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Tic-Tac-DOH!

This is a little tail that will show you again what a powerful manifester I am when I set my mind to something. (A great past post on this subject is Pharamacy Giraffe.)

When I was little, for some holiday (seems like maybe it was Easter), I received a silly little tic-tac-toe game. It featured cats and mice as the playing pieces. Now, I never really played with it that much. I was an only child of a mother who purchased board games for me, but didn’t like to play them. So, I played it by myself until I got bored. It spent a lot of time sitting on the shelf collecting dust. One day, and I feel like I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade, because it was very soon after we moved into our trailer, I was playing with this very game when something TRAGIC happened…

Cat & Mouse Tic-Tac-Toe copyright 1982 Giftco, Inc.

Cat & Mouse Tic-Tac-Toe, copyright 1982 Giftco, Inc.

Let’s back up for a moment here. Let me tell you something about my trailer. It was in a trailer park, so there really wasn’t much yard. I spent a lot of time sitting on the concrete steps, playing or reading or whatever. They were plain and boring and hard. They did not even have a railing up to the door as so many other trailers had.

What it DID have was a giant gap between the steps and the skirting (the metal trim around the bottom of a mobile home that covers up all the pipes and wheels and crap that are underneath it). My mom always cautioned me not to lose toys or anything down there. She was not going to retrieve them. I was a little kid. My mom had proven she could do almost anything. So then why couldn’t she move four concrete steps? I figured she just didn’t want to. I also suggested that we just shove the steps up closer to the house. But she explained about how the ground moves due to the freezing and thawing. And to illustrate her point, there was already a dent in the skirting from the years prior to us living there.

A picture of the steps. And my gramma. Because I miss her very much.

A picture of the steps. And my gramma. Because I miss her very much.

So, one fateful day, a mouse from my tic-tac-toe game fell BEHIND the steps! That fast, my game became tic-tac-DOH, as Homer Simpson would say. I cried and cried that I wanted it back. What good was a tic-tac-toe game with only 8 pieces? (What is a tic-tac-toe game good for at all, really? It is usually played with only a paper and pen!) I kept thinking there must be a way to move those steps.

I eventually put a pink pencil eraser with the set, to simulate the missing pink mouse. For years, I looked at those steps and knew that mouse was behind them, just out of my reach. Sure, other things fell back there over the years. Some things we could push out using a yard stick (meter stick, if you are international). I lived there for 15 years. And as much school studies, college tests, and pop culture trivia as I crammed into my brains in that time, I NEVER forgot about that little mouse, all alone, hungry and cold, behind those steps. Day after day he suffered back there in silence. I never gave up hope that one day I might see him again. I kept the game all those years, after all. A game I didn’t even play.

Then one day, that all changed…

After I moved out and then my mother, the landlord pulled our trailer out and sat it up by the road, for sale to the best offer. That is terribly depressing, but what happened next was NOT!

My old home was just pulled out to the curb to be sold for best offer.

My old home was just pulled out to the curb to be sold for best offer.

My then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I went to poke around the old homestead. The home where I had spent the formative years of my life, now brutally removed, leaving nothing but two long slabs of concrete, some water lines, and some blue-stained dirt.*

Can you guess what I looked for?

Can you guess WHAT I FOUND?!!

I found my mouse!

The mouse that was under my house!

I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her SHE WAS WRONG! She said I would never get that mouse back, BUT I DID!

NEVER SAY NEVER!

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!

The miraculous mouse from under the house!

The miraculous mouse from under the house!

I had spent so much time thinking we needed to move the steps, I never thought of moving the trailer. Which is silly, because the trailer HAS wheels; the steps do not. Once I returned home, I reunited that little mouse with his family! You can’t tell it in the picture, but that mouse is little dirtier, looks a little more tired than the other mice in the set. He has some dirt in the creases of his body. And I could give him a good bath and remove it, but I won’t. It is his badge of honor of what he survived. I want to know which one is the miraculous mouse, the one who was braver than all the other mice. The one who went where no plastic mouse had gone before, and returned to tell the tail (Even his tail is still intact!).

