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October 19, 2008

Reminiscent of TIM. Prepare to waste your afternoon!
October 4, 2008

Happy birthday to me. I'm exhausted.

For my birthday this year, I celebrated by considering alternate modes of transportation. This was not my original plan but Brian's, who kept me in the dark til the last possible second.

We first drove out to Edinburg, where I had a blast cruising at high speeds with no stoplights and light traffic bordering down to minimal traffic. It was a wrench coming back, let me tell you! At one point we passed a big tank being hauled on a trailer. Yes, a tank. The destructive kind Made up in desert camo, as far as I know. Alas, I didn't get to drive it. Not even sure if it was real, but it was definitely tanklike in appearance. We checked in to a little B&B that had a darling little cupola on top - or belvedere, as the owner called it. The stairs to it were in the bathroom in the hall - I would have gone back up to take pictures but I was afraid someone would come in to use it while I was up there!

Right after that we proceeded to the Wal-Mart in Woodstock, where we waited until someone arrived and I found out what my present was - a hot air balloon ride! (check out my picasa album for pictures.) Me and my big mouth had, a few months back, facetiously told Brian that I wanted a hot air balloon ride for my birthday. He takes me seriously . . .

Being up in a hot air balloon is the most beautiful and frightening thing I've experienced. Getting it up and getting it down is scary, but once up there . . . wow. So many senses at work! The heat from the gas keeps your head warm. The basket is quite stable so long as everybody shifts properly when moving from one side to another. There's plenty of room for 3 people, I'd have been ok with four, but more than that, too tight a squeeze for me! There were no noises and no smells (my sinuses felt pretty good up there!) but we could hear the dogs barking at us as we passed, and cows mooing in the fields below. Some of them actually noticed we were up there and moved about uncomfortably. (I've never thought about cows looking at the sky . . . ) And the view . . . oh, the view! The valley lay spread below like an extremely clear google map. We could see for miles, yet still be able to discern sheep and goats and dogs. Too bad we couldn't read the street signs! We got to watch the sun set behind the mountains, and then when the balloonist took us higher, we got to watch the sun set again. My hands and legs were shaking so bad that I finally handed the camera over to Brian, but it looks like my anti-shake button took care of that problem - pretty much all of my pictures came out.
See the map below to see what area we were in!
View Larger Map

The next day we ended up considering a second form of transportation that has long been neglected. We went horseback riding at Fort Valley. Having thoroughly enjoyed Biltmore's horse tour, we felt we were ready for a four hour mountain guided trail. We're still trying to decide if we overreached. Four hours on a horse is a very long time. Certain body parts are STILL complaining. And the trail! Up the mountain and back down. Like the rest of the valley, rocks all over the place. Goats would have had a better time of it. I'd just like to state that going down a steep hill covered with loose rocks on the back of a horse is extremely unpleasant, and closing your eyes doesn't help. And I don't think my horse liked me. He kept walking under low hanging branches and near trees. The guide had told us to let the horse pick their own path on the rough patches (most of the trail for that matter) but the horse and I had differing opinions about what was the easiest way to get down. Towards the end he also kept turning his head and trying to bite my ankle - not sure if I was tickling him or if he was tired of me. (I was certainly tired of him! He was a very bouncy horse - I was suffering from motion sickness when we stopped for lunch!) We kept having to stop and let people on ATVs or dirtbikes go by. They were very courteous and went by slowly, and for the most part the horses took no notice of the machines.

As I got back in my car, wincing, I couldn't help but appreciate how smooth it rode and how well it handled. It stopped and started on my power alone and didn't try to eat tree leaves or take a side route without my permission. (granted, this was before I noticed that my dials were out of whack again - the gas gauge was pointing to places that didn't exist! I think there's a problem with leaving things charging in the cigarette lighter when I turn the car off.) I could park almost anywhere without worrying about power lines and travel without being concerned about darkness.

It was a perfect weekend - little wind, no haze, nice temperatures . . . ideal for a trip to the mountains. We found a tea house in Edinburg and had an enjoyable lunch, and a nice supper at an italian restaurant. After we got back we treated ourselves to DQ - a perfect ending to a fantastic weekend.
September 25, 2008

I'm not sure which is cooler, the artistic talent and creativity of Kratzer, or the 3D image that rotates around the room.

