Friday, November 06, 2009

Accident Prone?

My traffic accident this morning all started with the funky colors appearing on my cell phone screen.

Yup, another accident caused by a cell phone, though this one is a little more convoluted than the usual. About a month ago the gorgeous display on my cell phone went wonky. Images looked solarized and there would often be flickering bands of color across the screen. As fun as it is to own a psychedelic freak-out phone, I'd rather have normal colors and images, thenkyewveddymuch. HTC (the manufacturer) recommends on their site to perform a hard reset to fix this problem.

Blech, that means losing everything I've installed, including the custom pain-in-the-ass theme I've had since I first messed with the phone. Well, if I had to reset it back to factory specs, I figured I might as well upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5 at the same time. Since there was no official ROM of WM 6.5, I had to use a "cooked" ROM from the HTC Fuze community. I opted for one that also had the newer, slicker TouchFlo 3D 2, the pretty UI that sold me on the Fuze in the first place. I grabbed a beta version that a nice ROM chef had cooked up and went through the lengthy process of installing it on my phone.

It was sweet, too. The interface looked great, WM 6.5 had some nice new features and updates. I was enjoying it for a while. Then, I noticed that I wasn't getting notifications from calendar items or text messages. Well, that could be a problem since I rely on my phone both as my schedule-keeper and a communication device. I ran into a few other bugs with the cooked ROM that eventually made me realize that it just wasn't ready for prime time. Also, the hard reset hadn't fixed the color problems.

I knew that I'd have to restore to factory settings if I wanted to fix the color problem via the ridiculously expensive warranty I opted for the phone. Shoulders slumped in defeat, I went about reinstalling the old ROM. Well, not quite. HTC had released an updated ROM for WM 6.1 one with a couple of features I wanted, such as FM Radio and means to program the useless PTT button. Since it was official, I could still get the phone repaired under warranty. If possible, restoring the phone was even more of a pain in the neck than putting on the cooked ROM.

BUT! I had the FM Radio. Little did I know that it wouldn't work without a wired handsfree set. Apparently, that acted as the radio's antanna. I just so happened to have one, though, so I decided to head out this morning with the handsfree and try out the radio. I got it going in the car before I started driving, all safe-like. However, the darn thing could only pick up one station. Meanwhile, my car stereo picks up more stations than I have presets. WTH? I figured it was because of my location, so as I drove, I'd click the channel surf button every once in a while.

I continued doing this until I reached the Manassas intersection on 28 near the CVS. As I looked down to see what station, if any, the surfing had landed me, the car ahead slammed on his brakes. We had just barely started to move with the traffic, so I couldn't have ramped up to more than 5 MPH. I was going too fast to avoid bumping him, though.

Dammit.

Luckily, he and I had the presence of mind to pull into the CVS parking lot rather than ruin thousands of other people's days by sitting in the middle of the road. Neither of us were hurt, thank goodness. His (already damaged) bumper had two bolt-shaped dents in it where my license plate pressed into it. I mentally crossed my fingers that he would be willing to overlook it and we could keep the insurance out of the situation. No luck. He insisted on exchanging information and told me he'd call them after he got situated in the morning.

Dammit.

He seemed like a level-headed fella. He said his concern was that the bumper had been pressed in beneath the outer facade and might require work. My concern is that my premiums will go up, I'll lose any safe driving discount I may have had, and an accident will be on my insurance record.

Dammit.

Meanwhile, the graceful curve of my front end is now marred by the license plate bolts being driven deeper into the bumper.

What a great way to start the day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At Odds with Life

During the course of any given day, it seems like I come at odds with a variety of inanimate objects. It's not just general clumsiness, though I'm sure I have plenty of that as well. It seems that inanimate objects go out of their way to frustrate, annoy, damage, or dismember me.

Today's example:
While driving back to work from picking up lunch at Chick-Fil-A, I had just disconnected my headset after talking with Stacy. In the process of grabbing my phone from its case, I managed to jar my drink with my elbow. This wasn't your everyday jar, though. No! I jarred with such ninja-like precision that only the maximum amount of mess could be the result. Through whatever confluence of events these inanimate objects seem to thrive under, the straw managed to place itself right under my elbow. No big deal with a paper cup. It would be just a little bit of pain in the elbow and a mild expletive and I'd be on my way. No, this was a Chick-Fil-A cup, made of styrofoam with a convenient break-away bottom and break away it did! My center console was covered in cookies and cream shake. I'm sure the gods of misfortune were cursing the fact that it wasn't a sticky soda.

"Ha ha! That's unfortunate, Scott!" I hear you say.

"Shut up, jerk!" I reply.

I set some napkins under it and mopped up the mess, all while driving mind you (don't worry, it's all in the reflexes, let it never be said that I'm not a safe and concientious driver. What? I'm not? What I was doing was the exact opposite of safe and concientious? Well, darn.) I quickly ate my fries so I could get something more solid under the mangled, jagged whole in the styrofoam and the gooey, dripping mess of shake. I then attempted to put the whole combination back in the bag so I could carry it easier. Naturally, the angle and dagger-sharp point of the bottom of the fries containter sheared right through the paper bag. I thought it was odd to see them grinding the edges of the fries containers on a whetstone in the drive-thru. This left me clutching the bag and cup awkwardly to keep the rest of the contents from spilling out on the way to my desk.

I'm a winner!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

undeadWe Tshirt Numbered for Gaming

Any undead fans want to take a crack at naming the characters on Chop Shop's latest awesome "We" shirt? I need to get me the whole collection.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sure, He Can Talk the Smacketh, but Can He Sing?

Yup, another sporadic post on what used to be a less-sporadically updated blog. I've been having problems finding the time and inclination to post lately, not sure why.

But you didn't come here to listen to me whine about updating a blog that no one reads! You came here to see Thor's version of the Rubber Ducky Song*!

Rubber Duckie thou’rt the one,
Thou makest bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie I am awfully fond of thee,
Vo-vo-dee-o!

Rubber Duckie, joy of joys,
When I squeezeth thee, thou makest noise,
Rubber Duckie thou’rt my very best friend it’s true!

Oh, every day when I maketh my way to the tubby
I findeth a little fellow who’s cute and yellow and chubby!
Rub-a-dub-dubby!

Rubber Duckie thou’rt so fine,
And I am lucky that thou’rt mine.
Rubber Duckie, I would loveth a whole pond of,
Rubber Duckie, I am awfully fond of thee!

Oh, every day when I maketh my way to the tubby
I findeth a little fellow who’s cute and yellow and chubby!
Rub-a-dub-dubby!

Rubber Duckie thou’rt so fine,
And I art lucky that thou’rt mine,
Rubber Duckie I am awfully fond of thee!

* Somehow, during our sorting of his comics last night, Jon and I got on the subject of Thor's bathtime ducky. Don't ask me how, it just happened. This is the product of that conversation.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Movies for People that Hate Themselves

What's that? A blog, you say? No. I don't have a blog. I think that if I had a blog, I'd know.

Oh. Well look at that, a blog. It's mine, you say? I used to update it sporadically? Huh, how about that. I guess I'll get to it, then.

Having never had a real theme for this blog, I sometimes lapse into long periods of inactivity punctuated by brief posts with viral videos and such. It happens. Most likely because even when I have time to update the blog, I'm easily distracted.