I realize that no one really needed to ever hear this story except me, but I have put it on here anyway. Don’t you wish you had the ten minutes back that it spent for you to read that? No matter what you think, I think there is a lesson to be learned there, somewhere. Never give up on the mouse under your house.

Maybe the lesson is that I need some therapy…

* When we moved into that trailer, there was a state mandate for all the drain pipes to be updated to be bigger. That was work was completed (or so we thought) before we moved in. All the drains in the entire structure were on the side under the house–except the drain for the washing machine. My mom sold the washer and dryer that came with the trailer right after we moved in, and we never had another until about a year before we moved out. Apparently, we only learned through my snooping of the old homestead, in all those years the drain for the washer had never been hooked into the rest of the sewer pipes. Every time my mom had done laundry for a year (and let me tell you, that woman does A LOT of laundry), all the water had gone on the ground underneath the trailer. We always sort of wondered why you could smell Downy outside so well when doing the wash, even when the windows were all closed. So in our wake, we left a big blue puddle of fabric softener.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!

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What I Learned This Week – 12/28/14

This week I learned that the children’s game Candy Land has changed a lot in the last 35 years.

My mom bought my son, M, the game Candy Land for Christmas. I realized it has changed a lot since I played it as a child. I still had my childhood version, sans box and directions, which have been gone for years. My classic Candy Land board and pieces live in my Chutes & Ladders box. I brought it downstairs and laid the two side by side.

Candy Land: Early 1980's vs. 2014 boards

Candy Land: Early 1980’s vs. 2014 boards

The new board is smaller. And definitely not as sturdy. The first time I opened it and tried to lay it flat, I ripped it into two pieces. I had to tape it back together (don’t tell my mother). I understand why Hasbro makes it that way. So they can package it in a smaller box, and sell it at a lower price. I still liked it when game boards for every game were all the same standard size (Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly, etc.).

Classic Candy Land of my youth

Classic Candy Land of my youth

The new game features a spinner instead of cards to tell you where to move your piece to. I get this too. Half the kids out there probably don’t know how to shuffle cards. The other half probably lose the cards, then cannot play the game. Although I did notice on the Hasbro website where they sell a refill you can buy to replace your missing cards. I always liked the cards, because then I could study the candy ones and imagine how delicious they would be to eat.

Candy Land circa 2014

Candy Land circa 2014

I think that the 2014 Candy Land has been girlie-fied. The game board, but also the game pieces, suddenly look very feminine. Candy is a generic thing that kids love. The old game board even featured a picture of both a girl AND A BOY happily setting off on their sweet adventure.  I wonder how many little boys are turned off by this makeover.

I think I am saddest that they got rid of the classic game pieces, that looked very much like gingerbread men. I am thinking my son and I might have to play on the old game board now and then. I really hate change.

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My Tribute to GALAGA (Written By A Total Non-Gamer)

Photo: arcadeartlibrary.com

My all-time favorite video game in the whole wide world is GALAGA!

Thank you Namco for making the only video game that I can half-ass play!

I first discovered Galaga at the bowling alley just minutes from my house. I would follow my asbestos friend on her newspaper route. At the end of it, we would stop at the bowling alley and she would make the owner turn on the video games so we could play them. (She was always a bad influence on me, from day one!)  She would spend her paper route money there. As I had no paper route (and received no cut for assisting with hers), I would rape my piggy bank of quarters. I once shattered an adorable ceramic elephant bank in my haste to feed my video game needs.

Granted, this was a very short phase in my life. Having never had a gaming console in my house until I met my husband, I am not a huge video game fan (player, whatever). But the arcade games at the bowling alley were a nice dip into that world. There was Gauntlet, Centipede, and Donkey Kong, which I sucked at. I could play Pole Position (who couldn’t?), but I rarely ever qualified for the actual race. There was a karate game I could sort of play, where if you won a little girl would come out and kiss you. I dabbled with Pac-Man, but those ghosts are not nice.

