Sunday, July 30, 2006

The family that swims together...

My niece Meghan, the eldest of the Rooney grandchildren, came to visit this weekend.

Meghan is the daughter of my brother Tim, who lives near Chicago. She flew in by herself on Friday (after a weather delay kept her on the ground Thursday night) and stayed with my mom.

We all spent the day today lounging in and around my sister Annie’s pool. It was great to have six of the nine grandkids together.

Pictured here are Annie’s kids—Olivia, Helen and Louis—along with Nolan and Meghan (Thomas was over in the shallow end).

Change of Pace

I recently switched from running to walking. It has been a great transition for me but different. I have run for 5 years and even did a marathon 2 years ago. But I stopped getting as much satisfaction from running and it felt like a chore whenever I went out. After all this time running. my body changed a lot in the beginning but over the past couple years it's remained about the same. I figure I just keep exercising the same muscles with running and maybe I should try something new. Lastly, I never really felt like I fit in with the running group I was a part of and wanted more time for myself. So my slow paced running converted to walking and it has been great. I mainly go alone and I like the peace of that. I tend to have a lot of thoughts and I get to clear my head that way. The rhythm of walking is very relaxing. I still do the same miles so it just takes me longer now. I even go 5 days a week instead of 4 now. There are a few friends that I walk with sometimes. Marlene and I walk on Wednesdays and it's great to have time to talk without our kids around. The only bad thing is some friends that I used to run with I don't really get to see much anymore. And I notice I have to watch what I eat a little more because I don't think walking keeps the pounds away as well as running. But ultimately, I think we have to be healthy and happy with ourselves and what we do. Don't you agree?

Friday, July 28, 2006

100 minutes of free iced coffee

If you love free stuff like me, then mark your calendar. To commemorate the opening of the 100th Dunkin’ Donuts store in the Capital Region all of the local stores will be offering free iced coffee for 100 minutes on Tuesday, Aug. 1. You can stop in and get for your free small iced coffee at any Dunkin’ Donuts from 1 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Mmm...test footage

UPDATE #2: WooHoo! You can find one of the clips here!

UPDATE: D'oh! Fox ordered YouTube to take the clips down. Bummer. Trust me, it was good stuff.

The big San Diego Comic-Con was held last week. This is the major geek event of the year. Had I not been camping in the woods last week, I would have been posting about lots of things, like news about "Spider-Man 3" and "Star Trek."

Now there just seems to be too much to catch up on, but when time permits I'll get to a few items for the two or three of you who care, but haven't already read about them.

But these clips need to go on right away! These are animatics (early test animation) for the upcoming "Simpsons" movie. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mutant mayhem

I finally saw “X-Men: The Last Stand” tonight. Yeah, I know, the movie came out in May. I don’t get out as often as I used to.

Anyway, it was great. Never has a movie with so much negative advance buzz been so satisfying. I thought it captured the spirit of the comic books very well and it certainly left me wanting more.

Granted, I did think Juggernaut was pretty silly. He was the low point of the film. And the whole scene with the Golden Gate Bridge seemed a little excessive. But beyond that, it was great.

Also, I was pretty concerned that they were going to butcher the Dark Phoenix storyline—one of the greatest stories ever told in the pages of “The Uncanny X-Men” or any other comic book. But they took a pretty far-reaching and far out story and brought it “down to earth” in a very effective way for the movie.

So this one was clearly better than the first film. I think I’ll need to see it again before I can decide if it’s better than “X2: X-Men United.”

I’ll add this one to the must-own DVD list.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Back in Time

We haven’t been to a SPAC concert in ages, but we went last night to see Huey Lewis & the News and Chicago.

Chicago was alright. They’re solid musicians who put on a good show. Although I think there are only two original band members left. Most of the music, especially the horns, were fantastic, but the vocals were lacking on a few songs (Peter Cetera, where are you now?).

The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see Chicago if they were playing by themselves. Huey Lewis on the other hand was a fantastic blast from the past! This was actually the fourth time I saw the News at SPAC. Back in 1987, they were actually the first concert I ever went to. I saw them again in ’89 and ’91.

What’s not to like about Huey? They’re music is just plain All-American fun.

They came out and played a tight show that lasted a little more than an hour and packed in many of their hits and only one or two songs I wasn’t familiar with. There was a cool medley of “I Want a New Drug” and “Small World”—two songs with very different styles that you would never imagine going together, but they made it work quite well.

Then they came back for an encore that started with “Back in Time,” after that some members of Chicago came out to join them for a fantastically bluesy rendition “Bad Is Bad,” and then they closed it out with “Working for a Living.”

Huey turned up again later on to lend vocals to a couple of Chicago songs—once by himself and once with the rest of the News.

It was so great seeing Huey Lewis & the News again. Twenty-some years later, they’ve still got it. They may not be cool anymore, but it sure is hip to be square.

Java Joe

After jumping through some hoops, I finally got some vacation pictures to show up on Blogger. So please revisit my earlier post.

Here’s one more I just had to share. This is Thomas enjoying his first cup of coffee.

Every morning when I’m making the coffee at home he sits at the kitchen counter and says, “Mmm, I like coffee!” We always tell him he wouldn’t like it.

But on our trip, we figured what the heck, we’re camping. So one morning we let him have half a cup along with his pancakes and bacon—like a real rugged outdoorsman! Of course he loved it.

Don’t worry. It was decaf. The last thing we needed was him all wired up!

One final camping note...this year's goatee didn't last long. I shaved it off before church Sunday morning.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Happy campers

Blogger might not be letting me upload pictures, but fortunately YouTube is working fine...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Adirondack Rocky Mountain High

The intrepid Rooney family has returned from the Adirondack wilderness. We spent several days camping at the Limekiln Lake state campground in the town of Inlet, just outside of Old Forge.

Here’s the recap:
Day 1: We arrived Monday afternoon and spent most of the day setting up camp. Actually, Kris did most of the work while I took the kids to the beach to keep them out of her hair.

Day 2: We went to Enchanted Forest Water Safari. We were there pretty much the whole day, now that we don’t worry so much about rushing Thomas back for a nap anymore. I think it was the longest family outing we ever went on.

I was pretty impressed with the park. It’s been around for more than 50 years and was bigger than I expected. We started off on their “lazy river” ride, which was very relaxing. Nolan had a blast on a kid-sized water slide. And we all took a raft ride down the Cascade Falls. Kris, Nolan and I loved that. Thomas wasn’t so sure.

But I wasn’t going to leave until I tackled a water slide. I told Kris and the kids they could pick any slide in the place for me. Naturally they chose the tallest one they had—the Killermajaro slide. According to the Water Safari website, it’s a 280-foot drop and you reach speeds up to 30 mph. That was a lot of fun, but it was a little bumpier than I expected and I was a little sore when it was over.

Day 3: It was mountain climbing day, and Thomas hiked up his first mountain. He’s been to the top of couple of mountains before, but with us carrying him all or part of the way. This was the first time he hiked all the way up under his own power—and he loved it! He was so proud of himself!

We climbed Rocky Mountain. It’s only about a half mile to the top. So it’s very easy for kids. Once at the summit, there is a beautiful view of Fourth Lake in the Fulton Chain Lakes (see picture above).

Later in the afternoon we took a ride with the Old Forge Lake Cruise Line. Our two-hour cruise started on Old Forge Pond made its way up the chain to Fourth Lake, the largest in the chain, and then back.

During the cruise, the captain invited both of the boys to come into the wheel house and take turns piloting the boat. They each left with a “junior captain certificate” that they thought was great.

Day 4: We took a ride on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which Thomas thought was terrific. Actually, as much as he loves trains, he was a little nervous about it at first. But he warmed up to it after a while.

After the train ride we had lunch and wandered around Old Forge doing a little shopping.

Day 5: It seems like on many of our vacations we feel like we stayed one day too many. We seriously considered leaving Thursday instead of Friday, but decided to tough it out.

On Thursday night we packed up as much as we could and went to bed.

We had beautiful weather for the whole trip. Then sometime around midnight it started raining. Kris and I woke up early and laid there awake. That’s when we noticed it changing from raining to pouring and water was coming in through the seams of the tent where the floor meets the walls.

So we backed the van right up to the tent. We put the kids in the van and had them eat their breakfast while Kris and I packed up the tent and whatever else was left. Then we hit the road. We were home by lunchtime.

It was a pretty successful trip. We all had a great time and I think everyone has returned with some great family memories.

In addition, like our trip to Silver Lake last year, I’ve also returned with facial hair—which I’ll keep as long as my wife continues to humor me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Vacation time

We're heading out for our vacation this morning. For the next several days we'll be camping in the Adirondacks with no TV, no e-mail, no computer!

Don't worry. We'll survive just fine.

You'll get the full recap when we return.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Baseball banter

Time for another rant against Fox and their coverage of Major League Baseball (all of the birthday business kept me from blogging about this yesterday).

While watching the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Fox played one of their “Sounds of the Game,” which I think was supposed to be Bronson Arroyo saying something to Brad Penny in the dugout. Maybe it’s just me, but it sounded like complete inaudible gibberish and a total waste of my time. Not to mention, you couldn’t tell exactly where the two talking players were in the shot shown on the screen. The whole thing made no sense!

At that point I decided to see how bad the delay was with the radio. Sure, the radio was a few seconds ahead of the TV, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the game this way. So with the exception of the tribute to Roberto Clemente, I watched the rest of the game on “mute” while listening to the coverage on ESPN Radio.

Why does Fox insist on tormenting baseball fans with all of their needless gimmicks?

I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Birthday extravaganza

The birthday party was a huge success, despite the weather.

The forecast called for rain, heavy at times, starting right around the time our party was supposed to start. So at the last minute we called everyone involved and made arrangements to start the party at 11 a.m. instead of 1:30 p.m.

Even still, about an hour before the party it was drizzling enough to start making us nervous. So as we’ve had to do in past years, we strung the huge tarp we use for camping over the patio and a section of the backyard. At least the nine kids we had (counting our own two) would be dry while eating. We decided we just wouldn’t care if they got a little wet in the bouncy-bounce we had set up.

Sure enough, about 10 minutes after the party ended, the heavens opened up and it’s been pouring on and off ever since. I’m so glad we changed the time.

As Kris mentioned before, the party had a “Star Wars” theme. Besides the bouncy-bounce, every kid who came was outfitted with a Jedi robe and got an inflatable sword that stood in for a lightsaber. Yeah, nothing beats inviting a bunch of 5- and 6-year-old boys over and giving them weapons!

The kids were also given squirt guns. At some point one of the kids started squirting me. Before you know it, a battle cry of “Get Mr. Rooney!” was being called out by all the kids. So what else could I do? I grabbed at sword and a squirt gun and took the crowd of kids on! We all wound up soaking wet and laughing hard.

After lunch was served, we had a surprise guest—Kris arranged for Mr. Ding-A-Ling to pull right into our driveway and serve ice cream to the kids. That was a big hit.

As the dust from the party settled we had time to start cracking into some of Nolan’s presents. Nearly everything he got at his party was “Star Wars” related. He got several action figures, some new lightsabers and a couple of “Star Wars” Transformers. We gave him a SpongeBob SquarePants skateboard along with a new helmet and a set of elbow, knee and wrist pads.

At the end of the day, Nolan was exhausted, but he went to bed a very happy 6-year-old boy.

Summer is great-

There are so many great things to do in the summer that just aren't there other times of the year. On Friday we had out friends Lori and Max come visit from the Catskills. It's so hard to see them during the school year because of the trip. The kids had a blast just playing with a sprinkler for over an hour in the back yard.

On Saturday, my friend Marlene and I left the world behind and went for a hike. It was the greatest day. We decided to hike Hunter Mountain in the Catskills which is really a ski mountain. We took the gondola to the top and then hiked 2 miles up and over to the peak where there was a fire tower. There was really no view without climbing the fire tower because of all the trees. But once we climbed the tower, it was a beautiful panoramic view. Lots of flies though which we couldn't figure out. So we hiked down to a lookout point to eat our lunch. We were rewarded with a hawk that glided around near us. Then we hiked down and rode the chair lift down. It was terrific.

Nolan has been in baseball camp this week and loving it. His friend Danny is a year under him and usually can't be in things together but this camp combines 5 and 6 year olds. I think he loves doing it with him. Thomas is jealous because he wants to go do something like his big brother. So I'm signing him up at a place called Kids Care Fitness Center this week.

And today Nolan turns 6. He had ice cream and chocolate milk for breakfast. Chris and I decorated until late last night turning our back yard into space for Star Wars. Another great thing about summer is having party in the middle of the week like this. We'll fill you in on how it goes. We're praying for the rain to hold off!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It's a bird! It's a plane!

I haven’t seen “Superman Returns” yet. I don’t know when I’ll get to, but I’m really looking forward to it.

I just got done watching on A&E the excellent documentary “Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman.” It traces the nearly 70-year history of the Man of Steel, from Action Comics #1 in 1938 to the new film that just came out in 2006.

I was a diehard comic book collector for about 10 years. But I was mainly a Marvel Comics guy. My comic book tastes leaned more towards the likes of Spider-Man and the X-Men.

Maybe I didn’t follow the Superman comic books, but that’s not to say I wasn’t a fan. Although I was never a Superman reader, there is still something about the character. He transcends comic books, having appeared in just about every form of media you can think of.