Oh! Look! A shiny Internet! No, wait, I was doing something, what was that? Ah yes, the blog.

Well, still lacking a coherent theme, I might as well add another entry into my semi-regular-but-mostly-sporadic movie reviews. This one is a rare gem as I review not a recent blockbuster, but an older flop.

Jon and I have been reading a column on The Onion's AV Club site called, "My Year of Flops" in which the author, Nathan Rabin, reviews, well, flops. Some he marks as secret successes, those that were critically and publicly panned but shouldn't have been written off. Others he labels as fiascos. Those are failures that not just failed, but failed spectacularly, giving the viewer some schadenfreude at the very least, I suppose. The last category is just plain dismal failures.

Rabin's reviews are pretty entertaining. I highly recommend checking out the archives. His review of the fiasco "Lady in the Water" prompted Jon and I to check the movie out last night, albeit with an excellent iRiff from Rifftrax.com to accompany us, shielding us from the worst of M. Night Shamblingplot's excesses.

For those of you interested in avoiding spoilers and wasting another precious portion of your time today, here's my summary from my Facebook status last night after watching the movie.

"Watching 'Lady in the Water' is like having M. Night Shamalamadingdong slam you repeatedly in the face with a crayon-written tome of plot."

I suppose there is a fine line between subtly leading your audience along the strands of your plot until you've got them hopelessly ensnared in an intricate web of allusions, symbolism, and tantalizing hints and just laying your plot bare, tweests and all, for the audience to see from the beginning. M. Night Chamois does not walk this line. He doesn't just cross it, either. He pole-vaults past the point of beating the audience with blatant symbolism, sticks the landing in the realm of bludgeoning the audience with every obvious plot point, and leaps up, chest welling in pride as he waits for the applause that will never come from an audience too bored to care about his self-aggrandizing back-patting.

Right! The review! So Paul "Sadsack" Giamatti's character, the stuttering and depressing Cleveland Heep (not the most ridiculous name in the movie, honest!) is the super in a dismal apartment building. He finds a narf (almost the most ridiculous) named Story (alias, Bryce Howard Dallas, yes, Opie's daughter) living in the pool. Naturally, he takes her in and clothes her in one of his shirts. Never any pants, shorts, sweats, or any sort of covering on her lower body, just the shirt. Not important, just a head-scratcher after an entire movie. Story is trying to "awaken" a specific human, which involves making him feel tingly inside and filling his head with ideas. Maybe that's why she never wears pants?

Story is fettered in her quest by arbitrary rules that M. Night Sheboygan parcels out whenever he feels the movie is progressing too smoothly. The biggest fetter also holds the dubious distinction of having the most ridiculous name, a nightmarish wolf-like creature made of grass and roots called (snicker) a scrunt.

Yeah, let's take the least assuming, most harmless noun we can think of, runt, add a couple of letters and BAM! You've got a fearsome beast of the night! Sorry M. Night Shaboopie, it's just that everything you do makes my eyes roll up to the back of my head.

Heep is tasked with finding Story's human and, as the retarded plot points are triumphantly slapped down on the table like cards in a $70 million game of gin, Story's special helpers. These include a healer, an interpreter, and a guild. In an epic tweest that we couldn't possibly have seen coming as soon as the characters were introduced one at a time, Heep fails miserably and gathers the exact wrong group of helpers. He does first succeed, however, to find Story's special friend. In a fit of egomaniacal self-insertion, M. Night Sham-WOW! cast himself as the genius writer whose book is destined to change the world. Everything, and I mean everything in this movie is as transparent as that mind-numbing bit of self-congratulatory dickery.

So Heep gets it all wrong and in a complete lack of symbolism and leading the audience (at least, last night's audience) to a complete "about time!" moment, he figures out the real cast of helpers. Our narf, excuse me, madam narf (so much more special than an ordinary narf!) Story gets picked up by the magical antlion (ugh, I wish is was an antlion) I mean Eatlon, or ginormous eagle. The J.G. scrunt (in an uncharacteristic bit of obfuscation, M. Night Shirley never tells us why it's a "J.G." scrunt, it just is, dammit! Hey, maybe that's the real tweest!) is destroyed(? Eaten? Dragged off? Treated to a make-over? I don't know) by the evil law keepers (yeah, solve that cognitive dissonance) the Tartutic (tree-dwelling monkeys made of vines. Don't ask me.)

In the one scene that M. Night Chazzpalminteri could have let symbolism speak for him but instead ruined earlier with more face-slamming foreshadowing, Heep says farewell to the strange pantsless lady from the water, the credits roll, and we will never ever get our 110 minutes back.

This movie hurt me. It was painful to watch. The only joy found here was in the uncommonly good riffing provided by the lovely Tristan, Tracy and Kevin from quiptracks. Thanks for the laughs, guys! I experienced literal pain from laughing so hard at Bill Irwin (Mr. Noodles to the preschool crowd) gobbling like a turkey. I don't think I'll ever see him without thinking of turkeys. I'm actually laughing now thinking about it.

So yeah, I was going to suggest that you never watch this movie. However, if you can snag the iRiff and just watch the turkey scene with Irwin near the end, do it. I give this movie three out of two thousand nine hundred sixty seven balls of gem-crusted healing poo on a scale that I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cute Overload!

For those of you that don't know about him, Parry Gripp (YouTube channel, ParryGripp, oddly enough,) is the masterful musician that created The Girl from the Video Game Store for Attack of the Show on G4. For those of you that don't understand any of that, sorry, can't help you.

Those of you that know about AotS, Kevin, and Olivia would probably enjoy the AotS video. However, if you want to see something so cute that your brain asplode, watch on. Parry Gripp is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

If you don't find yourself singing "Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom," to yourself later today, then I have failed here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Quasi-evil?

Just 60 miles to pure eeeee-ville mileage.

PS3 At Last!

I'm a bit excited to get home tonight. No, Publisher's Clearinghouse won't be waiting at my doorstep with a comicly-oversized check guaranteeing early retirment.

For those of you that don't know, Stacy and I had a deal. I wouldn't plunk the substantial amount of change down to get the PS3 until the next Final Fantasy game came out. When we made the deal way back when the PS3 was released, it was scheduled to come out the fall of 2009. Things changed, as they often do with video game releases (Duke Nukem Never, for instance,) and it's been delayed until Christmas.

However, my company bonus just came and happened to be a little more than Stacy was hoping for to pay bills. My wife, displaying her ever-gracious nature, gave me the green light for the purchase. I ordered the PS3 Tuesday and got it Thursday, how's that for standard shipping?

I got it all hooked up and messed around in the UI for a bit. The PS3 I bought came in a bundle with Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but I didn't have time to get into something like that before bed, so I spent an extra $5 to download PixelJunk Eden. If you have a PS3 and haven't played this game, I highly recommend it. It's a puzzle game of sorts, but doesn't really fall into that classification easily. Regardless, it was a lot of fun messing around with it before bedtime.

Now if only I had an HDTV to enjoy the higher resolutions the PS3 can display. No luck though, The PS3 came with the stipulation from Stacy that the next big purchase would be a refridgerator. Can't say I blame her, either, since ours doesn't exactly freeze things in the summer so much as give them a slight chill. Ice cream is more cream than ice in there, if you get my meaning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is It Safe?

