Thursday, July 31, 2008

Vacation, Part 1

As July comes to a close, I look back on the month as one of the best in my life. When summer school ended on Friday, June 27, I was raring to go. I missed vacation last year due to a, uh, miscommunication on the part of our school system. They told us before we left for China that Magi would have enough sick days to take off the rest of the school year to stay home with Sera, and then, with one week left in the year they told us that she was not allowed to use them for the last week. So, we had to basically eat an extra week's worth of her salary, which meant I got to teach another session of summer school to make up this completely unnecessary shortfall. So this year, I was determined to get the most out of my vacation, to say the least.

On that Friday afternoon, I drove immediately over to our new favorite car dealership, Heart City in Elkhart, to get an oil change. While I was waiting in their luxurious waiting room (and I mean that without irony of any kind. They have leather couches and current magazines and newspapers to read, as well as free coffee) my buddy Doug called with great news. He had Tigers tickets for us for the next day! We had planned on making a stop in Chicago at the comic book convention on Sunday, but that plan went right out the window. So on Saturday we piled into the Crimson Cruiser, as we now call our minivan, and headed for the Motor City. It turned out to be a very exciting game. Sera enjoyed the carousel and the fireworks, and I enjoyed the game. Although closer Todd Jones blew the save by giving up four runs in the top of the ninth, Miguel Cabrera picked up his teammate with a walkoff double in the bottom half, preserving the win. This game marked the first time the Tigers reached the .500 mark all season long and it made a great beginning to our break.

On Monday, we left for Utah. The first leg of our trip was to Omaha, Nebraska. Let me begin by saying that when you have seen Indiana, you have also seen northwestern Illinois and all of Iowa. Good grief, I was tired of looking at cornfields! When we arrived, we found every hotel room booked. Turns out that Omaha was the site of the US Olympic Team swim trials! We found a room a little down the road that suited us, and on Tuesday we got up early and went to Henry Doorly Zoo. I've been to a lot of zoos, and this one was pretty average for a big city. But like most zoos it had some features that made it shine. This zoo had a nice aquarium with a glass tunnel that you could pass through, watching sharks and rays swim overhead. They also had a great penguin display. Sera had been watching Happy Feet on the backseat DVD player, so this made her very happy.

As we made our way west across Nebraska we noticed...more corn. To save a little bit on restaurants, we had packed lunches that we prepared using our new Coleman camp stove/grill. We used numerous rest stops to cook hot dogs and chicken breasts and to get away from the van for a few minutes at a time. As we finally made it to the Colorado state line, we saw...more corn. Finally, cornfields gave way to a little more interesting landscapes as we approached Denver.
We arrived just a little bit late for the baseball game for which I had bought us cheap tickets. We got to Coors Field in Denver just before 8:00, only 55 minutes late for the beginning of the game between the Rockies and the Padres. I had just enough time to get Sera and Magi food and tour the stadium and then the game ended. I looked at my watch...9:00! Turns out that this was the shortest game in Coors Field history at one hour, fifty-five minutes. I didn't really mind. I only paid $12 for all three of our tickets. Coors Field has seats in what they call the Rockpile, which are about 500 feet from home plate. I never once sat in my seat but I did get to enjoy the atmosphere and a little bit of food, including the Colorado Rockies Blue Cheese Chips, freshly made potato chips with bleu cheese and bacon sprinkled over a zesty cheese sauce. They had Rocky Mountain Oysters, too, but I had to pass there, sorry.

We left Coors Field pretty much freshly rested, and thought about continuing past Denver on our trip for a while. Just one problem...the highway was closed. They actually closed the highway for construction from 9:30 PM to 5:30 AM, so we ended up getting a hotel. It was just as well. The rest of our trip was amazingly scenic and we would have missed it in the dark!
To be continued...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

So Long, Pudge

The Detroit Tigers traded Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez today to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher and former Tiger Kyle Farnsworth.

I hate this trade.

When general manager Dave Dombrowski signed Pudge in 2004, it was the renaissance of the Detroit Tigers. Following a horrible 43-119 season in 2003, they immediately improved to 72-90, adding 29 wins. Pudge hit .334 that year, including going .500 for the month of June. The Tigers were able to add more free agents in the following years, bringing them back to respectability and a World Series appearance in 2006, and it all started with Pudge.

Kyle Farnsworth was one of the players who signed with the Tigers in 2005, but before he had played with the Tigers for even a season, he refused to negotiate a contract extension, instead expressing an interest in the free agent market. The Tigers traded him before the year was over, instead of getting nothing for him when the season was done. Now the selfish jerk is back.

Pudge wasn't likely to return after this season, as he is getting old for a catcher (36) and the Tigers have Brandon Inge under contract for next year already. But I really wanted Pudge to hang around to at least see his contract finished up. There's just a sour taste in my mouth giving Pudge to the Yankees, of all teams, for a guy who doesn't want to play for my team.

Update: I forgot to mention that I personally took this photograph of Pudge in 2005.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back Home Again

How was vacation? Here's my favorite photograph. It's sunrise the morning of July 24 at the backwaters in my hometown of Mesick, Michigan. Click to enlarge. This says it all:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Still Alive!

I rode a bicycle 7.5 miles around Mackinac Island today. Back home tomorrow. And then I'm buying a bicycle! I've finally found an enjoyable exercise!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back on Vacation

After a week of recovery from our two-week trek to Utah and beyond, we're taking off tomorrow for a week of camping in northern Michigan, ending with a weekend at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The latter was a gift two years ago from Magi's father, which we couldn't use last year because I was working the whole summer. There was literally no two days I had off that they weren't booked. We had our honeymoon there in 2000, so we're really looking forward to returning.

