Monthly Archives: April 2007

Untimely Reviews of two star movies – The Day After Tomorrow

Who doesn't love a good natural disaster, other than the people struck by them, that is. Living in the great plains, I relish the coming of a thunderstorm with its dark clouds and lightening bolts. Everytime a storm comes in, I rush to the window looking for the wall cloud. Even my wife savors the radar on the Weather Channel. What a rush!

So why are natural disaster movies so lackluster? "The Day after Tomorrow" continues the tradition of disaster movies and this review continues my long running reviews of two star movies. I believes that natural disaster movies are rightfully one star movies. The acting is bad, the stories are ludicrous, the science is an insult to our intelligence, and there is always the roll your eyes into the back of your head moment when people "come together". But these movies get the extra star because they blow stuff up, and who doesn't like seeing something get blowed up?

I will give "The Day after Tomorrow" credit for having a premise based on a shred of science: if enough of the arctic ice melts, the oceans will lose their salinity and their wonderful ability to even out the Earth's temperature. Without the constant exchange of warm equator ocean with cold polar ocean, the northern parts of the Earth's will get much, much, colder. Over time, an ice age will begin. (My wife and I saw a Weather Channel special on this theory.) In the movie, the ice age begins in only one week. Take that Doppler radar!

The joy of seeing New York City frozen solid and then overrun with computer animated wolves and Russian oil tankers lasts only as long as my attention span, five and a half minutes. My wife and I agreed to fast forward through the wolf part. After watching the first few storms hit in the movie, I recommend skipping to the part where you get to see New York City under a glacier. It isn't worth your time to see minor characters argue about which books to burn (the whole building is full of wooden furniture!?!).

I will give this even movie credit (but not more stars) for prognostication. The fictional leaders of the United States government are shown as bumblers who ignore solid evidence of an oncoming storm, are slow to react, and end up rescuing survivors off of roof tops. The movie was released in May of 2004 and hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August of 2005. Considering the government's response to Katrina, the makers of "The Day after Tomorrow" were actually generous to our government's disaster management. Good thing the real ice age will take centuries to freeze the northern hemisphere. That should give us plenty of time to relocate to Mexico.

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Personal Stories – Gratuitous Baby Photos

Little man has passed the 15 month mark. It is way too late to give him back now. Soon it will even be a misnomer to call him a "baby"; he is turning into a little boy. That means there will soon be an end to gratuitous baby photos that grace many a blog post. "Gratuitous toddler photos" just doesn't have the same audible appeal. Alas, I will miss baby little man. Compliments to my wife for keeping a photographic record of our little guy.

These pictures and more revolve on my work computer. stunned by his charm and innocence, I now and then find myself staring at the screen. Looking at his picture is almost more enjoyable than seeing him in person.

Huzaa to little man!

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Personal Stories – Dell Beast Jr.

My big bro' came through for me once again. His sent me his old Dell Inspiron 8600 after I gave up on my Dell Beast and sold it to for cheap. Meanwhile, I have been using my wife's old Mac Beast.

Although a laptop (or notebook if you prefer), my brother's Dell is every bit a beast, a Dell Beast Jr. in fact. According to my brother, he bought the Dell Beast Jr. as a desktop replacement. Not  to replace his desktop pc, but to replace his entire desk.

Precious little internet research reveals that Jr. was once a top of the line laptop. Jr. is a little bit below spec, but it is certainly powerful enough to handle everyday computing and play a few outdated games. If only it were prettier, it could come close to my dream computer. I have only one complaint: the display resolution is too high, making the text about as small as that of a credit card agreement. Dell should have sold 2x reading glasses with this beast.

I will miss the Mac OS X from my wife's old Mac Beast. Fortunately, Jr. at least has Windows XP, far superior to Windows ME, but that isn't saying much. I feel like I am living in the future of 3 years ago.

The real fun of now owning a laptop is going mobile. Having been a desktop owner for a decade and a half, I have yet to know the joys of working from Panera. I might even learn to like the touchpad.

Huzaa to my brother!

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Untimely Reviews – Just Like Heaven

Last night my wife and I needed some happy cuddle time, which means a romantic comedy. My wife decided to be "the decider", and she decided on "Just Like Heaven". I'll get the puns out the way, "Just Like Heaven" is not just like hell and we did not wish we were in heaven instead of watching it.