This mutant chip emerged from my bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Luckily, I was paying attention to what I was shoveling into my maw. The dark area appears to be a 1/2" x 1" cheese powder tumor. I'm fairly cerain that consuming concentrated artificial nacho cheese powder in this quantity is fatal.



Hm. Maybe I should sell it on Ebay.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on the Cinematic Merits of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I liked it.

Seriously.

I know the movie has been panned critically and by the Transformers nerds online, but I still liked it. You see, the critics and the haters of Michael Bay's Transformers have completely different expectations of the movies than I do.

I went to see giant transforming robots beat the crap out of each other and to see Megan Fox.

I saw those things.

They were good.

That was enough for me. I didn't need masterful plot development, deep characterization, or thought-provoking dialog. As a matter of fact, sometimes I don't want those things and this was one of those times. There were problems with the movie to be sure. Plot holes abound, juvenile fart jokes throughout, etc.

But none of those things could ruin the enjoyment of seeing Optimus Prime take on three decepticons and still kick tailpipe like Chuck Norris with frakking swords for hands.

So, critics, say what you will. I'll probably agree with many of your points, but that won't ruin my enjoyment of the movie. Michael Bay haters, rant all you want, your hatred only gives me power. Oh wait, not power, amusement. The rest of you, set your expectations on eye candy and enjoy the ride!

I give Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen forty-two out of forty-nine wrecking ball testicles on a scale that I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Their Mere Existence Makes Me Shudder

As learned from the June 12, 2009 Entertainment Weekly

Clash of the Titans remake
Piranha 3-D
Alien Prequel
New Moon

I tossed that last one on there as an afterthought. The first one was so horrible that words can scarcely describe it. Want to see a few more soul-numbing (or exciting! depending on your level of masochism) projects in the works? Check out this site I found on an ill-advised google about movie remakes.

http://www.themovieinsider.com/classic-remakeville/

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vicki to Me Earlier Today

Daddy, what's worse, pink eye or black eye?

That was after Stacy came home from the doctor's diagnosed with pink eye. I think Stacy would rather have a black eye at this point.
Vicki to me today:

"Daddy, which is worse, pink eye or black eye?"

This after Stacy came home from the doctor diagno

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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Biggest Film This Summer (So Far)

I know you've all been wondering when I'd write it up. I mean, it's the biggest cinematic event of the summer so far. Of course, I've seen it. Heck, I've even watched it twice, it was that good.

You guessed it, I'm talking about Monsters Vs. Aliens. Zoe and I went on a daddy/daughter date to see it in 3D last night. It was pretty good on the second viewing. Sure, plenty of the jokes try too hard, but it's a cute movie and has a lot of great nods to the old sci-fi movies it's light-heartedly lampooning.

Not fooled, eh? Yeah, Star Trek.

It was fantastic.

Stacy, Susannah, Casey, Jon, Jim, Jim's older kids, and I caught it opening weekend. We went to see the IMAX experience during a late show on Saturday. Our mistake was getting there 10 minutes before the show. We sat in the front row.

The Front Row.

Do you know how big a closeup of someone's face is on an IMAX screen?

The pores, man, the pores!

Still, that could not dampen my enthusiasm for this film. On a whim, Stacy, Susannah, and I decided to see it again Tuesday night. This time we got there plenty early to avoid the front row. Just as awesome the second time, maybe more so.

I'm not going to bother to dissect it here. If you haven't seen it already, you should plan to see it. If you aren't planning on seeing it, then you're doing yourself a disservice.

As so many people have already said, this is not any old Star Trek movie. You don't need to be a fan of the old series. Heck, you don't even need to know who the characters are. This is a reboot and a beginnings story and it's done well. The performances were excellent (Karl Urban as Bones is my absolute favorite. Checkhov? Not so much.) The plot is good and the character motivations realistic. The music, while not even hinting at the old soundtracks until the closing credits, evokes grand adventure, tragedy, danger, excitement, and poignancy. The special effects are top-notch. Really, it's a fantastic sci-fi movie.

The only complaint I have about the nuts and bolts of the movie was the shaky cam fighting style. As I've mentioned in previous movie reviews, I'm not a fan. I think it's a lazy way of shooting action. Ostensibly, the reason behind shaky cam is to make the viewer feel as though they're in the fight, experiencing what it would be like as action flows to action. What it really does is allow the film maker to get really lazy about fight choreography. Who hit who? I don't know, but something actiony is happening!

Why does everyone look so short all the sudden? How'd I get up on this box? Hang on! What's that painted on the side? SOAP? Hold on one sec while I get down.

That's certainly not a deal breaker, though. My distaste for shaky cam rarely prevents me from enjoying a movie. Heck, I enjoyed all three Jason Bourne movies and they practically pioneered the shaky cam fight scene.

Go see this movie. Go for the action. Go for the space battles. Go for the character-driven story. Go for the excellent acting. Go for the summer blockbuster effects. Go for the sake of nostalgia. Go to see something new.

Then, go see it again.

I give Star Trek nineteen out of twenty-one Zachary Quinto's hands taped up to form the Vulcan salute on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Your Daily Dose of Awesomeness

I post this video with no more commentary than this. It stands on its own.



Thanks for the drop, Clay.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

A bunch of us caught a Saturday matinee of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I was actually looking forward to this movie more than I thought I would. The trailers looked good and even though I grew out of my Wolverine fanboy stage a long time ago, I still have much love for the scrappy little Canadian.

Like all comic book adaptations of late (minus maybe Watchmen,) the movie does not follow the comic very closely. However, the movie did maintain many of the broad strokes as well as tying in with the other X-Men movies. Leading up the cast, as he should be, was Hugh Jackman. Jackman surprised me in the first X-Men movie as Wolverine, but ever since then I'd be hard pressed to imagine anyone else playing the runt in a live-action movie. However, because I think it'd be funny to see the difference between the live-action characters and their four-color counterparts, I'm going to give you a before/after of each one.


Liev Schreiber plays Wolvie's brother, Victor (the future Sabretooth.) This is one of those partings from the comics that the broad strokes don't cover. It's fine, though. I suppose if I were more of an anal-retentive nerd, I could be offended by the departure from the comics. However, what is true in the comics one day will most likely be ret-conned the next. So, who cares?
As different as these two are, I kinda enjoyed Schreiber's Sabretooth

William Stryker was recast, just as Sabretooth. This time, he's played by Danny Huston. Huston does a fine job. Stryker's not a hard character to understand. Sure, he's tormented a little bit, but other than that, he's your standard devious genocidal maniac.
Stryker the priest, meet Stryker the military man

The Blob has always been a favorite villain of mine. He's never really struck me as all that threatening. Sure, nothing can move the Blob, but he always seems to be taken out quickly by the good guys. It doesn't take Wolverine much time to take out the Blob in the movie either, but Kevin Durand is pretty durn entertaining to watch through the whole thing.
I think they gave the movie version bigger man-tits. Classy.

