28 May 2009

Arachnis Uvas Mortis

I'm happily plucking grapes one by one from the stem at lunch this afternoon, waiting for my pizza to be done. After I get the pizza from the microwave and sit back down I look at the bunch and think

hmm...that looks like a spider web. It IS a spider web - must have been a spider in the bunch when it was on the vine.

And HOLY SHIT there was, because then I noticed - hey, those look awfully black, shiny and ... clustered to be dead grape stemsHOLYSHITASPIDERISINMYGRAPES.
This is like Superman saying "yeah, kryptonite", or Data telling everyone where his off switch is, but man I HATE surprise spiders. If Charlotte wants to spin her web that's fine by me, because mosquitoes and flies suck more than spiders, but DAMMIT I hate being ambushed by 8 legs of terror. the spider, I assume, was dead. I didn't investigate too closely.
It was a good thing I was alone in the lunch room, else others would have learned Rob's Heebie-Jeebie-creepy-crawly-F%$%$# dance. Whats the word for the sensation of bugs crawling on your skin, formication (huh huh)? That's me - I'm even formicating a bit writing this. Ugh.
Spiders. I'm adding a new phrase to my English - grape spiders: When you're ambushed by your biggest fear while eating, and your biggest fear is in your food.
It's like God was reminding me (after I forgot breakfast and someone brought in banana nut muffins - miracle, score!) not to get too cocky. "I love you and all, but snowflakes are snowflakes, and you're people. They're all unique and fragile, but you lot are in my image, so suck it up."
That said, the Weight Watchers Smart Ones 4 cheese frozen pizzas are really tasty, I highly recommend them and I think they're on special at Weis this week for 2 / $5, or as my mother-in-law might point out - 4 for 10!
Just inspect your grapes before you eat them. I'm taking mine in liquid form for awhile.

21 May 2009

WTF FCPS?

There's an article in today's Frederick News-Post about parents who have created a website to draw attention / rally support against the TERC Math Curriculum that's being phased in in Frederick County.
I don't have kids in Frederick County Public Schools, shoot, I don't have kids, but with family and friends in the education system these are the things I try to pay attention to.
It's bad enough that this program turns basic arithmetic into a long-winded, byzantine process, but it's even worse that when confronted with the reality, and questioned on it, an ASSOCIATE SUPERINTENDENT for FCPS says this:

"We're very pleased with the progress we're seeing," she said. "Every classroom I've visited this year has had a very high level of engagement and a high level of activity."
-(Bonnie Ward, associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction and evaluation)

Folks, friends, readers, this is some of the most obvious political double-speak I've seen in recent years, and I listen to NPR almost daily. Nowhere, you'll notice, does she say that the program is succeeding, only that they are pleased with progress, and that there's "a high level of activity". That could mean anything, people. It could mean that the children are solving problems at a record pace, or that they are rending their garments and wailing in the aisles between their little desks. Part of the reason I'd go into politics is to cut through the bullshit and just be honest. I'd never get elected.

This empty statement, as you can tell, irks me, as does TERC. Check out the FNP article, or I guess the parents' site (I haven't checked the latter). The article has examples of math problems. Someone thought this was easier? I smell cronyism, or worse: incompetence.

11 May 2009

Reporting from the Typhon Expanse

Saw Star Trek Saturday evening for the second time with the in-laws. This movie gets better with each viewing.
When that glorious ship arose from the clouds of Titan, I blurted (only loud enough for the Mrs. to hear) "I want one."
I'm such a nerd.

