Thursday, August 30, 2012

How can Amy and Rory break up?

Just two days until Doctor Who Season 7 premieres. We're all excited, on the edge of our seats, holding our breath...


Well yes. And no. Because the biggest leaks from on set have made it pretty clear that Rory and Amy are getting divorced. In fact the leak is so big, it's not even really much of a secret/spoiler anymore.

Of course, the Doctor is going to bring them back together. Right?

I don't know. I mean, they have to be together, but I just can't picture them breaking up in the first place. They're the Boy and Girl who waited! The Last Centurion and Amelia Pond! They love each other and have shown their devotion and commitment to each other in so many ways over actual centuries.

They can't break up.

There has to be a really, really good explanation for this. Like, it's not our Rory and Amy but robots, or from an alternative dimension, or Dalek impersonators or... I don't know, brainwashed.

Because the Rory and Amy that have captured our hearts over the past two years would never, ever get divorced. So what happened?

And should a show called "Doctor Who" really have us all waiting for the Rory/Amy relationship and not the fate of the Doctor himself???

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who is is enjoying "Pond Life"?

In case you weren't aware, the BBC is releasing a mini-episode every day this week leading up to Saturday's premiere of Doctor Who, Season 7. They are titled "Pond Life" and are just a minute or so in length, showing life between last year's Christmas special and the upcoming season. We've been told they are important to the plot, so it's worth checking them out! Today's was especially funny.

Part 1
Part 2

I love the idea of the Doctor continuing to drop in on the Ponds. I hate the knowledge that soon he'll be leaving them too behind. Why can't he just have some companions that stick around in his life for more than two years???

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sword at Sunset

How many times has the Arthurian Legend been retold? How many series, movies, songs, and television shows have told the tale? Each tries to give its own take  - "Musical!" "Young Arthur!" "Merlin!" "Guinevere!" "Historically Accurate!" Until now, my favorite rendition has been T. H. White's classic "The Once and Future King."

I was in the bookstore two months ago and browsing through the clearance section when the name "Rosemary Sutcliff" jumped out at me. Sutcliff is far and away the best writer of fiction set in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain that I have ever read. Her works are deeply haunting, and draw a romantic but not romanticized picture of the terrifying and harsh existence of those times. Her most famous book is "The Eagle of the Ninth" which is actually the first in a loosely connected trilogy, of which the last, "The Lantern Bearers" has always been my favorite of her works.

So when I saw her name on this clearance book, I snatched it up immediately. It was just $1 and I'd never heard of it before. "Sword at Sunset," huh? Well, it's worth a try.

Turns out this is Sutcliff's retelling of the story of King Arthur, drawing on the historical facts available to the modern writer and tying it into the tapestry of the Britain she knows so well.

In fact, "Sword at Sunset" directly follows "The Lantern Bearers," which featured Arthur (Artos) as a youth. Although they bear appropriately Celtic versions of their names, the main cast of the legends (save Merlin) are all here. It's a blend of romance and war campaign, a novel that is deeply masculine and yet gives honor to the importance of femininity on the Arthurian tales. In an age where Arthur often looses masculinity, and Guenevere is reduced to a shallow, unfaithful woman, "Sword at Sunset" gives us a refreshing hero and heroine who are all that are best in man and woman without loosing the falleness of human nature. There is a love triangle here, but it is written in a very believable way, a way that hurts one's heart but does not ruin the characters.

Although the story of Artos and Guenhumara was by far my favorite thread in this story, it is only one piece of a larger picture that focuses on the war against the Saxons. It's a picture that often gets corrupted in the modern day, as our ideas about Camelot have been greatly affected by the romanticism and love stories imported from the French. We forget that the point of Arthur, what makes him great and worth remembering, is that he united Britain and held back the dark of the barbarian invasions. Sutcliff doesn't forget this for a moment and does the great work of Arthur true justice.

Was Arthur a real man? We may never know for sure. But if he were, this is what his world and his story would have been.

