20 December 2012

From beyond the grave...

On Sunday last, during a rehearsal with my sister and her husband for our upcoming Celtic Christmas show, my brother-in-law let me know that cell phone numbers had been rearranged to make the best use of the plans and devices that were available, and that he now had my dad's old phone number. I noted this, but - as we were getting set up to rehearse - did nothing with this information.

Fast-forward to the next day, and I get a text from L saying that her battery has died, but that my sister is on her way to rescue her. God bless family. I chatted with her some while she waited on my sister to arrive, and

About 30 minutes or so later, I receive the text you see here. (Complete with the 'FUAutoCorrect'-style typo, but minus the mustache. That just seemed very much like a cooler option than a plain bar across the phone number...)

Yup. That's right. Nothing to see here, only my father texting me from beyond the grave!

14 December 2012

Prayer of the Children

When I first heard what happened today in Connecticut, my first instinct was to want to run home and hold my daughter. It was nearly the end of my day by the time a friend told me what had happened, though, so I managed to hold out until quitting time.

On the drive to dinner (with L & El), I was thumbing through my music library, and found an old recording of my high school choir singing this song. Though I still remember all of the words, try as I might, I couldn't sing along.

My daughter is my world. I know that several people have said it before me, so I join them in saying that I cannot fathom what so many families are going through tonight. Simply hearing that another parent has been told that their child will never come home is utterly devastating.

I've only been able to watch the first few minutes of the President's address following this atrocity, and hearing the raw emotion in his voice - hearing the leader of the free world choke back a sob as he thinks about his own daughters - lets me know that I am at least in good company.

The song was written in a different time, in a different country, under different circumstances. I'm not saying that it is a perfect expression of the sorrow of today, but I'll share it anyway.

Like so many tonight, my thoughts, prayers, and heart go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones today. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hold my baby and thank God that I have a baby to hold.

Edit: Because, formatting. And labels.

11 August 2012

Great American Cowboy

I want to tell you about my dad. There's way too much I want to say for this to have any hope of being a short post, so I'll give you a second to grab a snack or go to the restroom first.


Randall Kent Welch
Welcome back. So yeah. My dad. Randy. That's him over there, looking quite dapper in the hat Linnea and I brought back from Ireland for him.

He loved to laugh, especially at bad puns and life's many ironies. A disbelieving groan was the ultimate repayment for his favorite jokes. From his wit, I learned the tale of the frayed knot, the relative hunting prowess of children in Native American culture1, and that, though I knew it not myself, my nose and feet gave away my poetic leanings (they're long fellas, you see).

He loved to be surrounded by family and friends. He took great pride in his family, and loved to spend time talking with and listening to and loving everyone. He would have dozens of people over to play gospel music in his living room because he loved to see everyone and share laughter and music with them.

Reading at our wedding

He loved Jesus, and loved to share his own miraculous story with others, so that they - like my entire family - might know absolutely that miracles still happen. He received a heart transplant that saved his life many years ago. When he was placed on the waiting list for a donor heart, his doctors were not confident that they would be able to find one for him before the virus attacking his heart ran its ultimate course. By the same time the next day, he was sitting up in bed telling us that his new heart was so loud that it was keeping him from sleeping. Even then, I remember being told that there was no guarantee that he would make it long enough to see me graduate high school, much less see me married or get to meet my children. He apparently took that as a challenge, and did all three. Just three years ago, he surprised everyone again by surviving an aortic aneurysm and dissection - the latter of which was prevented from killing him outright by the scar tissue his heart transplant had left in its wake. That's just two of the absolutely unbelievable miracles he experienced, and he thanked God for the gift of time he was given.

He loved to write. For years, he wrote a daily worship thought - he called them the "Daily Torch" - that he shared with anyone who wanted to read it. I still have years' worth of them in my email archives, all of which I plan to read someday. He wrote songs, some of which he sang only once or twice in my recollection, and some others that we sang all the time, both as a family and later in his band. He even started working as a freelance writer, and was published in a smattering of places - I even seem to recall that he was working toward an article with Texas Monthly at one point.

