Thursday, June 29, 2006

Our Last, Best Hope for Net Neutrality

The telecommunications bill has passed, allowing the telco companies more freedom in getting us our TV, but also allowing Net Discrimination. Senator Ron Wyden has put a hold on the bill, effectively filibustering it until it has a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet.

Here's what you can do right now (I expect it to take a maximum of five minutes).

Put your zip code in here. It will automatically look up who your Senators are.

Call the Washington number of your Senators.

Say this (or something like it): "I would like Sentor ____ to support Senator Ron Wyden’s hold on the telecommunications bill, and support his proposed amendments to the Net Neutrality issue. "

This could potentially screw you, personally, up if you have any particular preference for any website at all, or would like to discover new favorites in the future. I have never been concerned with politics at all until this issue came up, and we have the capability to do something that will keep us not-screwed (at least on this issue) for the rest of our natural lives.

FYI: When I called, it took about 3 minutes, most of which was on hold with Barack Obama's office. The workers were friendly and pleasant to talk to.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Returns

Last night I and a few freinds saw Superman Returns at Navy Pier's 3D IMAX theatre. This was the first live-action movie to be done in 3D IMAX, and actually, only 20 minutes (four scenes) were in 3D. We were a little too close to the screen, and I think some of the 3D was focused a little too close for comfort, but it was impressive. I'm not really sure if the 3D did much for the movie (it kind of did, and I'd like to see it again regularly to see if those scene are as heart-pounding as they were comin' atcha), but the IMAX definitely was a good choice for this film.

From the beginning credits, which were done in a very similar style to the first two Superman films, I felt transported back to being a kid. It's a rare movie that can do that, and perhaps seeing it on a screen bigger than my apartment helped the process. Brandon Routh plays the character admirably, and gives great tribute to Christopher Reeve's performance, adopting some of his mannerisms. The story is pretty simple, but with complex undertones: Astronomers found out where Krypton was, and Superman went back to try to see if anybody had survived. In the intervening five years, Lois Lane, the jilted lover, moved on, got a long-term relationship and a kid. Lex Luthor got out of jail, because Superman failed to appear at his appeal as a material witness. Lex, having been to the Fortress of Solitude in Superman 2, finds it again and steals all the crystals in the console thing. He realizes quickly that he can make a new continent with them, thereby creating a brand-spankin new Real Estate market, owned solely by Lex. Yes, the new continent will displace the United States, but it's a small matter to him.

The movie is equally about Superman dealing with Lex and Superman dealing with his heartbreak from Lois moving on with her life. He clearly regrets his decision to leave, and loses himself in "work" for a little bit (y'know, saving people, being Superman). They completely ignore that Superman 3 and 4 existed (which is as it should be), and assumed that Superman 2 was just five years ago. There are some issues that purists will have problems with (y'know, like the introduction of the kid), but it really treats the new elements well, and handles them as they should be. Also, I think the film overstates the power of Superman in a couple instances. Still, given who Superman is, it's really difficult to give him a challenge, and I like how they did that in this film.

I highly recommend this film. It's not a perfect film, and will never be a favorite, but it's a faithful representation of the hero, and it is an exciting ride, with very little to disappoint.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Training the Replacement

I just trained my replacement in the functions of my job. Wow, that's awkward. You want to teach him to do things right, but you also are a little miffed that things aren't working out for yourself. Don't get me wrong, the guy's qualified, but I'm training him to take over the job that I'd still like to have. It would be totally unprofessional to take it out on him or any of the other team by not giving him the training he deserves, but at the same time, I keep wondering if he's going to be the worker I was.

Owell, it would be less awkward if I had some reason to leave, like if I found a better job, but next week I'll be unemployed. This is annoying.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Woohoo! I finally have a name and treatment for my persistent ailment! Fortunately, it's not strep, because that would suck. A lot. But I'm on yet another set of antibiotics, which should do an effective job at beating down the illness, and I can continue to live my life, sans pain (sorry, if you really took that entire last clause as French, it would mean "without bread;" I actually meant "without pain," but decided to keep it as such because this aside is kind of funny).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I got the fever!