I’m not sure where I got my first exposure to Superman, but it was probably on either the Saturday morning “Super Friends” cartoon or reruns of the classic George Reeves TV show. They were both favorites of mine. And of course there was Christopher Reeve.

Like millions of kids, I can remember tying a blanket around my neck and jumping off the couch as if I too could leap tall buildings in a single bound. I even dressed up as Superman for Halloween in the second grade.

The documentary on A&E covers nearly every incarnation of the character. Besides George Reeves’ “The Adventures of Superman” and the movies, it also discusses everything from the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s to TV’s “Lois & Clark” in the 1990s and “Smallville” today. It also looks at how the character related to events of the day, from World War II to the JFK assassination to September 11th.

I highly recommend “Look, Up in the Sky.” I think A&E will probably rerun it a few more times. It’s also available on DVD.

Superman has a universal appeal. And on this July 4th I challenge you to name another fictional character that better embodies the best of American values—you know…truth, justice and all that stuff.

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

Happy Independence Day one and all.

You can read a copy of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives site. Seems very appropriate today.

Monday, July 03, 2006

May the Force be with you

I was playing around in Photoshop, trying to figure out how to make Nolan's lightsaber "glow." Here are my first attempts...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

'We love our Mu Ji Gae'

Today was the day for Camp Mu Ji Gae—a Korean culture camp that’s held in Albany each summer primarily for kids adopted from Korea.

This is the 20th year for Camp Mu Ji Gae (which means “rainbow” in English). It’s one of the largest camps of its kind in the Northeast and attracts kids from all over the state. The kids who come to the camp range in age from toddlers to high school students.

For the older kids, it’s more of a conventional camp where they go and stay for the week. But at age 3, Thomas is in the second level, which means he only spent a few hours there this morning accompanied by me.

The kids get to learn a little about Korean culture by checking out some Korean musical instruments, working on a craft project and other activities. But most importantly, it’s a chance for them to spend some time with other kids like themselves. When they get older, it will be a great opportunity to share experiences with other kids who know what it’s like to be adopted.

After camp, Kris and Nolan joined us for lunch. Then we stuck around for “Family Day.” As I mentioned, when the kids are older camp lasts longer and might not involve their parents. So the camp usually ends with Family Day, when moms and dads, brothers and sisters all gather together for fun activities.

Camp Mu Ji Gae isn’t strictly for adopted kids. Nolan has attended the camp in the past. Last year he was at the level where for a couple of days I would drop him off in the morning and Kris would pick him up at lunchtime. We thought the camp would be a great way for him to learn more about where his brother came from. It also gives him an idea what everyday life is like for Thomas, when for a change Nolan’s the only white kid and the rest of the faces around him are Korean.

Most importantly, it’s fun. Nolan opted not to go to camp this year and we didn’t press it. But when he showed up for Family Day, I think he kind of missed it and he told us that he wants to go again next year.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the house humming the catchy camp songs that we sang today.

It also put us in the mood to break out Thomas’ hanbok and try it on him. A hanbok is a traditional Korean ceremonial outfit worn only on very special occasions. When we got Thomas as a baby, packed in his bag was hanbok given as a gift from his foster family that took care of him for his first few months.

In accordance with Korean tradition, we had him wear it on his 1st birthday. He was swimming in it then, but it fits him much better now.

'Lifeforms detected...'

“That’s not Cybermen.”
“Oh my God.”

Holy crap! I just got done watching “Army of Ghosts,” part one of the two-part “Doctor Who” season finale. I can honestly tell you the cliffhanger ending brought me to the edge of my seat.

I’ve been a “Doctor Who” fan for more than 25 years. The show has been around more than 40 years. In all that time, this is the episode “Doctor Who” fans have been dreaming of!

The Doctor and Rose return to Earth only to discover that for the past two months what appear to be ghosts have been popping up all over the world. People aren’t freaked out by this. For the most part, their happy to reconnect to lost loved ones.

But is that what these specters really are? The Doctor is not so sure, and his search for answers leads him to the Torchwood Institute. There he learns the ghosts started appearing soon after a mysterious sphere arrived.

Some answers are uncovered when the deadly Cybermen show up. However, the question remains—what’s inside that sphere? The answer will delight “Who” fans everywhere.

I think I’m going to really enjoy next week’s finale, “Doomsday.” If you’re a “Who” fan, don’t wait for this one on the Sci Fi Channel. You’re going to want to BitTorrent this one ASAP (although it would kind of help to catch the earlier two-parter “Rise of the Cybermen”/“The Age of Steel”)!