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|Tuesday, March 30th, 2010|
The other day, while doing a crossword puzzle, I came across a clue that would work for either the singular or plural answer. As it happened, it was the singular, and I was considering that the 'S' after it could sit outside the grid. Which got me thinking about a puzzle where a number of clues had answers that worked with a leading or trailing letter that could sit outside the grid.
(1) Romance in a Romance language
(2) Relating to a farm animal
(3) Royalty( answers behind the cutCollapse )
|Tuesday, March 9th, 2010|
|Florida, part 2
In between trips to amusement parks, I got to take in some nature in Florida. I got to visit the Devil's Millhopper, a large sinkhole, and Payne's Prairie. While we did not see any bison at Payne's Prairie, there were quite a few large birds (including at least one buzzard
) and a whole bunch of baby alligators
. Further photos are here
So, then, on to Walt Disney World, where I'd never been before.( Disney World ramblingCollapse )
|Thursday, March 4th, 2010|
Over the last few days, I saw a bunch of movies.The Wolfman
- Not the disaster I was expecting based on io9's roundup of the problems
, but it was still only OK. I liked it better than the original, but I disliked the original. Also interesting is the deletion of the space in the title, as compared with 1941's The Wolf Man
. Usually before words merge, there's a transition period where the two words get hyphenated, but I don't think Universal did a movie in the 70s called "The Wolf-Man".The Crazies
- Remarkably solid. It didn't really do anything new, but was tense and intense. It had quite a bit of violence and gore, but it always felt like it was in the service of the plot and tension, and not just going for the grossout. And it only featured two licensed songs, both of which were amusing choices.The Ghost Writer
- Roger Ebert said on Twitter that it's the best new movie. I suspect he's right. It was taut and engaging. It also had a good sense on comedic timing. There were funny lines in the script, but also things where the moment would just hang for exactly the right amount of time. It didn't have any trickery in its construction, just a solid thriller all the way through.
The Oscar-nominated live action shorts - I hope "The New Tenants" wins. It was funny and well-done all through. Though the coda with the dancing at the end didn't ring true for me. There was a perfect ending point about a minute before that where it should have stopped in my opinion. "Kavi" was also good, even if it was a Very Important Film
. No Nazis this year, but there was a Chernobyl one.
The Oscar-nominated animated shorts - Whoa! Surprise Wallace and Gromit! I knew the short existed, but hadn't seen it was nominated or seen the short. It was fun, and will probably win, though it's not quite as good as the older shorts. I particularly liked "The Lady and the Reaper". I thought it did neat things with the palette in the struggle between Death and the doctor. And while it mostly played for the funny, it also had an undercurrent of time-to-go and do-not-resuscitate questions.
"Logorama" was a clever idea, executed well, but I felt it had script issues. Everything in the movie (characters, props, and in at least one case, the road) was a commercial logo. I think it was somewhat constrained by its length. If it had been shorter, it could have been more focused, or if it had been longer, it could have gone into the amount of depth it wanted, but it felt a little overstuffed as it was.
|Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010|
As usual, life proceeds apace. But I actually recently took an honest-to-goodness vacation. My boss gave me some ribbing when I requested the time off, asking if I actually knew how to do such a thing. As an added bonus, work was canceled for four days prior to my trip due to amazing amounts of snow. This time was well spent completing Mass Effect 2
. That was my full-time job that week.
For starters, I flew up to Cleveland to visit Jacqui, and we also managed to catch up with a couple of my old school friends. We had assorted good food, watched the Olympics, did a bit of shopping, and the like.
I then flew down to Florida to visit Phil, Alex, and Meredith, and finally go to Disney World (and Universal).
So, you know what that means: roller coaster rambling( UniversalCollapse )
This is way longer than expected, so I'll wrap up Disney in another post.
|Friday, January 15th, 2010|
|Some belated thoughts on Avatar
As I mentioned over on Facebook, I thought Avatar
was a waste of time. I stand by that, but in the interest of being charitable, I'll say something nice about it.
Back when it came out, I thought Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
, while not a good movie by many measures, had a notable quality. Since everything was computer-rendered, there was no cut between standard shots and effects shots. There's a scene I found particularly effective where some characters are standing and talking, and then a large orange monster begins rising through the ground behind them. In a normal movie, there likely would have been a cut between those two shots so they weren't wasting money on effects shots when there were no effects.
, pretty much every scene on Pandora is a lengthy effects shot. There is no seam. And the characters can convincingly hold things, unlike in The Spirits Within
where one character held a rocks glass ... or really it hovered in the circle made by his fingers. Or when Naomi Watts stood on King Kong's hand and kind of hovered in his flesh instead of pressing it in.
