• 28 Oct 2010 /  Parenting, Things I Like

    Declan recently wrote a Halloween story for a local homeschooler group. They decided not to publish his story on their site because it referenced weapons (no restrictions were stated up front), so I’m publishing it here:

    by Declan Chase-Salerno, age 7

    A guy in black with another guy gave the man in black some dynamite in a bush, but he didn’t blow anything up with it yet, and then one of the good guys said, We have to take the man in black to the statue factory, (“His name isn’t important!”).  None of the other guys knew what that would do.  When you move, he disappears.  Then we stood still, and he shot wooden carts with weapons at us, and my mom grabbed on to me and jumped over all the carts.  And then we dodged the carts, which led us to our barn, and then we hid in there for a while.  And then we found the guys that gave the man in black some dynamite, and we asked if it was fake dynamite, and he said no, and we said why did you give him real dynamite, and the man in black hypnotized him to do it, because he owns a dynamite factory.  Then, he wanted to help us get the man in black, but we still couldn’t catch him, we didn’t have enough guys, And then we got our dog, Casey, to help us find him.  She barks a lot when she sees someone.  And then we found him, but he disappeared when we even moved a step.  So we went to upstairs in my house, and we got some guns to get him to surrender, but they still didn’t work.  He had a machine gun.  And then they got the police to help them, and the police got the sheriff’s department, the army, and that still wasn’t enough, until the army invented a new weapon, the disintegrator, but that still didn’t work, because his armor was stronger than anything.  Then we got him to a statue factory, but that didn’t stop him because he broke out of the steel case.  Because he was so strong, he broke out, and he also had fists made of pointy steel.  Then the army got the military that invented a new gun called the Hypnotizer but he had hypnotizing-proof glasses, that still didn’t stop him, so they had to set off the dynamite while he was still holding it, like in cartoons.  Until a good ghost came to help us and called all of his ghost friends, and they wanted to help, and the military called a weapons specialist, Agent G, and he invented a gadget that could read people’s minds and we could know his plan and stop it, and we would know where his base is.  And the ghosts called a ninja force, and they helped them, until they met the Super Penguin.  Which could peck people’s heads off.  But he had an indestructible helmet that the Super Penguin couldn’t peck.  Until they chased him to Canada and his armor fell off while he was running, all his armor, it turned out he was very skinny and weak, and they destroyed his base, and then they had a campfire and roasted weenies.
    The End.

    Quinny also wrote one, but hers was deemed OK:

    Last Night There Was 3 Girls And 2 Puppies Who Woke Up
    by Quinn Chase-Salerno, age 4

    Last night, three little girls woke up, and then the serious one said, “What happened?”  And then the three little puppies woke up, and one barked at someone, and then they saw a little spooky thing, then they turned into spies, then killed him, and then they all went in the dark and brought a flashlight and then the 3 little girls weren’t scared except the serious girl wasn’t scared, and the 2 little puppies weren’t scared either, then they saw something that was creeping slow and had a shell on top and it was a turtle.  And then they put their flashlight in their pocket then it was daytime then they weren’t scared again.  Then they went back home and saw a little black thing it was their brother.  And then there was a kitty that went back.  And the kitty wasn’t scared either.
    The End.

    Great stories Guys!


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  • 22 May 2008 /  Parenting, Tech, Work

    National Engineer’s Week is this week and I was asked to do a presentation on software engineering to about 40 local middle school students. I was a bit unsure how to approach this as it’s not the audience I’m used to dealing with. I’ve presented to rooms full of executives before, but I was more nervous about this. I’ll leave the obvious jokes about maturity levels as an exercise for the reader.

    Now that it’s over, I’d say it went very well (thanks to advice from my lovely wife). I was last on the agenda, so the kids were a bit drained and antsy, but I managed to keep them occupied and interested. I had an activity planned in which some volunteers represented parts of a very simple program, a bubble sort. I had them physically act out the operation of the algorithm and when it was completed they could see the results (the volunteers were now in alphabetical order). They were actually enthusiastic about participating in this little exercise, which was probably my biggest fear. It would have gone much differently if I had to drag kids up, or bribe them with the M&Ms that a certain someone suggested I bring. It was inspiring to see some of the kids watch the process, expressing confusion as it wasn’t immediately obvious what was happening, but then as it progressed, they got what was going on. I think they really enjoyed it.

    The blatant pandering of using a screenshot of Super Mario Galaxy and one of the Google map to their school actually resulted in cheers. So I’ll keep that in the toolbox for the future.

    One thing that didn’t work was sarcasm. If you know me, you know how integral that is to my daily life and the kids mostly just didn’t get it. I guess I should have seen that up front, but at least some of the teachers got some chuckles out of it.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the experience, the kids asked a lot of good questions, though several were about salary. I hope they all got something from it.

    Here’s my presentation, if you’d like to see it.


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  • 08 Jan 2008 /  Parenting, Rants

    The other day, out of nowhere (which is where most things actually come from), Declan fires this at me:

    Dad? Do you get a new computer when you die?

    That got me wondering, assuming that there is some sort of afterlife, is there even a need for computers? What about the Internet? Does some sort of perfect awareness of all things make it unnecessary?

    If there an internet there, what’s on it? Is there a huge iTunes Music Store where everything is free and without DRM? Is there any porn? Can you get spyware on your PC? Is there a fallen angel that just needs my account number to transfer his vast wealth, paying me a “modest” fee in the process?

    Are the PCs any better than what we have here? Do they crash randomly and require reboots to stay running? How often do you have to upgrade, if at all? Is there a Blue Screen of …. umm… Death? Can you get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

    All tough questions which will likely never be answered. All those near death and death returnees talk about is the white light and their deceased relatives welcoming them. Not one of them noticed the really important things, like were they Macs or PCs? (Though I know they’re Linux boxes)


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  • 16 Jan 2007 /  Rants

    Ok, (yes I know most of my posts start with “Ok”, deal with it) Declan’s been enjoying watching some cartoons recently. His favorites include, rather unremarkably, Dora and Diego. I’ve been trying to get him hooked on Gatchaman and The Tick, but it just ain’t happening.

    So Dora seems fine enough, she does all sorts of things that are fun and adventurous, uses her backpack and map a lot, and has to avoid swiper. Great, Declan loves it and is responsive to the educational content.

    Then comes Diego, if you don’t know, Diego is Dora’s cousin. He lives in the rain forest and helps rescue various animals in trouble.

    Diego is so much cooler than Dora.

    Firstly, he takes a zipline everywhere he goes. So much cooler than walking or riding an ice cream truck.

    Next he has this vest. He pulls a cord on the collar and the vest turns into whatever he needs. It’ll grow sleeves if it’s cold, or a hood if it’s raining, even turns into a life jacket when Diego needs to hit the rapids.

    But this is the coolest part of all:

    Dora has backpack, Diego has Rescue Pack. First off, Rescue Pack is a messenger bag. Ask any employee at Abercrombie and, if you can hear them over the blaring music in the store, they will tell you that a messenger bag is way cooler than a backpack. As if that’s not enough, where backpack can carry things, like a bananas or sticky tape, Rescue Pack turns into stuff. Not boring stuff, cool stuff, a snowboard, a mountain bike, a hang glider, climbing gear. I’ll take a kayak over a roll of tape any day. And just to rub it in, Rescue Pack gets this cool song and dance number every time he is deployed. It’s this salsa thing with spotlights and everything. I sing it all day.

    So all this adds up to Diego being cool, in fact too cool for Nick Jr. I predict that soon Diego will have a new show. This show will be called Diego After Dark and will be set in Diego’s secret grotto deep in the rain forest. This will be a cool show, and it will be that kind of cool you don’t find anymore. Movie stars and playmates will hang out at the grotto with Diego. Diego will arrive, pull the cord on his vest and it will turn into an embroidered black silk shirt, casual, cool, and sexy. Rescue Pack will be there, wearing sunglasses, playing piano for Miss March and Miss October while sipping his martini. Diego will just walk around and chat with his friends, pouring Cristal as he wanders. Occasionally he’ll talk straight to the camera as if you are there with them all.

    Yes, this is a blatant ripoff of Playboy After Dark from the 60s-70s. However, I think Diego can inject enough novelty into it to make it work again and who knows what Rescue Pack can do … after dark.

    We shall see.