Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Con Man

Continuing with my photo gallery dump, here are some photos from comic book conventions we've attended recently, in Chicago and Detroit.

From Wizard World ...

From Motor City Co...

Wolverine there really gets around, doesn't he? We've been attending Comic-Con International San Diego for 13 years now, so attending conventions themselves isn't all that unusual for us. What was unusual about Wizard World Chicago and Motor City Comic Con is that we were behind the table for a change instead of in front of it. That's right, we were there exhibiting books from our little self-publishing outfit, Strange Matter Comics. Randy's book Sangrael and Becky's Project ElOhIm: Entities of Interest both got warm receptions from the convention goers. Becky sold eight copies, which isn't bad for a totally unknown book at a small con.

This year, when we show up at the San Diego Con for the 14th time, it will be as exhibitors. That's going to be one heck of an experience. The other conventions are warm, fun little affairs where everybody's your neighbor and you're actually able to see that there is, in fact, a floor at the venue, instead of just assuming it's there because the people are obviously standing on something. Last year's attendance at San Diego was 114,000. That's more people than live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Randy calls home. It's going to be an adventure, that's for sure. If you're in San Diego this summer during Con week, stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I'm coming up on 20,000 photos in my iPhoto library now, and some of them are actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. So, I'm going to try to start putting up some albums with my better pictures in them. Here's a set from a Padres home game we went to in 2005. (They lost.)

From Diamondbacks ...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'd Like to Propose a Toaster

SPOILER ALERT: If you're not current on Battlestar Galactica up through the 2/18/07 episode, inclusive, run away.

Everybody seems to be all abuzz that we're going to learn about a previously-unknown Cylon soon, and that it's going to be someone we already know. Here are my top three choices, with ratings based on clues I've noticed in the show.

Kara "Starbuck" Thrace is an obvious candidate. She's by far the best fighter pilot on Galactica, possibly in the entire Colonial fleet. (Which, I guess, now is Galactica, but I don't think it's a stretch to say that she was at or near the top back before the Cylons attacked too.) Now, of course, if you get a bunch of human pilots together, one of them naturally has to be the best. But maybe Kara has a little bit of an extra advantage, so let's add +1 for that.

When D'Anna sees the face of one of the final five, she apologizes, saying she "didn't know" to the glowing figure. Who would the Cylons need to apologize to, personally, that we know of? They treated Kara pretty badly when she was captured on Caprica and experimented upon by Simon and friend, so +2.

Recently, we learned that Kara's been doodling the Eye of Jupiter since she was a kid. That seems significant. Let's award +3 for that.

Galen "Chief" Tyrol seems like a bit of a dark horse here, but there are some subtle clues. Way back in the miniseries, when Baltar is about to finger Aaron as a Cylon to take the heat off himself, Number Six tells him he's not a Cylon, saying that she's never seen him at "any of the Cylon parties." This turns out to be a lie. Later, when the Chief is in counseling for attacking Cally, Brother Cavil tells him that he's not a Cylon, because Cavil has never seen him at "any of the Cylon meetings." Coincidence? Probably, so only +1 for that.

The Chief rather mysteriously finds the temple on the algae planet. How would he just know, out of the blue, that there's something interesting on the planet? Seems sketchy to me, +3.

When Cally and the Chief got trapped in a malfunctioning airlock, they had to be blow out into space and scooped up by a viper to be rescued. Later that day, Cally is in a hyperbaric chamber, eyes bloodshot, barely responsive even to her baby. Her baby who is being held by the Chief, who seems pretty sore but not much the worse for wear. We already know from Sharon's adventures flying through nasty radiation belts that the Cylons are a little bit hardier than humans. The Chief gets +1 for being so tough.

Gaius Baltar is just a staggeringly obvious choice, of course, but not impossible. After all, he has a Cylon in his head, and spent significant time with the Cylons. He betrayed humanity, allowing the Cylons to attack in the first place. For all that, +3, but -1 for being too obvious about it.

He has been told by the Cylons that he's not one of them, but they're not really known for their honesty. Too close to call there.

Final Scores: Starbuck +6, Chief +5, Baltar +2

So, by a nose, it looks like my prediction is that Starbuck is the Cylon infiltrator. But I'm certainly not giving up on the Chief either. What do y'all think?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Does This Make My Tail Look Fat?