But, of course, James Cameron had a budget where he could render everything and render it convincingly. But still, that strikes me as the more meaningful accomplishment of the movie rather than the 3D or the appearance of the locations.
But on the other hand, what was up with the 3D photographs on the locker wall? They weren't lenticular, as you would have been able to see the ridges. So I can only assume they were magic. I was able to buy into the 3D computer terminals, but the photographs ticked me off.
|Friday, January 1st, 2010|
|Happy Moo Year
I've always been a bit of a night owl, apparently. Sometimes, when I was young (before I was going to school), I would get to stay up and watch Johnny Carson with my mom. This wasn't an everyday occurrence, but it was often enough that I recall it and would often stand behind our drapes and call out "Here's Andy!" at the appropriate time.
As the end of the year neared, the cards as they went to commercial would read things like "Happy Moo Year" and "Happy Gnu Year". This has been rattling around in my head the last couple days and making me smile.
I went over to my sister's place with Jacqui today. We brought Chinese food, though the first place I called was closed today, which just baffles me. We had a good time, though a couple of the kids were shy at first for a while. Tomorrow we've got a busy day downtown culminating in seeing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
I know a lot of people had a pretty crummy year, so I'm glad we're past it now.
Here's wishing you a happy new year and an exciting new decade.
|Friday, November 20th, 2009|
|In which I eat Thanksgiving food and work and tell you of a concert
Today is the Thanksgiving lunch at work, since we won't be working on the actual day. The kitchen staff stays here all night cooking, and they have a bit of a slumber party and play video games during the bits of downtime. I hook them up with a projector and screen to use for this, and get a special dispensation to avoid gravy on my lunch. So, there's turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, candied yams (meh), and green beans (blech), and apple pie. It's pretty starchy, so I'll have to load on on some fruit and such when I get home. But it's tasty.
Last night I saw Amanda Palmer in Virginia. I'm sort of conflicted about the show. She did a pre-show Q&A about the music business, mostly with pre-moderated questions, to avoid fannish questions. I caught the tail end of it, and it was all right, but nothing wowing. The opening band, Nervous Cabaret, was pretty good (good enough that I picked up their CDs at the merch table), though the set was just a hair too long for an opening act. The set break was frustratingly long (nearly 40 minutes) for what amounted to moving a keyboard to another location on the stage. Though, since Nervous Cabaret was also the backing band, I can understand wanting to give them a break.
There is often an "Ask Amanda" segment, where she chooses audience questions dropped in a plastic pumpkin to answer. She said maybe she wouldn't do one, since it would be "wanky" on top of the pre-show Q&A. People wanted it anyway, and it then went on for 10 minutes. It had a couple funny moments, but was still overlong.
Her playing felt a little sloppy last night, for whatever reason. But having a backup band allowed her to do some fuller arrangements of things and also bring out a number of Dresden Dolls songs that had fallen out of rotation (the mistakes were more common/noticeable in the solo piano songs she always plays, so I don't think it was a lack of familiarity). I enjoyed the trombonist's stage presence, notably.
Since the show was in Virginia and on a weeknight, I had to leave before the encore so I didn't miss the last train. Apparently she sang a Leonard Cohen song with her dad on guitar. Maybe a recording will surface. There are some photos (not mine) on Flickr, too.
Overall, I'm glad I went, but there were enough negatives that I'm not super-thrilled about it.
|Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009|
I'm feeling a little fuzzy this morning. I am very gently allergic to fall, and I think I've fallen behind on my breathing just enough to be a problem. Maybe some water will help.
So, it's been a while. This is my first full week of work in three weeks. My vacation straddled two weeks, and Columbus Day was the week before that. So, here's some catching up, organized thematically, rather than chronologically.( MoviesCollapse )( ConcertsCollapse )( And the restCollapse )
That's more than enough for now, so I'll leave it here.
And how are you?
|Monday, October 19th, 2009|
|Your guess is as good as mine
Yesterday, it was finally cool enough that I decided to try my heat, yet not so cold that it would be a problem if it didn't work. Well, it didn't work. I think the pilot light was out. So, I called to get it looked at.
They came and fixed it (I guess?) today, and left me a work order about it. Now, I get annoyed at bad grammar by writers, but I don't really mind it if it's not your job to write. I'll laugh at your sign if it advertises "'Hot' 'Polish' 'Sausage'", but if it's tasty, I won't hold it against you. However, there's a certain level you have to achieve in order to be coherent, and make sure I do what you want to keep things in working order.