To the contrary, I have never been fond of Gambit. One of Wolverine's most famous lines is, "I'm the best at what I do, and what I do ain't pretty." Wolvie even gets to feed that line to his girl in the movie. What they don't explain is exactly what that is. Jon often jokes, and I agree with him, that what Wolverine does best is get his butt handed to him by Gambit. And it ain't pretty. Throughout the comics, Wolverine gets thoroughly trounced by the limber-wristed cajun, often while Gambit is vomiting forth "creole wisdom" about why Wolverine keeps losing. Gambit is one of those characters that we're supposed to think is a bad ass simply because we're told he's a bad ass. Gambit is the perfect example of The Wesley for me. Thankfully, he only kicks Wolvie's butt for a little while in the movie and has a relatively small part. Even so, I will probably never like Taylor Kitsch in light of his involvement with the character.
D-bag 1, meet D-bag 2

Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool in the comics. In the movie? Well, I'll just let you watch it yourself and tell me. Reynolds is the perfect choice for W.W. The comic book Deadpool spouts off more quips and one-liners than Spider-man and Reynolds excels at such work. Unfortunately, he has relatively few lines in the movie. There is some confusion as to whether the climactic battle involves Reynold's character or not. You may find the answer to it by watching the short scene in the middle of the credits when you see the movie. You may not, though, since there are two such scenes and only one will play at any showing. Anyone here going to see it more than once to catch the other scene, if you're lucky? Marvel sure hopes so. I'm willing to bet you'll just do like I did and google it.
Ah Wade, we barely knew ye.

Baby Cyclops and Baby Emma Frost had short, but vital roles in the movie. They never meet in such a way in the comics, but like I said, who cares? I dug Tim Pocock Scott Summers. He did a good job and the character was used well. Tahyna Tozzi playing Emma Frost, not so much. She had weird lips and a weirder power. While in the comics, her main mutation is telepathy, her secondary mutation (discovered much later in continuity, again, who cares?) is diamond skin. We get to see that here, but it was an odd choice of implementation. Her skin transforms into a layer of faceted diamonds. Why faceted diamonds? It doesn't make much sense. Uncut diamonds, maybe. I believe in the comic, her entire body transforms into a diamond crystal, which is pretty badass. The faceted diamond look is pretty lame.

Yeah, I would rather have seen the one on the left, too, but that just wasn't in the cards this time.

That did it for the characters I recognized. The rest of the cast was rounded out with lesser known (to me) characters from the books. Some fell in line relatively close with their comic book counterparts, others not so much. John Wraith, played by Will i Am (of Moto Moto fame, natch,) was one such character. Apparently they got the power right, even his history. Ethnicity? Nah. Still, there'd be very little ethnic diversity in this movie if they had stuck with the originals.

Then we have Dominic Monaghan as Bolt. Bolt? Bolt. I never knew the character. After reading up on him online, I don't really care. I'm just glad they didn't go with Beak like I had originally heard. Beak sucks. Bolt was a'ight.

Agent Zero, played by David North, I am a little more familiar with. I never really got into the character, though. I certainly didn't have a problem with North's portrayal. I guess he had the power of shooting really good? I don't know.

Lastly, there was Silver Fox. Oops! I mean, Kayla Silverfox, played by Lynn Collins. I hadn't realized as I watched the movie that Silver Fox in the comics was romantically linked to Wolverine, as Kayla Silverfox is in the movie. She's even involved with him in the same misleading way we see in the movie. It was a nice touch, even if they got her powers and family relationships completely mixed up. I'll say it one last time, though, who cares?
Apparently, Silver Fox joined Hydra. Kayla Silverfox? Not so much.

Now that I've spent the last hour or so whipping up those side-by-sides, I'm going to dutifully gloss over the rest of the movie. The storyline was good. Better than I thought it would be. It had some great doses of clever misdirection and revelations. There was some poignancy, humor, pathos, and excellent action (Wolvie vs. Helicopter, FTW). The why's of Stryker's missions lead into the climactic battle on 3 Mile Island in NY. It was a good touch tying together the historical catastrophe and the events of the movie. Some of the dialog was a bit overly dramatic and forced, such as when Wolverine wedges in his "Best at what I do" speech with his girl.

Worst yet was the special effects gaffs. Sabretooth's wall-crawling and Emma's transformation being among the worst. The other being every character's unexplained acrobatic prowess. Some of the leaps and jumps characters performed, which are wholly unexplained by their powers, were just super-human in an unbelievable way. This is especially bad considering the real-world controversy surrounding this movie. For those of you that don't know (which should be very few, if any, reading this site, so I'll make this quick,) the movie was leaked online a month before release, sans most of the special effects. Many people saw it in its unfinished form. The movie studio freaked out, engaging the FBI to track down the culprit and crying about how much their profits would be hurt. I'm of the opinion that the profits were not affected much, but I won't get into that here. However, in order to entice those early viewers into the theater, the powers-that-be tacked on two different scenes at the end of the movie. The tricky thing was that only one ending would be shown per viewing. I'm not sure how well that worked. I would have rather them spent the budget on better special effects than bringing talent back out, setting up locations, and shooting new scenes. Ah well, the effects weren't all bad. Summer's eye blasts, Wolverine's fights, ::sigh:: even Gambit's telekinetic tricks were pretty.

While I dwelt a little bit on my complaints of the movie, they were minor compared to my enjoyment of the movie. I liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine and I think that if you enjoy superhero action movies, you'll like it, too.

I give X-Men Origins: Wolverine twenty-seven out of thirty-two snikts on a scale I just made up that doesn't mean anything.

P.S. Why you gotta take out the Hudsons like chumps, tho?

Friday, May 01, 2009

You Durn Kids! Get Off My Lawn!

We I got home from picking up the car from the shop last night, I finally got up the motivation to work on the bald spot in the front lawn. Because we live next to the community's playground, kids use our yard as a shortcut to get there. You know, rather than walking the extra five feet to the path designed for it. Durn lazy kids! Anyway, it's been growing bigger every year. This year, I resolved to fix it. A couple of weeks ago when Jon and I were shopping for his new mower, I picked up a few items to fix the problem, and keep those durn kids off my lawn.

1 bag of grass seed/fertilizer combo
1 roll of biodegradable grass cover
2 bags of biodegradable grass cover stakes (Mmmm, steaks. No! stakes.)
6 yard stakes
1 spool of green yard twine

I had to rough up the bald spot with my lawn rake. What? It deserved roughing up! It was looking at me funny. Besides, that breaks up the scads of clay we have in our soil to help the grass seed find purchase.

I then emptied the whole bag on the bald spot, as well as a big patch of dead grass a few feet away that was new this year. I had hoped the bag would be enough to fix the shady spot under our tree on the other side of the stairs, but I'm not even sure I got down enough in the bald spot as it is. I'll be heading back to get more before long. After all, it's "guaranteed to grow anywhere!" They even had a picture of it growing on cement. I'll believe that when I see my lawn come back to life.

After watering the mixture to the advised level of saturation, Stacy and I fashioned snuggly blankets for to tuck in the baby grass. Ok, so it's not snuggly. The grass cover is made from some fibrous plant material woven into a biodegradable plastic mesh and further held together by some light twine. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't make a comfortable bed spread. I have to say that the biodegradable stakes were pretty cool. I'm not sure how they work, because they seemed to be just like a non-biodegradable plastic stake.

Lastly, I plunged the yard stakes as far as they would go around the perimeter and surrounded the whole thing with two levels of twine. Now, I just sit back and wait. Oh, and water. Oh yeah, and yell at those durn kids to stay off my lawn!

The large patch is the main bald spot, the smaller one is the new patch of dead grass.