Actually, I guess the correct title for this would be I had the fever. Yesterday I ended up with a nasty fever. Now, this could be from two things: It could be an allergic reaction to a new seizure medication my neurologist has been ramping me up on (which would suck, because this is the only one I've ever had that doesn't include the side effect of perpetual fatigue), or it could simply be that I've been fighting an ear infection. The anecdotal evidence points to to it being the medication because last night I didn't take my evening dose (on tuesday I ramped up to two doses daily instead of the one), and last night my fever broke. So I woke up, drenched in sweat, but feeling a heck of a lot better. Will I continue with the medication? Heck yeah! This stuff is awesome! I may call the neurologist today (she's probably sick of hearing from me by now), just to be safe, but I'm hoping I don't need to switch over to another drug, or worse, stick with what I've already been on. That would be wrong.

Update: Under the suggestion of my neurologist, I saw my regular doctor. He was familiar with the allergic reaction to my seizure medication, and he thinks it's just a viral infection, which is good. I still had some fever when I was in his office (101), but Thursday night Heidi surprised me by coming over and bringing me food, drink, cloraseptic, and a thermometer. That night there was no fever. I'm not 100% right now (still have a slightly sore throat and inflamed lymph node), but I'm a lot better than I was.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I just got laid off. There's part of me that realizes that I have no net whatsoever now, and that several impending expenses are looming on the horizon, but honestly, I'm not as scared as I think I should be. This is a bad time to lose one's employment, certainly, but I'm also feeling fairly confident in my ability to get something else. Which would be nice. Perhaps I won't have the flexibility I have now, but hey, I might have less expensive medical benefits.

Anyway, those who read this and pray, please start doing so.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hotel Rwanda

I chose not to see Hotel Rwanda when it came out. My dad had passed away very recently, and I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it. I was right. If I had seen it then, it would have messed up my entire month. But I waited until I was stronger, and I saw it just now. Wow. I'm glad I waited, but I'm glad I saw it.

This is a movie about the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda, and this one guy trying to keep Tutsi refugees alive in the four-star hotel he manages. Sort of an African Schindler's List, if you will. After the first 15-20 minutes (exposition and such), the entire movie is an "Oh, crap, what's going to happen now?" moment. I've seen a lot of films where I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out, and I genuinely feared for the characters, but this one put all the rest of them to shame. It's sort of the difference between "How the heck are they gonna get out of this now?" and "Holy crap. There's nothing they can do. They're all hosed." It was a very intense movie, filled with fantastic acting. I can't say I'd recommend it for everyone, as some might be put off by the fact that real people can behave this way to other real people, and others wouldn't be able to stomach the horror that this guy and his family are going through. But if you feel up to the challenge, I demand that you see this film.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day everyone! Mine was better than last year's, but still a little meh. I had lots of grilled meat over at Heidi's family's place, which was cool, and did my laundry there, which was way cool. Other than that, it was sort of OK. I've been trying to catch up on my sleep, and also trying to show my apartment so I can sublet it recently, and both of those goals did moderately well today. Other than that, a little tired and blah right now. But Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Nacho Libre

We went and saw Nacho Libre last night. It was really funny, and if you liked Napoleon Dynamite, you will probably like this, but I can see that it's not for everyone (neither movie is). I happened to like Napoleon Dynamite a lot, and I like Jack Black, so I got a double whammy of fun. Jared Hess (the director and a co-writer of both films) has a very distinctive style, that is immediately evident. He's not much for smooth pacing, but he uses his stuttering pacing and odd camera angles for effect. Also, I've noticed that a lot of his characters are very dull and low energy (think Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite), which is used effecively as well.