Playing his bass fiddle
He loved music. I grew up listening to him sing and play - guitar, bass, and occasionally even banjo. He had a rich baritone voice and a love for the songs and stories of days gone by. The soundtrack of my childhood was provided by his love of country and American folk, but what I'll remember most about my father's music is the band he helped start (and that I later joined), Cowboys At Heart. Many of my favorite memories with my father come from the music we shared, and my passion for my chosen genre of Irish music is one he himself inspired when we discussed putting together a show that traced the Irish and Scottish roots of the Cowboy music we both loved. C@H only released one cassette tape, but today I converted that to digital so that I could make it available for anyone who wants to listen.

He taught me so much - how to sing; what it means to be a father; how important family is; how to play guitar; how to solve problems; how to pray; the full extent of love; when to be strong and when to ask for help. 

His was a life regularly punctuated by medical trials. Each of his knees had been twice replaced by the time I graduated high school, both of which gave him grief. He had two steel rods placed in his back, both of which had broken at some unknown point in time, adding 'chronic back pain' to his list. The surgery to repair the aneurysm in 2009 paralyzed his left vocal cord and the left side of his diaphragm, leaving him unable to sing (but that didn't stop him from recording a song with me). He's been in constant pain of one type or another for the better part of three decades, and through it all, he kept going. For family. For music. For his writing. For laughter. For the glory of God.

Cowboys at Heart
On 10 August 2012, he left all his pains and burdens behind. I will mourn the loss of a great man - though I've had 12 years to mentally prepare for his passing, no amount of preparation is equal to the loss of a father and dear friend - but far greater is my happiness in knowing that he will hurt no longer. I will always remember my father as the modern-day cowboy: a legend, a leader, and the Lord's witness here on earth.

I can think of no finer way to end this post than with his own words (with one minor tweak), from a song he wrote in 1993.

Lord, bless this cowboy; wrap him up in your arms
He's riding your range now, far away from life's harms
When we go out at night, he'll look down from above
As he rides this new range, let him feel his family's love
Mother's Prayer by Randy Welch

Welcoming Eleanor to the world

You can see where I get my rugged good looks

* If you're interested about the title of the post, it's from this song, by one of dad's favorite bands, the Sons of the San Joaquin.

1 - There's a bad joke ahead. No, seriously. Read on at your own risk. You've been warned.
Many moons ago, a son was born to the wife of Hippopotamus, the most revered chief on the plains. As luck would have it, sons were also born to the wives of two other chiefs on the very same day. The three braves grew up as comrades, but also as friendly rivals, for each felt the burden of leadership looming, and knew that he must prove himself in order to live up to the legacy of his father. 
Many winters passed, and all three braves - on the very same day - went through the customary rites of passage into manhood. They were sent out from camp, alone, with only tools and weapons they themselves had made, to bring back food for the camp. 
The Hippopotamus waited anxiously for his son's return. Many hours passed, and a messenger brought back news from the first of the other tribes - the chief's son had returned, bearing with him two fine deer. Soon thereafter, a messenger arrived from the second tribe, to report that that chief's son had - as well - returned with two deer, and his father was most pleased. In time, the remaining son returned to his tribe, bearing with him on a makeshift litter four deer, which he presented to his father, who shone with pride. 
The Hippopotamus embraced his wife and turned to the messengers. "Take this message back to your chiefs: Let it be known that the son of the squaw of the Hippopotamus is the equal of the sons of the squaws of the other two tribes."

11 July 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

The photo in question
The other night, the wife took a photo of me and the bebbeh that I thought was freaking adorable, so I asked her to send it my way.

This post is not about the photo, but I'm a fan of backstory, and this backstory is nothing more than an opportunity to post a shamelessly adorable photo of myself and my precious.

When the wife went to send the email, her phone locked up. No major problem, it's been happening off and on for a while.

"It's been doing this again. I keep having to hard reset my phone."

Now, first, she wins major points for using the term hard reset to describe the specific act of pulling the battery from a mobile device to reset it. What happens next, though, made me laugh uncontrollably.