I'll try to catch up everything when we come back!

The Dark Knight

Well, I was ready to eat all kinds of crow, hyped by Kevin Smith's rave review and the box office numbers, and...I hated it. Like Lord of the Rings (take your pick as to which one), this movie was about an hour too long. It was slow, there were too many plots that ran each over like steamrollers, and once again, too many villains.

Spoilers Follow

The Joker pulls off so many different and major acts of terrorism in this movie with no time to prepare and virtually no resources, he makes Al-Qaeda look like the Three Stooges. Batman and every other idiot in this movie actually believes the madman when he tells them something. Uh, hello, this is the Joker? When he gives you an address you put all of your resources into investigating it? When he threatens you with the death of innocents, you comply and believe that he will follow through on his promises? You deserve what you get from him.

And here's the true winner of this movie (paraphrased):

"We found three different sets of DNA on his card."

"Whose are they?"

"The judge's, Commissioner Loeb's, and Harvey Dent's."

"Where'd he get their DNA?"

No, the question is, where did YOU get their DNA? Is there a new requirement for public officials to have their DNA on file that I don't know about? I've been fingerprinted for federal background checks, but I never had to give a blood sample. Talk about harsh hiring techniques!

Ever since Batman Returns, comic book movies have this horrible pattern of putting too many villains in the movies. The Joker was a good choice for a villain, but to add Two Face was just too much. Harvey Dent's presence in the movie was welcome, but to make him into a villain was unnecessary to the plot and just to throw him away was wasteful.

And I'm just thinking aloud here, but if you have a device that can use every cell phone in the city to create a virtual imaging environment, then maybe you could use that technology to turn them off so THE JOKER CAN'T BLOW UP ANY MORE STUFF REMOTELY WITH THEM?
I don't know, I am just so tired of seeing movies with plot holes you can drive Bat-tanks through. And speaking of Bat-tanks, are they actually trying to tell me that they designed the Tumbler as a bridge jumper that breaks off into a motorcycle? No wonder the military didn't buy it. If Lucius Fox made modifications to it so that it did so, you'd think that they would have built a spare Tumbler, too, so that Batman wasn't limited to just a motorcycle for the rest of the movie.

And how did Bruce Wayne corrupt Lucius' cell phone technology all by himself? Did he go to engineering school between movies? I'm sorry, but that's Lucius Fox's whole role in this series and to think that Bruce can just go ahead and modify it like that without his knowledge or help is just going too far.
I really wanted to like this movie, but my sense of logic was assaulted too many times. Sorry, Kevin Smith, but I have to disagree with you here when you said, "It's the 'Godfather II' of comic book films."
"Goodfellas," maybe, but not "Godfather II." Okay, that's too strong. I liked "Goodfellas."

Friday, July 18, 2008

DC Motion Comics

Speaking of Watchmen, this is a really cool little thing. Slightly animated from the original artwork, iTunes brings you Watchmen #1.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Watchmen Trailer

The Watchmen trailer should be preceding viewings of the Dark Knight starting at 12:01 AM. Go here to see it now. I can hardly wait!

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Go watch this right now! It's from Joss Whedon and it's shiny. Click the button.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Double Feature Redux

I'm still putting pictures together from our trip, so that post will have to wait. We did go to the drive-in last night to get start getting caught up on what we'd missed, so let's start there.

Heckboy II: The Golden Army. Yes, we call him Heckboy around Sera. No need getting her vocabulary to that level just yet. The term comes from the special features of the Atlantis DVD, in which the producers pay homage to the art and style of Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. They jokingly say they have to call him "Heckboy" because they are working in a Disney studio. Anyway, Hellboy II was pretty good. They pick up where the last one left off, with Hellboy and Liz Sherman together as a couple, and Abe Sapien hanging around the old BPRD headquarters waiting to bump back against those things that go bump in the night.

With the peace between the paranormal and humanity threatened, Hellboy and his amazing friends have to choose sides and prevent the Golden Army from being used to wipe out humankind. Unfortunately, there was only one real surprise in the movie, and it's given away fairly early. I won't spoil it for you, but it really wasn't important to the plot, and it won't become important unless there are more Hellboy movies. I hope there will be. I just thought this one was fairly standard as far as comic book adventure movies go. Maybe there are just too many to make a fair assessment.


Okay, this one was just weak. Poor account manager/schlub Wesley Gibson finds out that he can shoot the wings off of a fly and joins an assassin's club to get revenge on the man who killed his father. Yawn. He learns how to shoot bullets so that they can bend around things like a curveball. Uh, okay. It's not mind over matter, but just the way they twist the gun as it goes off, like the snap of the wrist providing enough spin across the seams of a baseball? I think a bullet has a bit more spin than you can overcome with the flick of the wrist, but whatever. An hour and half later you wind up with the "everything you have been told is a lie" cliche and you have Wanted in a nutshell. This one was just plain bad. I liked the comic, hated the movie.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Last Day in Utah

The flower in my palm is blinking, red, black, red, black.

We will start on our way home tomorrow, hoping to catch a ball game in Kansas City. Should be home Saturday, I think.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Corner of No and Where

We are traveling in Utah and only got access to the net today to check email. We'll be traveling back across the country and will have a lot to say when we get home, with lots of pictures!