A geek, a laptop, and some spare time.

Archive for April, 2013

Google Search Tip: Track Your Flight

Use Google to track your flight!

Use Google to track your flight!

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! But is it on time? Want to track a particular flight? Just type the airline and the flight number into the Google search box. The results will show information about the flight. You can see the terminal, gate, arrival and departure times, and if the plane is in the air, it will even give you a nice graphic to show you how far into the flight they are.

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Filmception: The Movie in a Movie Game

For Angie and I, sitting down to watch a movie marathon is a great way to spend time together. We’re both movie lovers, born and raised. And when we get together with family for gatherings, you can safely bet that watching a movie or three will be a major part of the day. But when you have as many eclectic tastes as we do, and as many differing opinions on what we should watch next, sometimes picking the movie is way more entertaining that actually watching it.

When I’m looking to spice up my movie marathons, I have a few go to rules that make it a more interesting experience. If I’m having a low hassle kind of day, I’ll stick with watching a series, such as the Scream movies or the The Godfather Trilogy. For something a bit more challenging, I’ll put together a nice run of films that feature the same actor or actress. So if I decide to get my Bruce Willis on, I might start with Hudson Hawk, followed by Die Hard, and then maybe an instant-classic, like RED.

But when I’m up for a serious challenge, there is nothing better than Filmception¹.

Filmception is when one movie appears inside of another movie, most commonly playing on a TV or movie screen in the background. A less common, though still perfectly valid form of Filmception is when the characters or set pieces in a film make direct reference to another film.

When planning a Filmception marathon, the rules are simple.  The first film can be anything you want. But the second film you watch MUST have the first film in it, or directly reference it, as explained above. For real bonus points, you can then watch a third film, which must have the second film in it. Alternatively, you can watch the first film, and then all films that follow must have that first film it. Either way, the challenge factor is HIGH.

So how about a few examples?

Spoiler Alert: Obviously, I’m about to talk about a few movies. If you haven’t seen them, I’m blowing more than few plot points here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Ladyhawke / Conspiracy Theory

Ladyhawke (1985) appears in Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Ladyhawke (1985) appears in Conspiracy Theory (1997)

We start out with the 1985 classic, Ladyhawke. Starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, it’s not only a great film, but the origin of one of my favorite movie quotes:

Sir, the truth is, I talk to God all the time, and, no offense, but he never mentioned you.

Now follow that with the 1997 film Conspiracy Theory. Starring Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, and Patrick Stewart. (Stewart does a nice bit  playing against type as the villain.)

Filmception: At one point, while trying to hide from a group of bad guys, Mel Gibson’s character attempts to hide in a packed movie theatre. And what’s playing? That’s right, Ladyhawke!

Jaime’s Random Trivia: It might seem a little odd that a movie theatre in 1997 is playing a film from 1985. The crossover makes more sense when you realize both movies were directed by Richard Donner.

Ghostbusters / Zombieland

Ghostbusters (1984) appears in Zombieland (2009)

Ghostbusters (1984) appears in Zombieland (2009)

First, the movie that I have seen more than any other in my entire life, 1984’s Ghostbusters. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Sigourney Weaver, it’s an endless buffet of quotable lines. Personal fave:

Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say, “Yes!”

Next up is 2009’s Zombieland. Starring  Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. (And Derek Graf as the Zombie Clown. I only point this out because my sister Shannon hates clowns. Hi Shannon!)

Filmception: While our Zombieland refugees are taking shelter in the great Bill Murray’s house, they partake not only in the film Ghostbusters, but also in recreating a scene from the film with Murray playing his own character. (Murray also has the funniest death scene ever. “Ah, that’s still tender.”)

Jaime’s Random Trivia: The Zombieland script, which was originally meant to be a television pilot, was offered to John Carpenter to direct. I have a feeling that would have been a very different movie.

Lawrence of Arabia / Prometheus

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) appears in Prometheus (2012)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) appears in Prometheus (2012)

Here is one 50 years in the making. Start out with the 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia. Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, and Anthony Quinn. This film won 7 Academy Awards and became the gold standard for what cinematography could be.  The desert practically becomes its own character. My favorite line, which really only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie:

The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

Now fast forward half a century and watch 2012’s Prometheus. Starring Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof, and a bunch of other people you’ve never heard of. Prometheus is supposedly a prequel to the 1979 masterpiece Alien. It works a lot better if you just watch it as if any similarity between it and the Alien franchise is purely coincidental.

