...). After I had made a couple of good putts, I started to get quite confident in my putting. I was able to read the greens fairly well which is something that I don't normally do. On the scorecard, I started making little notations for places where I made a nice putt. Well, we got to this one hole and I knew that the ball was going to break to the left. But my dad said that it was going to break to the right. Now, my dad is not the best putter in the world, so I really should've known better. But I decided to listen to him and hit the ball as if it was going to break to the right.

It broke to the left.

I was so mad! I quickly picked up another ball and put it in the same spot so that I could see how I would have done if I had it it my way. Sure enough, it broke exactly like I thought it would. I took a double-bogey on that hole, but as I was writing my score down, I put LTD next to it. My dad asked me what that was for. I told him that it was so I could remember that that was when I Listened To Dad. It's now a standard piece of golf lingo in my vocabulary. As in 'I think I could've broken 100 today, if I only had a few less LTD's.'

4. The 'Breakfast' - For some reason, my dad knows very little about the appropriate way to act around kids. I am always telling my kids that 'Yes, I know Grandpa is doing that, but it's really something that we're not supposed to do.' Like walking in the middle of the street, saying potty words, taking your seat belt off while the car is moving, things like that.

Actually, it's not just around kids, it's around grown-ups too. One time, Mrs. BigKat made some lunch for me. He took a look at it and said 'That's disgusting!' right in front of her face! She did not appreciate this at all. Still gets mad about it to this day. But the point is that there is very little that he does that surprises me anymore. Until yesterday...

LilKat2 woke up early and left his bedroom to go hang out with Grandpa. I got myself ready and then went out to see what they were up to. I saw LilKat2 was at the kitchen table, so I figured that Grandpa must've gotten him some something to eat. Want to know what he had prepared LilKat2 for breakfast?

A glass of root beer!

Who gives a glass of root beer to a 4 year old for breakfast? Not cereal, not milk, not juice. Root beer! I had trouble comprehending what I was seeing because I didn't think anyone would actually think to do such a thing! At least when Bill Cosby gave his kids chocolate cake for breakfast, he served it with some grapefruit juice! I immediately took that root beer away, which of course made LilKat2 cry.

5. Boardgame withdrawals - For some goofy reason, we didn't bring any board games with us, except for a copy of Ingenious that we gave to my dad as a birthday present. So in 3 nights, I only got to play one board game. On the drive home, I having to tell Mrs. BigKat that I missed my boardgames. She was very nice and played a game of Roma with me last night after I came home from basketball, even though it was late. Isn't she great?


And now we're back home. Everyone got to sleep in their own beds last night, which made everyone very happy. Traveling is fun, but, with kids, it can be a lot of work!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Soccer Games

I tried out 2 new games at soccer practice yesterday, and they worked pretty well. One was for the Kindergarten team and the other was for the 1st grade team.

1) Hospital Tag: I played this with the Kindergarten team. It's basically a game where one or more players are It and chase the remaining players around, trying to tag them. But when you get tagged, you're not out yet. The first time you get tagged, you have to run around with one hand on the spot where you were tagged. The second time you get tagged, you have to put your other hand on the spot where you were just tagged. It's pretty funny to see kids who have been tagged twice running around with their arms all tied up like a pretzel. The third time you get tagged, you have to go to the Hospital (since you have no more hands). You go over to a designated spot and perform an action (in our case, it was spin around 5 times) and then get back in the game.
We played our first game with no soccer balls, so that the kids could get used to the rules. For the second game, the players had to run around with their soccer balls. And if their ball went out of bounds, either by them kicking it out or someone else kicking it out, it was the same as being tagged on the foot. Now you have not seen funny until you've seen a group of Kindergarteners 'running' around trying to kick a soccer ball while holding their foot. There was a lot of laughing involved by both kids and adults (well, there was the one dad who saw his son holding his foot and ran to check on him because he thought he'd been injured...). Anyhow, it was a very good game to start off a Kindergarten soccer practice.

2) Zombies! : I played this with LilKat1's 1st grade team. We're trying to work on our passing this year and getting open. So I came up with the Zombies! game. In this game, the kids get into pairs (although groups of 3 work well too). Each group has one soccer ball. The coaches are the Zombies! who try to eat the soccer balls. Now Zombies! can only walk, not run. So normally it would be easy to get away from them. But in the Zombies! game, the person with the ball can not run or dribble. The only thing they can do is pass. This forces the other players on the team to get open in a spot with a clear passing lane. It worked pretty well. The kids were starting to get the hang of finding good spots to run to when they didn't have the ball. I think this is the only game we've done so far that has really achieved this goal. Plus, I think they had fun with the Zombies!