If you look closely, you can probably see the twine stretching between the stakes.

Also notice the ginormous, tree-like bush in the background. It's gotta be 8'+ at this point. That's what Jon will be bringing his chainsaw down to Manassas to trim.

The twine describes the most skewed hexagon you'll find on my lawn.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So Much Time, So Little Motivation

Warning: One long, dry data dump on this last month's goings-on follows. You may want to skip this one if you're not obsessed with my life.

That's it? Everyone's gone? I'm all alone now? Good, on to the post.

It's been a long time. So long. It's just been one of those months. Either I haven't had the chance to post, or when I have, I've lacked the motivation. No longer. Here I am to bring things current.

Let's see, what happened this month?

We went camping for Spring Break. Stacy and I took the kids along with some good friends of ours and their kids, down to Virginia Beach. The First Landing campground is a short walk to the beach. Camping in early spring, you say? Who would do such a thing, you ask? Wasn't it cold, you wonder? Yes, not my idea, and frak yes.

I don't regret going, especially since some of those that went had good reasons to get away from Manassas for a few days. That said, it was testicle-shrinking cold during the first night. The temperature would have been tolerable with some bundling. It was the wind that sent the chills straight to the bone. A park ranger let us know that we'd be getting 40 MPH gusts over night, so we better stake down the tent real good. We stowed the entire camp (food, table, chairs, etc.) back in the vans overnight so we'd still have some of it the next day. Sure enough, we lost a few stakes overnight, but no one blew away.

The next day wasn't too bad. The wind had died down and the temperature was up a few degrees. We took a nice long walk on the beach with the kids. They found all sorts of cool shells and rocks. I didn't know their was such a high concentration of pumice and lava rock on the east coast. I don't even know what volcano is near enough to deposit the amount that the kids found. It was cool, though. That night was much more tolerable.

The next day was the best of the three. The sun was shining, we had a light breeze, it was perfect camping weather, and we had to go home. Ah well, it was a good time. The kids had a blast. Once I gather pictures from various sources, I'll get them onto picasa and plop in a slideshow.

We saw Monsters Vs. Aliens at Vicki's school-sponsored event. It wasn't in 3D, but it was better than I thought it would be. Either that, or I am becoming even easier to amuse than before. I tend to think not since I unfortunately caught the last 30 minutes of Twilight with Stacy and our friend Susannah this month. Guh. That is just a painful experience. The acting is either over-the-top or completely wooden. No chemistry. The story has as little bite as the so-called vampires that populate it. The special effects were worthy of Dr. Who circa 1970. I just feel bad for the huge number of fans that have been caught up in the books and movie. There's so much more material out there along the same lines but orders of magnitude better in terms of delivery. Thankfully, the helpful fellows at Rifftrax.com have released commentary for the movie, which should make it almost-watchable. I believe Jon and I are going to do that this week.

My car's emission inspection is due this month. I only have one more day to do it. I'm worried poor Nikki won't pass inspection this time. She doesn't spew as much oily smoke out as she did before, but I don't know how the inspector will take the engine idling problem.

I took Vicki to work for National Take Your Child to Work Day last week. We both had a blast. I think my favorite part was teaching her how to write a simple perl script. She told me that she wants to grow up and work at AOL now. How cute is that? I didn't bring her last year because I figured sitting in my cube watching me work all day would be boring. It turns out they have all sorts of activities for the kids. Vicki got to stand up front with the HR VP that hosted the event and help him lead the kids in some rousing "AOL! AOL! AOL!" chants. She even got $20 at Toys 'R Us for her trouble. We went around to various stations after that. One of them was the AOL studio in the basement of HQ where Regina Lewis does her appearances for news shows and promos. Regina gave her a dusting of make up and invited the kids to be interviewed. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for everyone to sit in front of the cameras, but Vicki got to see how everything was done there.

She also got to design her own video game for KOL. They had eight or nine computers set up in a row with MS Paint running for kids to draw their concepts. Poor Vicki didn't get to sit at one, even though she tried to camp out the chair. She was crushed. They had paper and crayons for the kids that didn't get a computer. I managed to convince her that drawing her idea would be much better than using the computer. After a little cajoling and cheering up, she dove in. Her picture turned out fantastic. She thought so too, after I pointed out how horrible the MS Paint pictures turned out. Getting a bunch of 6-12 year-olds to draw in Paint? It was pretty bad. Her game was "Snowflake Catcher", apparently an adaptation of a similar one online where you control a blue puppy that catches snowflakes with its tongue. It was a big hit with the guy running the booth. I wonder if KOL will have a snowflake catcher this winter?

At the end of the day, the hosts put on a movie for the kids and offered to let the parents head back to their desks for the duration to get some work done (yeah, right.) Vicki wanted me to stay with her, so we watched Racing Stripes. Well, we tried to watch it. The movie crashed about halfway through. It was very amusing watching the organizers trying to keep down the crowd of kids hopped up on sugary snacks with nothing to do. They kept asking them to "sit down," which was pretty funny considering the huge assembly room they had them hanging out in. I'm surprised as many of the kids were as well-behaved as they were. Vicki and I cut out after about 20 minutes of waiting for them to fix the movie. I smiled as we left the chaotic scene behind us.

It was a good day for both of us. I'm looking forward to bringing Vicki and Zoe next year.

We got the great news that Susannah is engaged after a year and a half of serious dating with her fiance. She's got her work cut out for her now. Congrats, Susannah!

Vicki and I also went to the Daddy/Daughter Masquerade Ball sponsored by the Girl Scouts. She made the masks for us one week at girl scouts. She took great pains to make sure my mask wasn't girly and had plenty of my favorite color on it. She was so cute and excited. The two daughters of our good friends, Paul and Paula, were there with their Pop-pop (grandpa). Vicki and I did a bunch of dancing. I stood by and watched her and the other girls dance for a couple of numbers while Pop-pop and I talked. We stopped by a 7/11 on the way home and got Slurpees to finish off the night.

We quietly celebrated Jon's, Casey's, and Casey's son's birthdays this month. Last weekend, Casey, Clay, Clay's son Jeremy, Stacy, and I attended a gun show in Dulles. It was a lot of fun. Casey got his birthday present from Jamie, a Springfield Xd. He was pumped. He and Jamie got to try it out at the range this weekend, sounded like fun. Stacy and I were going to pick up a shotgun while we were there, but the prices weren't right. We got a gun safe for our .22 pistol at home instead.

Now I have to decide between getting an affordable shotgun at Wal-Mart or a new sofa for the basement. Let's see, one is fun and ostensibly for protection, but won't get used that often. The other I'll sit on just about every day and allow us to get the Wii Fit out more often. I think I know what I'll be choosing. We've decided to go with THIS. It should be fun. Now I just have to save up for the shotgun.

I'm sure there's plenty more for me to talk about, but this has turned out pretty dry as it is. I'm just trying to get it all down without going into too much detail or humor. I'll make an effort to improve on the humor bit next post.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Important Post! Read This NOW!

On this day in 1960, The first weather satellite, TIROS-1, was launched from Cape Canaveral.

That is all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Car, She Kills Me

Man, I've sucked lately at posting any meaningful content. You have my apology, dear reader.

I've been meaning to write a post about my horrific experience working on my car two Saturdays ago, but I haven't thought of a way to make the story all that entertaining.