But anyway, this show looked to be an opportunity for Jack Black and Hector Jiminez to mug onscreen. There was no subtlety of emotion here, it was a broadly played farce from beginning to end. It seemed that nearly every scene was an attempt by the actor to make a face that would make the audience laugh, and about half the time, that's where the laughter came from. That combined with the odd pacing made for a strange moviegoing experience, but once I let my mind go in that direction (and it took a noticible shift), I had a lot of fun.

The story isn't complex. Ignacio (Jack Black) is a monk who dreams of becoming a wrestler, but he needs another guy to help him compete. He is accosted by a vagrant on the street (Hector Jiminez), and eventually tries to get him to join in the wrestling. He proceeds to fight, trying to woo the hot nun who just showed up at the monastery, and using his winnings (they pay him even when he loses, which he does frequently) to help the monastery out. The plot has more progression than that, but really, if you're going, you're going for the humor more than the story.

So I recommend this, but if you don't have a goofy sense of humor like me or Heidi, you'll probably want be in a goofy mood and/or have a drink ahead of time (note that it's not a movie you have to be drunk to enjoy, but a drink will facilitate the shift in thinking).

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thank You God!

Click on the picture so you can read the caption. The lesson in this is that if you're thinking about technology in 50 years, and it's not unbelievable, you're thinking too conservatively.

Update: Please see the comments. This is actually a piece. Oops.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Brew #1 Bottled

Recently finished bottling brew #1. Not sure how it's going to turn out, but then again, I'm brand new at this. It should be ready for drinking at my D&D game on the 25th, which should be a fun change of pace, y'know, assuming it doesn't taste like feet or anything.

Some techical details:
# of gallons bottled: A little over 4
# of bottles: 44
Final Gravity: 1.009
Estimated Alcohol Content: 5.1 %

Matt's in Italy at a conference, so he gave me some pointers (and some bottles), but he wasn't there walk me though the process. There were a few things that I know I screwed up, and a few things that might have gone wrong. I might have some explosive bottles, I might have some nasty bugs growing in some of the bottles. But it just might turn out perfectly. Owell, worst thing that happens is that I throw the beer out and learn.

Anybody want to sublet?

So does anybody want to sublet my place from mid-July to the end of September? Rent is $765 (although we can negotiate with that), it's a large one bedroom on the third floor of Winnemac and Lincoln, close to the Brown Line. It's an old place, and there are some minor issues associated with that, but it's got a great view off the back porch, it's bright and sunny, and the garbage is picked up from a can right outside your door by the landlords. It gets hot in the summer, but it'll come with two window A/C units (one old, one really new), a coffee table, three area rugs, a microwave, and a desk chair, free if you want them.

Basically, Heidi and I figured we could save a lot of money if I moved into the new place and she either stayed at her place until we got married or moved back in with her parents for the next couple months.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mucca Pazza

We went to Midsommarfest this afternoon, one of the early summer neighborhood festivals in and around Chicago (it also happens to be in Andersonville, the neighborhood where my church is located). It was such a kick in the pants. It was so busy, with so much to look at and to do, and the weather was freakin' perfect. The highlight of the afternoon was this band that describes themselves as a circus punk marching band, called Mucca Pazza. I don't think I've ever seen a band perform live with quite so much energy and style and dynamic range. It's rare that you see people actually having fun performing, but these people captured the essense and energy of comic improv within their choreographed musical pieces, and mighty fine playing. I'm not sure I'd want to buy one of their CD's, as the music was unsual, but not striking. But the live performance was such that I could easily become a groupie of theirs. Still pictures really can't capture the energy and power of the performance, but it was a mighty one. If you get a chance to see these folks, I highly recommend it.

An Actor I Dig (#2 in an Ongoing Series)

Peter Cullen is a man I don't think I've ever seen, but I've heard frequently. He has a powerful voice that is deep and rich and fatherly, and has been wasted on Eeyore in the New Winnie the Pooh cartoon series. He's made himself a good living with his voice for decades, but I, and pretty much any guy in his mid-late twenties to their early thirties (OK, I'm in my mid thirties, but I'm a geek), will remember him as one person and one person only: Optimus Prime. The subtle tones with which he portrays emotional depth (OK, he's doing cartoons, but still, just listen to him), are an inspiration. I want to sit at the feet of Optimus Prime and listen to how he does it.