She pulled the battery cover off her phone, removed the battery, then proceeds to blow on the contacts, as though trying to clean a malfunctioning NES cartridge.

I told her right then and there, "I'm so blogging this."

Then I blinked, and forgot to do so.

That evening, right after climbing into bed, I remembered, so I rolled over and used the note-to-self voice command on my phone1.

What I said: blowing on phone battery like an NES cartridge
What it heard: blowing iphone battery like any ass cartridge

And that, my friends, is the reason for all the buildup so far. An understandable, but hilarious, mistranscription of a note-to-self prompted by an unexpected trip down memory lane.

1- If you have an Android phone and haven't tried this feature yet, I highly recommend giving it a try. I've found it to be an indispensable tool for coping with ADHD symptoms, and even if I didn't have that to contend with, I'd still probably rate it as one of my favorite and most useful features of the Android OS.

How: Hold down the search button to get to your voice search interface and say "Note to self", then whatever message you want to remember.

What it does: It will transcribe your spoken words to the best of its ability - sometimes with hilarious result - and compose an email to your own self, to which you can add more detail, add further recipients, etc. When that email is sent, the audio recording of your voice that was used in the initial transcription is attached to the message, so even if the transcription is wrong, you can hear yourself reminding yourself to do something.

20 June 2012

The post in which I admit I was a sucker - and that's TOTALLY OKAY

So, in the typing of a recent blog post, I went on Amazon looking for the kind of swaddle sack we use. You know, the kind that's pretty much a sack with velcro-enhanced wings that make swaddling easy? Well, anyway, I didn't find them, and was starting to get discouraged, when I found something else entirely.

Something awesome.

Something so cute it nearly turned my large ex-Marine coworker into a daffodil on the spot. Without him even seeing it.

So I bought it. I was suckered in by a cute advertisement.

I'm pleased to say, it was truthfully advertised.

I present to you the Lady-Baby-Bug:

I get it. I'm cute...

Now can I have my dinner?

19 June 2012

Two-month Post-Launch Report

Getting some hands-on time with the Eleanor
The Eleanor launched just over two months ago to rave reviews, and - as your management representative on the inside1 - I bring you this Post-Launch Report:

Expert Reviews

Recent reports from the experts place the Eleanor in the top 10% based on all major market indicators (height, weight, head circumference). We couldn't be more pleased.

Edit: Sorry for all the formatting issues with the initial post. Last time I use the 'Interpret typed HTML' option in Blogger instead of adding the code directly.

I love my company

I was just told about this blog posting on our Inside BlackBerry Developer Blog, due to this tidbit:
Do you know what the output of this statement is?
Array(16).join("bacon" – 1337) + " Batman!";

I love working for a company with a sense of humor.

They do post the answer to that question, btw (I don't know Java, so I had to look for it). I put it under a Read More link, but that doesn't help if you were sent straight here, so scroll down for it.

18 June 2012

Diablo 3

A few weeks back (okay, a month back, but I started writing this two weeks ago and just got distracted...), this thing happened. This Diablo III thing.

I remember the excitement of playing the original Diablo "back in the day." Long hours spent navigating the catacombs of Tristram, slaying monsters and earning fat loots for my trouble. I remember dark corridors, weakly illuminated by flickering lights (and my own torch). I remember the soundtrack - music that very effectively added to the intensity of the game's artistic design - overlaid with occasional distant screams and the sound of gibbering hellions waiting for their opportunity to strike. I remember the pain of the Hellfire expansion, but playing it nonetheless, because - p'sh! - moar Diablo!

I played through Diablo II several times, and I remember enjoying the Druid and Amazon classes most. I remember the thrill of seeing the Secret Cow Level, and the agony of being slain by hordes of polearm-wielding bovines. I even remember the names of some of the bows I found (Magewrath and Windforce come to mind), and how excited I was to be able to use them in my quest to end Baal and Mephisto.

In short, this game series has provided a wealth of memories and hours upon hours upon even further hours of gameplay that kept me glued to my seat through multiple replays. The reason has always been the beautiful combination present within the game of single- and multiplayer potential.