"Sword at Sunset" is an adult book, and contains some sex (which is a key part of why Camelot fell in the legends). However it is well-done and anything bordering on graphic (non-explicit, more poetical) has a very real purpose in the story. Recommended for 16 or 18+

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sickness and such

Really and truly sick for the first time this summer... but it shouldn't last long (other family members got over it quick). It's weird to be thankful but I am thankful that I've had such a healthy summer and have future health to look forwards to. And it's not surprising that I got hit with it now. We sent my baby sister off to college yesterday and that was majorly emotional so all of my immune defenses were pretty shot.

Anyhow, being on the computer and sounding coherent is not working right now, but I wanted to let y'all know what was up. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Several years ago when I was in college I took what is probably the coolest math class ever. We learned practical math, or really interesting concepts, like Fibonacci sequences and the math behind secret codes. To illustrate some of the coding math and get us interested, my teacher showed us a clip from the movie "Sneakers" (Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley). I was hooked, but as it was a 1992 film there wasn't an easy way to find a copy to watch.

Fast forwards to last week. A friend and I were scrolling through Netflix looking for something action-adventure-y to watch, and lo and behold what do we find? "Sneakers!"

Although it's from the early 90's, it has aged well, and c'mon, you can't beat Robert Redford! In fact the whole cast is stellar. But wait - you'd probably like a synopsis first, right?

Redford's character, Marty, narrowly escaped government arrest after a hacking joke gone overkill. His partner in crime, however, got hauled in and died in prison. A similar fate awaits Marty if he's ever caught, so he goes into hiding. However he doesn't pursue a life of crime, but rather a life of catching criminals.. Sorta.

Big companies and banks pay Marty and his crew to infiltrate their banks and give them a write up of how good their security is. Just the sort of job for ex-cons to use their shadowy skills in a legal manner. However, the ex-con (or on the run) status makes them prime targets for blackmail, as they find out when two NSA agents appear, wanting them to steal a little black box... which can apparently crack any code, ever.

Suddenly lives are whole countries are on the line, and it'll take a major heist to save the world!

So yeah. It's fun, it's intelligent, and it's decently clean (mild language, brief innuendo, and one scene with a woman in a bra). Definitely worth watching! It's also one of the few films with River Phoenix in it, best known for playing the young Indiana Jones in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" before his tragic early death. Also the fantastic Sidney Poitiers who is worth watching in anything.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moving House. Er, Computer.

My faithful computer, Moonlight, has been giving warning signs all summer of her imminent demise. Having lost way too much data from computers dying before I could transfer stuff to a new one, I determined that this time I would get a new computer before it was too late. I did hope that I could make it through until Christmas, but alas, that was not to be. Moonlight made it quite clear that she refused to play any sort of video anymore, and the other processes were slowing down.

Then, this week my sister dragged me into Best Buy to help her pick out her new laptop. The one we found for her was a newer version of Moonlight, with way better specs - and for $150 less than I'd paid for Moonlight 3 years ago. How technology advances! So come Thursday, it's not just little sister that's getting a new computer, it's both of us!

Yes, we have the same computer. No, we won't get them mixed up. Her's is "The Master" and mine is "The Doctor."

Anyhow, three years of using a computer hard means more than a lot of files stored on it... it means a lot of programs installed. I now have to not only transfer my documents, my pictures, my digital comics, and my iTunes library - I also have to transfer and reinstall a ton of software. It's worth it, but it's a lot of work.

Thankfully iTunes libraries are much easier to transfer from one working computer to another (as opposed to transferring from an iPod to a computer which is crazy). iTunes has a feature called 'home sharing' which you can use if you have wireless internet in your home. You simple hook both computers up to the internet, log both iTunes accounts under the same Apple ID, and turn on Home Sharing. Now you can access both libraries from both computers. To transfer to a new library, all you have to do is copy and paste. If you get cut off halfway in your transferring (it does take some time), you can set the library to only display "items not on this computer" and then "select all" and continue on. Also, any songs that you've purchased directly from iTunes can be downloaded directly from the iCloud. You only need Home Sharing to transfer music from CDs and tracks purchased from other places (like Amazon... although Amazon also has an iCloud, so you could just redownload those too.)

