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Showing posts from January, 2009

Prince Caspian

I've talked before about my love of the Narnia books. While it is true that my absolute favorite is LWW, all of them have a special place in my heart for various reasons. As I have commented before, I had trepidation about Walden and Disney making the books into live-action movies, but the first one was a pretty solid success. I have also experienced a rather poor version of the book, which completely missed the point.

Prince Caspian arrived via Zip today, and I watched it. There were many scenes that were very directly from the book, and in these scenes I rejoiced and was quite pleased. For example, the opening scenes were quite good-- the children on a platform, the wind rushing, being pulled into Narnia. Also, the very quick intro of Caspian and his professor and getting Caspian out of Miraz' palace. The scenes where the hag, werewolf, and evil dwarf call Jadis. The one-on-one duel between Miraz and Peter. All incredibly faithful to the book and well-executed film.

However, t…

In a Handbasket

I once heard or read an anecdote about Heaven and Hell:
A man is on the fence about whether he should go to Heaven for his good deeds or to Hell for his bad deeds. St. Michael takes the man on a tour of Hell first: he is taken to a room in which a group of people sit around a huge table laid with the most succulent meal anyone can imagine. There is perfectly done turkey with all the trimmings, incredible desserts, braised hams, neatly grilled steaks, vegetables and fruits -- anything a person could want. The people, however, were acting like a pack of mad dogs. For the man noticed that all of the silverware on the table was of gigantic proportions. Each person struggled mightily to use the knives and forks and spoons to get the food cut and into their hungry mouths. However, the utensils were so big that not one person could succeed.

"How horrible," the man said, turning to St. Michael. "Now show me Heaven."

St. Michael gestured to another window into another room. Th…

Ice

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We have been going through what the meteorologists on TV have been referring to as a "cold snap." To me, this is insane coldness that is fraught with peril. However, amid the freezing cold and ice, beauty can be found.


Fig. 1: Icicles and frozen gutters make taking the Xmas lights off impossible.


Fig. 2: A row of icicles on the porch glint in the morning sun.


Fig. 3: This spruce has a wintry coat.


Fig. 4: An entire plant frozen in place.

Zip.ca

I love movies. All of my friends and family know this. Movies are a primary gift that I receive, it is a primary form of entertainment for me, and a topic about which I talk at great length.

When I moved here, I had to give up my long-standing Netflix subscription as the company cannot service Canada. After some discussion, my wife and I decided to try "Canada's Netflix" called Zip.ca. The results have been... amusing at best and disappointing at worst.

Zip has fewer titles overall than Netflix, but far more than any of the other online rental options in Canada. Its closest warehouse to Atlantic Canada is in Ottawa, which means that shipping estimates are off by 1-3 days on average, worse when the weather is bad. It modeled much of its site after Netflix, but some of the primary features are lacking (like popups so you don't have to leave your page to view the critical information on a movie you may want to add to your list, as one example).

The most amusing deficiencie…

There Will Be Blood

My wife and I just finished watching There Will Be Blood. This powerful movie had a virtuoso performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, another strong performance by Paul Dano, incredible cinematography, fine direction... yet, ultimately, left us both a bit unsatisfied.

Too much is left unexplained. Why did HW set fire to the cabin? Why didn't Daniel and HW use written notes to communicate after HW's accident? Why did Daniel act drunk at times when he didn't appear to have been drinking? Why didn't Daniel ever pay Eli (or, rather Abel) the $5000 he owed him -- especially when the initial conversation ended with them 'drawing up contracts'? Why didn't Daniel, after hearing about one hold-out and saying he would go see him, never do it (I'm assuming this one has to do with the "drainage" speech, but that is still a tenuous connection)?

I don't think that all aspects of a film need be explained. However, such critical and crucial parts to the story sho…

Sleep Issues

I think one of the hardest things was to prepare my wife for my sleep issues. I tried to be open and honest that I have a hard time sleeping and often go through the night awake, but until you have to live with it, it is hard to understand and cope with.