I'd totally be drawing on my walls if I could just figure out WHAT to draw on them . . .

Hey, it beats climbing them.
September 18, 2008

I want this. I wish I had the room for it.
September 11, 2008

And here's me thinking our family rabbit cake was cheesy . . . .
August 3, 2008

Movie Review: Hellboy 2 - The Golden Army

Worthy, beautiful, interesting bad guys pitted against our misfit heroes. The resolution was far too quick and simple. Liz's angst continued. Abe demonstrated what happens when a brain falls in love and does stupid things. Laughed my head off at the Barry Manilow scene and the fight scene in the locker room.

This was a no-brainer movie, but I do like Hellboy himself. Easy going, likes a good laugh, but always ready to kick some ass. The odds against him never deter him. Great character.
July 27, 2008

Movie Review: Batman - Dark Knight

Creepy and depressing.
I hate downer movies, because they send me plunging down into gloomy blahs, and it takes a while to recover. While this movie was creepy gloom, it was SUPPOSED to be creepy gloom, so they hit their mark beautifully. Heath Ledger's final role was a masterpiece of insanity. I was highly impressed and repulsed by the character, and by myself, as my thoughts of what I would do if I wanted to cause extreme mayhem were along similar lines of what he was actually doing. Not that I ever think about plotting things like that, just a 'what's the worst thing terrorists could do?' kind of thought.
There are a few amusing moments to provide audience relief from the gloom. My favorite line of the movie . . . a Wayne accountant has discovered discrepancies in the accounts, and found out that Fox (Morgan Freeman) has been designing the batmobile and other items. The accountant approaches Fox and states that he knows who Batman is and wants 10 million a year to keep quiet about it. Freeman stares at him in that wonderful way of his and quietly says: "Let me get this straight. You think that your employer, one of the richest men in the world, is spending his nights running around the city beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands? And your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck."

I was kind of disappointed in the messiah-like role they gave Batman. (What's up with the superhero-in-a-negative-light movies lately?) He is being persecuted and hunted for his crime-fighting deeds, even taking the blame for some things that he didn't do just to save the reputation of another. Accepting punishment for the sins of Gotham . . . what happened to plain old crime-fighting?

The acting is incredible and the special effects breathtaking. Just don't go see it if you're feeling the teensiest bit blue, because it's not meant to be a cheerful film.
July 22, 2008

Because I am a geek.
July 17, 2008

Um. Live action hamster video game. It can't be explained. Just watch.
July 4, 2008

You've got to admit it's a unique way to remember your journeys . . . and a great way to bond with the natives!
July 3, 2008

Movie Review: Hancock

Will Smith is awesome. This movie . . . wasn't. It was more of a biography with some bits exaggerated more than others. It's not your typical superhero movie, because for most of the film Hancock is the anti-hero. There's no villain. Or rather, they had a hint of a villain, but compared to the hero he was just a blip on the screen, a nothing. There was NO POINT to him. I felt as if a large part of the story was being left out, and perhaps it was, considering the short length of the film.

There were good points. The character itself was fairly well developed. While he had all the super qualities, bulletproof, able to leap tall buildings, etc . . . he also had his unusual form of kryptonite that weakened him and made him mortal. The storyline surrounding him might have made a good tv series in a Highlander sort of way.

Bits were missing, that's all I can say. If they weren't there at all, then they should have been developed. But hey, it's Will Smith!
June 30, 2008

Ian's Shoelace Site

Because I am a geek. And I use the Straight(Bar) lacing method for my shoes.
June 29, 2008

Movie Review: Wall-e

Pixar does it again! They have the amazing ability to tell a story with minimal dialog. The captain of the Axiom spoke the most, but I noticed they managed to sneak John Ratzenberger into the film as a minor character. Lots of good details. Strong messages about taking care of the planet, and not letting yourself become a fat useless slug constantly being fed useless information and liquid diets. (and Elaine should spend less time on the Internet!) Yes, cockroaches DO survive everything, and it's ALWAYS a good idea to have a manual override button for the autopilot.

