Thursday, December 15, 2005

Movie Trailer Round-Up

Here are the latest trailers for your amusement:

The DaVinci Code.

This will be a license to print money when Sony releases it in May. Speculative history plus the Vatican all based on an easy-to-read page-turner means it couldn't have been more tailor-made for mass consumption if God Himself made it so. I have yet to read it, though My Fair Lady makes sure to remind me of that every other day. I'm debating not reading it between now and then (mainly out of spite) and seeing how the movie plays by itself. Its the same tact I'm using with the Harry Potter series, but that's also because I thought the first book sucked and saw no reason to devote myself to a series that didn't have the words "The Dark Tower" somewhere in the title. Once I finish the movies, I'll go back and read the books but not before.

It helps to view them as pure cinema versus an adaptation, because in the case of the later I'd be just like my friends - they enjoy it, but then spend 20 minutes complaining about what was cut and what should have been there. I don't think DaVinci is anywhere near as bulky as Harry Potter, so it should be easier to squeeze everything into a two hour flick. In theory, at least.


The winning pick for "Who Cares?" for next summer. The original is a staple of 1970's disaster flicks, and rightly so, but what point does remaking it serve? Sure, it has an ultra cool wave, followed by the exact same ship-based destruction we've seen since the 1970's. Sure I'm a Kurt Russell devotee, but... why shell out for five minutes of entertainment and two hours of boring talk? Didn't I already see that with The Perfect Storm?

V For Vendetta.

This is the one for me come spring. Holy crap it looks like the Wachowski Bro(s). managed to knock this one out of the park. Early word is exceptional, but it has the same problem as From Hell did for me. Everything looks like it was filmed on a soundstage with sets out of the latest London-based play. I confess to ignorance on the architecture of the large cities having never been to England. The layout may well be as constricting as it looks in the trailer, but it still feels like the action and actors are all butting up against the walls and don't have room to move.

But I think I was a claustrophobe in a former life, so it could just be past memories resurfacing again. At some point I'll have to bring up the 15th Centrury Italian tailor memory - that one was a doozy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stop Dying You A-Holes!

Death comes for us all, as the saying goes, but if you live in this town, you better not die because... its illegal.

Right when you think you've heard everything, along comes a Brazillian mayor who wants to outlaw death.
Mayor Roberto Pereira da Silva's proposal to the Town Council asks residents to "take good care of your health in order not to die" and warns that "infractors will be held responsible for their acts."

The bill, which sets no penalty for passing away, is meant to protest a federal law that has barred a new or expanded cemetery in Biritiba Mirim, a town of 28,000 people 45 miles east of Sao Paulo.

"Of course the bill is laughable, unconstitutional, and will never be approved," said Gilson Soares de Campos, an aide to the mayor. "But can you think of a better marketing strategy?"
I can. How about not scaring the hell out of the tourists who fear fines should their number come up?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Trap Is Set... and Sprung

Some time ago My Fair Lady and I discovered a possum running around our backyard. He shimmied up the fence and took off, so we didn't pay much more thought to it. A few weeks after that, I heard a noise in the ceiling and went up into the attic only to find Mr. Possum crawling along the floor boards and ducking into a crack in the wall that separates our attic from our neighbors (we live in adjoining town homes). Thus began extensive Googling to find out about animal traps, the conclusion of which was that the city of Dallas animal control sucks.

It takes forever to get through on their phone line, only you wind up getting another answering machine that directs you to call another number. Regardless of how close we live to another near-by city (about 80-ft), the city of Dallas had to come and pick up the animal should we catch it and corner it. Would they come out and trap the animal themselves?

Golly gee no, because if it got in then it has a way to get out. Help me, I do love government logic.

Foiled by bureaucracy, I began tracking down how much it would cost to trap the thing ourselves. It seemed to me that all I needed was a trap and some bait. I'd seen roadrunner cartoons, so if a coyote could pull it off just how hard could it be? Home Depot and Lowes both confirmed that they had traps in stock for around $30, which My Fair Lady was agog at.

"For that much, we could hire a hunting party with dogs to track the thing," she said.

"Honey, we already know where it is. Plus, our backyard is roughly the size of a picnic table and that many dogs won't have anywhere to go," I replied. "We only have the one tree, and that many dogs trying to mark the nearest territory all at the same time is liable to turn violent."