The night before last, I was up until 3:30 am and didn't fall asleep until between 4 and 4:30 am. Last night I was awake until almost 5 am, when I went to bed and fell asleep (thankfully!) fairly quickly. However, in both instances, this means a typical 6-7 hours of sleep has me waking up around noon. Today it is nearly 1 pm and I'm waking up (8 full hours). Which, of course, means it will be that much harder to sleep tonight.

I can't remember a time in my life where I didn't have issues with sleep. I never napped during nap time in pre-school. My parents gave me bed times as a child which simply meant I had to go to bed; I often would stay up very late reading or drawing, or something because I couldn't sleep and wo…

Movie Round Up 2008

Here is the list of movies I saw in the theater this past year:

Michael Clayton (February 17) was a very good movie, with a good story, and mostly great acting. George Clooney was actually the weakest link in this, while Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson were incredibly engaging and powerful in their respective roles. A-

Definitely, Maybe (March 13) was a good, sweet story. Ryan Reynolds was a pleasant surprise, while Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, and Rachel Weisz were quite good in each of their roles. Breslin was cute. I really enjoyed the story and I especially liked that this "chick-flick" was told from the perspective of the male role; made for an interesting twist. B+

The Bank Job (March 16) was a solid crime drama, with Jason Statham well-cast as the leader of a group of somewhat amateurish thieves who are contracted to rob a bank and all that transpires because of it. It is funny, fun, and exciting. B-

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (April 20) was a great comedy. Jason Segal w…

Detroit City

Want to read a powerful and well-written article about the death of a city and the hope of its people?

Go here.

Embarrassment of Riches

In SoCal, I had one really good DnD group that I played with since about 1995. We started with just four of us, then added one a couple years later, and then added another shortly after that, and then a last person about five years ago. For awhile, wives and girlfriends played. At one point, we had a regular group of eight. Made it hard on the DM, but was great fun to get together with everyone.

Soon, though, the wives drifted off to other things. Real life events made gaming more difficult and we had difficulty getting together even once a month with the regular group.

Now I've moved and I am DMing one group using DnD 4.0 rules and about to join, at least temporarily, another group playing modified 3.5 rules as a player. I'm really looking forward to playing again, as I'm in the mood to play (not saying I don't want to DM, just saying I really want to play). I'm looking forward to this new game, too, because everyone speaks highly of the DM and his style and I'm…

Weight

I'm getting tired of the extra weight that the Prednisone has contributed to my body. I have an extra chin, my face is round instead of its usual rectangular shape, and my gut is bigger. It is frustrating.

Hopefully the new RA doctor will get me on a new medicine so I can stop taking the Prednisone so often and start to lose the weight. Even the new treadmill isn't making a dent, although it is good to get some exercise in anyway. It is hard to use, though, since my feet are the worst place for pain and that makes walking difficult.

My next meeting with the new RA doctor is in early February. At which time we will discuss medications and go from there. Hopefully a cessation of the Prednisone and the start of something that doesn't stimulate my appetite will get me off this high and I can turn this weight gain around. Less weight should also mean my feet hurt a little less (and less often) too.

Here's hoping.

Pathfinder RPG

I have spoken many times about various aspects of Dungeons & Dragons, including one of my more recent posts on changing to the 4.0 rule set. A new friend recently made me aware that a company called Paizo has a license to use the older 3.5 set and make changes to it, called Pathfinder. Many in the DnD world refer to it as "3.75" or "3.51" due to its close use of the 3.5 rule set but changes for playability.

Paizo is currently offering a free download of the full rule set, so I did. Read through the majority of it today, and I have to say I am impressed. It is a huge leap forward for the 3.5 rule set without being a completely new game (like 4.0 is). One of the biggest issues with 4.0 is that our group is stuck with years of experience using 3.5 and those rules don't always apply or have been changed radically or done away with. The Pathfinder rules, however, are simple additions or alterations to the existing 3.5 rule set, so are much easier for one with all…

Superman

Superman is the Christ figure of comics; the one with absolute power who is NOT corrupted absolutely. The one who could rule the world, but instead believes in everyone's inalienable rights to freedom and happiness. He was the first of a new breed of super-powered archetypes who is always humble and rarely overbearing.

Since his inception as simply a super-strong guy, Superman has evolved with the times and into what we need him to be to maintain his "first-among-equals" status. His greatest threat actually came in the '40s and '50s from Captain Marvel, then a Fawcett character, who, at the time, actually had more powers and abilities than Superman. DC Comics had Superman evolve and the character became "more powerful" than Captain Marvel (and DC Comics sued Fawcett, eventually buying them out and adding its characters to DC's lineup).

To today's jaded market, which has numerous titles, movies, TV shows, and cartoons of a multitude of comics pro…

TV Conversion

We are getting close to the conversion from analog to all-digital TV signals in February. While the government, TV stations, and other resources have been trying to get the word out, many millions of people have not taken the steps necessary to continue receiving a TV signal after the conversion date.

Congress ordered the switch to digital signals, effective February 17, 2009, to free up public airwaves for other uses such as for police and fire departments. It will also allow stations and producers to offer cleaner, clearer TV signals and additional content through the digital signal.

Approximately 15% of US TV watchers still watch using analog-only, over-the-air signals. This translates to over 18 million government coupons for a TV converter box have been issued (you can request up to two coupons, so it is hard to say how many actual people/households this represents). You heard that right, 18 million.

Now, here's the real kicker-- there are over a million more requests on a waiti…

It's All In How You Watch It

M and I have noticed that quite a few of our channels have cleared up and become easier to watch... but that we're not seeing the entire picture any more. By this I mean that the picture being transmitted is now a digital, Hi-Def picture in wide screen aspect and we're only seeing it in standard aspect, so parts of one side or the other are cut off from our view.

Similar to the problem where the two coasts of America are much more digitally advanced than the entire middle of America when it comes to computing, internet connection, and even hardware owned, the digital revolution is leaving the vast majority of people behind.

The switch to all-digital signal in February hasn't led to the conversion to Hi-Def, LCD TVs quite like the TV manufacturers were hoping. The vast majority of people in middle America have simply gotten their government chits for free converter boxes and plugged those in. Some have needed to upgrade their antennas, too, but there are still vast areas of l…

Head, Part Deux

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Today is Saturday and my headache seems finally under control. My shoulders and neck are still stiff and sore, still having occasional dizziness issues, I've done some additional minor injuries to myself along the way, plus felt sick the last two days on top of everything else. This has not been the best way to open up 2009, but what can you do?

The worst was having a sore throat (from the cold) which made it hurt to swallow-- but the externally painful neck and shoulders also made swallowing hurt. So no matter what I did, swallowing was something I did not want to do. But I was sick, so constantly thirsty and feeling a little dehydrated, so I was swallowing... a lot. *sigh

I did re-do our basement area and it is looking more room-like. I probably shouldn't have, because I wasn't feeling well and was still dizzy. I wound up hurting my right shoulder lifting and moving the treadmill by myself, so that sort of put a nail in that coffin. (M's dad got us a treadmill, which I…

Slip!

M and I went to a very nice, quiet, small-group New Year's party with close friends. A good time was had by all.

However, on trying to leave, the blizzard-like conditions had started and there was ice on the driveway of the house we were visiting. All my compatriots made it into the truck okay, but as I was walking around the back of the truck to the driver's door, I hit a patch of ice, slipped, and -- no hyperbole here -- fell on the back of my head. Not "I fell and hit my entire back and my head also hit the ground hard" -- I mean my HEAD was the FIRST thing to touch the ground! As Stew, who was sitting in the back seat behind me and looking out the side window, said, "I saw tennis shoes and wondered what happened."

This is my first major issue with ice since being here and it hurt like hell. I have had concussions before, and have had my bell rung a number of times, so I know all the necessary things to look for/self-diagnose. So I'm pretty sure I don&…