Filmception: Early on we see the android David killing some time watching his favorite film, the one and only Lawrence of Arabia.

Jaime’s Random Trivia: When I first heard they were making a sequel to Prometheus, all I could think was, “Isn’t Alien the sequel?”

¹ – Filmception is a made up word inspired by the movie Inception. If you’ve seen the movie, then you’ll understand why. I wish I could say I’m the only genius to have coined the phrase, but a quick Google search will show you everyone and their brother uses it. (Though rarely to describe the Movie in a Movie thing.)

Just Another Day At Work

XKCD - Compiling

Courtesy of XKCD.

Weekend Roundup: Racing Snail Edition

Who needs a Luck Dragon when you can get a Racing Snail?

Who needs a Luck Dragon when you can get a Racing Snail?

Welcome to the weekend! Here are a few things to browse while enjoying your down time.

  • Great news for fans of The Neverending Story, we seem to be one step closer to getting our own racing snails! I first caught the story about Florida and their Giant African Snail problem over on CNN. If you’re looking to collect the complete set of oversized critters available, Nadia Drake at Wired has a nice gallery up of all the possibilities.
  • James Plafke at Geek.com has the scoop on what will surely be this year’s must have stocking stuffer. Fundawear is remote-controlled vibrating underwear for long distance couples. With the help of a smartphone app, people wearing the underwear can not only turn on vibration from across the internet, but also control the vibration’s level of intensity, and dictate the vibration’s travel patterns. You know Grandma will want two sets.

Have a great weekend!

Restroom Rebels and Vagisil Vagaries

Multitasking: You're doing it wrong.

Multitasking: You’re doing it wrong.

Have you ever noticed the unspoken covenant that we as a society have about using the restroom? Adults, normal in almost every way imaginable, will pretend not to notice when someone they’re with goes into a private room and empties their bowels. We’ve agreed to develop a  blind spot in our collective consciousness when it comes to this event.

Now there are no doubt perfectly sound reasons for this. I’m sure our mental self-image as enlightened, intelligent souls doesn’t mesh well with the base act of evacuating yesterday’s Taco Bell. And given those two incompatible mental images, we just junk the one that is less pleasing.  But for me, understanding the underlying rationale doesn’t strip away any of the wonder.

We’re all pretending that nobody poops.

Given that, I really have a tough time understanding people who talk on their cell phone while using the restroom. They’re breaking the social contract by mixing outside world stuff with the Porcelain Chamber of Secrets.  You have to ask yourself, do they really believe that the person on the other end of the line doesn’t know what’s going on? Or are they just restroom rebels  who do not care?

These folks irk me, which is why I normally consider it my sacred duty to power-flush the toilet five or six times in a row when I hear someone on the phone. (Oh sure, it’s crude and shallow, but so is most everything else to do with a restroom.) But once in awhile  what you overhear makes the entire invasion of that sacred realm worthwhile:

Honey, I swear to God, I didn’t move it. I mean, why on Earth would I take your Vagisil? Maybe your mother took it when she was cleaning.

I heard that lovely bit while I was washing my hands. It left me with a lot of questions, but it’s probably for the best that I didn’t get any of them answered. After all, there are only so many taboos one can break in a public restroom before the whole thing gets weird.

Grandparent’s Day

Our lunch. No color correction applied. Those tots really are orange.

Our lunch. No color correction applied. Those tots are orange.

Angie and I took the day off yesterday and headed to our oldest grandson’s school for their annual “Grandparent’s Day” celebration. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Grandparent’s Day is a special time when student’s grandparents are invited into the school to spend time with the kids, eat lunch, and then divest themselves of their life savings at the Scholastic Book Fair, which by happy, pre-planned coincidence, just happens to always take place on the same day.

If you never had this event at your school, or if your therapy sessions have been so successful that you’ve completely blotted out your own childhood, then please allow me to set the scene. Elementary schools are like regular schools, except someone didn’t read the label and put a dry-clean only building in the dryer. So everything is shrunk and inexplicably yellow in color. There are lots of cheerful posters up preaching various gospels of thought about problem solving and rules. Everybody and everything is clearly labelled. The children are led in group recitations of homework, or things written on the board. And once a day, for no clear reason, everyone goes outside and runs around screaming at the top of their lungs while the teachers blow whistles and point a lot.

