Beach Day At Great Stirrup Cay #CruiseLikeANorwegian

Posted by TechyDad on September 2, 2015 under Uncategorized

Today was beach day on our cruise. As we approached Great Stirrup Cay, we dropped the boys off at Splash Academy – Norwegian Cruise Line’s kids camp – to have some fun while B and I had some couples’ time away from the kids.

While walking around, we saw the island we were heading to later.

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We were amazed at how blue the water was.

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Soon, it was time to get our tender tickets. You see, the ship is just too big to dock at the Cay. So you need to board smaller vessels which take you to and from the Cay.

Unfortunately, everyone couldn’t go on the same boat so they gave it numbered tickets.  We were given number 11, but this still meant needing to wait. At last, our time came and we got to head to the Cay.

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At the Cay, there was food, music, games, shipping, and, of course, the beach.

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All too soon, it was time to head back to the ship. As much as I like the ship, part of me wished I could just remain on the beach – having lots of fun without any cares at all – for the rest of my life.

Our day didn’t end there, though. More about our cruise another day..

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Cruising Like A Norwegian On The Gem

Posted by TechyDad on August 31, 2015 under Uncategorized

At the moment, we’re on the Norwegian Gem for a seven day cruise to Cape Canaveral and the Bahamas. Internet access is limited, but I’m taking a lot of photos to share later. For now, though, here’s are a few shots from our first two days.

First, we arrived at our ship and we’re amazed by how big it was. It’s one thing to HEAR how big it is, but it’s another thing to see it.

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We got on board, dropped off our bags at our room and went for a walk around the ship. We also decided to start using our Ultimate Beverage Plan:

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That’s a nonalcoholic strawberry daiquiri.

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That might just be my new profile picture.

The boys said hello and goodbye to Lady Liberty.

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We had dinner in a restaurant at the back of the ship. My fresh mozzarella and tomato was phenomenal. (It looked so good that I tore into it before taking a photo.) The eggplant was amazing and the chocolate volcano was incredible. The view out the rear window was great too. (Mental Note: Photoshop someone water skiing behind the boat.)

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Today, we went to the pool and the boys and I had a blast on the water slide and splashing around.

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More photos will definitely be coming and it looks like plenty of great times are ahead.

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Happy Birthday NHL–The Sky Is The Limit!

Posted by TechyDad on August 17, 2015 under Aspergers, Autism, Birthday, NHL

NHL-At-The-BeachToday, NHL turns twelve years old.  He is officially one year away from being a teenager.  That’s a scary thought as part of me still thinks of him as my little baby.  The time from his birth to now has rushed by in a blur.  I’m sure there was some wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff going on since it both seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday when he was a little baby.  Part of my brain keeps insisting he’s a baby but the other part is starting to plan for him having his bar mitzvah driving a car, dating, going to college, and other milestones of him growing up.

Still, as much as I like to look forward, I think that birthdays are a great time to look back as well.  We’re constantly and changing.  The people we were a year ago are nothing like the people we are today.  I figured this would be a good time to think back on everything that NHL has accomplished this past year.

First and foremost is middle school.  Going into sixth grade, we were afraid of how NHL would do in middle school.  Given his Asperger’s syndrome and his problems with executive function, we were sure that the transition from class to class would throw him off.  We mentally prepared ourselves for a year-long fight to help prop him up as he crumbled apart.

That fight never came.

What we failed to see coming was that NHL, like many on the spectrum, thrives on schedules.  He likes knowing just what is coming and hates when plans consist of "well, we’ll see what happens."  Furthermore, when a schedule is set, changing it causes disruption equivalent to have a 8.0 earthquake hit.  In elementary school, there was one teacher teaching everything (except for a few special classes).  This meant that the teacher could extend one lesson a bit longer if he or she felt like the extra time was needed.  For NHL, though, these willy nilly schedule changes rocked any security he had in the world.

In middle school, though, there was a loud buzzer that would ring to signal the end of class.  It didn’t matter if the math teacher really felt like she needed five more minutes to finish this lesson.  The buzzer sounded which meant this class was over and they had to get to their next one.  The structure of this routine (combined with an amazing sixth grade support team) helped NHL shine as a student.  As for us: for the first time since NHL first started daycare that we really felt like we weren’t fighting major battles.  There were times when we had to go up to bat for NHL, but it felt like we were moving couches and painting rooms, not trying to get four walls and a roof in place.

NHL’s second accomplishment is the nature of his academic achievement.

NHL began to take pride in his grades and loved school.  Granted, I think he has always liked school a lot, but there were times when these "like school a lot" were punctuated by moments when he cried over going back into bad situations.  This year, though, he LOVED school the whole way through.  His love of school translated into a love of learning and he really showed how powerful his brain really is.  He got silver honor roll the first two semesters and, not satisfied with that fantastic performance, made a declaration that he would get gold honor roll the next time around.  He put in the hard work, stayed after school when he needed additional help, and pushed himself.  In the end, he got gold honor roll in the third semester.  They don’t give this award out in the last semester, but he would have gotten it then as well.  To give an example of how much he pushed himself, his science final exam took his class grade down because he "only" got a 97 on the final.  Previously, he had a science class grade of 100.

