Monday, January 27, 2014

My Terrible Week (or two)

I lost my cell phone a little over a week ago. After looking in all the normal places (and abnormal ones, like the refrigerator) and asking the lost & found at a mall and a Barnes & Noble, I had to give up and buy another one.

image by Marc Noon 

In the week leading up to that, it became obvious my DVR was becoming useless. It had been going downhill for some time, but it finally stopped accepting direction from the remote control. (Yes, I bought another remote control and put new batteries in it. Bupkis.) I could record using it, but only watch the recording once—no rewind, no editing, no dubbing to a disk. So I ordered another one.

photo by Keremdmrc 

Also in this same time period, my car engine lugged for a short time. The last time it did this, I ended up having it towed in for an expensive repair. It was near due for its 60,000 mile check, so I had the shop do that. The battery was low, so that needed to be replaced, making it more expensive than the usual check.

public domain 

Then my digital camera stopped working. It simply would not turn on. I charged up the battery with a skeptical attitude, because even when the battery is low it will give a low battery signal. Sure enough, after I put the charged battery in, it still would not turn on. That’s why the pictures in this blog are so generic.

public domain 
How’s this for generic?

I decided to wash my bath mats. Assuming they were colorfast, I threw the white ones from one bathroom in with the dark blue ones from another. Wow, they’re not colorfast. The white ones came out light blue.

White + Dark Blue = Light Blue?

I thought this could be a good change of pace. But under strong light, there were brown splotches amidst the light blue. The chemicals for the dyes just combine in odd ways. It really looks distasteful to have bath mats with brown splotches on them.

White + Dark Blue = Puce!

Perhaps what caused me the worst anxiety was that Word started acting up. I opened up chapter 2 of my present work and found that all the corrections and additional pages from my last session were gone. I knew I had saved it—several times while doing the work. Very well, I opened the version I saved to the cloud. That also had the recent additions missing.

Working from my printed copy, I put the corrections and additional pages back in. This was hard for the corrections—I had to read the chapter almost line by line to remember all the changes I had made. I saved it along the way, then saved the final version to the cloud.

I noticed something funny in Windows Explorer. If one hovers over a file, it shows when it was last modified. It showed I had last modified chapter 2 two days ago. That was before the recent additions. Sure enough, when I opened the file again, all the corrections and additional pages were gone. Same for the version in the cloud.

I completely shut down Word and opened it again. Then I made the corrections a little at a time, saving, then closing and opening the file. This time the changes were saved. Word is working fine now. But that was a stressful writing session.

So tell me, how did your week go? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Best Movies of 2013

Some viewers of this blog might notice I review movies more than I review books. That’s because I’m often so unsatisfied with a book I don’t finish it, or think it’s only worth one or two stars. I won’t write such a negative review.

On to movies: the best dramatic movie of 2013 (and best movie overall) was Ender’s Game.

I’m glad that production companies waited this long to make the movie, so the special effects had matured enough to show the incredible weightless games and the spectacular last battle. See my review here.

Best comedy was Warm Bodies.

This zombie version of Beauty and the Beast, with a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in, was a hoot. Nicholas Houl’s performance as a zombie who gradually becomes more human was a marvel to watch. See my review here.

Best movie poster:

But they don’t give the title. Can anybody guess?

Though I don’t dump on books, I will dump on a couple of blockbuster movies I found disappointing. One of them was a reimagining of the best movie of a certain franchise. In the original, the death of a main character had lasting effects on the others: the admiral got over his midlife crisis, his son became wise instead of whiny, and an unemotional officer even shed a tear. In the new version, they choose a different character to get killed and then easily brought to life, with no changes to the other characters as a result.

In the other, a couple of kids go back into some dangerous games because they’re still hungry. But this time they rather cold-bloodedly plot how to kill the other kids. The sense of desperation that characterized the first movie is completely lacking.

As a kind of protest against the multiple blockbusters this year that I found lacking or had no reason to see, here’s a spoof of a movie from 2012:

This spoof tries to be funny, but it’s not. Still, it was interesting to watch Maiara Walsh, who is better known for the TV show Switched at Birth

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Broken Key: Life Imitates Art

The following is not meant in any way to imply that either Amazon or the company that supplies the below-mentioned tools condones illegal activity. Seriously. No fooling.

In December, I was leaving for work one day when my key broke off in the lock of my front door. Just a bit of the ragged metal of the broken-off part was visible. That evening, my parents came by because they needed to get something. With no real choice, I shoved what was left of my key into the lock and managed to unlock it. But now the broken-off part was completely jammed inside the lock, with no part of it visible. To say I felt harassed is an understatement.

photo by Ydam 

But Instead of paying for a locksmith, I looked up what to do on the internet. I was shocked I could order the group of tools you see above from Amazon. And, if you could use these tools in a legitimate way, you could also . . . but more on that in a minute.

First I squirted some WD-40 oil into the lock and promptly had the oil squirt back into my face—obviously, the broken-off key filled the lock, so where was the oil to go? Then, after several minutes working away with a couple of those tools, I wrested the broken-off part of the key from the lock.

I was quite amused at how life was imitating art. Why? Because of this scene I had written for my vampire parody. The main character is Dee, but her younger sister Olivia is doing some investigating on her own at a university.
She grabbed the doorknob and turned it to see how much play the tumblers allowed.
 It opened.
         The professor who had major linkage to the alchemy rumors on campus worked here, and the door was unlocked. No way.
Olivia stood on the cusp of going solo against whatever forces were conspiring against her family. She hadn’t told Dee she had narrowed the rumors of alchemy down so specifically because there was no point: Dee couldn’t be dragged here to do something this clandestine. But alchemy led to vampires, and Olivia would do her part. Alone.
The lack of security cameras inside this old building had inspired her surreptitious mission, but Olivia wasn’t about to get cocky. She controlled her body language to show no surprise at the unlocked door. With no need to think about tumblers and pins anymore, she lowered her hand and let a couple of slender tools slide down from inside her sleeve to her pocket. Amazing, what a girl can find on the internet.

For more wholesome fun, you can look at other excerpts, like this one


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