If you’re looking for the shorthand version of all that, then just picture a cult populated by miniature sociopaths. Congratulations, you’re home.

Angie and I managed to show up to this year’s shindig five minutes late. (Somebody replaced the downtown section of I-75 with a parking lot and forgot to tell us.) Because of our tardy arrival, there was no one posted to point us in the direction of our grandson Dalton’s classroom. Instead, Angie dove into the office while I stood alone in a hallway full of children trying my damnedest to not look like someone their parent’s warned them about.

Once Angie returned with a room number, we dashed directly down the wrong hall, where we were able to confirm that the hallway signage was correct, and the room was in fact not there. Having reassured ourselves of that, we spotted a teacher and asked for directions to the room we were looking for. That conversation went something like this:

Angie: “Could you please tell us where room 106 is? We’re running a bit late.”

Teacher: “Room 106? That’s Mrs. Pond’s classroom!”

Angie: “Yes, that’s right. We’re looking for our grandson’s class. His teacher is Mrs. Pond.”

Teacher: “She’s in room 106.”

Angie: “Right… 106?”

Teacher: “Right.”

Jaime (whispering): “Lord, whatever I’ve done to deserve this, I’m so very sorry.”

Several minutes later, having forded several streams and lost young Sally to Dysentery¹,  we arrived at Dalton’s classroom. It was everything I like to see in a modern classroom. Colorful, well-lit, lots of technology available, and not a student in site. While that pleased me to no end, Angie insisted that the entire experience would be infinitely better if we were actually in the same room as Dalton. So we headed out into the wilds again.

By this time, Angie was more than a bit concerned that Dalton would be in full-on panic mode that we hadn’t come. Visions of tears, broken dreams, and college rejection letters tumbled through her head. And that’s why, when we finally stumbled across Dalton already eating lunch in the cafeteria, his greeting to us was so much more meaningful: “Oh, hi.”

Having located young Dalton, we were immediately descended upon by his teacher, the one and only Mrs. Pond. She introduced herself, praised Dalton, and then did us a solid by assisting us with cutting in the lunch line. The photo above is my tray from said line. I received that Technicolor wonder of modern chemistry for the low, low price of $3.50.

After some solid research time, and conferring with several universities, I was able to confirm with Dalton that the Tater Tots were in fact supposed to be orange. It seems they are Sweet Potato-Tots. Based on taste alone, I would have ventured a guess closer to something in the wood paste family. Having gamely tried all the foods present, I pressed Dalton for details on whether they were being punished for something. He assured me that this was not punishment, but something he called “lunch.” I remain skeptical.

The Book Fair, a.k.a. The Grandparent Trap

The Book Fair, a.k.a. The Grandparent Trap

Following lunch, Dalton led us over to the book fair. The Scholastic Book Fair hasn’t changed much from when I was a kid. Rolling metal carts full of the literary equivalent of those sugar-packed kids breakfast cereals. Lots of speciality erasures and bookmarks with corny catch phrases. A variety of novelty pointers that will have a half-life of 5 minutes or less once they hit a classroom. Prices that would make an upscale jewelry house blush.

In an Internet age, where instant comparison shopping is the norm, the Scholastic Book Fair lives in some kind of time bubble that makes them immune from the Amazon.com’s of the world. After all, you can’t very well look at your grandkid in front of all the other kids and tell him he can’t get something there. Grandparent peer pressure, what a concept.

And to add insult to injury, Dalton’s parents have taught him to be a thoughtful, caring child. That tactical blunder meant that I had to buy books for his brother and sister as well, so that they wouldn’t feel left out. I swear, where do parents come up with these crazy ideas?

In the end, we were at Dalton’s school for about an hour. We got lost twice, ate something that may or may not have been food, and bought $15 worth of books for about $50. But we showed up, and at no point did we forget which kid was ours, or what his name was. If that’s not a grandparenting win, I just don’t know what is.

¹ – An Oregon Trail joke. Either you get it, or you don’t.

 

One hero at a time.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Sometimes small people try to convince you that the world is an ugly, terrifying place. They try to paint it in pain and hate. They want you to buy into it. To believe it. To surrender to it.

Don’t you dare.

This world is an incredible, beautiful place. For every small person peddling hate, there are a thousand giants setting things right. They are quiet, unassuming, and from every walk of life imaginable. And I have never seen them quit. Not once.

On the darkest days, they shine the brightest. And I have no doubt that they’ll save this world. One hero at a time.

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