Incidentally, finding an announcement for this on rottentomatoes was what started this whole search off.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Oh, good. Another shot in the foot for Net Neutrality

So the House defeated an amendment for Net Neutrality last night. The corporations are winning, which I guess is nothing new in America. The squeaky wheels with the money end up getting the most grease. The next battle is in the Senate where, fortunately, there is more support for the little guy.

The full story is here.

George Lucas is a Moron

So I was overly optimistic when I heard that Lucas was releasing the original, untarnished Star Wars films on DVD. Evidently (and I'm taking this with a grain of salt, as I can't trust anything anymore relating to these films) Lucas destroyed the negatives of the original Star Wars films, and the DVD copies are going to be rips from the Laserdisc versions released back in the late '80s (I think?). They won't be spiffy. They won't be hi-def. They won't be up for individual sale. They will only be available for sale with the damaged versions of the first three movies as a boxed set, selling for $90. Makes me want to call him a naughty word that will get someone leaving an anonymous comment telling me I shouldn't use language like that.

Now, why do I rant on Lucas so much? He's a filmmaker. His style changes. A lot of filmmakers change. Look at Spielberg. Close Encounters was released around the same time Star Wars was, and is one of my favorite movies of all time. And he's changed. However here's some major differences: Close Encounters took a while to grow on me, and I didn't really learn to appreciate it until I was an adult, Star Wars changed my life when I was a kid. Spielberg has changed and grown as a filmmaker. He's matured. Lucas has atrophied and turned this franchise of films that changed my life (the only filmmaking he is known for for the last 30 years) from one of the most spectacular and fun (if a bit lame in the dialogue department) shows on the screen into something pathetic and tiresome. My fury knows no bounds.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Radio Silence

So sorry about not posting for quite a while. A lot of poop has been coming down, and it's been difficult to keep my head above it all (ooo, there's an image). Anyway, looks like the past couple weeks have been the head of the past few months, and all this has been forcing me to deal with an issue that had been plaguing me for pretty much my whole life. I'm not going to go into details on a public forum, as it's far too easy to get misinterpreted, but I now have fodder for helping people through other stuff, and now I'll be entering into a healthier marriage. Can't say I'm 100% yet, but I'm better than I was. Possibly better than I ever was. How's that for vague?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Goal Update 5

Since I posted my goals at the first of the year, I've been keeping folks apprised of how I'm doing with the whole goal business at the top of each month. In keeping with that tradition...

1. Get Married: Still coming along. We're really close to being done with the planning. We still have the last dregs of planning to deal with here and there, but we're almost ready to go. And we have to wait three more months. Oy. By the way, friends should expect to see their invitations late next week or early the following week.
2. Move to a new place: Found a gorgeous place in Schaumburg. Heidi's moving in on July 8th, I'm moving my stuff in in August, and we're paying three rents for both July and August, and then two rents in September (which helps to explain the tight financial thing).
3. Get a different job: Done
4. Get back in the gym, and establish a regular routine: Haven't returned to the gym since I tweaked my back. Part of that is because my temporary membership ended the day I quit the Body for Life Program, and I haven't bothered to renew. I need to do that.
5. Get at least one Voice-over gig: Demos are recorded and are being edited. I should hear something back shortly on that. Doesn't much matter. It doesn't look like I'm going to be able to duplicate them until late in the year anyway without some miracle.
6. Brew at least three batches of beer: Brew #1 is fermenting right now. 2 more will happen in the new place.
7. Travel at least four times: 2 down, 2 to go.
8. Write a script: Thought about it.
9. Read the Bible from beginning to end: It seems that when I get disappointed or pissed off, this is the first thing to go. In any case, it's been a rough month. I'll have a lot of reading to get done come the end of the year.