While they occasionally rotated the games in and out, Galaga seemed to always be there. And that was good, because I could actually play it for a few minutes on the same quarter. I could routinely make it through the first two stages of play and the Challenging Stage (bonus round), before being completely killed. IT WAS AWESOME!

A totally uninteresting factoid: Galaga is the first (and one of very few) video games my mom has ever played.

One time when I was in middle school, my Grandma had flown down to visit my Uncle Jim in Florida.  My mom and I were supposed to pick her up from the airport when she came back.  But Grandma called and said her flight was delayed.  We really had no idea when it would arrive, so we went to the airport prepared to kill some time.

I got very excited when we got there and they had a Galaga machine. My mom let me play, and then I tried to help her play. After that, we checked out the (very small) airport some more, then we went to the restroom. As I was heading out the door of the restroom, I slammed right into someone hurriedly coming in. We collided so hard, that my hat fell off my head. Turned out, it was my Grandma (I don’t think she used the bathrooms on the airplane and with the delay and all, well….).

Photo: technabob.com

The next time I can remember encountering Galaga is when I was in college. As a Communications major with an emphasis in TV and Radio Broadcasting, I had to make a lot of media projects. Many of them required sound effects. The Communications department at my college did have a collection of very sad and badly worn sound effects CDs. But often someone else was using the one you wanted, or it was too scratched to work any longer.

I think when I complained about such things to my best friend, she though I was crazy (she was studying Art and Elementary Education). But, thank God, she was thoughtful enough to buy me my very own sound effect CD for my birthday. Then, all I had to do was base each project around the sound effects that I owned myself.

One of the categories on the CD was “video game”. Are you with me? Have you guessed? I found the sound effects on the CD very familiar. Then one day, I placed it as all the sound effects from my most favorite video game, Galaga! What are the chances?

Since then, I have owned Galaga in many different incarnations. Orginally, I played it as an arcade game. This is the absolute best because a shot is fired EVERY TIME you hit the button. If you can hit the button 180 times per minute, then you can shoot 180 shots! (In almost all other versions, this is a major handicap!) Of course, your arm will fall off afterwards. The joy stick makes it very easy to move your ship very fluidly, as if it is an extension of your own hand. And, this is where you can end up with “the claw” (As illustrated by Chandler Bing on Friends).

Click to play on YouTube.com

Click to play on YouTube.com

My husband bought me a Namco Museum disc for the PlayStation One. But then he took the PlayStation One apart and never put it back together again. This disc would of course also play on the PlayStation Two. But that was harder to get the game started on for someone not used to it. And these days, the PlayStation Two is almost never hooked up. I am pretty sure this disc gave you the ability to adjust how many lives you got and when you could obtain more. I am fairly sure this is the version I got my all-time high score on: 141,140.

Photo: melarky.com

At one point, I bought one of those joysticks with the game built right in, that you plug directly into your TV. But it proved to have poor picture quality. (I can’t imagine why.)

After we got a Wii, my husband was kind enough to purchase Galaga from the Nintendo online game store thingy. So, this is the easiest way for me to play it in this day and age. But, as I have mentioned before, it has a tick where it will not fire as often as you hit the button.

As you may have guessed, my hit/miss ratio, while displayed at the conclusion of your game, means nothing to me. I want to shoot-shoot-shoot, baby! Like a blind man at a shooting range! Like a man on Viagra at a sperm bank! Like a photographer at a triplets’ wedding!

Photo: www5.pcmag.com

I love this game because all you do is move your fighter left or right, and shoot. You don’t fly through space or have bombs come at you. They drop at you! Straight down! This game isn’t 3D. It is barely 2D. It is like a one dimensional game!