Also, it wasn't horrific as much as it was annoying. Mind-bogglingly, curse-promptingly, insanity-drivingly annoying. What's that Blogger? "Curse-promptingly" and "insanity-drivingly" aren't real words? Well, that just frakking proves my point, doesn't it?

Also, it wasn't so much as working on my car as it was banging on it with wrenches and screwdrivers in much the way I imagine an untrained gorilla would. Not a trained gorilla, of course. Now those are something to behold, nimbly reaching in with a socket wrench and plucking a part right out of the engine while displaying the requisite amount of crack to any who watch. Yessireebob, I do love me watching some trained gorillillas. (Oh, now that's funny, Blogger, you say that "gorillillas" is a word? You're a riot.)

Anyway, for those of you curious about the particulars, here you go. (EDIT: this is going to take a while, make yourself comfortable or go watch something entertaining on YouTube.) My car has been idling around 250-500 rpm lately. Those of you that pretend to understand about cars can stop thinking, "That's normal for most cars," because it's not for mine. My car isn't comfortable unless it's idling between 750 and 1000, so that's enough from you. Who's telling this story anyway? Good. Now then, it idled like a Katharine Hepburn in her later years. Not good. After cleaning out the mass airflow sensor (two tiny little strips of metal that sit on the engine in the path of the incoming air,) I tried it again. I've had problems with the air flow sensor throughout the life of the car, but it wasn't the problem this time.

A few googles later found me pricing a new idle control valve. This piece also sits on the engine, but it has coolant running through it. My father-in-law, Neil, got wind of my problem and found me a great bargain for the valve on eBay (thanks again, Neil!) Replacing the valve should have been as simple as draining the coolant from the radiator, taking out the four screws that held the old valve on, mounting the new one (yes, Jon, I said "mounting",) and refilling the coolant.

Hah.
Since these things rarely translate well through the written word, that is a sarcastic "hah" laden with tones of disgust, annoyance, and a seething anger - your friendly neighborhood blog editor

First off, I sabotaged myself. Since it's been a few years between air flow sensor problems and I'm an idiot that didn't RTFM, I had tried to get the torx security bolt out of the idle control valve mistakenly thinking I was working on the sensor. Here's what a torx security bolt looks like:


See that little peg in the middle of the head? If you have the right tool:

taking it out is a snap. However, me being the idiot that I am (see above) and not having one, I didn't look hard enough for one. Instead, I figured I could just drill the peg out and use a normal torx wrench.

Hah.
See above - your friendly neighborhood blog editor

As you might imagine, the drill plan didn't work out that well. I stripped the crap out of that screw. It was so bad that nothing I owned would fit the gouged hole good enough to grip it. I even resorted to pounding a chisel into the head to create a makeshift channel for a flathead screwdriver. The screw was so bound up that I still couldn't budge it.

That was months ago. Soon afterward I figured out that I was working on the wrong part and remembered that we had gotten rid of the annoying (and probably necessary) torx security bolt on the air flow sensor. Heh. Oops.

As I said, though, the sensor wasn't the problem. Fast forward to two weeks ago as I'm trying once again to get the bolt out. Our local True Value Hardware is actually pretty cool. They have much more hard to find items than Home Depot (including the torx security bits I needed, natch.) I picked up a handy little bit for my drill that is supposed to burnish a whole in the bolt, then pull the bolt out. It was only $15.00 (did I say only!? wth?) I burnished the hole up to the prescribed point, but I was at an awkward angle because of the placement of the bolt holes in the valve.


The angles were so awkward...(this is where you shout, "How awkward were they?") The angles were so awkward that a passing lanky fifteen-year-old boy with acne, knobby knees, and a cracking voice peered in and said, "You're boned!" Hah hah. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

The awkwardness proved too much for the fancy $15 bit and it snapped in half quicker than your last matchstick on a cold winter night when your only hope for survival is getting that camp fire lit, or church burning, or whatever floats your boat, I don't know.

I hung my head in defeat and returned to the hardware store in supplication. The helpful folks there sold me a $35 set of bolt extractors, some needle-nose vice grips, an Easy-Out tool, and some penetrating spray. The guy there felt bad enough for me that he gave me a discount on everything but the extractors with the understanding that if anything else worked before those, I'd return them for a full refund.

Alot of penetrating spray, jimmying with the vice grips, and some "percussive maintenance" later, and the bolt finally gave way. It complained every step, but I finally managed to extract it with the vice grips. The extractors had too wide of an edge to fit in next to the valve [damn awkward angles! (typo: awkward angels would make a great name for a band.)] All that remained were three philips-head bolts and the valve would be free!

You can sense it, right? You know the other shoe is about to drop now, don't you? Well pin a rose on your nose, because you're right.

The even more awkwardly-angled rear-bottom (no, they're not the same thing, and get your mind out of the gutter, Jon.) bolt was bound in the bolt hole as well. The head stripped immediately.

Rizzle pizzle flotsam jetsam razzle frazzle!

I try to curse creatively, at least I can accomplish something that way.

More penetrating spray, percussive maintenance, and wrenching with the vice grips ensued. I actually stripped the tips of the vice grips of their ridges. In desparation, I took a couple of healthy whacks at the valve itself to see if it would loosen the bolt. After a full hour of struggling, the bolt finally moved. It took another few minutes to wrestle it off while trying to fit my hand and the vice grips in the small cavity around it.

At last I had freed the offending valve. One look inside indicated the problem. One of the rubber washers (and there were a few) had been pushed up into the valve itself. It had been that way long enough for the rubber to harden and retain its shape even after I pushed it back down into place. I don't know what caused it, but it must have just recently gotten to the point of affecting the engine.

I installed the new valve with hex bolts. Take that, crappy philips-head bolts! Refilling the radiator took a bit longer and all of the jug and a half of the 50/50 antifreeze mixture I had on hand, since I flubbed the steps. Oh well, I was just happy to be done with it.

Six hours after I started, I shut everything down and closed it all up (forgetting my hex wrench in the sill below the windshield wipers in the process, of course.)

I started the car with some apprehension the next day. The idle problem doesn't happen until the car is fully warmed up. It was Sunday morning, but I needed the car to pick up the missionaries for our early morning meetings. On the way to their apartment, I noticed something new.

Yup, all was not well. Now, whenever I'm in neutral, the car idles rhythmically between 2500 and 3000, then revs up to 3000 for a few seconds before settling down to a rather high 1500 rpm idle. I wasn't sure if this is an improvement. What's more, it now seems to be getting gas even when I'm coasting in gear.

So now I'm faced with the possibility that fixing one problem has revealed and/or caused a new one. Has the car just become accustomed to the idle problem over the years and the fix suddenly thrown the whole system out of balance? Did I do something wrong in the installation of the new valve? Can I fix it?

Who knows? Could be? Absolutely not!

This sucker is going to the professionals next. I'm done.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Hawks Family Tree

Vicki and I drew up the family tree after she asked me what the word, "generations" meant. She's quite the artist. The tree and words are mine, everything else Vicki did.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tristram's Blessing Day

Stacy posted some of these on her blog, but I'm posting them here, and there's nothing you can do about it! Nyah nyah nyah.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Look Around You. Will. You. Just. Look?