I enjoy being able to sit down and relax playing video games (as you've no doubt gathered already), but there's more to me enjoying a game than just a good story or good gameplay. I can get those from a book or angry birds. What keeps me coming back to a game for years (see also: WoW subscriber from launch until earlier this year) is a solid system for encouraging and rewarding group play, while also allowing a rewarding single-player aspect, for times when I'm either not feeling up to socializing or when I can't find a group to run with.

This, to me, is what Blizzard got right with Diablo III. There are a ton of people complaining on the greater interspheres1 about all the things that are lacking, but what will keep me interested in this game for ages is that I can play all by myself and make progress, but when I want to play with others and have the opportunity, the game gets out of the way and makes it simple to do so.

Anymore, that's my criteria for a successful game. Single player-only games can be amazing, but I will quickly lose interest and move on to something that I can share with other people, not as an amusing anecdote after-the-fact, but as a shared experience.

It's my little slice of social interaction that allows me to remain a cave-dwelling hermit the whole time.

1 - Said complaints run the gamut from "the story is two-dimensional", "the real-money auction house is a moneygrab/sanctioned cheating/the end of the franchise (take your pick)", "always-connected DRM sucks" all the way to "I can't kill things the way I want to, so make the game easier" -

16 June 2012

Learning a new language

... nope, not Spanish. Not even Irish, though the Rosetta Stone that the Wife lovingly purchased for me last year for Christmas would surely love to be dusted off and used.


I'm a big ol' geek. I'm learning a new coding language (mostly for work projects, but at least 33% for fun). I've been going through the exercises at Learn Python The Hard Way, and so far, it's like C and QBASIC had a baby raised by COBOL.

My goal is to add Python to my list of coding/scripting languages in which I am barely literate within a few months. The current list stands at (in rough order of learning):

  • DOS
  • Windows Command Shell
  • C/C++
  • HTML1
  • T-SQL
  • Windows PowerShell
  • AutoHotKey
  • *sh (currently cygwin/bash, with a side of ksh - which is funny if you're familiar with ksh)

My favorite part of the classes so far? The exercise that has this as extra credit:
Find out what Zork and Adventure were. Try to find a copy and play it. 
And now, back to the books. I have code that I broke that needs un-breaking!

1 - I know, it's not technically a programming or scripting language, but it is a digital language that's come in handy on regular occasions, so I'm leaving it on the list. Programming purists, forgive me.

15 June 2012

Traveller Song Summer Shows!

My band, Traveller Song, has actual, real, honest-to-gourd shows this Summer. Plural! As in, three of them. More info on our ReverbNation site, and/or Facebook but here's the general gist:

  • 29 Jun - Abbey Underground in Denton @ 1900-2100
  • 28 July - Trinity Hall in Dallas @ 2030-0030
  • 18 Aug - Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie @ 1800-2300 (with The Bilge Pumps and The Crew of the Pride of Bedlam)
Come see us! We like it when people do that!

Beer Cheese Soup

I've been asked by my darling wife to post my recipe for Beer/Cheese Soup, so here goes.

My source for this recipe was the Art of Manliness blog, but I modified the recipe after the first go, as I'm not a fan of small chunks in my creamy soups1.
Final Product

Dramatis Personæ

1/2 cup Butter
1/2 cup Flour
4 tsp Onion Powder
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Fresh Cracked Pepper
2 cups Beer2
3 cups Chicken Broth
4 cups Whole Milk
4 cups Sharp Cheddar, grated
4 cups Gouda, grated
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Crumbled bacon (as garnish)

15 May 2012

Oh, Canada - Metric Donuts

Last week, work sent me to Canada to receive some intensive training for my new role. While it pained me to leave the Bean and Baby at home so soon after she got here, this was a great opportunity to learn from the source, so off I went.

Monday was mostly a blur, as I hadn't gotten to sleep until around 0330. I spent most of breakfast looking up/trying to remember the conversions from °F to °C and miles to kilometers and such, so that I could blend in with the natives when they discussed such topics as distances and weather, then headed in to work to dive into training.

I actually had this conversation during the course of the week:

Local Coworker: Where are you staying?
Me: Down in Cambridge
LC: Cambridge? That's a bit far, isn't it?
Me: Nah, it's only 7 or 8 Tim's from here.
LC: Oh. That's not too bad, then...

Yeah. It's like that.
Tuesday, I decided I was going to check off one of the items on my Obligatory, Must-Do While In Canada list*, so I headed to Tim Horton's. For those of you wondering what a Tim Horton is (and too lazy to click on the link), it's a coffee/donut shop ubiquitous in Canada. Like if Dunkin' Donuts were somehow integrated into our national identity here in the States.

So Tuesday morning, I make a beeline for the Tim's that's right next to the hotel. Nobody else is in line, so when I find myself standing before a wall o' donuts (seriously, it's huge), I feel I have some time to make my choice. I am soon proven wrong, however, as a mass of 4-6 people walk in the door right after me, and the lady at the counter starts giving me a "c'mon-it's-not-rocket-science" look for holding up her line. While I agree with the overall sentiment, I am also keenly aware of the fact that while those people have all come through before and will be able to come back again, this guy flies back to Texas in less than a week, so I feel it important to make a wise choice.

I step up to the counter, and the conversation starts something like this:

Me: A coffee and a dozen honey-dipped donut holes please.

It's important to note that, while the label next to the less-than-donut options all indicate flavor, none of them indicated that they might be called anything but what I'm used to hearing them called here.

The conversation continues:

She: A coffee and what?
Me: Honey-dipped donut holes.
She: Do you want the donuts or the Timbits?
Me: The non-donut option. Say that for me again?
She: Timbits.
Me: Okay. Yes. A dozen honey-dipped Timbits.
She: Oh, they don't come in dozens. You can get 10, 20...
Me: ... your donuts are on the metric system? Wow. Yes, I'll have one deca-Timbit, please. Honey-dipped.

I'm still amused by this turn of events. Apparently, their full-size donuts are sold in the familiar base-12 system, but for their byproduct, base-10 is the norm. Are 17% of the holes from donuts somehow unrecoverable, making a 12:10 donuts:holes ratio when selling in batches make sense?

All that aside, imagine the size and shape of donut holes. Now saddle them with a moniker which could also be applied to Tim's naughties. Someone thought this was a good idea.

She: Alright. And what would you like in your coffee?
Me: Just coffee.
She: Any flavors or anything?
Me: Nope. Plain black coffee.
She: [aghast] Um... okay. Yeah, I can do black coffee. Sure...

It's difficult to convey in text, but imagine if you went to a burger joint and ordered just a few strips of bacon. That level of disbelief. Like she was going to have to go brew a new pot of coffee just for the crazy guy who ordered his black.

In the end, I was pleased both with the breakfast and beverage offerings, and stopped by a few more times while I was in town.

* The Obligatory, Must-Do While in Canada list:

  • Try Tim Horton's
  • Try poutine
  • When given the choice, drink Canadian beer
  • Try something 'southwestern', 'tex-mex', or 'barbeque' to see how it compares
  • See milk in a bag

30 April 2012

Accessories and features...

The first few weeks of the Eleanor's life in the hands of the public have been fantastic - we've gotten some great feedback from the hands-on testing that's been performed so far.

The enclosure, codenamed "Cradle"
The crack design team at Dad B's Workshop put together an amazing enclosure for our little treasure. It's got several great features:
  • Stylish wood finish ('cause it's wood)
  • Full-circle protection to keep the Eleanor protected while in Standby mode - no falling off of counters or getting lost in dresser drawers here!
  • Slatted modular design to allow for add-ons to be installed (see the hanging giraffe in the photo for an example)
  • Frame mounted on a pivot to allow a good range of motion and shock absorption
Shot of the "Cradle" in action
We've gotten to test this enclosure out with the Eleanor a few times so far, and I have to say, it's working out great!

One thing we have noticed in our post-launch testing is that the Eleanor seems to have issues going into Standby mode between the hours of 12 and 4 AM. We've spent several hours attempting to diagnose the cause of this issue, and have come to the conclusion that this is not a bug, but rather a 'feature' programmed into the Eleanor's design. Why, we aren't sure, but it's definitely something we're working through. We hope to resolve this through one of our future software updates.

Aside from the Standby issue, we've had the expected amount of core dumps and leaks to clean up, and are working through those one at a time. More news as news is available.

27 April 2012

Are you going?

By the way, for anyone stumbling across this space that doesn't already know, I perform weekends at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie, TX. If you're in the neighborhood and stop on by, look up my group, Traveller Song, in the program and stop by to say hi - I'd love to see you!

So true...

The Bean and I are huge fans of Castle, and make great efforts to watch episodes together as they come out on Hulu.

Recent developments in the Castleverse have left me wanting to scream at the TV, specifically things like "It's because she's as scared as you are, you big dip! Get your act together before she finds something else, and this entire bloody cycle repeats for another four seasons!"

So yeah, this Scenes from a Multiverse comic pretty well made me fall out of my chair laughing.

21 April 2012

Ridiculous excitement

Okay, so many many years ago, when I was just a wee geekling sprog, I played a game. A game which sparked my imagination and kept me laughing for days on end. That game, my friends, was Space Quest.

I was pointed this direction as a result of my love for Sierra's (remember them?) other Quest titles*, and loved the quirky sense of humor, the concept of a space janitor (the existence thereof - such a one being the savior of the universe was just icing), and the challenge of navigating such a compelling game world and solving such brilliantly-crafted puzzles. I can't recall specifically which adventure of Roger Wilco's was my first in the series, but I can remember many a delighted hour spent in the world created by the Two Guys from Andromeda.

I've just read that they've gotten back together, and are planning a new game! I'm all sorts of eager to see what they'll come up with. Sadly, I doubt it'll be the same kind of adventure game that made the series a huge hit from 1986 to 1995 - there doesn't seem to be as much of a market for that style of gameplay anymore.

So long as they don't release it for Facebook, I think I'll play it, though. These guys have invested - in the form of chuckles, memories, and fun - in my interest in their products.

* - King's Quest and Quest for Glory, specifically. I played Police Quest, but just didn't get as into it.

07 April 2012

Launch day!

We've all been anxiously awaiting the release of our much-anticipated and groundbreaking Freckle 1.0, the first release milestone for the Freckle product family. As many of you already know, we had to push back our initial release timeline by a few days in order to ensure full product readiness at launch. But, after a 20-hour final production push to bring the Freckle to market, I'm glad to say that the wait is over.

We are now pleased to announce that the Gold Release Candidate of the Freckle 1.0 product has passed final approval and is in full production! In our previous announcement, we promised to reveal the final naming decision at launch, so allow me to introduce to you our pride and joy: Eleanor Quinn Welch
Fresh off the production line

We've been working on the Eleanor for quite some time, and we're quite pleased with the specifications of the final product:

  • Length: 20 inches
  • Weight: 8 pounds 7 ounces
  • Hands 2
  • Feet: 2
  • Fingers: 10
  • Toes: 10

But what, you may ask, differentiates the Eleanor from any other similar product on the market? Take a look at some of these advanced features we've included:

  • Blue eyes
  • Sandy hair
  • Nommable toes
  • Pinchable cheeks
  • Enhanced lung capacity
  • And a face like Winston Churchill himself!

Not only that, but we already have a series of updates planned and in development, which will be released over time. Features such as crawling, walking, and talking will be added over time, and those are only a few of the surprises in store.

Of course, as with any new product release, we're anticipating our fair share of core dumps, memory leaks, debugging, and other post-launch activity which will lead to many late hours and sleepless nights, but we will remain committed to making the Eleanor the absolute best product in her class.

We know you're all just as excited to get your hands on the Eleanor as we have been, but supplies are very limited. One thing's for certain - when the Eleanor is available in your area, don't miss your chance to experience how awesome she is.