Monday, December 31, 2012

Planning Ahead for 2013

There will be some changes coming for the blog in the new year, but most will not happen for a good amount of time. One thing that will happen sooner rather than later will be a new second blog that will be a major project in 2013. Work on that will commence this week, in fact. It will take time from this blog, but it shouldn’t be too bad. There will be more reviews, life events, and the occasional essay.

Plans also include finally learning proper HTML and XTML coding to create my own template for this blog. That will be awhile, due to other things I will be trying to learn including how Linux works (going Kabuntu for that), playing guitar (yet another try to remember to try), and hopefully some fiction writing.

Why am I making plans when I think the country and the world economy will probably fail? Because if one knows history, one understands these things happen all the time. Funny thing, humans always survive these periods -- though I sometimes wonder how we survive the periods of plenty given how self destructive so many of us are. So when I have typed about the very bad stuff coming down, I do not believe it is the end of the world. In fact, it is the height of arrogance to believe the downfall of one’s society is the end of the world. It smacks of every ancient culture who thought the sun rose and set because of their pharaoh or king. 

Life goes on and only cowards die a thousand deaths, though given our hyperactive modern lifestyle and inflation, it is probably more like a thousand deaths per day. I don’t live that way because that isn’t living. If I were to give one message to the world outside of a call to come to Christ, it would be to man up.

So those are my big plans and we’ll see if I pull any of them off. There are a billion and one other things going on and always new developments to deal with as well. This keeps life from being boring, but it does mean being mentally nimble on your feet. Attitude dictates the altitude your spirit flies at and nothing will teach you that better than dealing with the unexpected.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nook HD 7" Tablet First Impressions

The big gift I received this year was a white Barnes and Noble Nook HD from my sister and her husband. Dad got a gray one so it has been an opportunity to observe a tablet rookie deal with the device. What follows will be a short series of comments and I'll go more into the Nook HD at a later date.

The first thing that struck me was how light and compact it is. Compared to my iView CyPad 760TPC, it is thinner and a touch lighter. The difference in dimensions worked out so that my modified Kindle Fire case by Poetic can hold it, but I recommend getting a case designed for it.

The next thing I noticed was the quality of the display. At 1440 x 900 it has impressive room to render web pages and equals laptops in resoulution. This is actually better than 720p and HD streamed content is amazing on the screen. Even more impressive is the sensitivity of the touch screen -- it is actually easy to pick out the tiny links on a web page.

Sound is much better than I expected. The stereo speakers on the back have good range and are clear even with case covering them. A variety of anime, movies, and YouTube videos have been thrown at it without too many problems.

App selection is tiny in B&N's store and the Nook HD is locked to it exclusively. One of the prominent bundled apps for Hulu Plus has a serious issue of perpetually looping commercials on the first or second commercial break making it useless. Another app notorious for that is Crackle's, but it runs just fine on the Nook HD. Weird.

While I haven't personally run any games on mine, the step nephew and niece have on theirs with total fluidity.

The builtin ebook reader software is excellent and I like it better than the Kindle due to font handling and the fantastic display. Reading is a joy on the device.

It should be noted that the Nook HD is software tailored to be a dedicated book reader with a secondary purpose of displaying movies. It is not aimed at being a general pupose tablet, though that could be changed in the future if B&N so wished. The hardware is certainly capable of it.

My Nook HD is the 8gb model, but can be expanded out to an additional 64gb via a microSD card. The charger and data cord is proprietary, so taking care of it is a must. It does charge amazingly fast from a wall outlet.

The only browsers for the tablet are the modified Ice Cream Sandwich Android browser and Dolphin. The latter can play YouTube videos without issue, which is good because the app is not available for the Nook.

So far I love how responsive the Nook HD is and the display. I do not like the limitations on apps because you can't even side load them! I'll  play wth some workarounds next week and report on how that all goes.

Bleh

Bronchitis again. I will wait until it's pneumonia before seeing a doctor. Sleeping has been very difficult , which makes healing hard as well. All this makes me not very much fun to be around right now.

It's a heck of a way to spend a holiday visit. Not recommended.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Health

The period between Christmas and New Years Day is traditionally a time for me to get sick. The last few years have been blessedly different; alas I find myself ill again this year.

A mild sore throat has ballooned into something more painful and constrictive. A sinus infection is developing too. It could be worse. My father who rarely gets sick, has been very ill to the point of barely keeping anything down.

At least he's getting better while I'm getting worse so that we weren't taken out at the same time!

Waxing nostalgic lately actually paid off when an old therapy for a swollen throat came back to from childood. Crushed ice or sucking on small ice cubes does wonders.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nearly Past Twelve


2012 is almost over and I have mixed feelings about the year that was.The promise of a better start gave way to the realities of life very early on. Woes carried over from 2011, with the most obvious being the impact of not having a functional car for many months.

That supremely curtailed my driving and ability to get around. However, there was a silver lining to the loss of auto motion. Friends were amazing at coming out to the hinterlands where I reside to pick me up and deliver me home. Overnight stays became a regular occurence which is something I wasn't used to -- or expecting from others. It was the first time since childhood that I realized people were willing to go out of their way to help me.

After finally getting the car back, another setback hit in the form of a miniscule deer tick and its nasty payload of bacteria. Lyme disease was the verifired diagnosis that made my late Spring miserable. Though I downplayed it, the illness really did do a lot of damage and took a long time to recover from.

That recovery really didn't happen until October when I look back at the experience. Since then, my health has improved to the point where I am able to see results I'd expected in the first half of 2012. Better late than never.

Politically speaking, the year was an unrecoverable disaster that will be seen as the beginning of the end of the Republic. Conflict and strife are inevitable and unavoidable now. People who are ignorant of history will consider this crazy, of course. I write it dispassionately with a dash of sadness that the classic cycles of history never are overcome. It is selfish for me to want to have lived in only a good cycle and acknowledge how very spoiled I've been.

While spiritual gains are what I desire the most out of life, the bulk of my gains have been material. My movie collection expanded greatly due to the collapse of DVD and Blu-ray prices. Patience netted me long wanted CPU upgrades and a move into tablets.

There has been a great deal more that happened, good and bad. The post would run far too long if I covered it all, so I will wrap up.

The world may be in decay, but I feel strangely settled and prepared here at the end of 2012. Each year, fear becomes less of an emotion and more an abstract concept. Perhaps it is the beginnings of true peace of th soul. All I know is that it isn't a bad place to be.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Night Before Christmas

It seems like last Christmas was only a little while ago, but I find myself contemplating the birth of Christ once again. For once I can say not a creature was stirring, but that’s only because the cats are sleeping. Since I am unable to get into the modern “holiday spirit”, I watched a movie rented from Netflix that I’ve been trying to get around to for about five years.

The Nativity Story turned out to be a wonderful film that only took a few liberties in recounting the story of Mary and Joseph leading up to the birth of the Savior. It was a very grounded and realistic account of living in those perilous times (have there ever been any other?) while showing the great faith those two special people had in God. We often speak of Mary, but it is Joseph whom I admire the most.

It was no small thing to accept and protect the pregnant virgin and the pressures must have been immense to deny her. That would have most likely resulted in her being stoned to death along with the unborn Jesus. Even with an angelic visitation to affirm the truthfulness of his wife, such peer pressures were great especially in the society of that time.