I was told by an amusing cartoonist to seek out the rest of these and that I wouldn't regret it. I'm going to do so, because this is one of the funniest things I've seen all week and I watched Bender's Game with Jon Wednesday.
Thanks, Adam Koford, proprietor of Hobotopia.com! (Also a funny site, if you like lolcats, which I do, so this works out nicely for me.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sporadic Post #259

Not much has been going on this last week. Those of you that follow Stacy's blog know that Tristram had his checkup and weighed in at 11 lbs, 12 oz. That's a gain of 2 lbs, 10 oz. in four weeks. The kid's a healthy chunk. We'll be blessing him at church next Sunday. For those of you interested in coming, the blessing will be around 9:00 AM here.

Now, just to pad out the post, LINKDUMP! Here's a little list of my personal time wasters in no particular order:
  • Topless Robot - geek blog (sometimes terrifying, mostly funny)
  • OlviaMunn.com - geek goddess Olivia Munn's blog (almost never terrifying, mostly funny, always hott, yes, hott, two Ts, live with it.)
  • Slacktivist: Left Behind - A deeply insightful and not at all flattering maxi-review of the Left Behind books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (often funny, especially in the comments, popularity of the books actually rather terrifying)
  • Penny Arcade - The original geek/nerd web comic, still the best (always funny)
  • Sinfest - social commentary web comic (always funny)
  • I Can Has Cheezburger? - lolcats, if you don't know what they are, check it out (often funny, sometimes just cute)
  • I Has a Hotdog - loldogs, see above (plus this just made me lol)
  • rofflrazi - lolcelebs (more hit and miss than the first two, but still mostly funny)
  • Totally Looks Like - comparison pictures of celebs and unlikely look-a-likes (example: Christina Ricci totally looks like Melon Cat, just about as hit and miss as rofflrazi)
  • Graph Jam - lolcharts (lolcats for the office set, often funny)
  • Fail Blog - Everything from Epic Fails to So Much Fail, It's Full of Win (almost always funny and often a little horrifying)
  • Engrish Funny - Wacky attempts at English, mostly from our Pacific neighbors, the perrenial whacked-out Japanese (almost always funny, very mystifying)
  • xkcd - Geeky stick figure comic strip (always funny)
  • Head Trip - Pretty eclectic comic strip with very nerdly leanings (mostly funny with some attempts at a comic-within-a-comic that's hit and miss)

The very astute/bored among you will probably notice that many of those are related sites. Some enterprising and insightful people put their noodles together, figured out a pretty good formula for getting laughs, and ran with it. There are a couple of other related sites in their commune, but I don't frequent them.
Link

Friday, February 13, 2009

Very Taken with Coraline

I know, I know, the title is very similar to Jon's post on the same subject, but there's only so much you can do with the two titles, so that's what you get. Don't judge me.

As the title implies, Jon and I caught a double-feature of Taken and Coraline this week. I'm going to start off saying that I enjoyed both of them immensely. I thought I would enjoy Taken and I was fairly certain I would enjoy Coraline. I'm gratified that both lived up to expectations.

We watched Taken first. For those that don't know, it features Liam Neeson as an ex-black-ops guy with a daughter just reaching adulthood. She gets kidnapped while on a visit to Paris, while on the phone with her ex-black-ops dad, natch. The trailer features Neeson's response to the kidnapper, which pretty much sets up the whole movie. Here, watch it yourself and you'll see what I mean.



Damn, Neeson can do chilling. This movie is what you would get if you married Schwarzenneger's classic Commando with the Jason Bourne trilogy and cast Neeson in the lead.

I give Taken thirty-four out of thirty-seven dead kidnappers on a scale that I just made up that doesn't mean anything. If it doesn't sound awesome to you, there's a good chance that you're dead inside.

If that's the case, then Coraline may be the very thing you need. If the magical world that Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick create using the stop motion style Selick is so well known for from The Nightmare Before Christmas can't melt your cold dark heart, nothing can.

Coraline is a children's book by Gaiman. Well, as close to a children's book as Gaiman gets. Some children would love it, I'd daresay. I'm afraid it would scare the bejeezus out of my kids. Coraline is a little girl recently moved into an old house. An old russian acrobat, Mr. Bobinski, rents an apartment upstairs where he trains a grand mouse circus. Two faded stage actresses, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, rent an apartment in the basement where they care for their little angels (scottie dogs, some a little closer to angels than others.)

Neglected by her parents and bored to tears, Coraline is thrilled when she finds a secret door to another world. This world is remarkable like her own, but perfect in every way. On the other side of the door is the same house with the same people, but different. Her "other mother" and "other father" are attentive and caring, satisfying her every whim. The garden outside, instead of an overgrown heap of vegetation is a colorful, musical homage to Coraline herself. Upstairs, Bobinski's marvelous mouse circus is a sight to behold. Downstairs, Spink and Forcible put on a fantastic stage show culminating in a trapeze act with Coraline in the middle.

It's too bad that there is a sinister motive to all the perfection. Not everything in the other world is as perfect as Coraline's other mother would have her believe.

Coraline is voiced by Dakota Fanning. I've never been a big fan of hers, but she gives the character a good backbone and allows the viewer to sink into the experience rather than making the voice more important than the character. Jon has some issues with her accent, having come from that region. I understand where he's coming from. It seemed to me like she was aping Fargo more than a dialect, but it certainly wasn't a deal breaker.

Teri Hatcher voices Coraline's mother and other mother. The other mother has the most and some of the best lines, naturally. She did a good enough job losing herself in the character. For a while I thought it was Drew Barrymore doing the voicework. John Hodgman of "I'm a PC" and The Daily Show fame plays Coraline's father. Although, for a special music number, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants takes over. It's as delightful as the rest of the movie.

We also have Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French as Spink and Forcible. Having long since proved their chemistry as a comedy duo in the UK with shows like Absolutely Fabulous, they work their considerable charm here as well. Keith David plays a wise black cat that helps Coraline throughout the adventure. He's one of those, "Oh! That guy!" actors. He's been in tons of stuff. Ian McShane voices Bobinski. He's another like Keith David. Bobinski is pretty entertaining as he delivers his lines while bouncing around the screen with his lanky frame and beet-shaped body. A new character created for the movie, Wybie, is played by Robert Bailey Jr. It appears the movie execs wanted a counterpart for Coraline. It certainly didn't detract from the movie, so no big deal there.

Selick does an amazing job at bringing Gaiman's world to life in Coraline. From the dismal rain of the real world to the vibrant colors of everything in the other world. A great moment in the book is when Coraline leaves the immediate vicinity of the other house and things start to abstract. The trees become less like trees and more like the concept of trees. That is exactly what you see on the screen.

Technically brilliant, sparkling cast, witty dialog, and exciting plot combine to make Coraline well worth watching. If you can get to a 3D theater to do so, more the better.

I give Coraline six out of six button eyes on a scale that I just made up that doesn't mean anything. Go see it, just preview it before taking the youngsters.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Modern, Cool Nerd

Your result for The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test ...



Modern, Cool Nerd

74 % Nerd, 65% Geek, 48% Dork

Modern, Cool Nerd
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!

Thanks to Jon for the link to the test. Here, take it yourself: The Nerd? Geek? Dork? Test

Toilet Follies

On one of the first days home after the baby arrived, Stacy, Stacy's dad, Neil, and I took a trip to Home Depot to pick up some home improvement materials. Stacy wanted to get the microwave replaced, the basement bathroom painted, a ceiling fan installed in the playroom, a new kitchen light installed, and some other various wiring jobs done while her dad was still out visiting.

