28 June 2008

Rob•E and Chess•E Go See WALL•E (with Ray)

Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella had their Princes Charming; Lady had the Tramp, and Beauty had her Beast. Now Wall•E has his EVE.
We went to see "Wall•E" last night with Ray. Only yesterday morning I heard the NPR review of the movie I'd been following online since February or so of this year, and the reviewer loved it. So far everyone had loved it, and the previews had been awesome.
But would it be any good?
It was.
Even though there's no "spoken dialog" for the first half hour or so, you're not bored; in fact, you feel a little like you're peeking in on Wall•E's life, and you fall in love with the little guy, hi curiosity, and even his twinkie-loving pet roach.
I'm not going to speak much to the plot herein because I want you to go see it. It's that good. I don't have a rating scale, but if I did, this film would get top marks. You're kept interested, curious, at times enthralled, and it plays on your heartstrings somewhat, as well. Central to the movie is the idea of wastefulness and sloth, and the depiction of a mega-corporation is ironic, given Disney's own size and reach. The message felt a bit more acceptable to me in "Wall•E", than the eco-message did in "Happy Feet", which snuck up and bludgeoned you with an eco-message smack in the middle of a fun movie about a dancing penguin. Maybe it's that Wall•E's home is the back drop for the entire film, or that the news I read daily is that we're all finding ways to do something to fight against the creation of these future mountains of garbage, or just that Disney/PIXAR got better screenwriters.
"Wall•E" is the movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen. The detail of presentation in this film often makes you think it's more than just CGI animation - and I'm not just talking about Fred Willard, though I'm wondering whether or not they CGIed him for the movie, or just blended in real film. I imagine the latter would be more cost effective, but never put anything past PIXAR.
This movie already has a place in my DVD collection. Go see it in the theater! It's more than just a movie for kids, it's that rare creature: a good date movie that will actually keep both of you interested enough in the movie to not worry about whether or not the date's going well, if it's that sort of date.

26 June 2008

13" + 19" != 37"

any way you slice it.

Shipley's TV Repair of 45 Waverley Drive in Frederick has my television.
They have had my television since 6/9/08.
I have called them at least weekly since leaving it with them for the warranty repair, and every time I call it is another excuse for why it's not ready.
Phillips' website was down so we set it aside and just got back to it...we're waiting on parts information...we're going to get it up on the bench Wednesday...we got it up on the bench and had to order a part for it...
It's always 'we'll call you on [Day x, some indistinct relatively near point a few days in the future] and let you know'. They close most days at 6. They never call me. I have to call them.
If you need your TV repaired, but want to NOT WAIT A MONTH to have it back, then I suggest using someone else, because the fine folks at Shipley's love to take their good sweet time with things.
Yet, they certainly don't waste any time on explanations. Why did they tell me they needed parts information when they hadn't even LOOKED at it yet? Why did they just now order a part?
Look, I've done plenty of warranty electronics (computers & peripherals) support over the years, and I know damn well what is involved in fixing any electronic component. I've had my share of laptops pulled apart on my own workbench.
Shipley's, of Waverley Drive in Frederick, MD, I'd ask that you not piss on my leg and tell me it's raining and just fix my television. I will most certainly share my displeasure with you, but not before I get my TV back.
With the time you've taken, this unit should last until the Sun goes nova.

Local Pizza Shop Close it's Lid for Good?

Corsi's is closing.

Still reeling from last night's (10pm) pizza and beer dinner (Happy Birthday, Parker!), I read the linked article this morning.
Corsi's Pizza is part of my mental landscape. The sight of that shop means "home" to me as much as Bonebrake's Alignment Shop, Culligan, or those odd planter/gargoyle things at the corners of the house across Maryland Ave. from Corsi's. You know, the one that faces onto Wilson. That one.
They aren't closing for lack of business, which helps me absolve myself of guilt. I only ever ate there once. I'd convinced a factory worker where I did HR that instead of sitting at home and collecting disability that she should come in to work and do a light duty regimen. for that the plant manager treated me to lunch at Corsi's. I remember it was good.
I have an aunt who left the area for awhile to live out west. When she came home, the first thing she asked me was "does Corsi's pizza still taste like cardboard?".
She grew up in the North End.
I grew up just up the street from Corsi's, and always enjoyed the tidy look of the pizza shop on the corner. Hopefully someone will buy the place and keep it going. It'd be a shame to let another local landmark fade away.