08 May 2009

I like this ship! [SPOILERS]

To quote the rebooted Montgomery Scott, that is. Because I agree with him. The photos released of the new Enterprise don't do her justice. She's still a proud ship standing tall, and i was in love the moment I saw her on the big screen. Fair warning, I'll probably drop SPOILERS in this, since it is a review of sorts.
As a matter of fact, I am DEFINITELY DROPPING SPOILERS IN THIS - DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW.
We saw Star Trek last night. I was minorly concerned at first; I'd been reading non-spoiler material, listening to the occasional JJ Abrams interview, and generally psyched that my favorite Space Opera was coming back with new material. Ultimately I'm pretty easy to please. As I've said before the only thing in Trek that ever really got me "mad" was lazy writing, but that's another post for another time.
Sure the plot was a little thin in this film, but this film wasn't about the plot. This film was about Abrams & Co. saying "Here's the new take on Star Trek that we came up with, this is who these characters are now and how they came to be." The bad guy and other incidentals like the story are secondary to the characters. And oh what characters:

Thanks to bad-buy Nero, George S. Kirk dies saving his wife and in-delivery son, living long enough to name the boy after his grandfathers: James Tiberius Kirk. Chris Pine's Kirk is an excellent re-casting of the character. Absent his father he has no Starfleet role model to emulate, and grows up brilliant but unruly. It seems like Starfleet was the missing piece in his life, because once he's convinced to sign up, the pieces fall in to place rapidly. Maybe this is the natural order of the universe re-asserting itself? After all, Kirk was always meant to command the Enterprise, just as he was always meant to defeat the Kobayashi Maru - eating the apple was the best part of that scene.
In a delightful twist on the original, it is Spock, not Kirk, who is the instructor at Starfleet academy, and this younger Spock we meet is more willing to access his human emotions as a young man than the uber-Vulcan we first knew him to be. Quinto's Spock is fantastic, and when Nimoy and Quinto stand face to face, it's a fantastic moment. Winona Ryder must be a big ol' Trekkie, 'cos I can't figure out why else they'd get such a big name for the minor role of Amanda.
Karl Urban *is* Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Dammit, man, he's an actor not a brick layer!
Simon Pegg's Scotty is fantastic - almost TOO funny, but Pegg somehow keeps it from going overboard. The whole "Admiral Archer's prize beagle" bit is priceless, and a great nod at continuity, even if it is in reference to the ol' scenery snacker.
Zoe Saldana is sexy, capable, and romantically involved with Spock the Younger - WHAT - Oh hells yes she is. That was the biggest surprise in the whole thing for me.
John Cho and Anton ... Anton ... the kid what played Chekov - they were both good, but other than "good pilot who fences" and "whiz kid with a Russian accent" respectively, we'll have to wait until the next installment to get more into their characters; hopefully. Maybe we'll eventually see that series everyone wants with Sulu captain of the Excelsior?
My fears melted away as I watched the film. I could feel the Star Wars oozing through that Abrams promised to being in, but I didn't mind it. I enjoyed it, actually. After all those years of crap action on the TV shows and lame action in the movies, it was good to see the Trek franchise with some kinetic energy. Kinetic is a word that occurred to me frequently in the watching. The score made me sad, though, only because I think it was a missed opportunity to give us some more iconic movements. Battle in the Mutara Nebula, an Angry God, Life is But a Dream, The Genesis Device, The Enterprise, Stealing the Enterprise, the Opening Credits (VI)... just off the top of my head these are movements from 5 of the first 10 movies that provide a lot of re-listening enjoyment. I did like the inclusion of the drums, though, but the fanfare should have been all over that movie, and it didn't show up until the end.
I know that plenty of nerds out there will hate something about the movie, but I didn't. Go see it many times, because not only is it worth it, but the more money it makes the more likely we get new trek, and I've just about seen every minute of Trek on video, twice. I'm hungry for some new voyages, and the new crew I was introduced to last night are just the people for the job.

05 May 2009

Coffee: Good for the soul

Bitter Ambrosia
Aethereal vapors soothe
twist into my soul
Keystone of my day.

Reborn each morning
Reborn with each inhalation
Reborn with each taste upon my tongue
Reborn as I pour, giving thanks for bitter-sweet salvation.

Ninety-nine names
by these marked for God
He shares with us this gift
Divine deliverance in a cup.

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