We're in Michigan for the weekend, visiting Becky's friends in Ann Arbor and East Lansing for her birthday. We actually encountered a whole new kind of disorganized on the flight here. Our flight was at 8:30 Saturday morning, so we showed up at the airport bright and early at 7:00 AM, like good little travelers. We looked for our flight, but it wasn't there on the departure board. Puzzling, but we had a gate printed on our boarding passes, so Becky got in line for the security checkpoint and I got in line to ask the airline what was going on. Even though the security line stretched from here to next Christmas, it was moving along at a pretty good clip, so I joined her near the checkpoint after making about two feet of progress toward the airline counter. So, we headed to the gate, which had no departure flight posted, and I got in line to talk to the gate agent. Several minutes and no forward progress later, she announced that the flight we were on was indeed departing from that gate. No worries. One mob scene later, we were on the plane. I'm no crowd control expert, but it seems to me that airlines with assigned seats do better to board by rows than by calling "all aboard!"

Once we got on the plane, we sat for a while. Then the captain informed us, in great detail, that San Diego has a short runway, and the winds at altitude were unusually calm today, so they were checking the weight of the aircraft to make sure their takeoff calculations are right. Otherwise, we might fall out of the sky. I think I would have rather just heard that we were delayed for some vague reason. We had plenty of time to think about what might happen if we were over the limit, though, as it took them another fifty minutes to determine the weight of the aircraft. I wonder what you do if you're over the limit, start hucking the snack boxes overboard? The flight was smooth after that. I played Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for a while. That's a really cool game. Not much for the puzzles, it's more like an interactive mystery novel. I understand that it represents a whole genre that's popular in Japan, but I don't read Japanese, so that doesn't do me any good. Eventually, I got sleepy and dozed off, which worked out well to pass the time until my neighbor, Bob Cuddleston, also dozed off and became my own personal space invader.

We noticed that we were just about the only people on the plane who weren't going home. Not a lot of people visiting Detroit from San Diego this time of year. I overheard one poor soul on his cell phone calling his hotel to tell them that he had left his coat in his room, and ask how he could get it shipped to him. Not a good thing to forget on your way back to the frozen north. Detroit's new terminal is beautiful, and huge. It has a train running inside the building, which we foolishly chose not to use. After a long flight, it was nice to take a good walk, though. Becky's brother Tom and his fiancée Elise surprised us at the terminal exit. Well, they surprised Becky. I knew they would be there, since I had asked them to come.

Randy met up with us at the hotel, and we went to dinner at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor. It's an awesome little place, which I totally recommend if you're ever in the area. The sandwiches are big and hearty, but not ridiculously huge like you see featured on the Food Network when they go to J. Random Deli. While we were eating dinner, it started to snow pretty hard, with giant, fluffy flakes. It was very pretty, but a little nerve-wracking for those of us who have been driving in San Diego for the last dozen years. After dinner, we attempted to go to the Improv Inferno, but there was no show due to a "scheduling mix-up." Keeping with the hellfire theme, we went to see Ghost Rider instead. It was thoroughly not bad, and I enjoyed it a lot. It's loud, over-the-top, and obvious. It's bright and shiny, and its plot is constructed like a video game that's a series of boss battles, but it works and it's fun.

Looks like it snowed some more last night, just enough to cover the cars and make our unfamiliar rental look that much like all the others. Time to go dig out and see if I can find it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Unrelated Things About Beaches

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen Top Design and Lost for the week ending February 17, you might want to come back later.

Becky and I are big fans of Project Runway, Top Chef, and now Top Design. We follow those shows religiously, and have gotten to the point that we can frequently determine in the first five minutes who's going to be eliminated. So my hat's off to the story editors this week for completely faking me out.

Carisa showed all the signs of being eliminated this week. She was featured in the interview segments saying how well she thought she was doing. She commented that she wasn't ready to go home. She displayed lousy teamwork in the week's challenge, and was portrayed more negatively than her arch-nemesis teammate Ryan, who is no prize himself where teamwork is concerned. Seemed like a done deal. Goodbye, Carisa. Then, when elimination time came around, they eliminated Elizabeth from out of nowhere.