Another thing that struck me was how important John the Baptist’s birth was for Mary. The miraculous pregnancy of his mother, Elisabeth, had to have paved the way for the acceptance of what happened to Mary as well. Not only did he prepare the way for Christ with his ministry and teachings as an adult, his very birth may have ensured Mary’s survival.

And thus the greatest gift the world was ever given was safeguarded.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

A merry Christmas to all, for the rain falls on all of us.

Godzilla vs Biollante (1989) Review

A surprising release on Blu-ray shows off the most experimental Godzilla film ever made in all its odd glory.Over the years, the radioactive goliath has fought and conquered other mutants, dinosaurs, giant insects, alien monsters, giant robots, and even King Kong. But nothing can prepare even an unstoppable force of destruction for the dangerous power of a giant rose bush. No, I’m not kidding.

Godzilla vs Biollante Title

Serious kaiju fans and kids of the 1970s will recall a dark period with no Godzilla movies coming out. This was horrifying to those of us who enjoy a good city trampling and so it was a big deal when Godzilla 1985 (or Return of Godzilla outside of North America) arrived in theaters. It did not do remotely as well as expected in the U.S.A., so the next film in the series had some trouble getting released here. It didn’t help it bombed in Japan, but it did truly begin the Heisei era of Godzilla.

That movie was Godzilla vs Biollante and it may be the closest thing to an art house movie in the long cinema career of the monster. Words are insufficient to describe how weird this movie is, even for a kaiju flick. Still, I am going to try my best.

Godzilla vs Biollante MercenariesGodzilla vs Biollante Dr Shiragami and Erika

Right off the bat, the movie crams a dense amount of information before the credits stop rolling. It starts with the oh so 1980s high tech computer text describing different levels of Godzilla alerts which are somewhat along the lines of severe weather bulletins. Next, a montage shows a condensed version of the events of the previous film which ended with Godzilla imprisoned in a volcano. When this and the credits end, we get to see a very blond and Anglo reporter covering the devastation in Tokyo. She’s also speaking in English with very large Japanese subtitles on screen.

Amidst the wreckage, a group of men in military gear and protection suits are looking for Godzilla cells. Why? It will get explained by the copious exposition in the movie. The big surprise is that they are all Americans speaking English and I had to pause playback for a moment to see if I had enabled the correct audio track. Yep, it was the Japanese one and I was still waiting to hear any Japanese.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Survival and Pants

Looking out the window, it appears the world did not end the other day. While I see a fair amount of snow, there is no where near the amount that was forecast for the winter storm two days ago. There have been no sightings of giant wolves or of an immense serpent, so Ragnarok hasn’t happened either.

I have always wondered what people who are terrified and panicked by end of the world theories/rumors do the day after it doesn’t end. All those plans put off, belongings given or sold to others, and bills unpaid have to be a big a slap to the face as the failure of the planet to go up in flames. How about facing friends and neighbors?

So life goes on, the wheel in the sky keeps turning, death and taxes still can’t be avoided, and there still isn’t much on TV worth watching.

We hit –4 F last night and it really feels like winter now. Trudging up the driveway to catch a ride yesterday was a cold endeavor, but I handle it better than I used to. Between the weights and the meditation methods, my body has decided it can circulate the blood after all. Yesterday was fun going out with friends to browse movies and pistols, then playing D&D. I didn’t get to do anything other than a small amount of role play during the session, which was good because I wasn’t feeling too well anyway.

Today is a bit tougher and I’m trying to work myself up to weight training and getting one last movie review written for the year. The collapse in blog traffic still isn’t explained and this is the lowest it has been in years. Google probably demoted me in searches for some arbitrary reason. All of that is automated through algorithms and is highly impersonal. It won’t stop me from posting as I have anymore than the increasing traffic had changed my habits.

Yesterday did have some bad moments, though. Two pairs of pants, one only a couple of months old, tore in the crotch. So there went the money I was saving for a big purchase early next year. I could only afford to replace the jeans and will try to figure out if I can somehow mend the khakis since they are so new.

Pants have been an illustration of why inflation has been bad for some time. The fabric used in pants has gotten thinner and thinner with the stitching actually ripping through it in some cases. Formerly good brands like Wrangler and Levi have become low quality and I don’t know if any good quality jeans are out there these days. It’s hard for me to view pants as disposable when I’m paying $20-25.

So if you are hoarding for disaster, you better buy a lot of jeans in order to survive, since they will fall apart under duress more than they used to. I wonder if I can duct tape the khakis…

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Short Note to 2012 Doomsday Worriers

The world is not going to end. Life will continues, so get on with it.

Oh and please take my late mother’s advice to “dread only one day at a time.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Winter Weather, Last Minute Shopping and Al

Here in the Southeastern tip of Minnesota we got more than the one inch of snow that was supposed to dust the area yesterday. Tramping out to the car it varied from three to four inches deep and made cleaning the Subaru off a bit of a chore. But my father and I had good reason to go out despite the snow. It had suddenly dawned on me that he hadn’t done any of his Christmas gift shopping – not even online. I checked and sure enough that was the case, so something needed to be done about that.

Heading for La Crosse, the situation reminded me of my late friend Al Ulven. Al was the proprietor of a drug store and a variety store in the small town of Spring Grove. Many believed he made a great deal more money than he actually did, so it was always amusing to watch him around Christmas time.

Though thought of as a miser, Al really didn’t have extravagant sums to throw around. His adult children were often in need of help and the profit margins of his businesses were pretty slim. Did all this make him a Scrooge?

No, he was a giving person, if frugal. But it was the nature of his Christmas gifts that made me shake my head in wry amusement. You see, Al would always wait to the last possible minute to get Christmas presents. Usually this was on Christmas Eve and he wasn’t willing to travel to the nearest city of La Crosse to shop.

Instead, he would put out the least amount of effort possible. Once he claimed that he wanted to keep it local to help the community, but I called him on that since he almost always bought the gifts from his own store. The truth was he was too lazy and would put the shopping off until he was backed into a corner.

So some of the oddest presents would be given with little tailoring to the individual. Knick knacks aimed at elderly women were presented to bachelors, office supplies to kids, and so forth. The thing is he would give the gifts with a twinkle in his eye and you couldn’t get offended even if you wanted to.

Another Christmas time memory of Al was triggered by noticing the lights festooned by the City of La Crescent on some of their trees along the highway. He was always involved in the city council in Spring Grove, plus the Ballard House and other town institutions. Sometimes he would shanghai me into assisting in some of the tasks involved and one time it involved replacing light bulbs.

How hard could replacing a few light bulbs be?

Said light bulbs turned out to be on decorative strings meant to festoon the trees in the town’s biggest park. Many long strings of lights that had been subjected to the worst that Minnesota winters could throw at them were stored away waiting for winter to come again. This was before LED bulbs and so many feet of had to be checked for bad bulbs.

Untangling Christmas lights is tough enough for decorating trees in the house, now imagine industrial sized lines determinedly knotting together. It was tempting to use Alexander the Great’s solution to the Gordian knot, but these were expensive items. The size of the them meant it would be difficult to work on them, but fortunately the Fest Building was available to do so if a little chilly.

There Al, his friend Ted, and I worked on untangling and laying out lights, then plugging them in. Searches for broken and burnt out bulbs followed with many a light needing replacing. Al would be in and out running errands during the work which took hours. Eventually all the strings that were fully functional were carefully wound into bundles for others to put up on the trees. That entailed bucket crane work and I’m glad it wasn’t my job.

I miss those misadventures with Al.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Windows 8 First Impressions

Oy, where did everything go? The Start screen is a pain in the rear. Getting to settings for hardware and software takes even more digging than in Vista and Windows 7. This was a particular pain since I had to hack drivers for my audio card to work properly. That little endeavor was painful, but ultimately successful in granting me full optical out.

I don’t like that I was forced into 32 bit Win8 due to the downloadable cheap upgrade locking you into whatever was on the system before. Be warned you will need the much more expensive disc version to move to 64 bit. Me, I’m cheap or I would never have upgraded.

Flash player is being temperamental in Firefox 17, yet works just dandy in Internet Explorer 10.

I do not like how difficult it is to get to programs now. Everything is aimed at the Start page, which is a garish mess. I feel like I’ve been thrown back to Windows 3.1 it is such a step backwards. This interface will not be put on my main PC unless I’m forced to by Microsoft.

If I hadn’t gotten an Android based tablet earlier this year, I’d have no clue where things were hidden. The interface is completely smartphone and tablet centric, which is pretty useless when using a mouse.

At least Win8 is running fast on the old hardware which has an AMD Opteron 180 Dual Core 2.4 ghz processor with 2 gigs of RAM.

A Curious Decline and Other Things

Since last Thursday, the traffic to the blog has dropped to a fraction of what it normally is. I don’t know if it was my tweaking the robots.txt earlier in the month knocking me down in the search rankings or what. That has since been returned to the Blogger default since the tweak served its purpose in getting Bing to actually index the whole blog. Arcane stuff, but interesting to learn.

It’s a good thing I don’t earn any money off of this site!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey In-Theater Review

Having survived the long trek to see the midnight showing, I will attempt to give a brief (and spoiler free) review of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth. It was the Digital 3D version at 24 FPS, not 48 FPS that I saw, so no comment can be made on the controversy surrounding the new technology. Fears of odd coloring that had been raised after early footage was released can be put to rest for the movie looks and sounds like the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The best way to sum up my feelings about the film is that it was a nostalgic return home, for I felt that peculiar emotion during the scenes that were set in very familiar places from The Fellowship of the Ring. It didn’t hurt that there were familiar faces from that film and that the beginning of this movie dovetails into the beginning of that one. For my final thoughts you can skip to the end of the review, since I’ll be going into technical details about now.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pacific Rim Trailer Does Giant Robots Right!



This looks spectacular and should appeal to giant robot fans and kaiju fans equally. It looks like more fun than should legally be allowed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That Was a Lost Day

Shortly after writing my last post on health, I fell completely apart. It is probably a virus of some kind, but I ended up sleeping most of the afternoon into early evening. So not much got accomplished. By the way, have I ever written how much I hate sneezing? It makes my teeth, back, and elbows hurt. No clue on how the last can be affected by it.

I did watch the second half of The Return of the King Extended Edition in preparation for The Hobbit coming out this week. Something that struck me while watching the Blu-ray versions of the trilogy was how well the CGI effects blended in with the rest of the footage. It may be my imagination, but it seemed like it was more seamless in 1080p than when I watched it on DVD on the old television. Specifically, there was little of the “popping” where outlines of composited effects stood out. Gollum looked particularly good.

Since I don’t feel well and writing was not happening, the work I planned on The Last Starfighter review did not progress. So I took notes while watching The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray instead. It is a fantastic transfer of a brilliant film, but it will be awhile before it is reviewed thanks to all of the extras included.

Meanwhile, I’m downloading some games that I only played as shareware back in the ‘90s. GOG.com is having a winter sale, check it out for DRM free games from yesteryear. Given how slow my reflexes are now, I’ll be playing them on easy mode.

Well, my thoughts are moving about as fast as cold molasses, so I’ll quit writing while I’m ahead.

Health 12/12/2012

I’ve fallen behind on these, so time to report. The molar extraction went well last Thursday. It was odd to be hooked up to heart monitor and blood pressure cuff the entire time, but at least I had some feedback on using meditation methods. The heart rate didn’t change even when the oral surgeon was wrenching the tooth back and forth. So that was interesting.

He had good technique and I think I embarrassed him when I complimented him on it.

I only took one Ibuprofen to lower swelling and promptly forgot to take any more afterward. The oral surgeon didn’t believe me when I predicted that when refusing a prescription for pain killers. With this experience, I can say that the meditation for pain therapy course was well worth it.

Weight training has continued successfully and now I have an app for my Android based tablet that helps me keep track of all the exercises, reps, and sets. It also has a timer for resting between sets which is very helpful in making me rest the proper time. While most of the benefits of weight training don’t show up quickly, it does put a spring in your step early on.

Yesterday and so far today have been low ebb. Congestion and higher pain levels (especially the lower back) have been the defining symptoms. Video gaming has been an exercise in sheer obstinacy with many deaths due to slower than normal reflexes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Misplaced Priorities Nearly Disarmed US Jet Fighters

One of the problems of allowing edicts from the top go forth based on spurious “science” is that you get unintended consequences. Most of the time it just costs the tax payers money and inconveniences. But when it affects national defense, it becomes apparent things have gotten ridiculous.

For the past several years, a serious problem developed in the radar guided air to air missiles carried by U.S. and foreign ally jet fighters. After racking up hours of high altitude flight, the AIM-120 AMRAAMs and AIM-7 Sparrows rocket motors failed to ignite on launch. Suffice it to say that a missile is useless if it can’t be fired off the rail in the first place and the AIM-120 is the main armament of the F-22A Raptor.

Since defense consolidation has resulted in single source suppliers since the end of the Cold War, the maker of the rocket engines, ATK, insisted it wasn’t their fault. You can get away with that to some degree when you have a monopoly. Well, the problem was finally identified after much hair pulling.

The engines have failed because federal environmental regulations forced a change to the chemical formula of the propellant. It makes me wonder what other wonderful surprises will be uncovered thanks to the asinine meddling of bureaucrats?

The good news is that another company can make replacement motors for the missiles. The bad news it that it is in another country, Norway. There go American jobs due to theoretically well meant intentions.

Stupidity has killed this once great nation and this is a small example of how.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fractale Episode 8: Secret of the Underground

Much about Phryne is revealed and a rescue mission goes very wrong when Fractale journeys into a deeper level of darkness. Warning: The TV-14 rating is very much earned by this episode due to extremely disturbing content and mild profanity in the English dub. Fractale: Reiterated continues with updated text and HD screen captures.

Fractale TitleFractale 08 Secret of the Underground

Secret of the Underground goes straight to the story instead of opening with the main title credits. We are greeted with the sight of Enri and the remaining Blues Brother returning to the Danon in the scout ship without Clain and Phryne. Subdued and upset, the blond girl reports the events at the end of the last episode to her brother, Sunda. Mainly concerned about Nessa, he is informed they brought her back but she is hiding in the computer systems again.

Fractale 08 Airship OdinFractale 08 Distraught Phryne

We then see the Temple airship, Odin, land in an underground base and Clain is seen struggling to breath. Yes, he somehow survived being shot but he is in very bad shape. He can hear people talking and briefly makes out the sight of Phryne over him trying not to cry. That capture says a lot about what the boy means to her, doesn’t it? Once again, the expressive facial animations of the series impress.

The distraught priestess desperately tries to negotiate with Sir Barrot to be allowed to stay with Clain, but he seems to be enjoying making her suffer over the situation. But it is his calling himself her father that the fading Clain hears just before passing out.

Cue the opening credits and the theme has never sounded sadder. It is a grim introduction to what turns out to be an even grimmer episode.

The Ad Experiment Early Results

I am deeply amused. The results of having ads run from November 19 to now show very little activity. In fact, only one ad was clicked and I suspect it was by accident since it was on a smartphone if the tracking info is accurate.

Finalized money earned for November was…

Drum roll, please…

Okay, I can’t afford a drummer, but here it comes…

$1.52.

Of which, $1.32 was from the one click. Lest you think people with anything but a high traffic sight make any money from running ads, I must point out that AdSense does not pay out until you hit the $100 mark. Which would be 8-10 years with the current hit rate on this blog. BTW, that one click is the only one after 5,000 ads shown, which makes it a fraction of a percent.

This explains why you see some web pages that seem to be all ads with the content wedged into a small area in the center. People do this to increase the rate of ad “impressions” and mistaken clicks.

Between that and the usage of ad blocking plugins for some browsers, it is questionable to me how effective web based ads are. Advertising has always been a traditionally low response medium for getting product and brand awareness out there, but on the web it seems worse.

I’ll keep the mad scientist experiment going for some months just to see if a more complete picture is formed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sockets to Stay?

Intel has finally reacted to the brouhaha that began when some OEMs spoke off the record about plans to move to soldered on motherboards. The official word is that they plan to keep offering socketed CPUs, but they don’t exactly deny there is a change coming.

Amidst all this I hadn’t seen that AMD had taken advantage of the rumors for a little PR, which isn’t a surprise. They need something to help them get out of the hole they are in.

Is it my imagination or are things in the PC sector getting as unstable as everything else in the world right now?

Spirited Away (2001) Review

aka Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi

Drawing on the best elements from his previous movies, director Hayao Miyazaki created a beautiful animated tale of a sullen ten year old girl thrust into a world of magic and spirits. Filled with scares that every kid can relate too, it also has a warmth that cannot be denied while teaching lessons on responsibility, hard work, and love.

Spirited Away Title

There are great films and then there are truly great films that last the test of time. Spirited Away is destined to be the latter and I would go as far as to call it Japan’s equivalent to The Wizard of Oz. Both feature a girl as a protagonist dealing with a very strange parallel world while being helped by locals. There are also feuding witches and a search for something special involved, but in the end I consider this movie to be far more emotionally moving than the American classic.

Spirited Away Chihiro Sulks in CarSpirited Away Wrong Turn

All movies introduce their main character early on, but I can’t remember seeing a heroine start out by sulking in the back seat of the family car. At the ripe old age of ten, Chihiro thinks she has very good reason to be miserable. The family is moving to a new town and the first bouquet of flowers she has ever received was from her classmates as a farewell present. And those flowers are already dying. Life is being so unfair.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dave Brubeck Passed Away Today

First, the single he is most famous for – if you don’t recognize his name, you’ll recognize the tune:

Take Five–The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Brubeck lived a long life and died at the ripe old age of 91. He missed 92 by a day, but will be remembered as long as good jazz music still gets played. I really need to add more of his music to my personal library.

Check it out, this is what musical brilliance sounds like.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Like Pulling a Tooth

It has been that way trying to get the Spirited Away review written and I hope to get it up soon. It has been a case of interruptitus from many sources this week should be better – after this afternoon. “After this afternoon” sounds redundant doesn’t it? Yet it isn’t. So there is my weird thought for the day.

This afternoon involves a tooth extraction, so I’ll be able to directly compare the experiences. That’s one way to find out if a statement is hyperbole, but I don’t recommend following in my footsteps.

At least weight training is working out. While I’m still at pathetically low weights, it is nice to be able to consistently do it again. In fact, I need to go do it right now, so time to wrap this up!

Updated in the early evening:

Well, I forgot this was the consultation phase of things – it has been a stereotypical Monday. So it will be Thursday bright and early before the tooth pulling actually happens.

Only dread one day at a time…

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Godly Sorrow and Repentance

Several Sundays ago, I found myself pondering how to describe one of the major prerequisites to repenting. It is something that Paul mentioned in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7, verses 7-10:

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

It was while teaching that this came up and I described it as being a sincere desire to change and stop a sinful behavior versus the classic teenager’s line of “I’m sorry, okay?” There is a world of difference between the two attitudes, but I still felt my description to be lacking. So I went looking for more eloquent descriptions from others.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about it in 2001 during a seminar:

Lehi taught this principle when He said the Savior’s atoning sacrifice was for “all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7). The truly repentant sinner who comes to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit has been through a process of personal pain and suffering for sin. He or she understands the meaning of Alma’s statement that none but the truly penitent are saved. Alma the Younger certainly understood this. Read his accounts in Mosiah 27 and in Alma 36.

President Kimball said, “Very frequently people think they have repented and are worthy of forgiveness when all they have done is to express sorrow or regret at the unfortunate happening.” 3

There is a big difference between the godly sorrow that worketh repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:10), which involves personal suffering, and the easy and relatively painless sorrow for being caught, or the misplaced sorrow Mormon described as “the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin” (Mormon 2:13).

That’s great stuff, but Claudi V. Zimic’s 2007 General Conference talk All That We Can Do really jumped out for me personally and got to the core of what godly sorrow is about:

It is difficult to bear the sufferings that are inflicted upon us, but the real torment in life is to suffer the consequences of our own shortcomings and sins which we inflict upon ourselves.

There is only one way to rid ourselves of this suffering. It is by means of sincere repentance. I learned that if I could present unto the Lord a broken heart and a contrite spirit, feeling a godly sorrow for my sins, humbling myself, being repentant of my faults, He, through His miraculous atoning sacrifice, could erase those sins and remember them no more.

The Argentine poet José Hernández, in his famous book Martín Fierro, wrote:

A man loses a lot of things

and sometimes finds them again,

but it’s my duty to inform you,

and you’ll do well to remember it,

if once your sense of shame gets lost

it will never again be found.

If we don’t experience the godly sorrow that results from our sins or unrighteous actions, it will be impossible for us to remain on the way of outstanding people.

He brought up a word rarely used these days that has become so old fashioned and quaint a notion that it has lost much of its meaning. Of course I am writing about the word “shame.”

Over at Dictionary.com, the noun “shame” is defined as:

  1. the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.
  2. susceptibility to this feeling: to be without shame.
  3. disgrace; ignominy: His actions brought shame upon his parents.
  4. a fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret: The bankruptcy of the business was a shame. It was a shame you couldn't come with us.

It is the first definition that applies in this case.

Godly sorrow is shame, in my opinion. That pain felt that you have done wrong and know you have no valid excuse for it can feel like your soul is on fire and not in a good way. So if you feel that flame that is named shame, it is a warning that you need to change what you are doing. Spiritually speaking, that begins with repentance. It is a vital first step toward coming to Christ that must be made.

So that concludes my thoughts on godly sorrow on this Sabbath day, which I hope was a good one for you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

An End to Upgrading CPUs?

It is ironic that I would be reading about the end of upgrading CPUs in home PCs a week after doing just that. Over at Ars Technica, there is an article about how Intel is planning to move to soldered on the motherboard processors and probably abandoning sockets.

To those few remaining hobbyist builders who do buy a low end CPU to be upgraded later this is something of concern. Unfortunately for them, this is no longer the norm in home building PCs. Instead we see most people swapping out the entire guts of a system when they upgrade, so this isn’t a big deal to them.

For me, I have always operated on the cheap side of computing and have upgraded processors on most rigs I have had. The three PCs in the house all have had more powerful CPUs dropped in that have extended their lives out considerably. The real world performance gains have been nothing to sneeze at either.

So I’m a little sad to see this kind of change to the industry being talked about. It is far from the first computer component category to implode with dedicated sound cards and video cards becoming niche products made only by a few manufacturers. With most PC users content with the onboard gear, only gamers have kept those two items afloat.

Combine this with the talk of AMD being in serious trouble and we have a recipe for returning to the bad old days of computing where PCs cost two to four grand to buy. Maybe ARM can start making inroads as an architecture against x86, but…

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ever Feel…

Like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck? That’s how yesterday felt thanks to a cold that leveled me. It was so bad my vision blurred forcing me to quit halfway through watching a movie. Today is better, thankfully.

In the process of writing the review for Spirited Away, I took just over 400 screen captures and now am choosing 40 to use. After that, more will be taken for the extras and narrowed down to ten. Then I have to get The Last Starfighter screen captures underway. With a lot of luck and perseverance, both reviews will be up by Saturday.

Meanwhile, I present a video I found on YouTube of another 1950’s jet fighter since I have been waxing nostalgic since Thanksgiving:

The F-89D Scorpion all weather interceptor used unguided rockets instead of guns!

It is a rare thing to find color footage of forgotten jets like the F-89D. It is a pity the massive volley fire of rockets was not shown.

The Canadians had a more successful jet in the same role, the Avro CF-100 Canuck. Fortunately, there is more footage of it around:

Check out Part 2 on YouTube too.

They look like Mk. 4 models to me and here you do get to see rocket pods fired as well as guns. Early F-89’s were gun armed with six 20mm cannons, but the Delta model on only carried rockets or guided missiles.

I am perpetually amazed at what engineers and designers pulled off with the technology of the time.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Survive Black Friday

Massive swarms of shoppers bustling about like yellow jackets on the prowl for meat or sugar is not my idea of fun to deal with. It has been many years since I braved a store during the Black Friday weekend and so far I’ve succeeded at avoiding the perilous locations. For those of us (mainly of the male persuasion) who consider shopping boring and/or painful, the Web has given us a way to safely survive Black Friday.

Online sales.

In my case, there usually isn’t anything I’m even interested in the big store sales, but there is gold to be found at online vendors. Yesterday, I snared Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray at Amazon.com for under $4 along with a couple more heavily discounted BDs. My little Christmas present to myself, now that I have taken care of required gifts to others.

Not once while browsing did I get crowded away from a display, though a cat did jump on me. Spending long minutes if not hours standing in line to get in and also to check out? Did not happen. Only a few mouse clicks were required, which is not terribly taxing. It was bitterly windy and I did not feel it at all.

I have come to the conclusion this is the manly way to shop. You can be as under dressed as you want while lounging around with food and drink, yet still score a decent deal. This isn’t just surviving Black Friday – it is surviving it in total comfort without any stress.

You should try it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Turkey Day!

Here in the States, it is the holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow.  Festivities mean I won’t be online, so I’m wishing everyone a safe and thankful holiday a little early.

A few things that I am grateful for this year:

  1. Completing my fourth straight workout on the home gym and finally getting back to where I was before the bout of Lyme Disease.
  2. Being able to afford upgrading my PC so that it will run for a few more years. Intel Q9450 for the win!
  3. Qualifying for my carry permit.
  4. Finding and acquiring every Japanese made Godzilla movie. A task much harder than you would think!
  5. Successfully repairing my beat up hiking shoes to give me more miles of treading.
  6. Bad movies to watch on bad days.
  7. Finding a permanent diet change that has helped my digestive tract to behave.
  8. Fractale and C-Control actually put out on Blu-ray here in the U.S.A. Thank you, Funimation!
  9. Discovering I am not the weakest link when online gaming with younger friends.
  10. Having the Subaru back in action again.
  11. The help of friends to get to church and providing a place to stay overnight for those long winter months without the car.
  12. Having random strangers stop and actually read the posts on the blog. It may be a small amount of traffic, but it is nice to finally give back to the Web after years of reading others’ contributions.
  13. Turkeys for being so edible.
  14. The patience of God for putting up with me.
  15. The number fifteen, so I can conclude this list in units of five.

So what is on your gratitude list this year?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fractale Episode 7: Veneer Town

The series shifts into high gear and the social commentary into overdrive when Clain and Nessa are introduced to the last city where Fractale functions completely. Nothing is what it seems in an episode that reveals more about Phryne and Nessa. Fractale: Reiterated continues with updated HD screen captures and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 07 Veneer Town

Be warned, this episode isn’t shy with its critiques of urban living and the chattering middle and upper classes. The world that watches the Kardashians, Big Brother, and The Jersey Shore  is not that much different from what we see when the series finally depicts a city. What is portrayed is not flattering at all.

Fractale 07 Photographing NessaFractale 07 Photographing Nessa 2

Veneer Town begins on the Danan, where Clain has turned into a photography addict taking pictures of life aboard the Granite’s airship. Living life through the narrow focus of the viewfinder lands him in trouble with the girls once again, since he doesn’t realize they are washing their delicates. Please, somebody shoot this dead horse  running joke!

An attempt to photograph Nessa fails, since she doesn’t show up on the camera.  Clain is apologetic, but the ten year old doppel doesn’t care because she loves fun, especially when he is having fun. A film noir style narration by the boy reveals he didn’t know at the time what lay behind her smile.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Prisoner Episode 2: Free For All

Number 6 runs for office when election time hits the Village. Drawn in by the idea he might be able to engineer a mass escape, the nameless hero tries his hand at politics with the assistance of a new maid. Cold war paranoia meets campaign season in a fast moving and thought provoking second episode.

The Prisoner Main TitleThe Prisoner 02 Free For All

There is are differences of opinion on which episodes go where in continuity of The Prisoner, but I agree with A&E that this should be the second. Written by Patrick McGoohan under an alias, Paddy Fitz, and directed by him, it shows a Number 6 who still does not understand the ways of the Village which should place it near the beginning.

The Prisoner 02 TelephoneThe Prisoner 02 The New Number 2

It all starts with a phone call that rapidly becomes creepy and thoroughly intimidating. Wait, I should back up and note that there is a new Number 2 (Eric Portman) in the opening credits. He even calls himself “the new Number 2.” Disorienting as always, the show rarely lets us relax.

How would you feel if the person on the other end of the phone call suddenly appeared on your turned off television set? Unnerved, perhaps? How about hanging up on said caller and having him walk in the door mere seconds later? That is what happens to Number 6 when Number 2 calls – what a way to start out a day.

Another Experiment

After only getting the two votes in the poll, I briefly put up another only to yank it down since it wasn’t going to get any votes anyway. So ends one experiment on the blog. Today starts another experiment with introducing ads to the blog.

I will try to have them be as unobtrusive as possible and am looking at tailored ads for the review posts -- if that can be made to work. There is much for me to learn about how all of it functions, which is half the reason for the experiment. The other half is to see what if any money can be made to support my DVD and Bluray addiction.

Since I use movies that I purchased or were given as gifts, there is an actual financial cost to writing those reviews. No rental discs are used and the only reviews that I didn’t own the discs involve one of my father’s DVDs and experiments using streaming from Crackle and Hulu. The latter two led to purchases and the reviews are being rewritten over time.

We will see if I even make it to my first dollar on the ads. Such are the perils of the mad scientist lifestyle.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Health 11-17-2012

Things are improving, other than the pain index. Today I just completed my second workout of the week. I will be trying to get weight training in every other day and have shortened the routine slightly to compensate. Also, hitting the 45 minute plus mark seems to be detrimental rather than helpful, so this reduces it to around 30 minutes.

My hopes are that the strengthening of muscles will help with the back pain with a focus on the upper pinched nerves.

This is the first time I’ve been able to successfully work out on the home gym since the bout of Lyme Disease five months ago. It has been a much longer road back from that than I wished for.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Fly a Skyray

I ran across this video of a nearly forgotten U.S. Navy jet fighter that was quite a performer in its day. The Douglas F4D-1 Skyray was a fascinating bird with a modified delta wing and an incredible climb rate. Hampered by the Westinghouse jet engine fiasco of the late ‘40s, the plane had to make do with a Pratt and Whitney J57 engine instead. Even so, it was a great short range interceptor and even stood duty with NORAD for awhile.

From ground checks to landing, all is covered in this long video.

Be warned, it is a long video and I almost felt qualified to fly the Skyray after watching it. Too bad there aren’t any around; it was a very good looking fighter.

Sick of Polls? How About Another One?

 Don't worry, this one isn't political.

Since I have decided to devote even more time to the blog, I thought I'd try an experiment and ask visitors to vote on the next movie to review after I finish up the one I'm working on left over from Halloween. Whether or not I get much feedback is iffy, but hey -- it is worth a shot.

Take a look over at the right hand side, the poll will be there for a week.

So please vote!

UPDATED Well that went slightly better than expected, since I did not expect any votes at all. But the bad news for me is that it is a tie with two votes cast in total. So now I'll have to do both reviews to be fair.

The winners are Spirited Away and The Last Starfighter with one vote each. Given the quality of the DVD editions I have the reviews will take some time to write. They will be posted the same day in order of the votes received.

Health 11-15-2012

Not a good week so far. I don’t know if the weather vacillating is the cause, but my pain index has spiked quite a bit. That has affected my sleep, which is irritating because last week was good in that category. I’m also trying to develop an ear infection in the left ear, so the immune system is doing its usual stellar job.

Video gaming has shown me to be dull in the reflex and concentration areas as well. Repetitive tasks that don’t requite swiftness are the order of the day, err, week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kimi ni Todoke Episode 4: Rumors

Sawako’s social learning curve grows steeper when she encounters just how vicious rumors can be amongst teenagers. Insecurity, suspicion, and confusion rise to the fore in a shift toward a darker storyline. But first, lot’s of lighthearted chibi moments!

Kimi ni Todoke Title 1Kimi ni Todoke 04 Rumors

I don’t think there is a more vicious creature on the face of the planet than a teenage girl. Sorry honey badgers, Tasmanian devils, and wolverines – you don’t even come close. The mini-arc that begins with the fourth episode depicts the darker side of high school very well and reminds me of why I would never want to be a teen again.

Kimi ni Todoke 04 Sawako's ParentsKimi ni Todoke 04 Bathtub

Things begin innocuously enough when Sawako’s parents notice she is happy. Her father’s reaction to his wife’s speculation she might have met a boy indicates he may not be ready for that. It is cute and comical in the right measures.

By the way, the above screen capture is as close to fan service as you will ever see in the show. There is no need to have fan service when you have a good story to tell. I wish more anime production teams would understand this.

Sawako lounges in the bathtub while thinking about all the good things that have happened to her. Images of Kazehaya, Chizuru, and Ayane all flash through her mind’s eye. Life can’t get much better for her, she thinks.

Improving HD Streaming

Ever start writing something and go completely blank due to interruptions? This is one of those posts. I know I had something else in mind… Oh well. So I’ll write a little bit about some tech upgrades while the brain cells attempt to fire. It isn’t even a cold morning.

A visit from my sister and her husband last month revealed that the intermittent streaming problems with the cobbled together media center PC had become an issue. Trying to properly stream the Notre Dame game in high definition became an exercise in pulling teeth. After that, continued issues with other sites, especially Crunchyroll, forced me to do some exploring and tinkering.

While the current WiFi is only 802.11g in the house, it should be sufficient for 720p rates. However, research revealed issues with even the most recent standards. Stuttering and complete stops are common complaints across the Web. Some people advocate using power line networking modules, but this rickety old farm house would be a poor place to attempt that.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Too Much Time on My Hands

Having spent nearly two decades as an online news and politics junkie, it has been quite a surprise to find out just how much time it consumed daily. I may not have quit cold turkey, but it is close to that extreme. So it is amazing how much longer days seem; I look at the clock and it is still the morning when it would normally be the afternoon.

The readjustment is still in progress, but I’ve already gotten started on some projects that were on the backburner. Okay, they were not on the backburner. They were pure speculation wedged behind some dusty books on a remote bookshelf. You know, the dark places where even dust bunnies fear to go.

One minor project is cataloguing my movie collection and putting it into a spreadsheet or database. It is a bigger task than I expected, but is well underway now. That will help keep things in order for movie reviews, not to mention when I loan the things out.

While not earthshaking in consequences or intellectual depth, it is a good example of the little things that have gone undone due to a lack of time. Now that time has opened up for me.

At least I won’t be suffering the fate shown in this classic video:

Remember when pop rock was actually good?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Fractale Episode 6: The Farthest Town

The series kicks into gear when a stop to repair the airship leads to a chance encounter with refugees, another Lost Millennium faction, and a mysterious man. Things aren’t quite what they seem when Clain learns a harsh lesson about appearances and we get further insight into the problems of Fractale’s world. UPDATED  November 2012: Fractale Reiterated continues with HD pictures and revised text.

Fractale TitleFractale 06 The Farthest Town

The beginning of the episode is very reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli film as we are introduced to another remote farmhouse like Clain’s. But this one has a gigantic cobbled together antenna array in back, along with a mysterious middle aged man pounding away on it.  From his lofty perch, he spies the Granite’s airship landing in the area.

Fractale 06 Mystery ManFractale 06 Sunda Wonders

It is a lovely scene and The Farthest Town is filled with more like it. Visually, this is one of the prettier episodes in the whole series so I found myself taking far more screen captures than I needed to.  But as superficially attractive as it may be, it doesn’t lack in story depth.

Focusing on the Near

It is time to be as myopic as the vast majority of people are and focus nearly exclusively on my life. First steps were taken this morning:

  1. Delete political and newspaper bookmarks
  2. Delete the ridiculous amounts of emails inhabiting the inbox
  3. Profit

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything these days, though I’m a little fuzzy on how step two gets to three. Forward and downward!

Ahem.

After the pain at the dentist today, a nap will be in order. Then work on the movie review I failed to get in for Halloween or maybe a revamp of an earlier review. One thing is for sure, I won’t be eating any apples today.

Health 11-7-2012

Today I have a bright and early dental appointment with multiple cavities to be filled. Early December will see the bad molar extracted; it is good that I am used to dealing with pain.

The humidifier is up and running for the season. An unexpected benefit is that I’m sleeping better thanks to it, so I wonder if I should have been using it during the drought this year. Even joint pain has been lessened since I fired it up again, which I find very odd.

Time’s Up, America

With the re-election of Barack Obama to the presidency, there is no chance of turning things around. My analysis of the race turned out to be wrong due to two factors: thinking the 2010 elections indicated a change in the electorate and believing the Democratic Party affiliation sample was overstated dramatically. Well, 2010 appears to have been a temper tantrum rather than a real desire to change course and this is no longer a center-right country, but a left wing nation. Blame will be put on Romney’s campaign, but the reality is that we really are a +6 Democrat country despite what Gallup said.

The gains by the Democrats in the House and Senate show that nationally and the Minnesota state legislature has switched back to the DFL. So much for Minnesota being in play, not to mention many other states so listed. Pot legalization passed in Colorado and Washington, while gay marriage did in Maine. The left now own the country and will continue to do so until the country fails.

The media claim there is no mandate for Obama with this close an election, but I disagree. You will be seeing a lot of executive orders bypassing Congress in the future, for humility is not a trait the President has in any quantity. So, yes, he has a mandate.

In the end, we always end up with the President we deserve as a nation, not what we as individuals may deserve. Things are going to go very badly from here on out, though it was probably unavoidable no matter the outcome of the election.

With that in mind, I call upon all who read this post to come unto Christ, for it is only through him that we can be saved – not by any mortal politician.

Locally, Greg Davids and Jeremy Miller both won with 58% of the vote in a district that went DFL for everything else. Both amendments failed easily as did Quist and Bills.

For me, this is most likely the last hurrah in national and international affairs, since I feel a deep need to get my personal house in order. I’ve been a news junkie for all my adult life and it is time for that to change. Having fought the good fight, I am content with what I have done. Time to focus on the things in my life I can control.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Other 2012 Races

Like most political junkies, the Presidential race is the main focus for me, especially given what is on the line this time out. But there are other offices up for election this year, so it is past time for me to say something about them.

Minnesota District 28 is both brand spanking new and old at the same time. It used to be District 31, so I hope I don’t mistype that repeatedly.

The state senate boundaries stayed the same, so it looks like it will be another close one. I am voting for Jeremy Miller, who has done a very good job as a rookie senator. He easily deserves a full four year term to expand on what he started in 2010. My hopes are that the margin of victory expands, but it will depend somewhat on coat tails from above. More on that later.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Why I Am Voting for Mitt Romney

Earlier this year, I would have told you that I was voting against Barack Obama because I didn’t expect to have a candidate I could vote for.

Four years ago, America faced a choice that would decide whether the country would continue on or embrace change while in the middle of a crisis. When the latter was decided on, many voters assumed that change for change’s sake was a great thing. However, many did not understand anything about Obama because much of his past was buried deeply by the main stream news media. As a result, change did come and things got far worse.

Change for change’s sake is a teenager’s concept of improving life. The results of four years of President Barack Obama has resulted in things listed in this post by anonymous blogger Zombie. Please read them since they include a great deal that you will never hear from the national media.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Proof the Japanese Are Weird

Hatsune Blitzkrieg.

I rest my case.

At least Squid Girl and Godzilla got some cameos in this odd tribute to the vocaloid idol. It still amazes me how obsessed Japan is with the Nazis, which goes to show how poor a job McArthur did in running the occupation.

Speaking of Squid Girl, the second season will start coming out on DVD in March. That’s good news for those of us who revere our squid overlord.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

First Flight for J-31, China’s Second Stealth Fighter

I was reading the Telegraph and ran across the news that the J-31 prototype has flown. Anybody who thinks we don’t need the F-35 needs to wake up about now. The aircraft is a pretty bird, typical of Lockheed’s designs.

Looks way too much like an F-22 to be a coincidence!

I also found the first comments on the video at YouTube to be informative:

:D Now, america has a match. Finally, they can't push their way around. There's someone that can stop them.

GimiGlider 57 minutes ago

arise n may our blood n flesh build the new Chinese great wall.

long live China!

megaoceanpark 1 hour ago

THE MOTHERLAND RISES

CCPJAYLPHAN1994 2 hours ago

Nationalism is very strong in China these days and there is an arms race slowly ramping up in Asia due to it. South Korea and Japan are working on stealth fighter prototypes (actually closer to concept testbeds) while looking at the F-35 for possible procurement.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Mummy (1959) Review

The final Halloween movie review for 2012 limps online swathed in dirty bandages with Hammer Studios’ version of The Mummy. When an ancient Egyptian tomb is unearthed by English archeologists the consequences turn out to be very grave for the trespassers. Good writing, excellent acting, beautiful sets, and the full use of Technicolor are all present in this intelligent story of forbidden love lasting beyond death.

The Mummy Title

Having struck cinema gold with their new and full color takes on Dracula and Frankenstein, Hammer Studios decided to revamp another of Universal Pictures monsters. The same team that made the previous hits was kept together for a third outing. Seeing Terence Fisher directing with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee headlining the cast, movie goers knew they would be in for a treat.

The Mummy Banning FamilyThe Mummy Mehemet

The year is 1895 and the location is a remote valley in Egypt. Of course it is actually a well appointed soundstage since Hammer didn’t have the kind of budget for filming on location. Still it manages to give a good impression of back breaking labor in the desert heat. There is only one reason to show this and that is to foreshadow something valuable being found. In this case, a blue scarab seal elicits a great deal of excitement from an Englishman who promptly runs it into a tent to show it off.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

There are so many rumors flying around that it will probably be days before it is all sorted out, but Sandy has done a number on Lower Manhattan and parts of New Jersey. Reports of people trapped in a subway station haven’t been verified and a false rumor about the Stock Exchange being flooded out has been debunked.

I’m keeping up through Yahoo’s live blog, which is constantly updating. Blizzard conditions in West Virginia have been reported, showing just what a monster the storm has turned out to be. 4.8 million people without power in 15 states and Washington, D.C. was reported by Weather Underground, but I have to raise an eyebrow at the number of states – it could be possible though.

A hospital has been reported on fire and another one’s backup generator failed. Tisch Hospital, I believe. Water is rising still and making rescues difficult, if not impossible, in areas.

I’ll be praying more for the people in the path of Sandy. What a mess.

UPDATED 10-30

The morning has brought more news and it looks like at least 15 people died in the storm. Bridges in NYC are open for the most part and people are assessing the damage. As bad as this was, it could have been far worse. Right now it sounds like most of Long Island is without power and cell phone service is down in Manhattan. Communications with relatives are going to be difficult for people.