Great, positive film.
June 28, 2008

Movie Review: Wanted

Wanted: Angelina Jolie, tattooed, with a gun. Lots of guns, in fact. And not so much attitude as smirky mystery. Y'know, standard Angelina. Clothing optional. Blood, gore, and CGI package included. Oh, and give her a nerd to play with. So's movie goers can pretend they're him.

Um, were there other actors in this movie? Yeah. Wesley Gibson was played by the same actor who played Mr. Tumnus in the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Talk about a wide range of roles!) And the plot . . . the plot? Things were left out. But there were guns. And explosions. And rats.

Really, we all know we go to see Angelina beat people up.
June 22, 2008

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda

The typical story of a bumbling nobody becoming a hero. Very well done, the plot simple but sincere.

Excellent casting. I was only vaguely aware of who the voices were, but when I saw the credits at the end I kept nodding. Jackie Chan as a monkey? I can totally see that. Angelina Jolie as a tigress? Definitely. Lucy Liu a snake? Oh yeah. Master Shifu was a red panda, although I had to find that out for certain on Wikipedia. Fortunately I had recently seen pictures of red pandas so I was fairly certain while watching the film.

Awesome graphics. There's a fight scene on a bridge, fully animated, that just would be impossible to do in a live action film, no matter how many wires you used.

So go and enjoy. Definitely a fun no-brainer. No toilet humor, just a bit of slapstick. Might be a little scary at times for little little kids (honestly, why take a 3 year old to the movies anyway? They're not going to remember!) This one's going on my wish list.
June 10, 2008

Impressive work by David Malcolm Rose!

"Photorealistic scale models." Gotta remember that one.
May 31, 2008

Indiana Jones Addendum

I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark last night, and had a realization. They're action films with an archaeological veneer, not archaeological films with some action. (you're thinking, well duh! aren't you?)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a simple film with a simple plot. Lots of fights and a few surreal special effects. Very little brain power is involved. Indy already knows about the Ark's history, the staff of Ra, Tanis, and the Well of Souls. He quickly finds someone to translate the headpiece. The second half of the movie is simple chases and fights and a dramatic ending involving why you shouldn't open the Ark.

The Temple of Doom was a dark action film, involving a simple search for a sacred stone and kidnapped children. (Frankly, he didn't need to be intelligent or an archaeologist to do either!)

The Last Crusade gets much more interesting and involved. There are lots of puzzles to solve. Who are these men, why are they trying to kill Indy? Where's Dr. Jones, Sr? What do the puzzles mean to get safely to the grail, and which is the grail? It's not solely an action film.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull reverts back to being an action film. There are a few riddles left behind by mad Oxley, and a few physical puzzles to solve onsite (mostly door openers). The mad pace and the bizarre elements of the film keep you on your toes the entire movie, but it just doesn't have that intellectual edge The Last Crusade had.

Having stated the obvious, I realize I prefer movies like National Treasure, with their intricate puzzles and clues and riddles. The Last Crusade will still remain my favorite Indiana Jones film.

I am a geek. I can't help it if I like brainy men who can think their way out of problems and outwit their enemies.

And then easily revert to "Plan B: kick ass" if they have to.
May 26, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I somehow didn't think that they could do it and have it be as good as the others, but I was proven wrong. An excellent, fun film. Very 1950's, with hints of the cold war, McCarthyism, Roswell, and greasers. Suitable crypt creepiness. Capoeira style fighting. Other movies crept in - Stargate, Star Wars, Raiders, even a little National Treasure. (I about laughed my head off when Ford said "I have a bad feeling about this.") I was only disappointed that Short Round didn't make a cameo appearance. Classic snakes, bugs, whips, Ark reference, and a fantastic car chase scene. Two, actually!

Go see it. This is a definite purchase for me!

Movie Review: Prince Caspian

Love love love the costumes. and the scenery. And architecture. And Aslan's mane. I want to bury my face in that mane. Music was good too. It's the reason I go to these movies. The costumes and Aslan's incredible CGI-ness. I really don't like the Narnia stories. Yes, I know they're supposed to be very moral, and I do admire the strong female roles, but it just seems so . . . unfair. Having to grow up twice is horrifying to me. Being forbidden from ever visiting Narnia again just because you learned everything you were supposed to from it is WRONG. I protest. But the movies are well done.
May 19, 2008

This poor 14 year old boy is suffering exactly what happened to my grandfather (except his wasn't caused by a baseball.) I wish the family the best, they're in for some rough times.
May 3, 2008

Tylenol Cold Medicine.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee for the way you make my head
stop feeling like it's about to explode,
filling the surrounding area with the mucus
that was constantly pouring from my nose.