25 June 2008

Legos on the web

Since I'm going by "web-legos" these days, I feel compelled to give a shout-out to Gizmodo's Lego page (you probably already knew it was there):
  • http://gizmodo.com/tag/lego/
Maybe I'll actually talk about how cool legos are and how much I love them, but that should be self-explanatory.

Rock on, you plastic bricks of genius.

First Harvest

Yup, it's a garden post. I'll not ramble on in detail about every plant in the yard, but everything is growing nicely to date, save for what I'm considering my "lessons"; more on those in a moment.
The first harvests have come in for Francesca and me! We recently enjoyed a salad of "baby" romaine that I thinned from the hanging planter so the rest could continue to grow. It was perfect. Just Monday evening we had a dinner of leftovers, but added to that was a god serving for each of us of peas I'd picked only minutes before, with a fresh-pulled carrot mixed in for flavor. Peas 'n' Carrots never did taste so good.
We're looking at some green beans and squash next on the menu, and then it's a toss up

Lessons Learned

I'm always learning something new, even when it's something I've done since I was kid, like gardening. After my earlier troubles with bad seed, I was worried about germination, and then the plants what did grow not producing enough, uhm, produce, for us to eat from to make my work worthwhile (last year's tomato fiasco still fresh in my mind).
In my zeal I planted too densely, and then I didn't thin as assiduously as I ought to have, and have created instead of neat rows of plants, a seething green morass of beans and peas and peppers (and squash) all competing for sunlight with some random carrots tossed in to the fray for good measure. It's like some proto-stew without the onions or celery. Likewise my potted radish and carrot experiment has withered in my face because of over-seeding and too much hot sun.
The corn stands idly by and grows. I will not grow corn next year. Well, maybe a stalk or 2 just for fun.
Come second planting in August, I will not plant so thick.
There is production on my plants, but not the rich bounty I'm used to seeing. Of course this is only the second year for this soil, so next year will be better because of the wonderful compost I'll be working in come Autumn as well as some more top soil. My goal is to have such wonderful soil for planting by the time we move that I'll shovel it in to some bins and move it to the new house with everything else.
So lessons learned:
  • Work that soil with compost, bagged soil, and some fertilizer.
  • Don't plant so damned thickly.

19 June 2008

Would You Read This?

I get a lot of ideas for stories, and between Google Docs, gmail and some scattered papers, I manage to at least write most of them down. I found a treatment for a story in an old e-mail recently, and copied it over to Google Docs. Well, I wrote a prologue for it, and my question is, readers, would you want to read more of this story?

Fires of Babylon - treatment

It's the present day in recently liberated Iraq. Fighting is still
peppering the country and every day can be a struggle. In the midst
of this nation-birthing a group of looters funded by a secretive
conclave are systematically robbing Iraq of her Mesopotamian and
Babylonian treasures that lay dormant in the sand, searching for a
tablet on which legend says holds the formula for Greek Fire. The CIA
catches wind of this and sends an operative in to infiltrate the
group, but he is found out and presumed lost.
Meanwhile, on a quiet farm in Central PA, a phone rings in the dead of
the night. Stirring from sleep CJ Thompson rolls over in her bed and
answers the phone. The voice on the other end asks for The Sarge.
"Honey, one of your cop buddies thinks it's funny to cal you at 3 in
the morning," she says to her also half-awake husband.
"Give me the phone," he replies, seemingly groggy. "Mike, is that
you?" He replies.
The voice on the other end of the line speaks a single word, and the
line goes dead.
"Honey, I have to go," Ron Thompson says to his wife from somewhere
other than his side of the bed. He is alert and ready to go, dressed
befor ethe word 'go' has escaped his lips.
CJ sighs and climbs out of bed to kiss him goodbye. She considers
pleading with him for a moment, wanting to tell him that he's done his
duty to his country, that there has to be someone else, but she knows
better.
As Ron walks quietly past his childrens' rooms a tiny head pokes out
from the doorway. "Daddy?" Young Wallace asks, "Where are you
going?"
"I have to go to work, son," the boy's father replies. "Go back to
bed, son. I love you."
"Yes, sir. I love you, too, Daddy."
Thompson stops long enough to grab an extra magazine for his traveling
companion, the .45 caliber Desert Eagle that never leaves the small of
his back, and is out the door.