The Week in Review

A lot happened this week, so I thought I'd give you a quick review...

1) Camping! Me and LilKat1 went on our first camping trip on Saturday. We went to a place not too far from our house. We took LilKat2 with us, and Mrs. BigKat and PrincessKat caught up with us after PrincessKat's nap. It was quite fun. We set up our campsite, did some hiking, fishing, and marshmallow toasting. At around 7pm, Mrs. BigKat took LilKat2 (who did NOT want to go. He was very sad...) and PrincessKat home. That left me and LilKat1 at the camp. We went out and did some more fishing. It started to get dark, so we went back to the campsite and got ready for bed. Unfortunately, the people next to us were really loud for a long time. The camp ranger guy even had to come out and scold them. But it didn't help. So LilKat1 had a lot of trouble falling asleep. He eventually did at around 11:30 or so, but was awakened 2 and a half hours later by BOOMING THUNDER! His first time camping and we get caught in a Big Loud Thunderstorm. He didn't like it one bit. He asked me if we could go home. At first, I was thinking that we should just stick it out and stay until morning. The tent was keeping us dry, and we wouldn't be able to pack up until it stopped raining anyways. But I knew that he would not be able to fall asleep all night and would be pretty much miserable, so I agreed to take him home. Besides, my air mattress was leaking and I was basically just sleeping on the ground. Getting a few hours of sleep in my bed sounded much nicer than where I was at the time. So at around 3am, we quickly packed everything up and headed home. And that was LilKat1's first camping experience! Mrs. BigKat asked him if he'd like to do it again sometime, and he gave her an emphatic NO!

2) Mormons! When we got home from camping, I left all of our stuff in the truck. So the next day (Sunday), I had to unload everything. Right as I was starting, 3 Mormon guys rang our doorbell. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love talking to the Mormons. It basically gives me an opportunity to share the Gospel with a group of people and they have to stand there and listen to it and not go away! And sometimes, they even come back for more! I always see it as a great opportunity and have fun with it. These boys that came were very nice. One of them had actually come by a few weeks back, and it was clear that, this time, they had a game plan. But I wouldn't let all the talk of latter day prophets deter me from sharing my faith with these fellas. We talked for about an hour and a half. Mormon theology has a lot of things that don't make a lot of sense to me, so I was able to bring these things up to give them something to think about. It was also a nice exercise for me because it gave me an opportunity to try to articulate my beliefs in a way that people with different beliefs can understand. Plus, I was able to unload all my camping stuff while we talked, so I didn't feel like I was not getting my jobs done.

3) Dinosaur VBS and the crazy pastor! LilKat1 was invited to go to a VBS program at a local church. It was a dinosaur themed program, and LilKat1 LOVES dinosaurs. He only heard about it yesterday, so today was his first day. When he came back, he was all smiles. He had a fantastic time. He handed me all of the stuff that he got, and I started looking through it. Then I noticed something strange...on his handout, there was a lot of stuff about dinosaurs, but also a lot of stuff about Noah's Ark. I didn't get the connection. Then I saw the big picture on the 3rd page and it all made sense. The picture talked about how scientists have many ideas about how the dinosaurs became extinct, but they're pretty much wrong. You see, the real reason why the dinosaurs are extinct is...THE FLOOD! As in the Noah's Ark Flood.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised. I had never heard of anyone believing this. I quickly called LilKat1 over and asked him if they talked about how the dinosaurs became extinct. He said 'Oh yeah...The flood!' I had to have a talk with him right away and let him know that I didn't think that this was right. He was pretty disturbed by the fact that I disagreed with the VBS people, so we had to have a big talk about it to settle him down.