What worries me is that we haven’t seen the true flooding yet in the states affected. The coastal surge did a lot of damage, but all the rain dropped into rivers, creeks, and streams will cause flooding outside the coast communities in time. Having seen what large amounts of localized rainfall can do this concerns me greatly. Three towns in New Jersey are underwater after a possible levy break and that is an example of how this storm will continue to do damage.

Of course, Mayor Cuomo is already using the storm for political purposes to push for new building codes due to AGW, what a shocker. Not even 24 hours have gone by since the storm hit.

It looks like Halloween is pretty much done for the kids of the Northeast and possibly into parts of the Midwest. Between widespread power outages, snow storms, flooding, and assorted damage there is no point in even trying.

You know, it has been a strange month in my life and I expected it to be. I did not expect other people to get hammered this hard though. While I’m used to hardship, most people in the U.S.A. are not so this is going to be extremely difficult for those affected by Sandy. Prayers and aid for them are needed right now

Paul Ryan will be in La Crosse, WI at the GOP campaign HQ on Copeland Avenue to pick up donated supplies for the relief effort. 1:15 PM is the time I’ve been given, so if by chance anyone in the area reads this before, bring emergency supplies there if you can. That’s assuming anyone reads this in the first place!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Legend of Hell House (1973) Review

In the history of cinema haunted house movies are a dime a dozen, but this one stands out due to its sober tone and character development. While written by an American, it maintains a very stiff upper lip while following a four person research team looking into the possibility of life after death. To do that, they must visit a mansion that killed most of a previous attempt twenty years before. Welcome to Hell House, where death, mystery, and eerie events take back seat to something far more frightening – sex.

The Legend of Hell House Title

The 1970s were a period of transition in films with a lot of experimentation taking place. In some ways, the decade in filmmaking was a hangover from the changes that took place in the late ‘60s. That was when the old studio model fell apart and directors began to push the bounds of what had been considered acceptable in the name of art. Horror films were not immune to this and the genre started to go toward shock and gore, but not quite to the extremes that culminated in the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies of the ‘80s. So there was yet room for thoughtfully creepy movies and The Legend of Hell House is one of the better examples of that approach.

I have to say, haunted house movies are near the bottom of my list of films to watch. They have never appealed to me, perhaps because I have lived in old farm houses most of my life. Odd sounds and creaks are part of the personality of aged wooden structures, so you get very used to them. So it was with some surprise that this movie gave me the creeps when I was a teenager. In fact, it is the only one that ever has since I hit double digits in age. Puzzled by this and feeling nostalgic, I purchased the DVD last month to figure out why.

The Legend of Hell House Tom Corbett Quote

The opening is a throwback to bygone years, featuring a statement by a Tom Corbett claiming to be a psychic consultant to royals in Europe. A little research revealed that he was a co-author of a book called The Dreamer’s Dictionary, so he really existed. It helps to remember that the 1970s pop culture saw the birth of the New Age movement as people turned away from organized religion and naval gazing began to dominate Western thought.

So this little placard instantly added bona fides to the movie and was a clever move by the filmmakers to set the mood. Cold and stark, it suggests what you were about to see might be real. Back in the early days of the Web, I found info that it was based on a real incident and there really was a “Hell House.” Of course that was not true and you shouldn’t trust what you read on the Internet, but it is a fact that it was adapted from a Richard Matheson novel by that name.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Big Trouble in Gangnam Style

Too perfect and it even has James Hong in it!

A Night of Silliness or RiffTrax Live: Birdemic

After trying to get friends to go for a couple of months, I ended up going alone to see the RiffTrax crew ridicule the second worst movie I’ve ever seen. The showing was broadcast live to theaters around the country and luckily enough, the Marcus Cinema on Ward Ave in La Crosse had it.

There had to be over thirty and closer to fifty people attending, though I did not do a head count. We were in the theater dedicated to Frankenweenie showings, so you can make your own jokes there. Amusing bird references and jokes were shown on screen before the show, like the incredibly boring trivia and ads you normally see before the trailers.

Mike, Kevin, and Bill were in fine form and the occasional flub only made it more fun. The movie was amazingly bad and deserved every awful thing done to it. It was indescribably bad, but let me just say that I will never look at parking and pulling out into traffic scenes the same way again. Also, if the filmmakers and stars are representative of the green movement, they will Darwin themselves out in no time flat.

Hopefully they will put this out on DVD like some of their other live shows, it would make a great memento.

The Media Used to Love Presidential Scandals

Until Obama was elected, that is. One of the uglier cover ups in U.S. history has been playing out since September 11 of this year. The 9/11 anniversary attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya gets more upsetting with every new bit of information that comes out. Ostensibly caused by an anti-Muhammad film on YouTube, that story has been torn to shreds and now looks like it was put in place to protect the failure of the administration to protect our ambassador.

But it is worse than that, we now know. The attack was known to be a terrorist attack and we had special forces who could have intervened and saved Ambassador Stevens. They were ordered to stand down even when they had the enemy in their sights. Repeated requests for support and help were turned down.

In the past, this would be enough for the mainstream media to raise hell until heads rolled. Now they are actively participating in the cover up, with Candy Crowley in the second presidential debate being a prime example.

We have a government that can’t be trusted. We also have a news media that can’t be trusted. That’s a bleak place to be in and doesn’t bode well for the country.

Yet what sticks in my head is the realization that this administration has no desire to protect its citizens or soldiers. Assassination lists are fine with them, but actually protecting the people? I thought they could at least be relied on for that. Sadly, I don’t think they care one whit and only care about their political careers.

This should be bigger than Watergate, bigger than Iran-Contra, and bigger than Monica Lewinsky. I guess American lives don’t have any value anymore.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Health 10-25-2012

What has been a lousy year in regards to health continues to stay the course with today’s dental exam revealing multiple cavities needing filling and a molar requiring extraction. The latter will be a pain to have done due to how few oral surgeons accept the coverage I have. A call to a hotline is necessary and if they can’t set me up, it will have to be out of pocket somewhere. The fillings are scheduled to begin next week and I plan on getting those done first.

Somewhere in the mess a filling went missing too. The drought has caused more allergy problems according to the hygienist which has caused more problems for those of us who are mouth breathers. Oh the joys of a deviated septum!

I have been running ragged of late due to more activity than usual and higher pain levels thanks to erratic weather conditions. The rain has been needed, but it has come in with cold temperatures to create a high pain index situation. Which is all a fancy way to say the joints hurt.

Aside from all this fun, things have been relatively stress free to my surprise. Normally this is a tense time during an election year, but it simply isn’t there. Very strange, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Third and Last 2012 Presidential Debate

Foreign policy is the subject of the last and probably least watched debate. On the anecdotal side, multiple people I know will not be watching this one who did watch the preceding debates. Make of that what you will.

Both candidates seemed a bit off at the very beginning. Lots of verbal stumbling and stuttering going on shows how the debates have worn them down.

President Obama was a jerk early and made things personal during the Libya question. Hitting Romney on saying Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat was predictable. Mitt was prepared for that and gave a very strong response. Obama said “clear” which is always a telltale he is about to fib big time. Seriously, he always does that.

It looks like his gambit will be to try to put words in Romney’s mouth, just like the previous debates and entire campaign. It must gall him that Mitt stands up for himself.