Laden with a new fan, a microwave/range hood combo, outlets and light switches, we arrived home ready to start on the kitchen light. We were going to replace the round two-bulb fixture with a 6', four-bulb florescent fixture. I was excited. I've hated the lighting in the kitchen ever since we moved in.

Naturally, Jo, Stacy's step-mom, had news that would change my immediate plans upon our arrival home. It turns out Scarlett had clogged the toilet upstairs. She's a super pooper! We're used to the toilet clogging, though. It gets clogged if you think about flushing more than a couple of squares. I shrugged and headed upstairs to plunge it, and plunge it, and plunge it, and plunge it, well, you get the picture. It wasn't a normal clog, it was plugged in such a way that the water could slowly leak out past the clog.

Next step was the snake we bought for the kitchen sink months ago. It runs off the drill, so I originally thought it would work there. It didn't work on the kitchen sink then and it didn't work on the toilet this time. Like its namesake, it would just coil back on itself. I had the flushing sinking feeling that I would have to disassemble the whole thing, which is never a guaranteed fix.

Ah well, I was already resigned to fixing it, whether that meant replacing the toilet (right, Travis?) or managing to fix it on my own. I shut off the water and set about bailing the remaining water with a 3 oz. bathroom cup.

3 ounces at a time
After the bailing


Next came removing the tank. That was easy. I've done it a couple of times, so I was pretty confident with that step.

Eek! Indecent porcelain exposure!
This is my toilet topless. Don't get any ideas, perv


I was ready to take the bowl off. Well, not really ready. I had never removed the bowl and was worried that I might drop and break it, cause a leak (heh, cause a leak where I take a leak,) or cause some other minor disaster.

No hole in the ground jokes?
Toilet? What toilet?


Thankfully, my father-in-law had to run back to Home Depot for a couple of missing items, so he was able to buy me a new wax ring. With the toilet successfully relocated to the tub, I was ready to work.

The shower felt so dirty and used
The patient awaits...


At first glance, I thought I could make out a valve of some sort from the bottom. That didn't make sense, though. Why would a toilet have a valve? As soon as I touched it with the snake, though, if fell deeper into the pipe. Curious. The snake let me down again, proving thrice-worthless. A straightened coat hanger did the trick, though. I was soon fishing out flushable wipe after flushable wipe.

flushable = put em all in!
Scarlett's contribution to the effort, a stack of wipes at least five high


I fished around until I couldn't feel anything else on the end of the hangar. No "valve" though. Fearing I would be defeated and have to replace the bowl completely, I tried one last thing in desperation. I lifted the bowl and shook it over the tub. Something fell out with a clatter. I looked down in disgust at a filthy, corroded circular piece of metal.

look, but don't touch, please don't touch
Look closely at the culprit, all will soon be revealed


It turns out that the piece of metal was a tin lid to a coin bank, a pink lid at that. The color was significant for a very good reason. None of my girls have ever owned such a bank, so I knew it wasn't one of them. The previous owner was a single mom with a adolescent son, so I was fairly certain it wasn't them. It could only have been deposited by someone that lived here before them, who knows how long ago?

All this time, the bank lid would act as a check valve. If too much was flushed down the toilet at once, it would clog up. Once plunged, the force of the water and debris would swivel the lid sideways and let the detritus flow by. It took Scarlett's stack of wipes to clog it in such a way that we couldn't plunge it.

With the clog finally removed, I painstakingly cleared off the old wax ring. I'm not sure how long it had been there, but I couldn't wash my hands enough to feel clean afterward. I installed the new wax ring, anchored the bowl, replaced the tank, turned the water back on, and stepped back as I flushed, so the geyser of water wouldn't hit me.

Oddly enough, there was no geyser. Not even a trickle of water seemed to leak from the many possible places on the toilet. There was no way I went through all of that and came out with a fully-functioning toilet, was there? And yet, there it was, flushing like it had never flushed before and nary a leak. Don't worry, I'll pay for my good experience later. The Universe lets no positive event go unpunished.

Free at last!
Fully installed and ready to flush!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tristram's First Digital Photo Album

Here's the first few photos taken of Tristram. More to follow as other cameras are emptied of their digital payload.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Please Welcome Tristram Scott Hawks

Tristram was born at 10:56 AM EST. He is 9 lbs 2oz and at least 21" long. Mother and baby boy are doing great. Thanks everyone for your support and love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Play Street Fighter on YouTube



Topless Robot dropped this via somebody else. I'm not going to bother checking references all the way back to the originator, suffice it to say that it is awesome.

Thrill at the realistic animation (stop-motion at its finest!) Marvel at the exotic locales (is that a toilet floor in E. Honda's level?) Gape in awe at the interactivity that only Web 2.0 could bring you (okay, I just threw up a little bit in mouth at that bit of buzzword nonsense.)

Just choose your opponent, then choose your attack when the buttons light up. As TR said, it's the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for the modern age.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Captain America, the Shiftless Bum, Finally Gets a Job

For those of you that aren't fans of comic books, the Kevin Smith movie Clerks, or both, this will probably go right over your heads. For the rest of you, enjoy!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Back with Spirit and Thing You Shouldn't Do #8

Hello, hello, hello! Have a good holiday? Ready for the new year? Yes? No? Don't care? Lovely!

I was going to use this space to write my thoughts and feelings on The Spirit, but Jon beat me to the punch by like - almost two weeks. He also hit all the points I wanted to make, so there's little point in doing it again. What he said about the movie goes for me, too. Also, he did this, which blows any commentary I have about the movie, at least about Scarlett Johansson in the movie, out of the water. So, well done there, Jon.

On to -
Thing You Shouldn't Do #8:
Take a sleeping aid on the same night as your spouse.

Why? Because ten minutes after you do, your kid is going to get out of bed and vomit all over the place. Oh, and another one of your kids will have nightmares and crawl into bed, proceeding to kick and flail around all night.

Seriously.

Last night, in an effort to fix our whacked schedules so we could function in a work week, I took a Unisom and Stacy took half of one (previously prescribed to her while pregnant with Vicki as part of an anti-nausea regimen.) Naturally, a few minutes later, Zoe stumbled into the room complaining of pains in her abdomen. Stacy, the wise woman that she is, did the nausea check and rushed her to the bathroom before chunks blew. She was up for another hour with stomach pains, but they seemed to ease off and she fell to sleep. An indeterminate amount of time passed before I was rudely jerked awake by a pair of little bony knees curled up into my back. Scarlett had nightmares and crawled into bed. She was snuggled up with Stacy, which meant I was the target of any flailing limbs. Being too tired to fumble with my sleep machine and lug her back to her bed, also knowing that it was only a temporary measure, I dropped back into slumber. It was pretty fitful, as I would be awakened by sporadic thrashing from Scarlett throughout the night.

All in all, not a good way to start a work week after nearly two weeks of vacation.

Zoe seems a bit better, but we're going to have her checked out if the pain comes back. I'm always paranoid of untreated appendicitis or worse when it comes to those nebulous pains in the abdomen of my kids.

Anyone else have a return from vacation story they'd like to share?