I'd already transferred all of my pictures, documents and comics onto my external harddrive, so moving those is more a matter of sorting and rearranging than anything. Most of my software is freeware so that's just redownloading. And since Best Buy is having a sale on Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 ($99 for a 3 user pack!!!), I'm finally going to have Microsoft Word! (Open Office has been great, but I'm ready for the upgrade.)

Another tool that is useful for this process is my dropbox, as I can just move files or programs in there on Moonlight, and then take them off the dropbox on The Doctor. You can get your own dropbox at

So that's what I'm up to this week, and hopefully some of the tricks I shared here will prove useful to you in the future. Feel free to share your own computer moving stories and tactics in the comments, I'd love to hear them! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When a Woman Spoke to God...

Today I was going through my morning devotional reading (I'm working through Genesis) when I came across the story of Jacob and Esau's birth.

And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
(Genesis 25:21-23 ESV)

Now, I've read this story many, many times over the course of my life. I could probably retell it pretty much perfectly from memory (not word for word, but meaning for meaning). However something struck me today that I'd never noticed before.

So she went to inquire of the LORD.

Rebekah, not Isaac! A woman went to inquire of the LORD! It doesn't say that she prayed, or that she wondered, it said that she directly went to the Lord to make an inquiry of him. It doesn't tell us exactly how she did this, but it makes it clear that there was an action with a solid purpose here.

This is kind of unusual for the women of the old Testament. God spoke to women, but usually he appeared to them, they didn't go to him. Rebekah seems like a pretty unusual and bold woman, doesn't she? (Of course, we already know that from her bold and generous offer to water ALL of the camels of Abraham's servant, which is how she ended up as Isaac's wife in the first place!)

Then something more amazing happens... God answers her! He gives her a clearly worded answer that is also a prophecy. Probably not what Rebekah was expecting! After all, she was just going to God and saying "You gave me a child, why on earth is it kicking up such a fuss? It kinda hurts! A lot!"

Christianity and Judaism get a lot of flack sometimes for being anti-woman. And yet the Bible is full of stories like this - of God using women for his plans. Here he speaks to Rebekah - and notably, does not speak to Isaac (or if he did, his words are never recorded).

Anyhow, this story really struck me and I thought it seemed really cool. Rebekah is sometimes seen in a negative light because she manipulates her husband in the matter of their sons' birthright, but she definitely had her virtues as well. God knew what he was doing when he made her one of the mothers of Israel! (And in this case, the actual 'mother' of 'Israel' since that is the name God later gave Jacob!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

ITV's Titanic Miniseries

When the story of the "Unsinkable Ship" reigns as one of the top grossing motion pictures ever, what do you do to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy?

You hire Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park, Downton Abbey) to pen a four part mini-series of course!

Although it aired back in April, I was unable to watch the series until it hit Netflix this month. I managed to spread it over two days... barely!

Like many of us, I've been intrigued by the disaster of the Titanic since I was a child. It's so massive, so tragic, so hugely a part of our history. It's nearly impossible to board a ship today without thinking of the Titanic's fate - although because of that fate, we have far more stringent safety rules today.

But back to the point - if you've already seen the James Cameron film, why should you bother with this mini-series? What is left to tell?

Quite a lot, actually. Instead of focusing on a doomed love-story, this Titanic focuses on half a dozen families across the social board. It makes for a slightly confusing cast at times, but overall it does a far stronger job of driving home the reality that the people who died were real people.

There's another difference too. Each of the four parts starts in London, and all of the main cast appear in each episode. The final act is always the Titanic sinking. Sound confusing? Believe it or not, it works. Each episode shows us more behind each family, each person's motives, and each one takes us a bit further into the sinking.