I love thee for the amusing way you advertise
that you can be a cough expectorant and suppressant
at the same time.

I love thee for your timely appearance
after two days of extreme misery.
Your foe, Sudafed, merely mocked me
and did nothing to prevent
the deep coughing and constant running
of my nose. The Kleenex company
must be in league with them.

I love thee for fighting off my fever
and my aches and pains, and at the same time
turning off the faucet that I couldn't reach.
While I know I am still ill, I can now function
and no longer have to force myself to breathe.

And while you have earned my loyalty
for all future (curse them!) colds, I must decry
your small box with only 12 doses
and your ability to stop up my ears so badly
that I can't help but think I've shifted altitude.

Thank you for the rest, Dear Tylenol Cold. You
came to my rescue when I needed you most. I shall
sleep well tonight.
April 17, 2008

Loved the piano solo in The Corpse Bride, but was always extremely irritated by the lack of ending. Apparently I'm not the only one - check out this guy's rendition. Beautifully done!
April 13, 2008

More steampunk stuff. I need to go back and explore more later.
April 10, 2008

Oak Island Treasure - home of the Oak Island Money Pit mystery - Home

Looks like they're going to start digging again in the near future. I find it fascinating - hope they're able to solve the mystery!
March 30, 2008

I have been incredibly slow in updating the miniatures section of my web site. The problem is mainly that I want all new pictures of my dolls, using a similar 'professional' background.

First, I have to learn how to do that. This is time consuming, because I seem to want to do it the hard way - try various things until I get a result I like.

Second, I have to drag all my dolls out and set them up. This has proven difficult. While I hate to admit it, I have never entirely finished a doll - with the exception of Pearl, and even then, I can think of accessories I'd like to add to her. Parts aren't glued on, fabric hasn't been draped and set, etc. Plus, over time, the dolls get dusty, bits come unglued, I've discovered my holeless beads are turning colors, hair comes off, things unravel. I have to fix these things, or at least position the doll so they're not noticeable. So, yes, it's taking me some time. I'm starting with the dolls with the worst pictures. Here's before and after shots of Matilde:

Matilde has always been awkward - there's very few pretty patterns for chubby dolls, so I had to improvise as best I could. I also had to do some leg reinforcing because she was so top-heavy. Finally, for some bizarre reason, her left eye tends to reflect the light back - it's worse than red-eye! You can see it in the first picture. It took me quite a bit of angling with the doll and the light to get rid of that problem.
March 28, 2008

It's about time! I'll have to check it out and see how it differs from my current Photoshop version. Free Web version of Photoshop launches - Yahoo! News
March 21, 2008 | ecards for when you care enough to hit send | home

Definitely not your average smarmy, flash filled e-cards. Prepare to laugh or be offended.

(I fixed my blogThis! feature!)
March 20, 2008

Thought I'd abandoned this, did you? Sort of did, I guess. I've been busy. Sorry.

Because it doesn't seem likely that I'll be able to do lots of updates, I figured I should just do one major update so that I can leave it for ages and not worry about rushing to update the sidebar girl. It was fun while it lasted, though!

This is your sneak peak at the latest design. It's by Andrew Strojny, called Mint Chocolate Chip. A free download! The code is as neat and clean as the design, unlike my old code. Sadly, it means I get to do what I was trying to avoid doing in the first place - go through and update every. single. page. with the new CSS stuff. *sigh* It also means I'll be cleaning up some of my pages and adding new stuff. At least I hope that's what it means. Way to get myself started!

I was planning on holding out and updating all the pages at once, but you know me. I get impatient to see what it looks like and start doing them live, one at a time. So bear with me! Soon it will be neat and sparkly.
January 1, 2008

The Automata / Automaton Blog

And thus, with a single click, I destroy whatever plans you had for the next hour or so. Because you'll be reading this.