I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't be in for any more surprises tomorrow, so I called the church. I was able to talk to the pastor, and I expressed my concerns. Now, this guy was amazing. He fully believes that not only were dinosaurs made extinct by the flood, but there were a bunch of them on Noah's ark. Now, I personally don't believe this (like I said, this was the first time I'd even heard of it), but I'm actually ok with someone else thinking that it's true. After all, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about the ins-and-outs of Dinsaur-ology. But there's a good reason why I haven't studied the subject very much: Because It's Not That Important! You see, this guy acted like his view about dinosaurs was a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. Basically, he was telling me that either you believe this version of how the dinosaurs became extinct, or you didn't believe that the Bible was the Word of God and you didn't believe that there is a Creator of the universe. I tried to tell him that it was hard for me to believe that something so trivial as when the dinosaurs existed would play a role in God's Plan of Salvation, but he was having none of it. According to him, I had a decision to make, and apparently, what I believe right now is not one of the options. It took me quite a while to get him off the topic of the Importance of Dinosaurs and on to the topic of Is There Anything in Friday's Lesson That I Need To Be Worried About, but finally, he filled me in. I'm a little apprehensive about it, but LilKat1 is still going to the VBS program at the crazy church tomorrow. I would rather he not go, but he just loved it so much that I can't not let him go. And I figure that if they teach him anything wrong, I can always set him straight like I did today.

One big problem that I had was that the pastor did not seem to care about the emotional impact of telling a kid something that contradicts what their parents and teachers might be teaching them. I mean, this is an outreach ministry, but he didn't seem to care at all about looking at things from the perspective of the kids that they're supposed to be ministering to. If you're going to teach the kids something as controversial as this, you'd think that you'd want to put a little preemptive effort into alleviating any confusion that the kids might have. His thing was that he wanted to be able to get to the parents with his message about the dinosaurs through the kids. I don't know, just seems kind of rotten to me. Hopefully, things will go smoothly tomorrow.

4) Soccer! Soccer's still going on and I found out something about LilKat2 today. That kid has WHEELS! Oh my goodness! He's 4 years old, but he's on a Kindergarten team. Today, we played a game of Sharks and Minnows. In this game, the minnows have to get from one side of the field to the other side without being tagged by a shark. If they are tagged, then they become a shark in the next round. Well, at one point today, everyone was a shark except for LilKat2. He was the lone minnow. I said 'Go!' and he took off. He headed towards the sideline with the whole rest of the team chasing him. Then he turned the corner and flew past everyone, and made it to the other side untouched. Now, I understand more than anyone that 5 year olds are not known for their knowledge of pursuit angles. But still, none of the kids on the team came close to catching him from behind. LilKat2 is a Fast Little Boy.

5) Road Trip! We leave tomorrow to go to my dad's house. Should be a fun trip. We actually enjoy the travel part of it, and I'm looking forward to the drive.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Furniture Shopping: Then and Now

We went to Ikea over the weekend to get some new furniture. I thought it was interesting how different furniture shopping is now compared to when I was a boy.

A long time ago, there were 2 things that I hated the most: furniture shopping and plant shopping. And it seemed like we did both of these things every weekend for as long as I was a kid. When we went furniture shopping, we went to Levitz, and it was B-O-R-I-N-G! First of all, the whole place was a big boring warehouse. First, we'd look at a bunch of boring couches. Then we'd look at some boring beds. Then maybe some boring tables. Then back to the boring couches. Not. Fun. At. All.

Compare this to the boys' experience at Ikea. First, we check them into this play area. There's a big ball pit that they can jump in. There's things to climb on, including the world's biggest wooden shoe. There's a coloring station. There's a movie (with couches!). And the coloring station was right by the movie, so you could color AND watch a movie. When Mrs. BigKat picked them up, she knew immediately that they had a great time running around because LilKat2 was drenched in sweat. After playing, they got to eat lunch at a cafeteria. LilKat1 got macaroni and cheese, and LilKat2 got a PB&J with a fruit cup. They both even got their own orange juices. And the best part was that they got to sit at a table right next to the window. The Portland Ikea is right next door to the Portland airport, so they got to see big huge jets fly overhead every few minutes. How cool is that? Oh yeah, they also got chocolate cake.

You want to know the highlight of all my trips to the furniture store? One time, my parents let me get a candy bar from the vending machine (yay...). I didn't know what to get, so I got a Big Hunk. I didn't know what a Big Hunk was, but it had a brown wrapper, which is the universal sign for chocolate. How could I go wrong?
Well, if you've ever had a Big Hunk, you already know that it may as well have been called a Big Mistake or maybe even a Big Lie, because there is no chocolate involved in it at all. Just a big pile of chewy (and not just gummy bear chewy or even salt water taffy chewy, but more like steel belted radial chewy). Now, I'm not positive that this next part actually happened, but I have this vague memory of 'losing' the Big Hunk somewhere in a boring couch (which in all honesty, was a smart call by me because if my parents had found out that they bought me a candy bar and didn't like it, it would've drastically reduced the likelihood of future vending machine purchases...but again, I'm still not sure I actually did this. Although, My Friend Who Lies (MFWL) seems to believe that I did. Not that he was there or anything, he just likes to think the worst of me).