I love that the “alien ships” look like bugs. Bees, scorpions, dragonflies, etc. It makes me want to shoot and kill them sooo much more! The bees are the worst. They are the only ships that once they fly off the bottom of the screen, will circle back up and kill you from the bee-hind! In later levels, they also turn into scorpions that move quickly and have the same ability. I have a new technique I am applying–kill all the bees first! (It seems to be working quite well.)

If your white ship gets sucked up by the blue ship guy in his tractor beam, you can get it back if you are very careful. You can shoot the blue guy as he attacks you with your other ship. Then your ship will come back to you, and you will have a Double Fighter. (My husband finds this awesome.)

The Double Fighter is great to rack up bonus points during the Challenging Stages, because you are double-wide with more shooting width. But, the Double Fighter make you a double-wide target for the bombs and bugs during regular play. The Double Fighter is a dangerous scheme to play, losing more often than winning (like Double-Down in Blackjack).

As often as a bee comes up & “stings” you from behind or an arrow you never saw blows you up, there are the wonderful “bad programming” saves. At least once a game, a ship that should totally have killed you totally flies right through you and keeps going. When that happens, it is GREAT!

Photo: fc02.deviantart.net

As Galaga is a very old, classic arcade game, it has that charming, yet frustrating programming where the levels as you advance do not look all that different. The levels do, indeed, speed up on you. This is usually not a big problem for me, as I rarely advance that far. My husband finds it rather frustrating though.

And speaking of my husband and frustrating, when I play, he always wants to also. I get it, it is his game system, etc. But if we take turns, he plays for twice, sometimes three times as long as I do. This is because he is a better player than me and lives longer. Should I be penalized with limited playing time just because I don’t have the years of video game practice and eye/screen-hand/controller coordination that he has acquired? And how will I ever improve if I always have less game time? (Sorry, pet-peeve of mine.)

Galaga permeates in our modern culture. It was regularly seen in the background of the student lounge on The O.C. I was delighted to see it used in the credits for the movie Grandma’s Boy. Galaga was name-dropped on the TV series Lost.  I believe someone uses it as a TV production logo (vanity plate).  It continues to be available through the years on almost every gaming system.

I would love to get a T-shirt or baseball hat with the Galaga logo, to “represent”. Someday, when I win the lottery (WAIT! Make that TOMORROW when I win the lottery…), I am going to buy the upright arcade version. Brookstone sells a version for a mere $3,000. *sigh*

And after over 20 years of playing Galaga, what do I have to show for it? I can routinely make it through the first two stages of play and the challenging stage, and occasionally make it to the second challenging stage as well, before being completely killed;)

Alex: I’m not any of those guys, I’m just a kid from a trailer park…
Centauri: If that’s what you think, then that’s all you’ll ever be!

–The Last Starfighter (1984)

What I Learned This Week – 10/7/12

Introduction to my week

In my life, I have participated in some strange events because something told me that I should.  An example would be when I played a ghoul on the Ghost Train.  I ended up on the train with the adults, rather than with my high school classmates outside in a field freezing and playing with a chainsaw.  I have always felt weird about this my whole life.

I just realized: THAT WAS AWESOME!!!  I didn’t have to freeze or, more importantly, spend time with people who had no desire to spend time with me.

Other events have included going to presidential campaign events, genealogical meetings, weather-spotter meetings, and numerous others.

A sticker I got from WordCamp that is now affixed to my puter


One such event I participated in yesterday.   I signed up and attended WordCamp.  Now, the write up for this event describes it as such:

WordCamp Detroit 2012 is managed and organized by a group of people who share a few key interests: Passion for the web, the love of WordPress, the drive to teach and belief in the a**-kicking city of Detroit.

From: http://2012.detroit.wordcamp.org/about/

Having actually attended the event, I would say it was a mish-mash of speakers of various levels of professional speaking ability and various levels of experience in WordPress/website coding/google/none and/or all of the above.  And you really need more than a basic level of knowledge of WordPress.

