Monday, June 20, 2005

DVD Complaint

Last night I finally got around to watching the extended version of "Ray". I've had the DVD for a while but so far had only watched the theatrical cut. While there were some nice extended music scenes, for the most part there wasn't much added by the extended version; still, it was fun to watch of course.

However.... Instead of having two full versions of the film on the DVD, they had the extra scenes stored separately and so when watching that version you would pause and "jump" to the added scene whenever one came up in the film, then jump back to where you left off in the standard cut. I don't mind the jumps all that much, but what was very annoying here was that the film is mastered in 16:9 enhanced mode, but the extra scenes were not! So whenever I jump to an extra scene it isn't widescreen, and so appears squashed flat for the duration of the scene unless I manually adjust the TV out of widescreen mode for each scene.

Hard to believe in this "modern" age of videography that they'd put it together like that, but there it is. The good news again is I probably won't feel the urge to watch the extended version again as it wasn't a significant improvement over the theatrical version.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

My Head Hurts

Such a day it's been, going back to last night when The Hey and I went to a midnight screening of the new "Batman Begins" film. I loved it! Maybe not quite the "perfect" Batman film but very well done, and very much Frank Miller's "Dark Knight" brought to the screen. Ah, and yes, the new Batmobile... I LIKE IT!!

After the movie I was talking with my friend Doc, now out in California, and he dropped a bombshell on me - he'd been plotting secretly with The Hey and he wanted to give me a special birthday present this year - a round trip ticket to San Diego for Comic Con! This blew me away not only in scope, but considering how much back-and-forth I'd already gone through regarding this trip. Needless to say though I conditionally accepted, awaiting only approval from The Momma, and the estimate on my poor car... in case it needed more than just an alternator for a few hundred bucks.

I talked with The Momma this morning and considering the only shill I'd need to lay out would be food money at this point, it was an easy Yes.

Then I got the call from the dealership... yup, the car only needed an alternator and a battery. Excellent. It can be ready by tomorrow. Great. It'll be on the up side of $900.


It only needs an alternator and a battery... huh? Apparently Saab must have some kind of rare magic alternator only made during leap years by leprechauns, 'cause it was supposedly that expensive and labor-intensive to replace.

I put it on hold and checked with my preferred local garage up the street. (The only reason I hadn't brought the car there to begin with was they were booked up well into next week.) I gave them the info on the car and what it needed and they came back with an estimate of about $700... considering the average dealership mark-up this actually seemed to just confirm that this mystical alternator must be held on by jewel-encrusted diamond bolts designed for the US military's most advanced vehicles. Yeesh!

I debated moving the car to the local garage to save a little, but in the end it wasn't really worth it. It would still run me $99 for the dealership for the diag work they'd already done, and I'd have to get the car moved to the other garage which still wouldn't be able to work on it until next week. So in the end I gave the dealership the go-ahead and it should be done tomorrow.

Don't know if Ill be able to afford to pick it up tomorrow, but it should be ready. I'm grumpy tonight.

Anyway, this basically runs out the small remainder of the travel fund and pretty much the entire emergency fund, so there will be no trip to San Diego - even though it's close to free - and for that matter no trip south to Shore Leave, either. Even if I could justify taking $100 and going to San Diego next month, it would still mean The Momma couldn't work while I was away. Most importantly at this juncture we need to rebuild the emergency coffers for the next disaster!

Oh, and I've hardly had time to gripe about this yet but my damned laptop died on me this week too... sigh. Not that I can complain too much, it was actually a freebie from work last year when some old ones were phased out, but still obviously not something I'll be able to replace any time soon.

And that means I've gotta read my email from the kitchen (or the basement), rather than from my comfy chair in front of the boob tube... Oh, the horror.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

South, Miss Teschmacher?

Life has a way of resolving conundrums.

As mentioned last night I was having a hard time deciding between Shore Leave in Baltimore, and Comic Con in San Diego. Well, my car broke down after posting that missive, most likely needing a new alternator. Not a huge deal but just enough of a setback to rule out any trip to California next month! And possibly enough of a dent that I might not make either trip, though SL does still remain within reach depending on the final diagnosis on the car and a few other fiscal issues to finish budgeting.

Ah, decisions made easy by the wrong means!

Monday, June 13, 2005

An Habitual Creature

I am in some ways a creature of habit.

Every July I go to Baltimore (well, Hunt Valley, MD - about 20 miles north) to the one Star Trek convention I still regularly attend: SHORE LEAVE. I've been going to this convention since Shore Leave 2 in 1980, and apart from 1981 I don't believe I've missed one.

