Saturday, June 23, 2007

Happy Father's Day! That's This Week, Right?

I feel a little guilty for not posting this last week right after Father’s Day, but here we are. I had a wonderful Father’s Day, complete with a stirring rendition of “Daddy’s Homecoming” by my daughter and the rest of the young children at church. Stacy and the girls gave me what could possibly be the sweetest and most cherished gift ever (forgive the sentimentality, I have a weakness for it when my kids are concerned) in the form of a custom photo album designed to sit on a desk and rotate through pictures (Creative Memories Picfolio Minutes, standby for shameless plug leading to Stacy's Web site.) There are three pages in the album each drawn or written by one of the girls along with some poems calculated to bring a tear to my eye and some great candids of the girls. It has a place of honor on my desk, right near my workstation. I have already proudly showed it off to a few of my interested cubicle visitors.

They also picked out a Wii game for me, Super Paper Mario. It’s a good one, full of the unique humor that made Super Mario RPG so fun on the Super Nintendo. It uses the Wii’s particular controller mechanism only peripherally, but that doesn’t detract from the fun of the game. It poses itself as a 2D sidescroller, but has the highly enjoyable feature to turn the screen sideways so you can look at the game field in all its flat glory from the side. Many hints, secrets, and required items can be found hidden in this third dimension that is so strange and unusual to the two dimensional inhabitants of that world. If you have a Wii and enjoy Mario games, I highly recommend the game.

MetaBlog Update Department:
This is my 100th post. Woo hoo!

More Than Meets the Eye, Potatoes Have Eyes, It’s a Joke, Get It? Ah, Forget It.

As you already know if you read Jon’s Threshold, I received another awesome gift for my new cubicle yesterday. Jamie gave me an Optimash Prime which may be the sweetest Mr. Potato Head ever. I would have to rate this over Darth Tater at least because Optimash is a good guy. Hmm, maybe I need to get a Darth Tater and pit the two in a duel to the julienne. Anyways, Optimash has taken up a benevolent watch over Power Girl in my upper cabinet. Someone must protect her virtue as she poses heroically, after all. That is assuming she doesn’t flatten any threats to her virtue with her two huge – muscles. You thought I was going to say boobs, didn’t you? Get your mind out of the gutter, perv. Not everything is about sex with me, okay? Speaking of which, this particular photo sparked quite a nerd conversation between Jon and I. Go check out his blog for the particulars. Here are the two heroes chillin’ in my cabinet with Optimash’s bitchin’ miniature Optimus truck sidekick. Thanks, Jamie!

Ain't nobody messin' with this cabinet!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Somebody Looks Fantaaaastic!

Jon, Jamie, Casey, and I went to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer on Monday. Judging by their previous effort, I could have gone into the movie expecting it to fall somewhere between Fantastic Four and Daredevil in the realm of crappy comic adaptations. However, the trailers made it look much better than that and may have skewed my expectations more towards X-Men levels.

Happily, I was not disappointed. This one was far better than the first in almost every respect. Unfortunately, three of the things that sucked from the first one made their way into this one. Namely, Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, and Julian McMahon. Grifod just doesn’t do a convincing Reed Richards. He tries his darndest, I’ll give him that, but he doesn’t make it. Jessica Alba, though one of the holy three Jessicas, has just about zero acting ability. Naturally, she makes up for it by showing off her boobs. Being the 21st Century Cro Magnon Man I am, I don’t mind that much. Still, she is no Susan Storm.

The biggest stinker of the bunch is without a doubt McMahon. The man has no presence. He’s about as threatening as Mort Goldman from Family Guy. How can he even hope to pull of someone of Dr. Victor Von Doom’s imposing personality? It is as if the Casting Powers That Be decided that there was no way they could impart Doom’s over-the-top megalomania in a realistic manner, so they went 180 degrees and cast a milquetoast instead. There may be some truth to that sentiment, but that is no reason not to try, dammit!

Mort Doom, pleased to meet you.

Oh gosh, I hope that didn't come off as too pushy!

That said, Dr. Doom in his armor was definitely a sight to behold. They got that part right. Too bad it didn’t happen until the end. Doug Jones as the Surfer was outstanding. Laying Laurence Fishburne’s voice over the top made the Shining One fun to watch. He did some kee-razy things with his board that made for some splendid visual effects. Chris Evans gave his encore performance of Johnny Storm the same treatment as his first. He may not be born for the role like Michael Chiklis is for The Thing, but that doesn’t hurt him any. Chiklis was great. They roughed up his rock a little bit and lengthened his brow. I can see them slowly working him into the current comic book incarnation just as Ben Grimm evolved into a rockier Thing there.

