Flying in a B-17: Part 1

May 13th, 2011


Last weekend, my plan was to finish building the chicken coop. I got up earlyish on Saturday to borrow my father-in-law's van to pick up a sheet of roofing material. He came with me to look for fencing material.

Supplies purchased, we went to my house and worked on moving the roofless coop from where I was building it, near the garage, to the spot my wife selected, out in the back yard. We were just starting move it when I heard the rumble of big radial engines coming closer. DC-3? There are a couple of those in the area. But this was louder, something with more than two engines. Which doesn't leave many options, and all of them are enough to make me drop a chicken coop on my foot (nearly) to get a look. We have trees in and around our yard, so you have to be quick to see something flying overhead. And coming out past the palm trees was a big, silver B-17, flying straight over the yard and towards the northwest. I explained what it was to my father-in-law, and I that I had read a small notice in the local paper about a B-17 at Hayward. And that you could take a flight in one, but for a big chunk of cash. I was just hoping to drag the family out to take a tour of the old girl.

Anyway, we had a chicken coop to move. Then it was time to take the girls to gymnastics and get on with the day. My mother-in-law wanted to take the girls shopping, and when she picked up the girls she handed my wife an envelope "of some paperwork for Neal." Which turned out to be a small stack of large bills and a note to enjoy the flight. I stared at it, not understanding. My wife, possessed of far more sense than me, realized what it meant, while I was still trying to figure out where the guy wanted me to travel to, and for what possible reason. After she patiently explained it to me, I think I stared and babbled for a few minutes. Then we rushed home and I made some phone calls. Wait; I think we stopped for paint for the coop. I couldn't buy a ticket online or over the phone, and got the cellphone number of one of the guys traveling with the airplane. Which he didn't answer. I went to work on the coop, checking my phone every few minutes. When the girls returned from shopping, I dragged everyone to the airport. Cash was exchanged for a ticket on the Sunday morning flight, and we all got to walk through the bomber. I tried to explain to my kids everything that my dad had taught me, hoping to give them a feel for something that was already a couple of generations removed from me.

Toy Story 3

June 29th, 2010

Short version: Meh.

Long version: $50 for four tickets, for 3-bloody-D, which for me means muted colors, motion blur, and annoying background blurriness in most scenes. Maybe I'm just being cranky, but 3D just doesn't add all that much: It's kinda nifty, but the cons outweigh the pros by a fair margin.

The movie itself was too long, and the story just wasn't very compelling. It was much, much too slow for the first hour, then went into Action Movie Mode (with More! Louder! Action! Scenes!), then collapsed into soppy mush. So...the beginning was slow, the end was dull, but the middle part was decent. But not as good as the first two movies.

So not terrible, just disappointing. The kids (mostly) liked it, though. But I think that the 3D stuff was more interesting for them (and didn't give them a headache).

It also started badly, with a dull yet preachy opening cartoon. Save your $50 and rent the movie (FIFTY DOLLARS!).

Scott Pilgrim

June 6th, 2010

Despite my distrust of anything popular, news of the upcoming movie included lavish amounts of praise heaped on the source comic. And the descriptions of the same piqued my interest enough to get me to buy the comic from my trusty comic book store.

Er...this was actually a few months back, not just last week or anything. I make that clear to preserve at least some amount of my trend-hostility.

And, yes, the comic is as good as they said. It's gloriously, unrepentently geeky; a manga/video game/hipster slacker mashup that pushes my...well, my manga-loving, video game geek hipster slacker buttons.

The second trailer was released recently, and damned if it doesn't look good. And, hark! Right there, in the middle of the damn thing, I hear a very familiar guitar riff. Which rattles around my brain for a few seconds, and then it hits me: "It's getting boring by the sea," by Blood Red Shoes.

Oh, those bastards. That's just cruel. You already hooked me, but you had to make sure that hook really stuck, didn't you?

It's like chocolate and peanut butter, except it's comics and indie rock, which is a much more potent combination.

Please don't suck. Don't be like Spider-Man 3, which used a snippet of a Curve song in the trailer ("Hell above water"), but not in the actual movie. Which, obviously, cursed the whole thing. (Instead of Spidey kicking ass to Curve, we got a weepy melodramatic crapfest).

Bioshock 2: From excited to full of hate

June 5th, 2010

I wanted to like Bioshock 2. I preordered the game. I waited. When it arrived, I gazed
over every inch of the box. Then, full of anticipation, I installed the game. Which is when things started to
go wrong.

To be fair, it started after I installed the game and tried to run it. "You need a Windows Live account!" it said. So I created one. Then I just needed to log in to Windows Live, via the game interface...and it couldn't connect. I could log in out of the game, but Bioshock 2 was going to be stubborn about it. Can't log in through the game? Then you can't update the game or play online. Oh, and one other detail: you can't save your game.

I thought that last one had to be a mistake. So I played a bit...and couldn't save. Brilliant!

I spent a the next hour searching for answers. Then another hour configuring port forwarding on the router (no
luck), opening ports in the firewall (no luck), and searching for more possible solutions.

Then, finally, after a couple hours of that nonsense, I stumble on a bit of advice: Scroll waaaaaaay down a certain dialog box (the one telling you to log in to Windows Live or else!), and there's an option to play offline.

Then click through a few more dialogs ("You understand that you're making a stupid choice, right? Well...OK, I guess. Now click here to confirm that you're a pathetic loser."). Then I'm off! And it only took two and a half or so hours to get he game running!

First, though, I have to configure me key setup. I prefer the ESDF setup to WASD, especially with games with lots of commands (A is the action key, G is for grenades, R is for reload...).
Now I can play.

And it goes well, for a while. Then I hit the first hacking minigame. No problem! So I click...and click...and lose. Over and over again. I check and recheck the key mappings. Everything looks OK. It just doesn't work like it's supposed to.

More web searches. Ah...ha? The Hack command cannot be remapped, even if the game says it can. It's WASD or nothing!

So by this point I've spent more time trying to get he game to work than I have spent playing. Far, far more time. And since free time is a rare and valuable commodity, I'm ready to cut my losses. And even now, a couple of months later, I just can't be bothered to try again.

I used to wrangle with config.sys and autoexec.bat to get games to work. But that was nearly 20 years ago, and I just cannot be arsed anymore. If a game takes that much effort to configure, then requires that I mess with the router, and firewall, and log in....Cannot. Be. Arsed.

I've been spoiled by consoles and mobile games. Yes, they lack the graphics and the depth, but Having Fun Rigy Now often trumps those things.

Whichnis also why I hate the argument "But the game gets good after the first 5/10/20 hours!" Sorry, but I have limited time and patience. If the game developers couldn't include fun right from the start, then they've failed. Or succeeded in making a game for masochists.

Going digital. Well, more digital.

April 15th, 2010

After years of trying to avoid the inevitable, I'm finally sucking it up and loading all my cds into my ipod. I've been using it as an radio alternative, streaming online radio stations and copying a hundred or so mp3s at a time to the ipod, or else listening to a couple of podcasts. A bit of that each week would see me through my commute.

But now my favorite online radio station is dead (again), and that was enough to get me to finally load all of my cds onto my computer. Plus, my cds were banished to the garage almost a year ago when we started remodeling the house. After a few brutal purges, I have three boxes of cds. Each box has three rows, and each row holds about 40 cds. So, with the last row not quite filled, that's somewhere around 330 or so little plastic boxes.

I started this project a week ago, going through a bunch of cds every evening. I just finished the first box, which takes me from ABC to Elastica.

Yeah, I've got a long way to go.