It ended up working pretty brilliantly. Each part has three acts, each part leads into the next (you do have to watch in order!), and yet each focuses on the disaster (rather than two and a half leading up to it, and one and a half of screaming and sinking). At the same time, it gives you the full scope of the tragedy in watchable portions. Rather than being completely overwhelmed and unable to process the sheer magnitude, the viewer is given the chance to completely experience the horror, take a break and process it, then come back for another episode that leads you back into it gradually.

Which also helps relieve the cheap shock value. It's NOT a disaster movie full of thrills. It's a respectful homage to the lives of everyone who died. One thing that the Cameron film failed to show was just the level of chivalry that was shown in men giving up their lives to keep women and children safe. The mini-series captures these sacrifices perfectly.

It also does an excellent job of creating fully dimensional characters in every aspect of life on the ship. First class, second class, third class, steward, maid, coal shoveler - they're all in there. Children as well, which for me brought home the full strength of just how horrible the sinking was.

And not one bit of the production seems low budget. Although not flashy, the digital effects move seamlessly with the rest of the production. Several times I had to remind myself that something had to be digital (so that I could appreciate fully the work that went into the film), because there was never a moment when I was pulled out of watching to go 'oh that part of the city is CGI' or 'the ship isn't really there', etc, etc.

And the acting... oh the acting! It's fabulous. Perhaps not quite at Downton Abbey standards, but very, very close! This was my first time watching Jenna-Louise Coleman (the upcoming companion on Doctor Who) in action, and she was brilliant!

Finally, the film is very clear of any objectionable scenes. There is one extramarital kiss, and some discussion about an affair, but nothing is explicitly shown, and the language is pretty accurate to the times. I'd say that anyone who could deal with the heartbreak of the tragedy like that (CHILDREN DIE, CHILDREN YOU CARE ABOUT, BE WARNED!), could deal with anything else in the mature content lines.

Cameron's Titanic will be remembered because of the records, and what it did for the technology of filmmaking. But Fellowes' Titanic is the one that should be watched and rewatched through the generations, because it gives a far more accurate and human portrayal of what happened.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tips for Travel (after a month of adventuring)


I've had a great month of travel and friends, but I am so thankful to be home again! Sometimes we have to go away to realize how much we love a place, and how integral our families are to our lives.

I had a pretty good flight home, and I have to say I highly recommend flying out of Reagan Airport (as opposed to Dulles) when leaving Washington, as the lines are extremely short and you barely have to walk at all to get to the gate. At least, at terminal A!

Also, while I'm at it, here's a shout out to Sun Country. My family and relatives have been flying it for many years and we really like the service, the non-stop flight options, and the prices! In a climate of rapidly rising fares, Sun Country remains in the more affordable end. Also, today I discovered they offer hot chocolate as one of their complimentary drinks. Win!

Another cheap flight recommendation is Spirit Airlines, which I used when flying to Chicago. If you do everything online, including checking your bag ahead of time and printing out your boarding pass yourself, you can avoid almost all the notorious fees they tack on. Might not be something you'd want to use on a long flight (especially if you need to bring a lot of luggage), but for a shorter distance it's a fantastic way to save $$$. (Also, they don't make this extremely clear, but you CAN carry on one personal item without paying the charges they add for other carry on bags. Otherwise it is cheaper check bags than to carry them on.)

Final travel tip. You can't carry your own beverages through security, BUT you can take an empty water bottle and fill it up at the drinking fountain on the other side.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Which Best Pictures Have You Seen?

How many Academy Awards Best Pictures have you seen? I realized the other night that I didn't know what my exact count was, so I went and found a list of the winners and added up the ones I'd seen in entirety...