This year the plans are getting complicated, and I'm not completely certain at this writing if I'll be attending next month. On top of some fiscal concerns and some question about roommates, I've also had the stakes raised by a couple of friends inviting me to go instead to COMIC CON the weekend after in San Diego... which, ironically due to certain incentives in the invitation, may be cheaper than going to Baltimore compared to if I were to keep my (now solo) room in Maryland. The money still may not play out for San Diego because of the timing of everything, but it's a possibility.

Comic Con is probably the biggest media-focused science fiction convention help each year, featuring tons of special guests and programming, and movie sneak previews presented by the major studios themselves. And I've never been to San Diego, which is supposed to be a great city.

I haven't attended much of the actual programming at Shore Leave in a great many years. I go because it's become a very special, nostalgic place for me personally and a place where I see a great many friends and acquaintances. And, the Shore Leave hotel's Paddock Bar is one of my favorite casual hang-out bars (albeit only during conventions there)... indeed, the photo of me at the top of this blog was taken in the Paddock some years ago!

I've often felt that I need to return to Shore Leave each year, much as a salmon must return home... or a Vulcan perhaps! This year though there won't be as many of my "hanging out" friends there as other years, though there will still be some. Still, I may find myself spending more "alone time" in the Paddock than even I would enjoy, and less "with friends" time in the Paddock. (Outside of the Paddock? Well, I do get to the pool once in a while....)

In San Diego there will be tons of programming I actually would want to see, and I'd be there with two of my closest friends and hopefully get a chance to see another while on the west coast. And it could potentially be cheaper, though that's not to say it'd be cheap. Apart from the long air trip this would be a very fun experience if the money works out.

But a part of me screams out at the thought of missing Shore Leave, one of My Places since right after I graduated high school! To not be there would be Wrong, but San Diego has more to offer in many ways.

I actually suspect the money issues will make the decision for me as the timing (of paychecks, airfare necessities etc) seems unlikely to work out to my advantage. Either way though this is a tough decision....

I am in some ways a creature of habit.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, Welcome to Fenway Park!

Last night I finally made my first trip of the 2005 season to Fenway Park, and to make it extra special we had Monster Seat tickets for the evening. (THANK YOU, Alison!!) I joined Cap'n Ho, The Hey and HyperSue, and though the night was slightly marred by the small detail of the Sox losing 9-3, it was a beautiful night in great seats with great friends and so all in all a terrific time.

Up in the Monster seats

One event early in the night threatened to ruin the fun, but instead turned out to be the highlight of the evening. The Hey & I entered the park pretty early, and we hung around for a good 45 minutes before heading up to our seats after meeting up with Cap'n Ho. Ho & I got our Monster Seat tickets stamped and went up, but The Hey called out that he couldn't find his ticket, only the empty envelope! (Obviously he'd used the ticket to enter the park.)

The "gate keeper" was sympathetic, but unwavering - there would be no Hey upstairs without the proper ticket. We figured we'd try retracing our steps from when we'd first entered the park. The Hey had to go the long way around to the gate we'd entered through, since he couldn't "short cut" across the Monster, so Ho & I went back down the other staircase and checked at a raffle table Hey & I had stopped at. No luck, of course. We figured we'd have to track down customer relations and plead our case.

The Hey came up from his long trek around the ballpark, and waved us aside. He strode unhesitatingly past us and, in one fluid motion, dipped his arm deep into a covered trash can and back out again... holding his ticket!!

This was about the coolest thing Ho & I had seen in quite some time, but despite our pleadings The Hey seemed uninterested in repeating the trick to see what else he might pull out of the can!

He'd realized while walking back that he remembered throwing the envelope away after entering the park, so when he found the envelope in his pocket later he put the pieces together! Amazingly, it was apparently still right at the top of the trash can when he went back. A little grody, maybe, but sweet! (We made him wash his hands!)

Ticket in hand we all returned to our proper place, the front row of the Monster Seats. The Hey was even rewarded for his ordeal when Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller threw him a batting practice ball before game time! (Took the guy three throws to get it up to us but he wasn't giving up!)

I also had a great time spending a couple of innings away from the game, hooking up with an old friend from work that I hadn't seen much of in recent years and chatting with him and his girlfriend under the stands for a while. I'll be seeing more of John from now forward, though, as effective yesterday he's joined my group at work!

A damned shame they lost the game though....

Wearing the Championship Ring!