"Just Like Heaven" stars Reese Witherspoon, type-cast as the sassy cute girl, and Mark Ruffalo, type-cast as the "ordinary" guy. This movie has a notable gimmick, Reese appears to be a ghost. If she can't touch him, how will they ever get together? Not yet a third of the way into the film my wife turns to me and asks, "Do you think she is really in a coma?". I replied, "Yes, and you also think she is in a coma." She replied back "Why do you think that?" I answered "Because you wouldn't have asked me if she was in a coma unless you thought she was in a coma." We both laughed. Sorry to be a spoiler, but my wife and I were right, Reese was in a coma. That was really the only reasonable explanation anyway. Otherwise, the movie would have been stupid.

Other than the whole ghost/spirit thing, "Just Like Heaven" has two other novel features. First, the movie milks the fame of the guy from "Napoleon Dynamite". Second, instead of tying the melody of a pop song to a scene, the movie ties the lyrics of a pop song to something happening in a scene. Imagine the possibilities: when a storm trooper appears in "Star Wars", we could hear Abba's "Super Trooper"; every scene in "Wall Street" could include a clip of "Taking Care of Business", or the silent scenes in "Saving Private Ryan" can be filled with REM's "Everybody Hurts". Thank you for that, "Just Like Heaven".

I rate this movie somewhere between underwhelming and whelming, maybe subwhelming. Or maybe the movie should have just ended before a torturous montage of sad scenes as we wonder if they couple will ever get together. Oh yeah, and then there is that whole debate about euthanasia and the right to die. Could I really pull the plug on a loved one knowing that their spirit might be starting a new romance with Mark Ruffalo? Man, that is way to deep for happy cuddle time.

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Rants – My Dream Computer

Lately I have been obsessed about personal computers. Having given up on my old Dell Beast, I started using my wife's old Mac Beast. Meanwhile, my brother had promised to send me his old (but new to me) laptop, Dell Beast Jr. That was 2 months ago. In the interim I cannot help but entertain the idea of buying a new computer.

There are so many options to consider, that I had to really put some thought into what a computer should be for me. I have three basic criteria: 1) aesthetics; 2) ability to play all games; 3) costs $500 or less. This is 2007, way beyond the technological level of the Hal 9000's of 2001's space odyssey's. So I expected to find my dream computer with ease. I was wrong. So I present the following: behold, an eye pleasing computer with kick-A graphics and costing a mere $500!

Sweet isn't it. Let me explain the rationale that underlies my insane criteria. First, I believe that regular computer use was maxed out in 2001, and I'm not referencing Hal. When running Microsoft Word, looking up web pages, or playing Doom, the power of my 2001 computer was barely noticeable over my 1997 computer. The focus of computer advances should therefore be design, not power.

I secondly believe that computers, especially home computers, are destined to play games. The urge to kill zombies is just hardwired into us as is, coincidentally, the zombies urge to eat our brains. Sans zombies, we need realistic 3d games to fulfill our zombie killing desires. But computer zombies have progressed steadily since the days of Doom. Now we have higher resolution zombies of Doom III and Half-Life 2. These zombies need kick-A graphics. Every home computer should be able to play the latest zombie shooter, and all future zombie games. It's not really about silly fun, its about protecting ourselves from zombies.

Thirdly, I am cheap. And why shouldn't I be? We do live in a free market economy. So I propose a $500 eye catching computer that can handle all my programs from 2001 and play the latest zombie slaying simulator. I'd totally buy it.

There are some notable boxes that come close to my dream machine. A refurbished Apple Mac Mini can go for as low as $479, but its graphics are pathetic at best. The Microsoft Xbox 360 has kick-A 3d graphics and costs less than $500, but it is currently a game machine only. The Nintendo Wii has passable 3D graphics, a web browser, a cool remote, and costs a mere $250. Hmmm, I wonder if it will run Google Docs? Nevertheless, until Apple, Microsoft, and Nintendo produce the bastard child of the MacBoxWii60, I'll just have to dream.

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Political Stuff – I choose a candidate for ’08

After much vacillating, I have picked a candidate for the 2008 Presidential Election. Picking a candidate isn't easy, especially a year and a half away from the election. But one man has inspired me, that man is John Edwards. My wife was an Edwards supporter from all the way back in 2004, so she is psyched. Our little guy won't get his vote on until 2024, but he seems enthusiastic. My candidates have had some good luck lately, so I'm pretty jazzed about this.