What I learned this week was that there is some degree of knowledge between writing a goofy little blog in my living room and the info that was dispensed at WordCamp.  And I am not sure where I need to look to find that info.

The word I heard over and over again that seems to be my biggest deficiency right now seems to be something called a plugin.  Or rather, many, many of them.  If my blog suddenly STARTS stalking you, then you will know I did something wrong:)

I also learned this week that I can put on my big girl panties (I hate that term) and drive all by my little self to big, bad Detroit on the frightening freeways and find the scary parking garage, and make it home again.

I was literally terrified to go all by myself.

My husband even offered to drop me off and pick me up.  But it is one thing for me to disrupt my life to attend an event, it is another to expect my husband to disrupt his entire Saturday as well.

Driving before 8:00AM on a Saturday, the traffic was not bad at all, and the one detour I had didn’t take me beyond the road I needed to turn on to.  And no one mugged me and stole my laptop on the way to the workshop.  Which was my second biggest fear, next to driving.  I had even emptied out my extra credit cards from my wallet so I would have fewer companies to call when my wallet was stolen.  And then I put my drivers license and credit card in my pocket while I walked on the street, so that they hopefully wouldn’t be stolen at all.

Comerica Park from the window of the WordCamp venue


The drive home was another matter.  My return home Google Maps directions looked very clean-cut and easy.  WRONG!  It turns out the venue was right next to Comerica Park (Home of the Detroit Tigers).  Like, you could see it right out the fifth floor windows where we were all day.  WordCamp got over one hour before the first Tigers playoff game of the year.  And Google Maps wanted me to drive right in front of Comerica Park.  So did all the one way streets that made it impossible for me to go any other direction.

I either missed my turn or the road was blocked there or both.  I ended up on Woodward Avenue, which was kind of a lucky break.  It is a very major road, so there were signs directing me back to the freeway.  Where I ran into all the traffic still arriving to the Tigers game. 

And wouldn’t you know it, my Service Engine Soon light popped on as I am trying to not collide with anyone in game time traffic?  I seriously have nightmares like that.  (My husband tells me to ignore the SES light.  It seems to only be an issue in the winter.  He claims it has to do with level of ethanol in the gasoline, or something like that.)

I was driving 80mph in the slow lane.  I couldn’t wait to get home to my safe little house.

The most important thing that I learned might be that although I don’t want to do something (and every molecule in my body is screaming at me not to), I can do it if I make myself.

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My Dream of Being on a Game Show

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I grew up watching Card Sharks, Classic Concentration, Press Your Luck, The Price is Right, and Jeopardy on television. I always played along, as if I was a contestant out in sunny California right along with them. When I watched Jeopardy, I even trained myself to always answer in the form of a question.

See, I always believed that someday I would get to compete on one of those game shows for cash, fabulous prizes, bragging rights, and the chance to be on TV. Other people dream of getting their own reality show or having a video of having their nuts hit by a ball on America’s Funniest Home Videos. I wanted to beat the Whammy on Press Your Luck and solve the puzzles on Classic Concentration. I never knew exactly how I would have enough money to get out to California to compete. But I believed, so much so that I kept notebooks from high school and college filled with information. I believe some day in the future I would use them to study for Jeopardy. Around 2000, I finally got rid of them. I lived in a small apartment with a large amount of clutter. I gave up on my dream.

Recently, following my layoff, I started watching “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. I realized I am pretty darn good at it. I started playing it on Facebook, although I soon discovered I do not like how the set up differs from the television version. Then I saw I could play Jeopardy on Facebook. Then during the Jeopardy show they said you could go online and take the contestant test. But by the time I was able to, the website said they had reached their maximum number of testers.

Card Sharks


So, what now? I bought the Wii version of Jeopardy and I kick my husband’s butt. I wish I had the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Wii game as well. Maybe I should see if it is easier to get onto “Millionaire?” New York is within driving distance…

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