--
Prologue


Something stirred in the jungle. Ron Thompson took notice of it peripherally and immediately prioritized it over the book he'd been reading. He had survived as long as he had because he noticed things. Dropping the book silently to the jungle floor, he slowly moved his left hand up to his hip, where his matte-black Desert Eagle rested. He knew that guns were just tools, like shovels or pencils, but Thompson could have sworn that his .45 pulsed expectantly when his fingers closed around the grip.
He had once owned a flashy chrome Eagle with mother of pearl grip and a ported muzzle. After using it in a firefight in a jungle that was way too similar to that in which he was presently, he sold it as soon as they'd let him out of the hospital. What little sunlight made its way through the canopy had glinted off the chrome, and the muzzle flare had just made him a bigger target. He'd been a lot younger and a lot stupider then.
He released the safety on his pistol and slowly turned himself in one smooth motion in the direction of the movement. He'd also learned - after too many years in jungles - that the only things that moved like that were going to try to kill you. If you were lucky it was the kind that wanted to do it quick because they were hungry. The other kind wanted to find out what you knew first.
Purple Death leaped at him from a nearby tree and he fired. Death howled in pain and ran off into the jungle. Thompson had only wounded the panther, but judging by the trail of blood, it wasn't likely to survive long.
That was nothing like shooting barn cats back on the farm, he thought, quickly followed by Oh shit.
His noisome encounter with the panther had attracted the attention of the guerrillas he'd been trying to stalk, and by the sound of it they'd found the trail of blood.
Running in the direction opposite that the panther had taken, he slowed down and circled carefully around his previous position. He found concealment in the underbrush where he could still see his previous rest spot. Shortly after that the guerrillas he'd been tracking found the end of the blood trail.
End of the road, amigos, he thought as he worked the bolt action on his rifle. Seven reports echoed in the jungle, and seven men lay dead at the head of the blood trail. Thompson waited for an hour and didn't hear anyone else. He left his cover and walked cautiously back to the scene. Already insects crawled over the bodies. He looked around the site and seemed to come to a decision. He quickly rolled over one ant-infested corpse with his boot and found what he was looking for underneath. Careful to avoid the dangerous bugs that had congregated, he rescued his book from the ground, shook it clean, and pocketed it. He checked his watch and grimaced. He only had a few hours to find a new campsite.

That night he slept poorly. The dead guerrillas hadn't phased him, but for some reason that panther had. Something about shooting that cat had flipped on some switch in the parts of his brain that he didn't spend much time visiting. It didn't get any worse after he found the guerrilla camp and took out the leadership, but it didn't get any better when he finally found a bath, a meal, and a bed in his hotel near the coast.
A week of sleepless nights and too many bottles of the local rum guided him to a conclusion: he was going back home.

13 June 2008

Name Change Again? Why Not!

I was thinking. Weblog kind of sounds like webelos, you know the highest rank of cub scout.
weblog + webelos = webelogos
Do a little anagrammatic toying with the letters and you get weblegos.
Legos rock, and building website (or writing on this thing) is a lot like playing with Legos.
Also, a 1 page Google search for "web legos" only delivers this link as something not related to the LegOS or the entertaining plastic brick.
Point is, I'm thinking Weblegos is a great name for this web-log, and even though I recently changed to this incredibly long Latin name, I think I need to snatch this name up before it's too late. I'm going with it.

It's Been About a Week

My own wedding was just a few months ago. Before that, the pro photographer at a friend's wedding asked me when I was going to take the plunge, and this past weekend I had the opportunity to test the waters and myself: my sister got married and she asked me to be her photographer, along with our Aunt Robyn.
I read a lot about Wedding Photography in the weeks and months leading up to the big event. I acquired a second camera body, a better flash unit, and studied other photos. I made lists, met with both Robyn and Katie, and the night before felt pretty jazzed about the whole thing.
The great thing about digital is that you can shoot and shoot and still shoot more. Of course at the end of the day you have to sift through all of the crap. The trick is to know which shots to get and which to not get. This being my first real outing for the entire day (I've shot prep stuff for friends and taken pics "on spec" for practice) I shot everything. Between the rehearsal the night before and the big day itself, over 1100 exposures between the 2 cameras. That's a lot of megabytes.
As I began to sift through the photos I realized that I was a bit too itchy on the shutter - better more than less, I know, but at the same time I learned some and had some lessons reinforced.
I was reinforced in the rule of choosing the right shot to get, and not just shooting to hope you catch something good. I did a lot of the latter, but way more of the former than I am comfortable with. I think I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, and when I'm nervous I'm fidgety (I see you all nodding your heads), and when there's a camera in my hands that means I'm taking pictures. So as I get more comfortable with the bridal scenario in the weeks and months to come, I'll be less fidgety, more choosy, and will therefore not have so much to slog through in processing. My delete button is mighty, but I need to to last with the rest of my computer.
The lesson I learned is that I need to stick to my list when it comes time to take the posed group shots, and I need to take firm control. no matter how take-charge of a person the bride may be, no matter how much she might have planned for this day and discussed this moment with you, she's way too busy working on the fact that she just got married, and how she's hungry, tired, and just wants to sit down and have a large drink of something cold. So when I get that list of shots with all the people and the order they are in, we stick to the list in that order. I managed to get the shots, but it took longer than it should have and the bride should really have just stood there and smiled, instead of helping round people up. This is a lesson firmly learned.
I've had time to do my initial round of sifting, and I've even pulled out the 113 images I think best tell the story of the day, but later tonight I'll sit down and really work that post-production magic to give my sister the best present I can: the memories of her day that she can always look back on.

Verdant Explosion

I was looking for pictures of dirt for work - don't fret why, and so I pulled up the pictures of my garden to see if any of that was useful (it wasn't). Having just taken in the full green-ness of my garden mere hours before (as I left for work), I was stunned at how much it had really grown in only a month! It's amazing what a good wet spell will do for your plants!
I mean, excepting for the flowers. The only damned way I'm going to have anything flowering before July next year is to cheat and drop cash on greenhouse raised flats. I've no room for tending seedlings indoors, unfortunately.
What were 30 days ago tiny squashlings are now majestic mothers of young vegetables, yellow and growing almost before my eyes. Corn is doing its best to be up to that elephant's eye by ... you guessed it: the 4th of July. Green Beans have already begun to come in as the peas race skyward and outward, determined to usurp control of the garden like some pod-vegetable variant of 1900's Germany.
My pepper plants are holding their own in this war for sunlight, though I worry sometimes that peas and beans and squash will roll over my peppers like they were some sort of botanical Belgium, en route to my flower beds of France.
Of course, the whole WWI/WWII analogy falls apart when you realize that some of my peppers are hungarian wax (hot!), and that it was a silly analogy to begin with. I mean, everyone knows that peas can't goose-step to save their tiny green lives.
Out of what I thought were exactly 0 seeds that sprouted, it appears that I will get approximately 6 carrots from the earth, those too ready any day now. My curiosity has thus far kept me from pulling one just to see how they are doing. While in the ground they are at the same time perfect and deficient. I prefer to let Schroedinger's carrots tend to themselves (I do weed around them).
Speaking of weeds, here's a conundrum: how did lemon balm come to be growing in the cracks in my brick path through the garden? I have 1 lemon balm plant, given to me by my father, and it has been conspicuously immobile on my workbench while I waited for it to grow enough to transplant. Weird, right? As in all things that go wonky with my garden I blame either dogs or birds (or slugs), but since dogs and slugs are exclusively destructive, my vote goes to birds. The dogs make sure that there are no rabbits in the yard.
These are the same birds who likely plucked off the young stems of my flower box just as they were preparing to show first blossom. Yes, I was quiet displeased. Dad was good enough to fix me up with some alyssum, which I have planted in the flower box with the transplanted sidewalk lemon balm AND one of the squash seedlings that I had thinned out (they were just too strong to simply toss on the compost heap!). They are all covered with halves of plastic bottles until they show sufficient growth to be left alone by birds.
Well, I've done it again: another rambling tour through my gardens (hey, my sunflowers, second time around, are actually growing). If there's something growing in my yard (other than the grass what needs mowing) that you want me to ramble on at length about, please comment and let me know.
Hey, maybe comment and let me know you're reading? The "I don't have anything to say" excuse is a poor excuse. You just read this. I rest my case.