We put it out of mind when we didn't hear Mr. Possum for a while, but My Fair Lady's eagle eyes spotted it Sunday night in the backyard. I leapt to the rescue and charged outside only to see Mr. Possum flee my wrath in the direction of our house. Imagine my surprise when I followed him only to find a fairly large ground-level hole into the grandeur of Casa de Skim.

Fortunately, My Fair Lady knew someone at her law school that possessed one of these fabled "Wild Animal Traps" and when she brought it home I was surprised to find it looked like a wish mesh rectangle. There is a pressure plate towards the back of it, so my innate hunter skills kicked in and told me to set the food behind the plate, and then rig it so when the animal stepped on the plate the door would slam shut. Said skills also instructed me to leave a small trail of food from the hole in our house to the trap so Mr. Possum would easily find his way into harm's way.

The voices also told me to burn down the local Wal-Mart, but I figured they were just kidding.

The following morning felt like Christmas. Would we have a furry little present to unwrap, or not? The anticipation was killing me so I raced outside and found Mr. Possum a caged guest. When I arrive at the office, I again tracked down Animal Control and spoke with a rep there who assured me that they would be able to come pick the animal up in one to three days. Somehow that wound up translating to an hour and a half later when they knocked on our front door and My Fair Lady was caught unprepared. She called me later and told me the following:

"That possum was so cute. He just looks at you with these big dark eyes, and he's so sweet."

"Hon, that thing ate its way inside our house," I replied. "It might have grown big enough to try and eat us. Thankfully, we won't have to worry about it from now on."

She thought about that for a second before saying: "Do you think they'll just release it and it might find its way back?"

"Its not like we caged a golden retriever. It's a damn possum. The city is filled with them. If they release it south of here, then it might make its way over to my parents' house and bug them for a while. They already have enough of a possum problem, so what's one more?"

"That's not funny," she said.

"No it's not," I said. "What's funny is thinking about my dad running out in the backyard with his air rifle blasting everything that moves while the dog and cat just look at him like he's out of his mind. That's a mental image that's cracking me up."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tipping the Scales

Here is a story that goes into detail on why the world's tallest building may in fact be nothing more than a big middle finger to Mother Nature.

Apparently, she's taken it personally.

Some genius thought that a 1,667ft. building weighing in at 700,000 tons would be perfectly placed right on top of a fault line. This puts in jeopardy the construction of Sky City 1000 in Japan, a proposed vertical city which I'm sure looks a lot like Coruscant in the architects' minds. I'm also sure that the notoriously shifty tectonic plates in the region won't take too kindly to bearing the stress of a city built on top of another city.

Man's achievements are only limited by his intelligence. But sometimes Mother Nature will step in and smack his butt hard just to remind him that he's a guest in Her house. We can, and should, always reach for the stars, but if you want to build a double-decker city on top of a fault line, that's just begging for Godzilla to wake up and tear ass through Asia. I can't wait to see how the CNN commentary explains that one.

The Ice Man Cometh

So an ice storm decided to blast Texas today. Before 2 p.m., I'd already been laughed at by a native Canadian, assured a paranoid Los Angeles transplant that sticking to the main streets would be his safest bet, and been assured that were I to call in sick tomorrow I would be dragged to work by my HR director since I live right down the street from the office.

Insert punchline here.

Texans tend to be an assertive folk on the roadways. We speed through 30 mph school zones with nary a care in the world, and regard speed limits more as suggestions. Law enforcement around rush hour tend to agree with the suggestion part as whenever they are on the freeways between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. week nights, its usually to help out with wrecks.

Now take an entire state of aggressive (and frequently paranoid) drivers and throw bad weather into the mix. Make it ice just for an added kick. It doesn't matter how long the ice is going to be on the ground. It's the End of the World™ just the same. None of us Dallas-natives know how to drive on ice because it so rarely hits us that the rest of the year we don't think about it. You have 365 days a year, and if two of them involve ice do you really worry about it the other 363?

Not hardly.

So a quarter inch of ice has found its way to our city streets and apartment complex roads, and will be burned off by noon tomorrow at the latest. Will that prevent mass chaos tomorrow morning during rush hour? Hell no. Personally, I'm banking on just that. Since El Jefe told us today that we don't have to be at the office until 9 a.m. tomorrow, I'm getting some popcorn in the morning for breakfast and watching the traffic gals work themselves into fits as they try to keep up with all hell breaking loose on the road ways.

I consider this the Olympics of traffic reporting. The only question is, who's going to bring home the gold?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Sloshing Water While Thinking = Not Smart

People who read funny things on the web tend to spit-take more often than other people. I don't know what the official spit-take to non-spit-take ratio is, but the odds of someone taking a drink only to read something funny and spew said drink on their keyboard increase for Fark or readers.

I just spit a slight amount of water on my keyboard by accident as I was sloshing it around in my mouth, ostensibly to wash it out.

As if a little bit of water will wash away the taste left over from two chili-cheese hotdogs and a liter of Dr. Pepper. As it stands now, if I open my mouth again I'm just as likely to burn down my cube should I accidentally exhale.

Anyone have a breath mint or five?

Me Vs. The Germans Round 2

My Fair Lady is in the middle of her law school finals for the fall, and as such has spent an unhealthy amount of time cocooned in the library. Apparently, its not conducive to studying with me running around the house making explosion noices and talking to myself depending on whether I'm gaming or writing.

I'll leave you to guess which sounds go with which activity.

So it was on Sunday morning when she went out to her VW Passat to head to the library. My cell phone rings about 20 second after she walks out the front door.

Me: "Hello?"

MFL: "My car won't start."

Me: "What do you mean it won't start? Did it die somewhere?"

MFL: "Nope. It won't start and I'm out in the driveway. Help?"

So we both look at her car, and our official diagnosis of the problem was summed up thusly: "Huh. Want to take my car?"

Later that afternoon, I played with her car and determined the battery was dead. This was the same battery that's been in her car for the last six years, so the fact that it died was not surprising in and of itself. So when she came home about 9:30 p.m. that night, we decided that one day this week we would get up early and take her car in. Come Wednesday night, we still hadn't managed to take it in. But we figured it couldn't be that difficult to swap out the battery.

Apparently, German engineers are hella good at liberally bolting down everything they can find. Bolts must grow on trees over there because I've never seen so many on anything. I now think that there must be a "bolt tax" somewhere in the cost of German-made cars, because it can't be cheap to quickly grow them if they use one bolt tree per vehicle. I'll get to why I think this in a bit.

My Fair Lady throws her car into neutral and I push it out of the garage and line it up next to my Cherokee. I get the jumper cables out and she stops me cold. "Now are you sure you know what you're doing?" I calmly replied that while I may not be able to build a car blindfolded, I have jumped more than my fair share and do know what I'm doing. Then we got our first surprise.

Car batteries are different from regular batteries only in size. There is literally no other difference. So if the black cable goes on the black battery head and the red cable goes on the red battery head, then the connection is cleanly made. We then found that her Passat's battery was not so clearly labeled. The wires plugging into her battery, however, did have the red and black differenciation, but it took some convincing that this was the way to go. Once the cables were set, I turned my car on and waited a minute, then hers turned right on. So we decided to go buy a battery and swap hers out.

We get to Auto Zone and go through the process of buying a battery. Apparently, her father scared the crap out of her and her siblings regarding jumping cars and car batteries in general. In his day, if you jumped it wrong then the battery could explode all over you. The result of which is illustrated below:

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When we got home with the new battery, we pop the VW's hood and look at the battery. It was wedged up near the front of the car almost to the point where the ability to hover in the air would have been helpful. As it was, we simply had to climb all over it to get the right angle because of, wait for it, how the thing was bolted in.

Every car battery has cables coming off of the positive and negative heads, so all you have to do is loosen these, take off whatever else the battery connects to, then pull it out and drop in the new one. But there are two things to consider when working on a foreign car:

1) The bolts and equipment were installed using a different measurement system so your tools won't exactly line up with what's installed. This will lead to an unhealthy amount of improvisation on your part as you struggle to use three tools to unscrew a bolt that one tool installed in the first place.

2) The parts you will unscrew will be small and can be easily lost if misplaced. Pre-determine where you will set the removed parts/bolts, and do not deviate from this.

After about half an hour of using almost every tool we own (which is quite a lot, for the record), My Fair Lady and I managed to unscrew every bolt and plate that held that battery in place. I then yanked it out, took the new one and dropped it in, then started reconnecting everything. When it was all set and ready to go, I casually hid around the corner while My Fair Lady started the car to see if it worked.

The good news is that everything went fine and her car runs better than before. The better news is that once again I have met the German enemy and defeated him thusly. The even better news is that we didn't have to pay some guy $100 in labor costs when I could do the same thing for a celebratory Frosty from Wendy's.

What can I say, I work cheap.