I don't think this reaches that level:
|Thursday, October 15th, 2009|
|Mike Birbiglia, a little late
I saw Mike Birbiglia at the Warner Theater last Saturday. Henry Phillips opened for him, to not much interest. It was amazing how fast and dramatically the feel of the room changed once Birbiglia got rolling.
Since he's appeared on This American Life a number of times, I had already encountered about half of his routine. However, in a "play the hits, man!" kind of way, that was satisfying. He's hysterical, and, while he's not a super-physical guy, had a little bit on enactment that was nice to see on stage.
The show also had the broadest age bracket of anything I've been to recently. While most people were around my age, a number of parents brought children (which is fine for his show) and there were even quite a few older folks.
They also had half-price tickets for next week's David Cross show, so I took a chance on that, too. Though their signs initially said "Davis Cross", and I was going to joke that maybe the tickets were cheap because they booked the wrong act, but they had printed corrected signs before I went back down.
|Sunday, September 27th, 2009|
|Roller coaster roundup
It's been a while since I've done one of these. Yesterday, I went to Six Flags in New Jersey with Kri and Ben.( Coaster descriptions and reviews behind the cut to spare the saneCollapse )
All told, the park was a very solid experience. It was clean and pleasant, which Six Flags is not known for. It had a lot of good coasters, and some fun other rides. However, it's not the best park for non-thrill-seekers. It's clearly in competition with Cedar Point, but even Cedar Point caters better to tamer riders than this did. However, it was excellent for me and my riding companions.
|Friday, September 11th, 2009|
It's been a busy couple weeks in Andy-land, and you're going to get the updates all out of order and such. But there's work, and movies, and a concert, and cows.
I'll start with the most fun, my trip to Cleveland for Labor Day. The flight in
was uneventful, but we got a slightly late start for no particular reason. Jacqui and I had pizza and watched a movie with her dad that day. On Saturday, we went to the Cleveland Oktoberfest
. I got to eat a curried bratwurst and have a beer, though, since we went in the early afternoon, not all the beer vendors were set up, and everything was a little quiet. But there were wiener dog races, which were cute, and just lots of wiener dogs in general (admission was free if you had one). In the evening we went to Otani for Hibachi. Yum yum yum.
On Sunday, we went to the Geauga County Fair
. I hadn't been in a very long time, though this was always my family's default fair, though we didn't live in Geauga County. Hardly anything has changed. Steak-on-a-Stick is still in the same place (which I pretty much made a beeline to), the Democratic and Republican booths are in the same place, and so on. There have been some variations in the rides over the years, and some changes to the vendors that show up, but it's all very familiar and fun. There were also plenty of farm animals to pet. Then we went to the birthday party of one of Jacqui's cousins, and they had a cute puppy
Monday was due to be a cookout with Jacqui's family, but it got washed out by lots of rain, so became a cook-in. Good food and good visiting were had.
I was back on Tuesday and had some time to settle in before coming back to work on Wednesday.
Last night, I saw Gamer
with Erin. Gamer
is far smarter than Crank 2
(it's written and directed by the same guys), and is non-ironically enjoyable. It'll still bludgeon you over the head a bit with its production, but I had a fun time. 9
has a wonderful aesthetic and design, but I ultimately felt it was rather hollow. I didn't really care about the characters, and the plot points felt very designed.
Before my trip, I ended up having to work late three nights in a row, while we were doing upgrades to Office 2007 for some of our users at work. It was going to just be two, but things went slower than planned, and we all had to take on some more work, and I couldn't stagger the days because I had plans on Thursday.
Which brings us to the Pet Shop Boys concert at DAR. It was a great show, with only a couple minor issues. I wish I had gotten a centered seat, even if it had cost more, as my view was partially blocked by the lighting rig. I also wish Chris's keyboard had been higher in the mix, as it was the only live instrument (other than a couple drum pads he also had). And I wish they had not only teased "Integral". But they put on a very engaging show. Their roadies had on lab coats and white hard hats. They did a cover of Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" where Neil wore a cape and crown. The show was only about 80 minutes long, and there was no opener, but it was high energy and a lot of fun.
I also posted some reviews over at Goodreads
. The Nick Hornby books were read over my trip, and I added short reviews for Clive Barker and Thomas Pynchon.
|Tuesday, September 1st, 2009|
|Video game roundup
edited to add PoP
I've actually finished quite a few video games lately, so you get to hear about it. (In roughly reverse order)Dead Space
(360) - A very solid action horror game. I haven't played Resident Evil 4
to completion, so I can't really say how it compares. I got clobbered pretty well starting on medium, so I backed off to easy. After that, I found it hits the problem a lot of survival horror games do, where if you play the beginning cautiously, you end up having plenty of ammunition for the game. By the end, I had piles of cash and ammo, and probably could have beaten it on medium. For most enemies, the first gun remains the best, which is a little weird, but whatever.