Another example of NHL pushing himself was when he participated in NYSSMA.  His band teacher wanted him to play the snare drums, but NHL had his eyes set on timpani drums.  I’m not a drum expert by any means, but from what I can gather, timpani are much harder to play – in part because they need to be tuned.  While NHL was waiting to be called in, he talked with a girl from his class.  She mentioned how she was really nervous.  NHL, however, was perfectly calm.  There was no sign whatsoever of any kind of performance anxiety.  He was going in to do something he loved doing and was totally confident in his skills.  (I envy him when he’s like this.)

I was allowed in for the first part of NHL’s performance.  He was asked to tune the first drum and was allowed to use a bell as a reference tone.  Then, he was asked to tune the second drum to a different tone using only the first drum as a reference.  He carefully tuned the instrument.  When he was done, the instructor asked if he was sure that it was right – seemingly giving him a chance to correct a mistake.  He confidently said it was right and then the instructor dropped the "you made an error" façade and agreed with him.  The end result was that he did really well in NYSSMA.  His band teacher thought that timpani would be too difficult for him, but he set his mind to the task and pushed himself until he achieved his goal.

NHL also accomplished a lot in social development.

Due to Asperger’s Syndrome, NHL has always lagged behind his peers in social and emotional development.  He may have been 11 years old, but socially and emotionally was about 8.  Needless to say, an "8 year old" in a class amongst 11 year olds – especially one with an intellectual age of about 14 – doesn’t tend to make a lot of friends.  It’s not that NHL didn’t want to make friends, but he genuinely doesn’t know how to or just what constitutes a "friend."  (I have similar issues with this, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)  Still, he learned how to work with other kids and while this might not have turned into a ton of friends, it has laid some important groundwork.  He seems to have a slightly better idea of friendship and can interact better with his peers.

As an example here, I submit the case of the white water rafting trip.  NHL typically doesn’t like being splashed.  He detests water in his eyes and, so, we were very apprehensive when we were told that there would be a white water rafting class trip.  We won’t even go into the fact that he can’t swim.  (See my embarrassing pool lesson post from nearly 6 years ago.)  It didn’t help when a teacher joked with NHL that she was going to squirt him with water during the trip and he took this a) seriously instead of as a joke and b) as an statement of malice from the teacher directed at him.  We decided that it would be best for me to accompany NHL to help defuse any meltdowns before they occurred.

The trip went swimmingly, though.  (Pun intended.)  He took a front seat on the raft to help lead his group and didn’t care that this meant he’d get splashed more.  In fact, he seemed to relish when the water drenched him.  In a calm area, when the students and teachers got to use water squirters and buckets on each other, he relished shooting his peers/teachers, enjoyed helping his fellow raft-mates to shoot peers/teachers (by steering the raft in exactly the right direction), and even was happy when he himself got hit by others.  It was all in good fun and he not only recognized this but was fully participating.  Somehow, I don’t think One-Year-Ago NHL would have done quite as well.  At the end of the trip, he begged me to bring him back – only this time with B and JSL.  (Sadly, we didn’t get to go back this summer.  Maybe next summer, though.)

There is so much more I could go on and on about how NHL has grown.  Though I still want him to remain my little boy for as long as possible, I’m constantly amazed and proud of the wonderful man he’s becoming.

Happy 12th birthday, NHL.  To quote Matt Smith’s doctor as he began to regenerate:  "I tell you what – it’s gonna be a whopper!"

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Cruise Tech and Geeky Cruise Reads

Posted by TechyDad on August 13, 2015 under Technology, Vacation

cruise-techIn part to celebrate my fortieth birthday – and because we haven’t had a family vacation in years, we’re going on a cruise to the Bahamas.  To most people, this would mean finding the right swimsuit or packing extra sunscreen.  To me, it means finding the right technology.

I’m a bit of a photography nut.  And when I say "a bit", I mean I tend to take one photograph every ten seconds while on vacation.  I’ll have my DSLR with me to help take photos, but I’ll also be taking photos with my smartphone.  There’s only one problem:  My phone might wind up running low on storage space.  I’d hate to find myself unable to take photos with days to go.  Alternatively, I might take a spectacular photo with my DSLR and want to share it on social media from the boat.  Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Lines, we’re getting 100 minutes of free Internet service.  We’ll use this – sparingly – to queue up some social media photos every night.

But back to the question at hand:  How do I upload/download photos to or from my phone?  I could pack my laptop, but that would be one more thing to keep track of.  Instead, I did a little research and found out that my phone comes equipped with a technology called USB To Go.  What this means is that – with a special cable and app – I can connect a USB device to my phone.

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This adapter cable plugs into the phones’ microUSB plug.  From there, there are 3 USB slots where devices such as a thumb drive or an external hard drive can be plugged in.  There are also slots for memory cards such as SD cards (like my DSLR camera uses).  When I plug in a memory card or thumb drive, I can launch ES File Explorer File Manager (a free app from the Google Play store) to view the files stored there.  I can copy files from the phone to the thumb drive/memory card or vice versa.  This means that I can use a 64GB thumb drive as a backup medium.  Depending on how many photos we take, I could even back up the DSLR photos to the thumb drive using this method.

The other piece of technology that I’m going to bring will help me charge my devices.  I’ve heard that cruise ships can be light on the power outlets.  I guess this is to be expected as the cabins themselves aren’t very spacious.  However, given that we have multiple devices (at least two phones and perhaps the boys’ tablets as well), how can we charge all of them.  We could bring a surge protector, but I also heard that these can be troublesome on the ship which is understandable – if everyone plugged in and filled up a surge protector the ship’s electrical systems could be strained.  My second piece of technology is a USB charging hub.

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USB devices don’t need the full power of a standard electrical outlets to charge devices.  This hub will plug into one outlet and will give me five USB charging ports to use.  Granted, we’ll likely wind up using four at most for nightly phone/tablet charges, but still each port will only use 2.4 amps of power per port with a maximum of 8 amps total.  A standard electrical outlet uses 15 to 20 amps so, even if this were fully loaded, it would use less power than a hair dryer (or some other normal plugged in electrical device).  Furthermore, this is very small.  I was expecting something much larger and bulkier, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the main unit fits comfortably in my hand.

The last thing that I’m bringing isn’t tech, but it is for the cruise.  I’m on the hunt for a good cruise book.  I don’t want just any book, though.  I want something geeky to pour into.  Given that we’re going to be pretty disconnected from social media and totally disconnected from any geeky online discussions, I need something geeky to indulge in while cruising.  At first, I considered getting The Bloggess’ new book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.  Unfortunately, it’s release date is September 22nd.  Unless Jenny sends me an advance copy (something that I consider highly unlikely) or unless a blue box comes bearing a gift from the future, I don’t think this is an option.  Quick side note: I read her first book – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – twice and loved it.  I annoyed B a few times by laughing out loud.  (Anyone who knows me knows that I can have a very loud laugh!)  I keep meaning to do a book review of it here and keep getting distracted.  Squirrel!

Right now, my top three picks are:

  • You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day.  I know of Felicia, but must admit that I don’t watch any of the shows she’s in.  Still, the title alone hooked me and the description of her story of her finding success while battling with demons of both the personal and Internet Troll kind struck a cord with me.  Still, I’m not completely sold and am interested in suggestions for other geeky books to read.
  • Nobody Gets The Girl by James Maxey.  This is a story of an average guy living an average life until he wakes up one day invisible and (sometimes) intangible.  Even worse, his house is inhabited by strangers instead of by his wife.  It’s like he never lived at all, but he’s definitely still alive.  As he gets used to his new not-so-normal, he winds up becoming a superhero called Nobody and fights some villains alongside some other superheroes.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.  This is the story of both a genius supervillain and a rookie superhero and how they lives collide.

What tech items or geek books would you take on a cruise?

NOTE: The links to Amazon above include affiliate tags.

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Happy Fortieth Birthday To Me!

Posted by TechyDad on August 3, 2015 under Birthday

birthday_cake_smallToday is a big day for me.  Today, I bid my 30’s goodbye and say hello to my 40’s.  Yes, today is my 40th birthday.

Ten years ago seems like a lifetime away.  At that time, I was much heavier, NHL was only two years old, I didn’t have any grey hairs, and I felt like 30 was SO old.  In the past ten years, NHL learned to walk and went from daycare to pre-K to kindergarten to elementary school to middle school.  We stood up for him when he was bullied and administrators wanted to sweep it under the rug.  We learned about Autism, what NHL having it meant, and that I likely am on the spectrum as well.  I lost enough weight to be called "too skinny" for the first time in my life, gained some of the weight back, and lost more again.  JSL was born, scared us way too many times with febrile seizures and head injuries, and progressed up to elementary school.

Over the last decade, we took the boys to Disney World four times – once on our own and three times for Disney Social Media Moms.  B & I had a "just us" trip cancelled due to a hurricane and were lucky enough to get some of it back thanks to being invited to cover the New Fantasyland opening.

Technology has exploded in the past ten years.  Ten years ago, I didn’t even know what WordPress was and now I’m constantly working with it.  Our world expanded drastically as we discovered social media and gained new friends on social media.  We’ve gone from flip phones to smartphones and constant Internet access. 

I’ve learned many lessons about life in general, about parenting, and about myself.  I’ve introduced the boys to many different geeky topics such as superheroes and Doctor Who.  I’ve found a whole new level of geekiness that exists in sharing your geeky interests with your child.

I’m actually writing this with a half hour to go on my 30’s.  As I write about my geekiness with only thirty minutes left until I turn 40, I can’t help but imagine turning 40 as if it were The Doctor’s regeneration.  It might not be as dramatic as my entire body and personality suddenly changing, but I am going to have to say goodbye to 30’s-Me and say hi to 40’s-Me.  Some of the last words of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor seem to apply here:

We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

I’ll always remember 30’s-Me and I might even miss him a bit, but I’m also excited to see what fun things 40’s-Me will encounter.  Here’s hoping this will be a great decade!

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