12 June 2008

Confession Time

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge Star Trek nerd. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of seemingly all things Trek (no matter how hard I try to forget Nemesis, or every meta-muta-hyper-allo-genic particle Voyager ever spat out). It doesn't go so far as specific ratings of different types of phasers, but I do know that there are different types, and can somewhat reliably name them on sight.
You get my point.

This is not my confession.

This is: I don't hate Wesley Crusher (anymore). I used to. I loathed him. Likely to be trendy, but just as likely out of jealousy, or maybe because of some part of myself I saw in that rainbow-sweatered space nerd. But now I respect him.
It was the late 80s and since I'm old enough to have remembered when there was just Kirk et al on TV and only 3 movies, this "The Next Generation" thing was really cool. It still is really cool as I watch the re-runs that look like they've been cleaned up for their run on Sci Fi. There was the Enterprise, and a captain and hot alien chicks, and cool science fiction stuff and this nerd kid.
Was I supposed to identify with him?
The big thing back then were newsgroups. One I recall is "alt.wesley.die.die.die". There was little love in the fan base for the ensign with the MILFy Doctor for a mom. I didn't post, but I knew it existed. And I thought it was funny, and maybe just a little bit on spot.
But why? As evidenced, it was trendy to hate this kid who felt shoe-horned into the productions. He was Voyager's deus-ex Deflector before Geordi had ever re-routed anything to the deflector (that's another nerd post for another day). I admit that at times I get swept up in the flow of things.
Plus, I was jealous. Why'd HE get to fly a Starship, hang out with Ensign Leffler, and go to Starfleet Academy?! (Yes, I knew it wasn't real) This was likely part of the equation.
Finally, I think I saw something of myself in him. I think all the nerds did. Nerds who were nerds before there were "geeks". We likely knew the Enterprise layout as well as Wesley did, and if your VCR was good enough, you knew the command sequences. My VCR wasn't that good, but if it had been...I mean, we didn't have cable, so I had to engineer a large antenna array to pick up a weak UHF signal out of distant PA to watch my Star Trek. Something Wesley would have done with 2 isolinear chips and a few microns of Anti-matter.
Which is why we hated him, why I maybe hated him, because he was me, or at least it would have been me if I lived in the 24th century and my mom was a doctor and my dad had died when I was 5. But he faded out of the series, I went away to college, and life became Life.
Years passed and I still love me some Trek; yes, even Voyager, and not just because of 7 of 9.
I stumbled on wilwheaton.net and Wil's ongoing series of articles / reviews of old TNG episodes from his (hilarious) persepective --if you want the link to the articles, you can google or you can comment and then I'll share them--. And then I realized that I didn't hate Wesley, or by some weird extension, "Space Nerd" Wil Wheaton. Underneath my pubescent loathing there was a spark of "I can do that too, just watch me!" Not enough to work for NASA or anything, but I'm doing okay, thank you very much.
I recently read his web-log posting where he depicted the telephone conversation with (now deposed Trek producer) Rick Berman, wherein Mr. Berman informs Mr. Wheaton that his scene has been cut from ST: Nemesis. In reading that I remembered thinking how neat it would be to see Young Wesley again getting a few lines of dialog. What had he been up to since fading into Space Time with the "Traveller" (seriously, creepy vibes all over from that guy)? Where was he headed? The rest of the plot was, in a word, bad, so this brief interlude would have made for a campfire moment, a la ST:V. Instead, well, the less said about Nemesis the better.
So thank you, Wil Wheaton, for having the cojones to be Wesley.

04 June 2008

Magnavox - An Update

UPDATE 6-11-08: It's in the shop as of Monday afternoon. No word yet. Hopefully soon!

I called Magnavox back on my lunch this afternoon. I spoke with Bill, who caught my initial earful of what happened on the last call, and how I felt that wasn't very cool.
I sat on hold for 20 minutes listening to some entertaining instrumental jazz, with periodic interruptions from Bill (Where ... eez Beeeeeelll?) letting me know he was still there.
Bill is a good man, because Magnavox is going to cover the cost of the repair of my television!
So Bill, at Magnavox technical support, thanks for helping me out! sure the Mag crapped out in 90 days, but maybe they aren't so bad after all.

03 June 2008

Rite of Passage



The air was electric up at the Mount last night. Rivers of Pride, channels of hope, and maybe some small brooks of anxiety poured through the hills at Knott Arena. Was another Mount sports team on the cusp of glory? No, Governor Thomas Johnson High School was about to graduate its Class of 2008 and Chaz, my brother-in-law and fellow host of THE GUN SHOW (do you have your tickets?), was among the red and blue robed graduates.
The evening sun shone down on us as we wound our way in line to the entrance to the arena, eventually finding out way to seats midway up the bleachers at the back. Randy, Linda, Francesca, Bernie & The Maize (our very own rock star grandparents), and I had a good view - with my 200mm nikkor and brand new sb400 hooked onto the d40, I was sure I'd get the shot.

Let me just say that bleachers are hard on your ass.

Mercifully the speakers were all brief and to the point. The musical interludes prior to the old stroll 'n' scroll were pleasant. A lot of kids graduated last night. A lot. I didn't count (someone can maybe leave a comment and let me know how many?) but it was a lot. Chaz has always acted so grown up around me that it was almost weird to see him there with all those ... kids. I sometimes forget that the 80's are history for him in the same way that most of the 70's are for me.
Excuse me, I think I need to take a Geritol.
--
Okay, that's better.
The recessional was the drumline playing out the now-graduated senior class to what I assume as TJ's marching cadence. That brought back some memories of my days as the South High Band. Funneling all of the (remaining) people from the gym to the Field House was something of a chore, especially with people clogging the entrance. Administrators reading this after googling for TJ's name to make sure that no one is behaving inappropriately please take a note:
Examine your policy for the movement of people from one room to the next.
One old guy decided to bust my chops out of the blue by suggesting while we were in the morass of humanity that I "open this door here", which was actually just a big window behind a curtain.
Har Har. Asshole. If I weren't a gentleman I'd have introduced him to my flashbulb and my size 10.5s. (I get a wee bit claustrophobic)
That momentary unpleasantness aside, we had a wonderful time visiting with Chaz in the Field House, taking pictures with him and his friends, and finally making our way home down darkened country roads, our own good will and cheer rolling forth from the Mount in our own halogen-lit rivers of humanity, remembering our own graduations, or thinking about all the potential spilling forth into the world from this and every other school in these warming days of June.

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