But I'm not bitter about any of this. Really! I very much appreciate the ability to do furniture shopping without having to drag around bored, complainy kids. Maybe we'll just start going here instead of to the zoo.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

First week of August

Lots of stuff going on this week. I thought I'd smash them all into one post:

1) Soccer started! We had our first practice on Tuesday. LilKat2's team was first, followed immediately by LilKat1. You know what? Running 2 soccer practices back-to-back takes a lot out of you! Especially when it's hot. The dinner schedule on soccer nights is a little crazy, we end up eating in shifts. But it was a lot of fun. We have our second practice today. I think it's going to be hot again, so I'm going to break out the dribble-the-ball-quickly-to-the-other-side-before-I-pummel-you-with-my-water-squirter game.

2) Got some free money at Costco yesterday! Mrs. BigKat and I had our weekly date night last night, and after we ate, we ended up at Costco (I know, Costco doesn't sound like a great date night, but we actually really enjoy walking around a store with no children. A lot). Earlier this summer, we bought a new tv. It's a nice tv, but just a shade too big for the space that we put it in. Mrs. BigKat wanted to see the tv that was a size smaller. We went to the tv section to take a look, and we noticed that our current tv was listed with a $100 rebate. After we were done shopping, I went to the customer service desk to find out if I could get the rebate for my earlier purchase. The lady said that it would be fine, but only if I bought my tv in the last 30 days. We went home, and I checked my receipt. 30 days! wait...there's 31 days in July...oops! 31 days! Not so perfect! I went back to Costco and saw the same lady and asked if it was ok even though I bought the tv 31 days ago. She asked her manager, and he said it was fine. Woo hoo! She handed me a $100 and off I went. Free money!

3) So last week, I ordered a big pile of games. Well, it turns out that the place I ordered from ran out of games, so they canceled my order. Which actually worked out nice because it saved me a lot of money! To celebrate my good fortune, I ordered a different big pile of games from Boards and Bits, one of my very favorite places to buy games. Here's what I got:

  1. Taluva - A cool tile laying game where you build up a little island with volcanoes and stuff.
  2. Ubongo das Duell - Another game in the Ubongo series. It's a puzzle game where you have to figure out the right way to fit these tetris-like pieces together. But this version is really hard! It uses crazy, monstrous, misfigured tetris pieces! And there's lots of them!
  3. Roma - I've been wanting this for a while, but I've read that a new version was going to come out soon. Well, I couldn't take it any longer and just bought the old version. It's a 2 player card game that uses dice in an interesting way. Looks like a lot of fun.
  4. Thebes - I got this mainly for game nights with my mom. She doesn't like it that I win so much, so I thought this would be a great game for us because it adds in a bit of a luck factor. It's an archeology game, where you travel to various places around the world in search of ancient artifacts. Part of the skill of the game involves doing your research so that you have the best chance to find something good. But in the end, even if you've done your homework, it's always possible that all you find is a big pile of dirt. This one looks like a very well made game, and I can't wait to try it out.
  5. Scripts and Scribes - This game was the equivalent of standing in line at the grocery store, seeing a Whatchamacallit in the candy bin, and buying it even though you're not sure what it is, but it just looks kind of tasty. I hadn't heard of this game before, and I just saw it on the Boards and Bits website as I was about to check out. I researched it a bit and it looked pretty good. A lot of comparisons to For Sale, another game I like quite a bit. Always nice to have a game that you can play in just 10 or 20 minutes when you don't have time for a big game.
  6. Mykerinos - We actually got to play this last night. What a great game! Another archeology game, although the theme doesn't seem as quite as important as in Thebes. It's really more of an abstract puzzle type game. You place cubes down on the excavation sites and try to control areas while blocking everyone else out. If you win a region, you get a card, which not only helps your score, but gives you special abilities in later rounds. Pretty simple, right? Well, there's a whole seperate component that you need to keep in mind: the museum. When you win a region, you have a choice of collecting a card, or getting a spot in the museum. Ignore the museum and your cards will not be worth that much at the end of the game. Focus too much on the museum and you won't have enough cards to gain control of the board. Also, you need to keep in mind when to save your resources for later rounds, and when to get as much as you can during the current round. This was really a fun game. Even as we were getting ready for bed, I kept muttering 'What a fun game!' It's funny, because the game itself it really small. The board is tiny, the pieces are tiny, the box is tiny. But the game itself is quite substantial. This one is one of my new favorites. The only problem with this game is that I don't know how to pronounce the name correctly...

4) My Friend Who Lies (MFWL) is getting married tomorrow. The wedding is at the beach. I'm taking the boys with me. They're very excited. This will be their first time at the beach ever! They've been wanting to go to a beach for so long.

5) My computer has been broken in one form or another for the past 2 weeks (ranging from 'Can't start SQL Server' to 'Can't run Windows in Safe Mode' to 'Randomly shutting down at some point during the day'). 3 video cards, 2 motherboards, 2 lcd's, a power supply and about 16 hours on the phone with tech support later, everything seems to be working fine again. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I normally cook burgers in a cast iron pan. My technique is to:

1) Heat up the pan on medium-high
2) Make 5oz patties
3) Season and oil the outside of the patties
4) Put them in the pan for 4 1/2 to 5 minutes per side (with a splatter guard)

It works pretty good. The burgers are nicely browned on the outside and juicy on the inside.

But a couple of weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to cook them on the Weber. I cooked them pretty much the same way as when I do them in the cast iron pan. The results were not nearly as good. The burgers were overcooked and not juicy at all.

That afternoon (seriously, a few hours after I had made the burgers), I watched them make burgers on an episode of America's Test Kitchen. They used a paste made of bread and milk, called a panade, to keep the burgers juicy. The idea is that they want to cook the meat to well done (for safety reasons), but still have a juicy burger. The panade soaks in the juices that are released from the meat and keeps them in the burger. The panade also makes the burgers taste a little more bland, so they added some seasoning to it to add some flavor back into the burger.

I tried the burgers again, but this time with the panade. I also cut down the cooking time a little bit. It worked pretty good! The burgers were juicy and tasted pretty good. But they were not fantastic.

Yesterday, I tried the burgers once again, but with a twist. Instead of using ground beef, I bought a chuck steak and ground it myself in the food processor (something I learned from Alton Brown on Good Eats). I used the panade again (which I call my 'Burger Insurance') with some garlic, steak sauce, salt, and pepper. I also put some of my Raising the Steaks rub on the outside of the patty.

These were the best burgers yet! We invited some friends over for lunch and they said that these were the best burgers they've had in years. I think grinding the meat myself really made a difference.

Now, I suppose that I could have left out the panade and cooked the burgers to medium rare/medium, since I ground my own meat and was not using pre-ground hamburger. But I'm still getting used to the Weber and the hot spots (I really haven't used the Weber much at all since I got my ceramic cookers), and I felt that I needed the Burger Insurance, especially since we had guests over.

Anyhow, here is how I made my burgers:

2 pounds chuck steak
2 pieces of bread
3 tbl milk
2 tsp smashed and diced garlic
2 tbl steak sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Raising the Steaks rub (could be any rub you like that does NOT contain sugar)

(Note: All of the measurements are approximate, I just eyeballed them)

1) Get your grill going. I used a chimney starter full of lump charcoal (I don't use briquettes) that was nice and hot. I had the bottom vent all the way opened. I only put the coals on one half of the grill. The burgers go on the side with the coals and the buns (if you want them toasted) can go on the other side.
2) Trim your steak of large hunks of fat. Cut up steak into chunks. Put in food processor and give about 10 pulses, until it looks like hamburger.
3) Cut the bread up into small cubes. Put in a large bowl with the milk. Mix with a fork until it becomes a paste. Add in the steak sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix everything up.
4) Add the meat. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
5) Make 6 patties. Don't pack them too tight. Make a little dent in the middle of the patties, so they don't ball up when you cook them.
6) Shake some rub on the outside of the patties and pat them in.
7) Put the patties on the hot grill. Cook for about 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 3 minutes. My patties had some structural integrity problems (maybe packed the too lightly?), so I couldn't move them around a lot when I flipped them.
8) If you want cheese, put it on after the first flip (obviously). I made a little foil tent that I put over the patties with cheese. This helped the cheese melt and brown up a little.
9) Before you put the burger on the bun, put some mayo on the bottom bun. Then grind a little pepper on it. Then put the burger on and let it sit for a minute or two. The juices mix with the mayo and pepper to make a kind of sauce on the bottom.
10) Put whatever else you want on your burger.
11) Eat the best burger you've had in years!