The game does mess with you in a fun way. It doesn't meta-mess with you like Eternal Darkness
did, but it does have a lot of nice touches like enemies skittering by in ducts, leaving you to wonder if you'll be ambushed. And possibly my favorite, after it's becoming clear the characters are having hallucinations, there's a level where the camera is cocked at a Dutch angle for most of the level.Prince of Persia
(360) - You run and jump and climb. That's pretty fun. You also fight, which isn't. This isn't the slightly simple combat of Sands of Time
that still looked pretty, even if it was fairly easy, this is "learn the pre-programmed combos and use them over and over when you get an opening". But, you run and jump and climb. You have to collect light seeds to advance, and there are 1001 in the game. I didn't get all of them, but I got more than I needed, because sometimes that was the only real reason to go certain places.
I also played the DLC epilogue, which was more satisfying than the main game in some ways. It was more linear, but felt distinctly like I had a reason to be going in a certain direction, which I didn't always feel in the main game.
I don't know how long the game was. I got the achievement for beating it in under 12 hours, but I also got the one for dying less than 100 times, which I'm very skeptical I did, and there are reports that both of those are glitched and you get them without earning them. It wasn't super long, but it also wasn't really short. Since it's really cheap now, it might be worth picking up, but it also might be more worth just playing Sands of Time
(Wii) - A Wii FPS. Using the pointer to aim is wonderful, and the times they used motion controls mostly worked well, but I often threw grenades by accident when I had to scratch my nose, as "lobbing" the nunchuck was a little sensitive at times. They did a great job making a more or less realistic Washington, DC, which is the primary reason I played it. It was great to blast aliens in Metro cars. The story was kind of dopey (and they don't know the difference between "cache" and "cachet"), and the difficulty was all over the place, but it was fun enough. But if you're actually an FPS fan, you can do better many other places.
The best part of it was using the All-Seeing Eye to point you to your next checkpoint, which was shamelessly
ripped off from Dead Space
(Wii) - Fun action stuff, with some puzzles, though the mostly didn't take much thinking. It controlled well on the Wii, and I was able to play through on normal (some reviews made a note of the challenge, but I think that was only on the 360/PS3). I did have one instance where I got trapped in a hall of mirrors
and had to reload a save, and another part where I respawned in the wrong place and the scripted events were a little mixed up for a bit, but it didn't really break my enjoyment of it. It was weird that they didn't record separate dialog lines for if you were playing as a girl, though.Mass Effect
(360) - This is actually the first Bioware game I've played to completion. Holy crap did it sink its claws into me. I didn't do every single side quest, but I did everything that was presented to me (some quests required certain conversations that I didn't always trigger). Despite being a long game, I really tore through it.
Right now, I'm in the middle of Majora's Mask
, which I'm running hot and cold on.
|Wednesday, August 26th, 2009|
At the end of Cold Souls
, the credit comes up "Written and directed by Sophie Barthes". The guy next to us (not the guy who fell asleep for the last 20 minutes, but his boyfriend) says, "I wonder if he's related to Roland Barthes?" I say to Erin, "I was wondering that, too, but didn't want to say ..." Erin concurs.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what an English degree gets you.
The movie was very good, though the last half hour could have been trimmed by about ten minutes here and there to make it tighter.
|Sunday, August 2nd, 2009|
|Concert and computers
Last night I went to the Tori Amos concert at DAR. First off, the sound was much better than the other things I've seen there. I don't know how much of that was having better seats (15th row on the floor), and how much was a better sound system, but there it was.
The show was high-energy and excellent. She didn't bust out quite as many odd tracks as she did in 2007 (though she did play "Hotel" at both the 2007 show and last night's, wtf?), so I slightly preferred the setlist at the previous show, but this was still a great show, and the crowd seemed quite jazzed, too. She didn't have a dedicated guitarist this time around, but Jon Evans has learned some new tricks, and played acoustic guitar and upright bass (both plucked and bowed) in addition to the electric bass. And the second last song was "Raspberry Swirl", which was impressive to hear live. And it was the second-to-last song, so at least Matt Chamberlain got to go take a shower shortly afterward. (Last night's setlist and videos
and the 2007 one for comparison
Also, I've been having an increasingly complicated computer problem. The other day, I came home to my computer seeming to be on, but not displaying anything. I reset it and got a bootloader error, so I think it had reset, locked on that error, and then the monitor went into powersave and wouldn't take keyboard input to come out. But it looks like the hard drive at least partially failed. Only the OS partition seemed messed up, and my data was OK, but I haven't tried to do much digging on that count yet, in case the drive is wholly failing.
So, I ordered a new hard drive, expecting to install to it and then move my data over and then see if the drive is all right or not. Newegg had a 1 TB drive for $90, and since I was also outgrowing my 500 GB music drive (hush!), this seemed sensible.
However, I get it, and it isn't being recognized by my computer or the Ubuntu installer. So, after a bit of freaking out, I try putting it in my MythTV computer, and it works fine in there, so I determine my SATA controller much be old enough that it can't see drives over 520 GB (or whatever the limit is). So, I decide I'll keep it in my MythTV, migrate my music to that, and handle my music using it as a network drive. But my MythTV power supply doesn't have a SATA power connector, and I only have one adapter in my main computer (the power supply has one native SATA power connector). So I can't do a drive-to-drive copy of my music to the 1 TB drive, and have to copy it all over the network. Needless to say, that's a significantly slower process than an internal copy. And I'm also finding a number of my files have question marks and colons in their title. I have a script that cleans up the file names after I rip my CDs, but I keep forgetting to add those characters to it, so sometimes they slip through. I hope there aren't too many more so it can either finish the copy overnight or while I'm at work tomorrow.
Once that's done, it should be a pretty simple task to reinstall onto the new drive and copy my user profile/etc over to the new drive. But it's a minor ordeal in the meantime. And my iPod seriously needs a podcast refresh. I think I'm going to be stuck listening to Garrison Keillor in the gym tomorrow.
|Saturday, August 1st, 2009|
|And another thing
Jacqui brought me some dark chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups on our trip (she had had a coupon).
I'm sorry to say that those are two great tastes that do not go great together. I think it's a matter of both flavors being quite strong and it causes them to fight for space on your palate. In any case, a noble experiment, but it doesn't do the trick, at least for me.
|Thursday, July 30th, 2009|
|Back from New York
Last weekend, Jacqui and I went to upstate New York to visit my grandparents. Friday was pretty much just spent traveling, flying into Buffalo and then driving down to the hotel in Hornell.
Saturday was spent lounging around and going for a couple boat rides. My grandpa got a little electric pontoon boat a couple years ago, so we took a loop around the lake in that, and Jacqui and I went for a canoe ride. Sadly, the paddleboat bit the dust a while back. Some water inside it froze one winter and crumbled the foam in it. We also took a trip to a cemetery the next town over where some of my relatives are buried. There was a very pretty golden retriever that came up to us with a ball in his mouth wanting to play fetch. We pet him a bit, but didn't play. He followed us to the car, but eventually ran home. We also went to the ice cream social at the nearby chapel. There was some rain, which made finding a table a little tricky, but it eased up and we didn't get too wet.
On Sunday, we took another canoe ride, and bummed around some more. My grandparents took us to dinner in Naples, and we got to see a very nice view of Canandaigua Lake. There was more rain after we headed back to the hotel in the evening, but nothing that affected our day.
On Monday, Jacqui and I went up to Stony Brook state park and hiked the gorge trail, where we got to see a number of waterfalls and a couple dogs. We then got supplies to grill for my grandparents and made burgers and chicken. We also all took a trip up to another cemetery where more of my family is buried, so I managed to get the refresher course on that side of the family.
We also got to have fresh raspberries from their raspberry bushes each day.
The trip back was uneventful, though the so-called "suicide" hot wings at the bar in the airport were pretty tame.
Assorted photos from the trip can be found here
|Thursday, July 16th, 2009|
It's been a rough morning at work. I think things are smoothed out now, and I'm looking forward to a fruit smoothie at lunch and seeing a play after work.
|Thursday, July 2nd, 2009|
When I was young, I had an album called Smurfing Sing Song
. There's a song on it called "Come to the Party".
The chorus is:
Come to the party, come to the show
Join in the Smurfland fair
We'll have Smurfburgers and chips
Smurfing sodas, lucky dips
And all of the Smurfs will be there
But I wonder what a Smurfburger is made of. Smurfs are larger than you imagine (they are three apples tall, which I'd peg as about 10 inches tall, which makes them really creepy). I can imagine them raising small tubers for the chips, but what small animal gets to be the burger? Do they farm mice?
Also, this song gets stuck in my head with some frequency, despite the fact that I hadn't heard it in about 15 years until a minute or two ago. I didn't recall how vaguely reggae it was.
If you're writing a sentence about someone's eloquence, that seems like a perfect place to make sure your subject and verb agree. I saw this in the print edition, and thought they'd surely fix it for the Web.