One of Jon’s complaints was Galactus. I was just relieved that they didn’t have him as a giant space fart as some of the early images indicated. What they did do was nod to the comic community in the form of a silhouette in the shape of Ol’ Purple Pants’ helmet over Saturn and then again when the Surfer met with Galactapus. I had no complaints. Considering what form Galactus has taken in the comic books from time to time, specifically in an issue of Quasar back in the day, it wasn’t far from the source.

The visuals were excellent. Even seeing the Fantasticar in action wasn’t as cheesy as it could have been. Sue’s use of powers was not only well done, but appropriate for her ability. The Thing didn’t get as much clobberin’ time as I would have liked, but what he did was good. Human Torch looked perfect, especially in the scenes with the Silver Surfer. Dr. Doom’s weird organic lightning power was present, but did nothing that he couldn’t have designed his suit to do, so I still see that as an unnecessary conceit. The Surfer’s power was fun to watch, but had an odd origin that didn’t really jive with the comics. It was used as a plot device, though, so I can’t fault them too much.

The one power I did not appreciate the use of was Reed’s stretching ability. There is just something about Ioaian Griuoffffffiuod that doesn’t sell it to me. There were a couple of good scenes with it, one of which was in London, the other when it was not Reed using it. Speaking of that scene, which you see briefly in some trailers, I loved watching Johnny do the Super Skrull thing and use all four powers at once. While it remains to be seen if the Skrulls will make an appearance in a future FF movie, who knows if the Super Skrull will as well? This is probably the closest thing we’ll get to seeing that sort of action and it was fantastic (pun intended.)

I was a bit disappointed with the blatant product placement throughout the film. Dodge was plastered all over the Fantasticar, which struck me as contrary to Reed’s earlier sentiments about corporate sponsoring. Dos Equis was not just prominently featured, it was practically shoved in my face and spilled in my lap. They would have had to give out free bottles of the stuff to make the message any clearer.

I give this movie 3 ½ out of 5 super powered astronauts on a scale that I just made up and doesn’t matter for a thing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Job Blues

I realized again as I wrapped up my day in the NOC last Saturday that I really don’t like endings. I don’t like saying goodbye. I don’t like closing chapters on what was overall a positive experience in my life. I wasn’t too sentimental about leaving Reston. I will miss RTC, but I think that is because I am very familiar with it and Dulles is considerably more daunting in comparison. I will miss my friends in the NOC more.

As I came into work on Monday and sat down in my empty cubicle. I do mean empty; no computer, nothing on the desk, in the drawers, or in the cabinets. I think they thought I would be bringing my own equipment with me. The joke is on them. I got nuthin. I brought in my home laptop after a warning last week from Jamie, a friend and fellow programmer.

So I sat there with my laptop, which was dwarfed by the empty space around it, completely at a loss. I had no direction. I had no equipment, I had nothing to do but wait for the all-hands meeting to start at 10:00. After a few minutes, two of my new team members strolled in and we chatted for a little bit. However, it was clear they had their own things to do before the all hands, so I went back to the scant solitude of my empty cubicle.

The all-hands meeting was considerably better. They gave each of us assigned seating and I happened to be at a table with two people I had worked with before. The familiar faces were nice to see. Two hours later and we adjourned to the “fun” portion of the meeting at the Dulles Golf Center down the way. The food was good, but since Jamie decided to stay at work to finish some things up, I really had no one to talk with. I searched out a couple of my new teammates and sat with them, but after a few minutes of not being introduced to others at the table and being politely ignored in conversation. I realized something else.

I really don’t like beginnings. I am slow to make friends and I fear my shyness often comes off as aloofness. I tend to stay on the quiet side until I get to know the people around me, and I haven’t done that yet. Things tend to get off on a slow pace for me in social situations, which is one reason I avoid them when possible. I’d rather have a close-knit group of friends that I can identify with and feel comfortable around.

What I like is middles. That time period when I am comfortable in my surroundings, I know what I’m meant to do, I know the people I need to interact with, and I can see what’s coming. Call it a comfort zone thing or whatever, but I like it. I am eagerly looking forward to reaching that point here.