March 28, 2007

Update on my hall of famers

My soccer team, christened the Great White Sharks, is now 2-0-1. I'm not sure how I know that, since we don't keep score in our league. By the way, I accept full responsibility for the tie.

My son Stuart has been our top scorer; he's the oldest player on the Under-6 squad. He's really impressed me a few times, like when he caught up to a breakaway ball and tapped it in lefty.

I've also got one player who's still 4. At one practice, I was lining the kids up to practice something (kickoffs, maybe), and he was a little distracted, so I went over and picked him up and put him down where I needed him. His eyes got enormous, and I thought, “Uh-oh. I've blown it -- here come the waterworks.” Fortunately, he was just momentarily stunned.

I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy coaching or not, but it's been a blast so far. It's hard work keeping practices interesting for kids that young, but it's easy enough to tell when you're not. Also good: They're running me ragged twice a week.

March 28, 2007 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2007

My ticket to the hall of fame

So I'm coaching an Under-6 team at the Tucker Youth Soccer Association. We had our first practice tonight. I hope everyone reading will accept this as the unbiased opinion that it is:

This is the greatest soccer team ever formed at any level, professional or amateur.

Decades from now, soccer enthusiasts will still be lamenting that Pelé never had the chance to play for the TYSA Great White Sharks during their heyday in Spring 2007. I believe any of my players could take David Beckham one-on-one, including the two with no organized soccer experience.

I just hope I'm up to directing the power, grace, and athleticism they exhibit.

March 5, 2007 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2003

Magic Kingdom tips

First, don't go Thanksgiving week. Or Christmas week. Those are, respectively, the second- and first-busiest weeks at the Magic Kingdom. When Sophie was 3 (and not yet in school), we went the first week in December, and crowds were fairly light, so we thought it might be the same this time. No such luck.

I had a very good guide this time -- The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2004, by Bob Sehlinger. Unfortunately I picked it up on the Thursday before we left (on Saturday), or I would have known about the busiest weeks of the year.

The author points out that some percentage of what he writes will be out of date before the book gets into print, and for us, it was ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, widely reviewed as the scariest ride ever at a Disney theme park, which closed down October 11 to make way for "Stitch's Great Escape", scheduled for sometime in 2004.

We took full advantage of Disney's newish FastPass system to minimize time in line. Disney has set up separate areas near the entrance to popular rides where you can run your admission ticket through a machine and get a time-stamped return ticket that lets you jump right to the head of the line. Disney controls how frequently you can get a FastPass; in some cases, we could immediately get another one at a different ride, while at other times, we had to wait until just before our scheduled return time to get another. On heavy days, very popular rides may distribute their full allotment of FastPasses by noon.

The only ride that I really wanted to ride and didn't was the new Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney-MGM Studios. New rides for me: Tower of Terror (which had just opened when we went last time), Mission: Space, Test Track, Splash Mountain, and Kali River Rapids.

Mission: Space deserves the glowing reviews it's been getting. It's a junior vomit comet, using simulator technology and your own body weight to simulate high-G activities like a shuttle takeoff.

Tower of Terror has added a few twists. Originally, riders were taken to the 13th floor, where their elevator wandered down the hall. When it reached the end, a window opened, and the car and riders plunged 13 stories at faster than free fall. Now, the car drops, then returns to the 13th floor and drops again a random number of times.

One thing Disney was trying out at Disney/MGM Studios was setting up a FastPass system for character photos and autographs, which are a much bigger part of the park than they were even 5 years ago, when we first took Sophie. There are dedicated character areas at Epcot (Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, Belle in France, etc.), and a Disney Characters on Holiday bus (below) that occasionally discharges a dozen or so characters for 30 minutes of intensive autographs and photographs. (As always, click through for larger images).

A good tip from the guide was to find out when the bus visit at Epcot was scheduled and get there 10-15 minutes before. By the time word has spread that the characters are there, you can have 4 or 5 pictures and autographs.

    Clever things we did:
  • Also buying a copy of Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids, By Kids 2004 for Sophie. This a) kept her somewhat busy on the drive south, and b) gave her some ideas for things that she either wanted to do or absolutely didn't want to do.

  • We stayed on the park premises at the Swan, the Michael Graves-designed companion to the Dolphin. The location was terrific, since we could walk to or from Disney-MGM and Epcot (a major advantage after the evening fireworks or light shows), but there was nothing that great about the hotel itself. The Dolphin seemed to have more kid-friendly features. The Swan DOES now offer free high-speed internet access through the same proxy-based service as Sheratons (Sheraton manages the Swan).

    I can argue either side of the on-site or off-site lodging argument. We got a pretty good rate at the Swan, so we decided to go with it for the better convenience, but then you find yourself eating in the resort restaurants, with their airport (heck, in some cases, stadium) pricing.

    Another advantage of on-site hotels is that most of them now do character meals, where Disney characters wander from table to table while you eat.

  • Renting a stroller. A double stroller was $15/day (which covers all the parks; show your MGM receipt at Animal Kingdom for a new stroller), and made all the difference a few times, when the kids started to wilt.