Last night was our first John Edwards event, a town hall meeting at a local high school gymnasium. We arrived at the advertised time, 5:45 pm. and found some seats in the bleachers.

Our adorable little man charmed all of the women around us. Most of the guys around us were indifferent to his repeated "aaa-buus" and pointing at their sweaters. The minutes ticked by as the center stage laid empty. Little man was restless, hungry, and tired. Edwards was not in sight and it wasn't looking good.

Mom entertained him with food and a Dr. Seuss book. I tried playing peek-a-boo with his jacket and then resting him on my shoulders. It was 6:30 and all seemed lost.

Then, the crowd cheered. "Whooo-oooo". Little man clapped a little off-cue, but clapped nonetheless. Onto the stage emerged . . . Dennis somebody. I didn't catch his last name.

As if on cue, right after snapping a photo of Dennis somebody, my camera broke, again. Damn you Canon! Look at that sweet view we had. It would have been great to get a few pictures of Edwards and his wife Elizabeth as they blazed the campaign trail.

But, hope was on hand. My resourceful wife had her camera phone.  Just check out this beauty photo of the man in action.

Awesome, huh. My wife didn't sign up for the data plan with her wireless carrier, and why should she, they charge a fortune! So we have no way of getting her picture off the phone. This cherry shot was taken of her phone with her Canon Digital SLR. I don't know why we are loyal to that company.

Shortly after taking this picture, we headed down to the gym floor. My wife changed little man's diaper in a girl's locker room. Fortunately, little man hasn't picked up athlete's foot. Then we took turns chasing little man as he ran around the press area. That back part of the stage was full of mom's with tired babies and we all made a few friends. Little guy actually said "baby", which too us is almost more important than getting Edwards elected president.

The best part about bringing the baby is that it gives us an excuse to leave early. My wife would rather have stayed to hear Edwards in action, electrifying the crowd. I was glad that we made it to our car before everyone else left and little man went super nova on us. After we returned home, little man laid down by himself, another first! Good times.

Better pictures of Edwards can be found at his website.

Huzaa to John and Elizabeth Edwards!

Boo to Canon.

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Personal Stories – Clean up days

Winter is done. The last few weeks have been warm and pleasant, if not a little rainy. This change in temperature comes at a good time, for there is much to do outside my climate controlled house.

The project I have been looking forward to most has been cleaning up the branches that fell during March's big snow and ice storm. We had let the branch of doom sit for works and we were surprised at how forceful its decent must have been. Branches from the fallen limbs had been driven into the earth. My wife had to use all of her considerable might to pull them from the earth. Our own tree, an innocent target of the aerial attack, was stripped of most of its branches. We feel lucky than ever that none of us was struck by this falling debris, but we had just planted this tree a few years ago.

My wife took these great shots of the tree damage. You can see that huge pile of sticks and various other yard wastes in the background. Homeownership can be hard work, but it is nice to get outside and be active. Even little man helped pick up a few sticks.

The other major clean up was not memorialized in digital photos. Dump day. Our town has an annual dump day where they will haul away lots of trash for free. It is a time to haul out those old mattresses and ersatz exercise equipment.

This year's dump day was surrounded by controversy. Normally, dump day is in May. It has always been in May and for the last year we have received reminders regarding May's dump day, in May. Two weeks ago, the day was moved to March. The notice was sent with our water bill. Not surprisingly, no one found out until a few days before the garbage trucks were to arrive. We found out from our neighbor to the south. We then informed our neighbor to the north. Word spread like this, from neighbor to neighbor as we bumped into each other on an extraordinarily nice day. If only we knew each other's e-mail we could have saved ourselves all that personal contact.

In my town, dump day is heralded by a parade of broken down trucks and vans circling the neighborhoods for dumpster gold. In about an hour, someone took an old dresser particle board and faux woodgrain laminate dresser. A useless grill took an hour and a half. Our ancient crib mattress sat longer, but it was also taken by the garbage prospectors. By the time the garbage trucks arrived, all we had left was a broken window and some wood scraps. For all we know, those too could have found a new home.

I actually like the trash patrol. They might reuse or resell some of that curbside treasure, which is a far better fate than a landfill. Plus, if what my wife and I threw away is that great, think how good the stuff we kept must be!

Huzaa to the dump day vultures!

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