The design challenge this week was to build a beach cabana based on a destination city assigned to each team. Elizabeth's team got Miami, and they built a pretty cool little structure that had both an indoor part and a little deck outdoors. It looked a lot like a traditional type of Puerto Rican shack that they built once on an outdoor episode of While You Were Out. Elizabeth chose the colors, which were a really bright acid green and electric purple. The judges hated the colors, and seemed to eliminate her on the basis of that, saying it didn't look like Miami. I thought it looked like a pretty good interpretation of art deco and Little Havana meets South Beach, but what do I know, right?

The thing that irks me is that they gave the appearance of eliminating Elizabeth on the flimsiest of excuses because she's the oldest contestant, by far. Carisa and Ryan were tied for worst individual performers, I thought. Ryan was coming off two straight bottom-group performances! Though if I had to choose, I would have eliminated Carisa because when she's having a conflict with another contestant, she just huffs "fine, whatever" and sulks off, while Ryan gets a little more exercised and makes some good TV.

Though, now that I think about, Elizabeth did use the word "agreeance" with no hint of irony whatsoever, so maybe the judges made the right decision after all.

Meanwhile, on some other beach, this week's Lost was a bit of a mind-bender. It was mostly composed of flashbacks from Desmond. Or were they flashbacks at all? Not only does Desmond not get the customary "whoosh" noise when he starts his flashback while choking the stuffings out of Charlie, that sound isn't heard anywhere in the entire episode! Does that mean that it actually isn't a flashback, and that Desmond is linearly experiencing all that stuff in the eyeblink between when we cut away from his asphyxiation outburst and when we see him get hold of himself instead of Charlie's neck?

That had better be what it means, or I'm afraid I may have to be done with that show. Not because I want the plot to work out that way and I'd be miffed if they wrote something else instead. It goes deeper than that. The "whoosh" sound is one of the rules of the game. You get the sound, you get a flashback. If they've carelessly forgotten to put the sound in, then they're no longer paying enough attention to the show to make the game work. There's no fun in watching a show for detail and trying to figure out mysteries if you can't be reasonably sure that all the details are intentional. Heroes is a good example of a show that's obviously aware of that. A couple of weeks ago when we caught a glimpse of Claire's father's Texas driver's license, his name was printed as "Bennet." No first name. Same with his signature. It was just flashed for a fraction of a second, but they knew that some of us would sic the freeze-frame on it, and rewarded us with a playful middle finger. I love that show.


Bruce's water heater ruptured this morning, giving him an extra-hot shower today (which I don't quite understand) and a warm lake in his garage. Most of the damage was confined to accumulated recyclables, since he had already determined the lowest point in his garage previously, with help from a neighbor's ruptured water heater.

One thing that did get wet was a bag of charcoal, which proceeded to splatter little black dots onto his jeans. It's always extra annoying when you lose first-day jeans that way. I mean, he could wear them a few more days, and nobody would probably notice, but he'd know. Oh, now, don't give me that look like you never recycle jeans. That's what they're for, and besides, you know you do.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about building apartments, and the scale involved in buying materials, and what happens if you get a bad batch. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but his neighbor did lose a water heater not too long ago, and you know they probably came off the same truck at the same time. As my house gets older, I keep losing appliances, which is both good and bad, because I get to replace the cheap ones the builder installed with nice stuff that I want. But what happens if all the appliances in an apartment complex were to fail all at once? That would be expensive for the complex. Not only would you be without a stove or whatever for a few days, but your rent would probably go up too.

Anyway, hopefully Bruce's water heater problem will be solved soon. It'll be a long, cold weekend otherwise. Or a long stinky one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Romance, Observed

So, today is Valentine's Day. We actually executed our Valentine's Day customs and observances last weekend at Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, which was very cool indeed. We go to Las Vegas a couple of times a year, and that's fun, but in a different way. The hotel rooms at Barona are about as nice as some of the places we've stayed in Las Vegas, and the casino floor is, well, a casino floor. But in Las Vegas, there's always something to do, which is usually what you want, but sometimes isn't. We had a really relaxing weekend, and didn't feel like we were missing out on anything by just lazing around the hotel room.

Dinner on Saturday was at the Barona Oaks Steakhouse, which was delicious. I got a new suit, which is actually an old suit, vintage from the 1960s, for the occasion. That turned out to be unnecessary, as "dinner attire" these days apparently includes jeans and a hoodie. But, hey, Becky and I both looked really good, and that was really the point of dressing up anyway. See more in the gallery.