Pal Mickey

One thing I kind of wanted to try out was Disney's new Pal Mickey, an interactive plush Mickey Mouse doll that offers location and time-sensitive advice for kids in the park ("The parade is starting in about an hour. You might want to find a place to watch!").

Pal Mickey is $60 to buy, or $8/day to rent. If you choose to rent one, the $60 is charged as a deposit, and the difference is refunded when you turn the unit in. Many of the Disney World hotel gift shops carry Pal Mickey, as does the store right at the front of Disney-MGM, and the shop next to the stroller rental at the International entrance at Epcot.

Sophie loved Pal Mickey. In addition to providing park info, he tells horrible, 8-year-old friendly jokes. When you first rent him, a Disney employee uploads the latest info through a Compaq/HP iPaq, so that event times and attraction information are up to date. I believe (based on his opaque nose) that Pal Mickey currently gets location information through infrared; this is backed up by their recommendation that children hold him face-out, or attach him to a belt.

I'm sure that in a lab somewhere, they're working on the adult version of Pal Mickey. WIth a small LCD screen and 802.11 connectivity, it could include the current menus for restaurants throughout Walt Disney World, including hotels and resorts, park traffic reports (allowing Disney to do some real-time traffic management), and could even allow communication between multiple groups (say you've split up for the morning). Wouldn't it be cool if you were standing in a 45-minute line at the Magic Kingdom, and discovered that nothing in MGM Studios was more than a 15-minute wait?

It could offer not only time and event pointers, but special offers on food, lodging, or souvenirs. If a particular restaurant or section of the park is having trouble holding its own, Disney could try targeted promotions aimed at the family decision makers.

Listening to Merry Christmas Baby from the album "The Chess Box, Disc 2, 1958 - 1964" by Chuck Berry.

December 27, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Sophie starts soccer

Here's a shot of Sophie before her soccer game today:

(click for the full-size image as it came off the phone)

After a winless first season last year, her team won 11-2 in their first game, with Sophie getting one of the goals.

You can compare this shot to the fairly limited shot (which is what the photoblog programs support) below for quality.

September 6, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2003

And not that terrible

Today, Stuart is two. A picture for his adoring public:

May 7, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Adventure

by Sophie E. Steele in Mrs. Clear's 1st Grade Class

detacated to Cristy R. Steele my mother

There once was a girl named Jessica. She went to a school called Lakewood Elementry. She was only six years old, and in first grade, but for a six year, she had a very wild imagination.

Jessica really really wanted to go on an adventure. She wanted to see tigers in India. She really wanted to see a giraffe. She had seen a giraffe before in the ZOO.

"To the zoo!!" yelled Jessica. She got on her dogs back and went to the zoo. When she got to the zoo, Jessica searchd all of the cages until finlley she found a giraffe. She climed into the cage. She hopd onto the giraffe's back. The giraffe was so scared that it jumped right out of the cage.

Jessica was having so much fun that she did not relize she almost ran over a flamingo. She was riding on the giraffe like a queen. The animal ran all the way to Jessica's house.

And Jessica fell off the giraffe's back, but the giraffe cauht her and set her dowen. She hugged the giraffe. I think that's all my adventure for today. "Bye," said Jessica. She went inside.

"Jessica!!" called her mother, "Will you read a book?"

"Sure, Mom," yelled Jessica, but she had other plans.

May 7, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 30, 2003

Sophie's first laptop

I'm about to bequeath Sophie the IBM 560x I inherited at my previous job. It has Red Hat 8.x on it, and I'm trying to figure out how I can make it a little more kid-friendly. I don't think I want to go back to Windows on it, not least because it's a royal pain to install Windows on a machine without a CD-ROM.

I found the Linux For Kids site and the Linux 4 Kids site. The first hasn't been updated since January 2002, and the second looks to be a business idea that never got off the ground. Any other pointers to information on helping kids get a good start with computers?

April 30, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 02, 2003

Frank gets a real job

As of February 1, I have a full-time job again.

It's a long story, but in a nutshell, the company I worked for through April 2002 closed up shop in January because it couldn't afford to go on.

One of the investors in that company had invested through a secured note, with the company's assets as its security. When the company closed down, it assigned all its assets to partially offset that note. The investor believes in the idea enough to build it out and see what happens, so I'm going to be a part of that.

More as it happens.

February 2, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Samoas and Tagalongs and Do-si-dos, oh my!

Just because I'm avoiding the white powdery death that is refined sugar doesn't mean I have anything against it. In fact, if you're one of the few people outside the reach of the Girl Scouts of America, I can help hook you up with their annual cookie drive.

Sophie is taking orders through Thursday. If you know what kind you like, great. If you don't, drop me an e-mail with a description, and I'll reply with the official description of the cookie that most nearly matches yours. They're $3 a box, and if you're not in or around Atlanta, shipping's on you.

February 2, 2003 in Family | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 22, 2002

Takes after his mother

Stuart had a checkup yesterday -- at 15 months, he's 95th percentile on the weight chart and well above the curves (35 inches tall) on the length chart.

I finally got a good picture of Stuart's face full-on (he's still young enough that he doesn't keep looking for long) -- here it is (click the image for a 1024x768 version):

August 22, 2002 in Family | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack