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Party Theme: “Epic Win”

March 10th, 2010 . by maria

When my son told me he wanted his party theme to be “Epic Win”, I had no idea how I could turn that into a theme. But, after working together a bit, I think we worked it out. Here’s what we did:

Invitation: we found a picture of Chuck Norris made into a faux inspirational poster with the caption “Epic Win”. This was perfect, as the boys have this game of saying “who would win, X or Chuck Norris” and the winner is always Chuck Norris. We wrote out a lot of the invitation in txt slang, like the LOLcats captions. I used black and “windows blue”, plus stars and squares, as a visual theme.

Decorations: We generally use the same ones over and over. This includes hanging large gift bags and re-inflated foil balloons. Fortunately, most of these had blue or black or stars. I also added some blue square beads in some of the hanging decorations, and a blue plastic $1 tablecloth on my main table. I had a black card table as well. We had a dual screen desktop setup front and center in the party space. If I had more time, I thought of printing and hanging the main screen of popular websites, such as facebook, google, etc. It didn’t matter with this crowd, but it would have been a theme reinforcer.

Goody bags: Notepads and bubbles with the theme paper glued on them. Cube picture frames. LOLcats bouncy balls (kitten bouncy balls from OrientalTrading.com). Psychadelic erasers. Black binder clips. A few other misc things.

Photos: I usually take a picture of each child with the birthday boy, print and frame it, and send it home in the goody bags. This year, I gave them each their own disposable camera ($4), marked with their name. I took pictures of my own, of course.

Foods: Pizza, of course. Gatorade bottles (mark the lids with initials with a magic marker, and everyone knows whose bottle is whose. Then you don’t end up with half-used drinks, and kids getting new drinks because they lost theirs. “I like pie” is…I don’t know, some saying they all seem to know from some cartoon or game. So, we had a huge chocolate/graham cracker pudding pie instead of cake. We had planned to have homemade waffles for breakfast, but the kids voted to have leftover pizza or pie instead, so I let them.

    Activities/Schedule:

  • Snowball fight (would have been sledding, but the hill melted off).
  • Pizza.
  • Coke and Mentos. I got the small plastic bottles, for less waste. We did this on the deck, so they could be as messy as they wanted.
  • LOLcats slideshow. To the tune of the Benny Hill Theme Song – no idea how they knew about that!
  • LOLcats Caption Contest: We saved 10 uncaptioned pictures. I gave each kid paper and a pencil and had them right #1-10 “like a spelling test, but more fun”. Then I showed each slide for long enough for them to write out their captions. When all slides were done, we went around the table reading their creations, and everyone voted on the best. The best one got added to the picture using a photo editing program, and we showed the final products as a new slideshow at the end.
  • Warm Fuzzies craft: glue, pompoms, foam feet, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners combine to make cute little fluffy monsters. Surprisingly, preteen boys actually enjoyed making these. Pop culture tie-in here was tenuous…I think it was on the 1800flowers commercial?
  • “Cake” and ice cream time.
  • Gift opening. (The gifts were cash, gift cards for gamestop, and Wii games.)
  • Mario Kart DS race and freetime on the DS/Wii, or in the boys’ room.
  • Rickrolled: halfway through freetime, I ran up with my laptop and said “you guys have to see this video”. When they all gathered around, guess what I played? Only a couple of them knew what a rickroll was, but it was funny just the same.
  • 11pm bedtime. We have two futon mattresses, and everyone brings sleeping bags. I allow 15 minutes or so of quiet talking (they’re gonna talk anyway) and then I say “enough” and they stop. Surprisingly, this always works, and I’ve never had a problem getting people to sleep. It might help that I also go to bed, right across the hall, and that the rest of the house is dark.
  • Morning is breakfast and more freetime, until parents come.

I had my son’s facebook page pulled up the whole time, and reminded everyone to “friend” him later. I also tweeted the whole party, and set up a desktop app to show the tweets throughout the party. These got less attention than I had hoped, but it reinforced the theme.

Result: Success. I thought the theme came across very clearly. But, the real success was mostly because my son has a great bunch of friends! This party was tuned into who they are and let them be themselves, and – from the stories they were telling their parents as they left – they all really enjoyed it.

iPad reviews are out

January 28th, 2010 . by maria

Charlie Sorrel over at Wired’s Gadget Lab gives us his Ten Things Missing From the iPad . I won’t run them all down, as a few comments basically sum it up:

  • little more than a giant iPhone
  • The iPad is meant to be an easy-to-use appliance, not an all-purpose computer.

To get a little bit more granular:

Charlie also points out that it “can’t run applications in the background…If you are authoring content, like this post, then multiple browser windows, a text editor, a mail client and a photo editor all make sense. If you’re reading an e-book, not so much.” Well, you know, most people don’t need to multi-task. It’s not like so many people, like, blog or anything.

Charlie contradicts himself a little later on when, talking about the iPad’s base price of $500, sans $70 keyboard, he quips “Why bother with a $400 netbook when you can have this instead?” But, I am sure he’s just being sarcastic. My $300 netbook (Acer Aspire One) comes with a keyboard…and USB ports, slots for memory cards, webcam…oh, and I can run applications in the background. The iPad…has a shiny touchscreen.

I’m sure there are people for whom the iPad will be an ideal device… Wait, actually I don’t think so. Techies will quickly realize the limits of a device which can’t be hooked up to any of their other gear, (not even a printer!), rendering it useless for anything other than browsing. It might work for someone who isn’t very tech savvy, the way those email readers worked a few years back. But then it will run into the same problems as those email readers. Those users will have relatives who will send them files, or link to content (like Flash), that the device can’t access. Or worse, those users will want to start actually doing things on their computer, like downloading pictures from their phone or (egads) printing. About that time, they’ll realize they’ve been had.

handy yahoo tip – unit conversion

January 21st, 2010 . by maria

I checking Leiham’s homework, and found this handy tip. You don’t need to search for a unit conversion on Yahoo. You type what you have and then “to” and then the type you want, and the first result will be the answer. For example, type “5,000 mg to kg” and click search, and you get “5000 Milligrams = 0.005 Kilograms”.

Pretty handy!