Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Greenscreen fun!


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Originally uploaded by msirkin
Our latest fun with greenscreens. See all of my greenscreen pics including Battlestar Galactica, American Idols and more!

The technique isn't that hard, but it does require great lighting (which is tricky at best) and software that makes it easy to drop out the green background. I'm using an old version of Express Digital's Sport and Event software (leftover from when I ran a photography company), but you could use Photoshop as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

5th Graders Have Mad Skillz

My 5th grader recently did a report for Social Studies and decided to use Google Maps, along with a fictional diary to illustrate Ponce de Leon's journey and life. I think in 5th grade, all I could do was stutter around girls and play with my baseball cards.


View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's Way to Easy To Quit

But the thing is...if you never quit - you can never fail.

More bromides here. Awesome list.

Some of my favorites:

"There is something to be said for keeping at a thing, isn't there?"
~ Frank Sinatra

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."
~
Samuel Beckett

Thomas Edison's teachers said he was "too stupid to learn anything." He was fired from his first two jobs for being "non-productive." As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn�t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."

Michael Jordan and Bob Cousy were each cut from their high school basketball teams. Jordan once observed, "I've failed over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed."

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Lecture

I read about this in the WSJ yesterday and was thrilled to see that there is a youtube video up as well. Amazing.

"Brick walls are there for a reason: the let us prove how badly we want things."


Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Kids and Wife Are Away

And I'm sad about it. Come home soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Dreams and Disorientation"

(this is cross posted from my non-profit marketing blog, and eventually from the official International Rescue Committee blog - I wanted to share it here too.

When was the last time you were moved to take action?

This post isn’t intended to get you to take action, or to make a donation to the International Rescue Committee, where I work currently. But there’s a good chance you just might because you will most certainly be moved, surprised and compelled to, at minimum, learn more about what I’m going to talk about. If I can manage to write what I have in my head you will literally be astounded.

Americans take the “American Dream” for granted. Big time.

For me, growing up in Westchester County, NY, college, a career and a family were only ever a question of time. It’s a given for many Americans that if they work hard they can live the life of their dreams. But to me, the "American Dream" isn’t really “American” – it’s more of a statement about the spirit of ALL human beings and their desire to live the life of their dreams.

I spent a few days last week with our San Diego and Phoenix resettlement offices seeing first-hand how “the dream” works for refugees. These offices are in the business of delivering the "American Dream" on a daily basis.

I bet you haven’t heard about the ’72 Burundians. I hadn’t. They are a group of refugees who fled their homeland in 1972 following a campaign of violence against them by Tutsi-led forces. What happened is sometimes referred to as the first genocide in Africa’s Great Lakes region and -- two decades before the atrocities depicted in “Hotel Rwanda” -- resulted in 200,000 deaths and triggered the flight of some 150,000 refugees to camps in Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo.

These folks have lived in refugee camps for 35 years. Two generations of people growing up in refugee camps. The government of Tanzania has made it clear that it doesn’t want them to settle permanently – but isn’t 35 years of living somewhere “permanent?”

What if you were kicked out of your house and run off to a foreign country – then after 35 years told to leave?

As for “the dream” - I have to give pause and wonder to myself how these people had any hope at all for a better life.

I met Augustine and his beautiful family (his wife and 3 young boys) as part of my tour of the Phoenix resettlement office. Resettled refugees like Augustine typically travel for up to 4 or 5 days to get from their camp to the United States. Our trip to Augustine’s house was the IRC’s “24 hour” visit – a chance for staff to check in on the family and answer any additional questions they may have.

Before my visit, I could only guess at how confused and disoriented refugees like Augustine must feel when they first arrive. But then the reality of his experience started to sink in. It was confusing and disturbing to me on so many levels:

Augustine grew up in a refugee camp and doesn’t know what an air conditioner is, or butter for that matter. He asked us what a bag of pasta was for – he held up a box of Pop Tarts and with a look of hope and confusion listened while we told him it was a breakfast food, sort of like bread with fruit inside. But Augustine now finds himself in a furnished apartment, with an opportunity for education and a job--and, of course, Pop Tarts and Cheerios. Thanks to the IRC, he's standing on the doorstep of "the dream."

In my eyes, Augustine is a hero – he is a man that I can only bow down to and honor. He has survived something that for any American is completely inconceivable. He is raising his family amid all kinds of upheaval, he speaks 5 languages and he has found a way to build a better life for them. I’m in awe.

Later that evening, I decided to go along with IRC staff to the airport to pick up another set of incoming Burundians who had been traveling for 5 days. At 11:16, a group of African men wearing standard issue gray shirts, blue pants and basic sneakers came walking down towards us, their eyes bleary, holding on to their IOM issued bags with their papers – their permission slips to "the dream."

As we stood around baggage claim, communicating in smiles and gestures, we soon learned that 3 of their 5 bags had been “lost” by the airlines. Americans get upset when they lose a bag with their pool toys and bathing suits. These folks lost bags with everything they own in them. The airline representative made us fill out forms and told us to call in 24 to 48 hours. Welcome to America!

Imagine if you packed your house to move cross-country, and the moving truck got into a wreck that destroyed everything inside.

I can imagine it – and it’s just horrible. But the newly arrived refugees just smiled. One of them picked up a copy of USA Today (he speaks no English at all) and found the weather map. He was looking intently at it and I leaned over to see if I could help him make sense of things. He pointed to Arizona and smiled. I pointed out New York and made an airplane motion with my hands - I think he understood me perfectly well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The World is Flat

We were telling the kids that the phrase "Digging for China" is an expression.

Here's my question - do Chinese kids dig for America?

"Look at that dog! He's digging for America!"

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mr Mom "Scorecard" [Day 4 April 25, 2007, Thursday]

The week is almost over. I am going to make it! As I was taking the kids down to the bus this morning, I asked them if I've done a good job.

It wasn't all good but they may have been busting my chops (I deserve it, I bust their chops every chance I get).

Given their not so stellar review, I thought that I'd rate myself on a series of key categories to see how I've done.

Waking up, brushing teeth and eating breakfast:
4 out of 5.
Totally forgot to wash Syd's face this AM and noticed it as I was saying goodbye to her at the bus stop. Bits of chocolate donut on her face, very cool.

Following mom's instructions:
5 out of 5.
Followed them perfectly. When Julia accused me of not following the instructions when I didn't pack her lunch on Thursday, I suddenly became F. Lee Baily and showed her PROOF. In yer face kid.

Dinner, homework and showers:
6 out of 5.
Despite them not liking dinner 2 nights (I made them eat some anyway), dinner worked out well. Showers went surprisingly well also - they are old enough that I just turn on the water and walk away. Bonus point for making cookies twice - the second time we put the hot cookies in a bowl and made sundaes. That's niiiiice.

Keeping the house clean:
2 out of 5.
I did remember to turn on the roomba in the kitchen. It's a damn mess everywhere else.

The final score:
17 out of a possible 20 isn't too bad!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mr Mom "Tired" [Day 3 April 25, 2007, Wednesday]

Today I'm tired. Yes, I am to blame as I stayed up way too late editing the video from yesterday. And then I played some video games before falling asleep, so yea it's my fault.

Today was rough. I've got the wake-up, do breakfast, get dressed, catch the bus thing down, but now I'm getting into some new issues.

Like why is there MORE laundry to do?

And how about: how is it possible that I've already done the dishes, but somehow we're already out of forks again?

Also, homework sucks.

And how the hell am I supposed to both cook dinner and drop and pick up the kids simultaneously? How is that even physically possible?

But not all is lost from Day 3... I did a Junior Achievement lesson for my daughter's 4th grade class. I love doing JA as it let's me live my dream of being a teacher in a very small way. Today, we learned about Scarcity.

You know what is scarce? The amount of time I have had this week to fricken relax for 2 seconds.

I also coach girls softball (where do I find the time?) and our first game was tonight. It got rained out - BUT we scrimmaged and got wet. Fun stuff. I love coaching and I'm better at it than being a stay at home mommy. Way better.

That said, the wife told me I was doing a good job today - sweet! Even so, Saturday can't come fast enough.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mr Mom "the Video" [Day 2 April 24, 2007, Tuesday]

The Mr. Mom blog has gone video!

Shot from 6:30 to 9 PM on Day 2, I think you might enjoy this. What ended up on the cutting room floor was us watching American Idol, fighting over brushing teeth and nudity (after showers, there tends to be a lot of naked running around the house).

Enjoy.

Mr Mom [Day 2 April 24, 2007, Tuesday]

Is this what it is like to be a single mom?

OH

MY

GOD.

How the hell is it possible to sustain this pace for more than a single day?

Yesterday was good actually, but by 8 PM I was exhausted after finishing laundry, picking up the dog, cooking dinner (and then cookies!), cleaning up, doing homework (checking it actually), arguing over bed time, watching Dancing with the Stars at gun point and finally speeding through last nights pretty good episode of Heroes.

Needless to say, I slept pretty well last night!

However, Tuesday is already shaping up to be a doozy. I was warned yesterday by the kennel that a "new strain" of kennel cough is going around. As per usual, I figured no problemo - my dog won't get it - he's a super dog with a super immune system. Pure bred goodness. Check out that stud:

Gus

Sure enough I woke up to the sweet sounds of the dog coughing up a lung. So now, instead of heading to the train to try to get to my office, I'm headed directly to the vet to get some meds for the dog.

This brings me back to the single mother thing. How the hell am I supposed to actually get any work done? Impossible.

Much respect to single moms (and dads) out there, or frankly - to anyone who has to do everything themselves for more than 24 hours.

I do have to give myself a single prop/hell yea/dad is the man moment... my 7 year old had sandals on and just before we left for the bus I asked her "Do you have gym today?"

The answer was of course YES, and she quickly changed into sneakers. Crisis avoided!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mr Mom [Day 1 April 23, 2007, Monday]

We got back very late last night from Nashville landing around 8:30, almost 2 hours late. American Airlines was 2 for 2 this trip - both ends of the flight were delayed. Ah well. In any case, the girls had a great flight, they really are angels. They are also keenly aware that daddio is over his head a bit and cooperated and acted perfectly the entire trip.

I think we're alone now

After we landed we called to talk to mommy - my favorite part (and proudest) was when Sydney told her mom that she had Coke for dinner (no food, just a Coke). Yea, nice job pops, off to a great start. I did manage to get Julia to eat something before we took off, so points there I guess.

When we finally got home, I forced the kids to brush their teeth and hit the sack immediately. They were tired, no problems there at all.

Somehow, I remembered to defrost the bread (see picture below).

Yes, I did somehow remember

In the morning, I woke up early and made lunch. Making lunch felt a bit like an improv act - I was stumbing around the kitchen, looking for different things that would fit nicely or be edible to toss into the kids bags. I did OK according to Julia who I believe was actually a tiny bit impressed.

Sydney cooperated by getting out of bed by 7:10 and not fussing all that much. I did however have to pull her out of bed (Julia reminded me to simply pick her up). In Mr. Mom fashion I dropped her to her feet on the fireplace. That got a laugh.

Julia made Sydney breakfast (waffles) and I started to devise a plan by which Julia would do all the work and I'd simply sit back and "manage." The best plans are the simplest they say.

As they were eating, I started laundry.

Question:
Which is worse:
A) The loading of dirty, smelly clothes,
B) The unloading of wet soggy clothes
C) Folding and putting away

I'll let you know when it's all done. The 2nd load is in right now.

Just before I took them down to the bus stop, we all reviewed the shopping list I put together. We all agreed that it looks OK, but I have this odd feeling that I'll need to go shopping 300 times this week, each time forgetting 1 thing that I really needed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mr Mom - Laundry


Mr Mom - Laundry
Originally uploaded by msirkin.
As I prepare for a week with the kids all on my lonesome, I've started noticing things around the house designed to ease my transition. My wife in this case has prepared specific laundry instructions for me, taking care to highlight some of the more important nuances of washing laundry.

Bathing suits must be hand washed for example (I'll just leave that until she gets back I think).

I also especially liked that she taped the instructions to the washing machine securely. The question I have is - what happens if I don't wander by and notice the note, prompting me to remember to actually do the laundry?

Perhaps a string around my finger would do the trick!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mr. Mom

Be afraid kids, very afraid.

My wife is headed to Florida next week for some family stuff and is leaving me to tend for my 2 kids all week.

I'm going to blog about my week as Mr. Mom as best I can starting on Sunday night if possible. Here are a few of the things I'm going to have figure out:

- laundry (haven't done laundry I think since college)
- dinner every night (hey, I do cook every so often, but not every night!)
- putting kids to sleep on time (and not watching an extra episode of The Simpsons with them instead)
- getting kids to school on time
- girls hair
- girls clothes
- hell, anything to do with getting girls ready to go out into the world
- snacks
- checking homework
- picking up and dropping off of various kids
- showering myself
- getting some sleep
- getting to work and then home without forgetting the kids schedules
- softball games
- lacross practice

OH MY FRICKEN GOD.

This can't possibly end well.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

HELP

I'm in trouble, big trouble. My 9 year old is an e-mail fool - emailing everyone she can get her hands on - including me. We even have "code names" for each other - she's "Red Fox (RF)" and I'm "Pop Goes the Weasel (PGTW)." Names are deleted for privacy, as if that actually existed at this point.

Yesterday, we left her alone for less than 20 minutes in the house. When I checked my e-mail I read the following:

Subject: HELP
pgtw,
here is the latest news report:
a girl named [name deleted] Sirkin (age 9) had been practicing lacrosse outside
with her younger sister, [name deleted] , who was just learning. Soon [name deleted]
had to go to real lacrosse practice and her parents left her at home.
her dad was out golfing, and had promised to come back soon. her mom
wouldn't be back 'till [name deleted]'s lacrosse practice was over. after 11
minutes she called her mom but her dad's voice came on. "sorry but i'm
busy right now. please leave a detailed message and i'll get back to
you as soon as you can. thanks for calling." [name deleted] left a message
asking when he would be back so they could get over to softball
practice. minutes passed. no call. so [name deleted] decided to send a message
to her dad. here is what she wrote:
pgtw,
here is the latest news report:
a girl named [name deleted] Sirkin (age 9) had been practicing lacrosse outside
with her younger sister, [name deleted] , who was just learning. Soon [name deleted]
had to go to real lacrosse practice and her parents left her at home.
her dad was out golfing, and had promised to come back soon. her mom
wouldn't be back 'till [name deleted] 's lacrosse practice was over. after 11
minutes she called her mom but her dad's voice came on. "sorry but i'm
busy right now. please leave a detailed message and i'll get back to
you as soon as you can. thanks for calling." [name deleted] left a message
asking when he would be back so they could get over to softball
practice. minutes passed. no call. thanks for reading her story.
rf
Funny eh?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Printcrime Comic

Cory Doctorow, one of my favorite authors has a new short story collection out. One of the stories, Printcrime even has it's own self-assembled comic. Download it, share it and print it now!

Printcrime

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bowling

Took the kids bowling today. Aside from really stinking it up (a craptastic 101 then a semi-respectable 138) I noticed something that everyone who's ever bowled has glimpsed.

This applies pretty much only to men.

Say you are a guy and you are bowling. You get your ball, prepare yourself and walk/run/sashay up to the line and throw/roll/bowl the ball towards the pins.

Here's where it gets interesting...

A milli-second after he sees what he got, one of two things happens.

1. If he got a strike or a spare, he will either turn suddenly and pump his arm like Tiger Woods. Then he'll stride back and either take a sip of beer or whatever he's drinking and bask in the envious glow of every single person in the entire bowling alley. I know he feels this way, because that's how I feel.

2. If he gets anything less than a strike or a spare, including if he missed an impossible split he'll turn around and not look anyone directly in the eyes. At this point, he'll either sit down quietly or come up with a totally lame excuse about how his thumb hurts or how he hasn't bowled in like 12 years. I've never, ever done this myself, because I never miss and never complain :)

It's not totally odd behavior, but it is interesting to note the almost universal guy consistency of this.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pitchers and Catchers!

Hope springs eternal!

Baseball is almost back!

Predictions purely based on my own biases:

AL East - Yankees
AL Central - Tigers
AL West - A's
Wildcard - Red Sox

NL East - Mets
NL Central - Brewers
NL West - Padres
Wildcard - Cubs (ha!)

Yanks beat Mets in a 7 game subway series. ARod gets 12 hits and drives in 23 runs in those 7 games.

Like I said - hope springs eternal.