1928 (1st)
Sunrise Wings

  1929 (2nd)
The Broadway Melody

  1930 (3rd)
All Quiet on the Western Front

  1931 (4th)

  1932 (5th)
Grand Hotel

  1933 (6th)

  1934 (7th)
It Happened One Night

  1935 (8th)
Mutiny on the Bounty

  1936 (9th)
The Great Ziegfeld

  1937 (10th)
The Life of Emile Zola

  1938 (11th)
You Can't Take It With You

  1939 (12th)
Gone with the Wind

  1940 (13th)

  1941 (14th)
How Green Was My Valley

  1942 (15th)
Mrs. Miniver

  1943 (16th)

  1944 (17th)
Going My Way

  1945 (18th)
The Lost Weekend

  1946 (19th)
The Best Years of Our Lives

  1947 (20th)
Gentleman's Agreement

  1948 (21st)
Hamlet (1948)

  1949 (22nd)
All the King's Men

  1950 (23rd)
All about Eve

  1951 (24th)
An American in Paris

  1952 (25th)
The Greatest Show on Earth

  1953 (26th)
From Here to Eternity

  1954 (27th)
On the Waterfront

  1955 (28th)

  1956 (29th)
Around the World in 80 Days

  1957 (30th)
The Bridge on the River Kwai

  1958 (31st)

  1959 (32nd)

  1960 (33rd)
The Apartment

  1961 (34th)
West Side Story

  1962 (35th)
Lawrence of Arabia

  1963 (36th)
Tom Jones

  1964 (37th)
My Fair Lady

  1965 (38th)
The Sound of Music

  1966 (39th)
A Man for All Seasons

  1967 (40th)
In the Heat of the Night

  1968 (41st)

  1969 (42nd)
Midnight Cowboy

  1970 (43rd)

  1971 (44th)
The French Connection

  1972 (45th)
The Godfather

  1973 (46th)
The Sting

  1974 (47th)
The Godfather Part II

  1975 (48th)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

  1976 (49th)

  1977 (50th)
Annie Hall

  1978 (51st)
The Deer Hunter

  1979 (52nd)
Kramer vs. Kramer

  1980 (53rd)
Ordinary People

  1981 (54th)
Chariots of Fire

  1982 (55th)

  1983 (56th)
Terms of Endearment

  1984 (57th)

  1985 (58th)
Out of Africa

  1986 (59th)

  1987 (60th)
The Last Emperor

  1988 (61st)
Rain Man

  1989 (62nd)
Driving Miss Daisy

  1990 (63rd)
Dances With Wolves

  1991 (64th)
The Silence of the Lambs

1992 (65th)

  1993 (66th)
Schindler's List

  1994 (67th)
Forrest Gump

  1995 (68th)

  1996 (69th)
The English Patient

  1997 (70th)
Titanic (1997)

  1998 (71st)
Shakespeare in Love

  1999 (72nd)
American Beauty

  2000 (73rd)

  2001 (74th)
A Beautiful Mind

  2002 (75th)

  2003 (76th)
The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King

  2004 (77th) 
Million Dollar Baby

  2005 (78th)

  2006 (79th)
The Departed

  2007 (80th)
No Country for Old Men

  2008 (81th)
Slumdog Millionaire

  2009 (82th)
The Hurt Locker

  2010 (83th)
The King's Speech

  2011 (84th)
The Artist

Hmmm... 28 out of 84... Not as many as I would have liked, although there's a nice respectable number of classics in there. Also, there are QUITE a few titles I know I should see, so perhaps this'll be one of my goals for this year...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Brickfair VA 2012 (Saturday)

Liked yesterday's photos? Guess what, even more amazing stuff is in today's post... and if that's not enough, this is still just a sampling of the pieces on display! Check out even more photos on my Tumbler!

(Click one to see the full-size slideshow, trust me, it looks best that way.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Brickfair VA 2012 (Friday)

I grew up playing with LEGO bricks, but they all belonged to my brother (I got American Girl stuff for birthdays and Christmas instead). In the past year, however, my adopted big brother Matt has introduced me to the very popular hobby of Lego sculpture. He even convinced me to come out to Virginia for the annual LEGO convention - and boy am I ever glad I did! 

Below are some of my favorite pieces that I was able to photograph yesterday - but there are a TON more to come and believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg!