Monday, January 30, 2012

Tablet or eReader Time?

It is with great reluctance that I have come to the conclusion that my Dell Axim’s days are numbered, simply because it is a very out of date platform. It cannot be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6 and the future is Android and iOS with their associated formats. Being cheap and hostile toward Apple, the iPad is not an option which limits my choices to something Android flavored.

But the big debate I am having with myself is whether to go for something with more functionality or with something that has an eInk display. I would love to be able to read in sunlight, but I also want to be able to keep contacts and appointments with me along with note taking. That would be more along the lines of getting a tablet than a reader.

While the Kindle Fire is pretty much a stripped down tablet, the lack of standard Android apps is an issue. Asus is coming out with a Tegra 3 quad core based tablet for $250 later this year and I wonder if that would be a better solution. I should mention that smaller is better and 6-7” screens are the desired size range.

I think I will bug one of my friends who got the Fire for Christmas and find out more about its capabilities. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Odds and Ends 1-29-2012

Sitting here at home, I am only slightly annoyed about not being able to go to church today. Mainly that is because  I am so tired I would not remember anything heard there anyway. Last night was worse as the week caught up to me at last.

After Tuesday’s very early expedition to retrieve the car from Madison, I was out of commission that afternoon through Wednesday. To my relief, I was able to handle another early morning expedition up to the St. Paul Temple on Thursday – only because I was not driving either way. It was very good to get to the temple again and get a well needed spiritual recharge.

Once again, I fell apart afterward and spent Friday being completely brain dead. Saturday was not much better though a test run out to see how I was doing and meet with Congressional District 1 candidate Mike Parry in Winona went well. I like his stances and hopefully he will get the GOP nomination. Politics will begin in earnest next month after everyone finds out what districts they will be in.

Unfortunately, that trip out exhausted the last reserves of energy I had. Last night was not fun because I hit that nasty little area of fatigue where I cannot sleep but am unable to do anything else too. Not even watching movies or television is possible when I get there and an attempt to watch Star Wars failed abysmally.

At the moment, I am listening to Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky soundtrack and for some reason it fits the mood I am in. When I am tired, I tend to get very grouchy and that would be how I am feeling. There is no reason to be and no target for my annoyance other than all of existence. At least I am not being discriminatory.

It is time I replaced the ancient cassettes of Der fliegende Holländer with MP3’s. The quality of Amazon’s downloads has gotten quite good and while I still prefer CD (or better), I can afford this version of it a lot more easily. According to serious opera buffs, this is the performance to have. Tomorrow I’ll purchase it, since it is the Sabbath and I do not shop on it.

I may have to do a full review of the Samsung BD-5700 Blu-ray player. I only have two features yet to try out, but it has been a terrific buy. Upscaling has lived up to its good reputation and animated material is my torture test for that. Hard contrast and lots of straight lines will show every flaw when resampled to bigger resolutions.  DVD’s of Studio Ghibli films and Bleach were my choices, since the latter was not optimized for progressive scan widescreen TV’s. Both look fantastic to my surprise since I was prepared for a quality hit with Season 1 of Bleach.

A tiny USB flash drive will be ordered to enable Blu-ray live and see what that is all about. Also, I will enable my Hulu Plus account to see how well that works. Using set top boxes and Blu-ray players to access the Net still seems like a silly way to do things. My media center PC is a much better solution using dated components, but I can see price being an issue for people who have no technical expertise (or spare parts).

Squid Girl Episode 8

Squid Girl faces a serious illness, discovers a new ability, and discovers the wonders of umbrellas in an uneven entry in the comedy series. While first two segments are a mixed bag, the third story redeems the episode with one of the more charming stories of the series.

Squid Girl Main Title[2]Squid Girl 08 Umbrella Fun

Who’s a Sick Cephalopod?

Squid Girl 08 Grinding TentacleSquid Girl 08 Not Hungry

Having tentacles would be very handy in my opinion, especially if they were as capable as Squid Girl’s. However, I could see them getting hurt in all sorts of accidental ways. But having one get caught in an ice shaving machine was not one I could imagine.

Friday, January 27, 2012

IP Rights Battles Are Only Beginning

There seems to be a great deal of celebration over having derailed SOPA and PIPA in the U.S.A., but they are not completely dead yet. In the meantime, ACTA has been passed by the majority of the EU nations. It still has not yet been ratified. That is little comfort, for I suspect it will be ratified easily when the time comes. To get an understanding of why this is a big deal, please check out my earlier posts on it here and here.

Another blow to the free travel of information came when the Supreme Court ruled that works in the public domain can be taken out of that status and copyrighted again. So those of you who have downloaded eBooks and movies in the public domain may end up becoming law breakers in the future. This aggravates the erosion of having limited copyrights and sets them well on the way to perpetuity, despite what Justice Ginsburg wrote.

It is ironic that there is such an effort to stifle the flow of knowledge and creativity in a time when we can finally share such things quickly and easily. Innovation is dying out in large part to actions such as these. Sure it sounds warm and fuzzy to talk about helping families of celebrities who were ripped off by their managers/producers/record labels, but resting on the laurels of those who came before is lazy. In the end, only the big media companies and their puppets in government truly benefit as most copyrights will be held by large corporations, not individuals.

So while a battle has been temporarily won, the war continues. If things keep up the way they are going, a long period of cultural stagnation is ahead for us. I firmly believe that humanity needs to keep striving and creating to advance. To my eyes, we have ceased doing so over the past twenty five years and the momentum generated in the past is fading away. We need some intellectual turmoil and the best way to create that is to ideas, concepts, and collaborations bouncing around like mad. Caging those is a huge mistake.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Not Quite Unexpected Journey

While Bilbo Baggins got to go on an unexpected journey, the one I embarked on yesterday did give me some warning before hand. It involved a trek to Madison to recover the totaled Subaru Outback and get it back home to attempt repairs. Plans for assistance in driving the car fell through due to miscommunications, which meant I would have to drive the car the entire three hours plus it takes to get home.

Just one problem with that – my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome problems cause me to quickly loose awareness and concentration after about an hour and a half of driving. If I am having a good day, I can stretch that to two hours. Equipped with caffeinated soda and a lot of prayers said before and during, I managed to get home without undue incident. For that, I am supremely grateful.

So today I am barely functioning and this post took over twenty minutes to write. I will say it was not much fun driving the final leg home.

Now we have to tear into the car and see what all will need replacing. While the adjustor condemned the radiator, it appears intact and is functioning without leaking. First up for replacement will be the headlight and hood, with both looking to be major endeavors. That car will not be going anywhere soon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Panic Has Hit the File Sharing Services

So after going through my normal routine of to start the day, I decided to check on some of the tech sites to see what effect the Megaupload arrests were having on the online community. While Anonymous continues to make sporadic and ineffective attacks in retaliation, other file services are beginning to react. Filesonic has stopped allowing file sharing altogether, which means users can only upload and download their own files. Slightly less panicked, FileServe has reportedly ended their affiliate program where users were paid when they got others to join the service. As many have already commented, who needs SOPA or PIPA when the U.S. government can already reach out and have people in New Zealand arrested?

While I do not like the ease with which the international arrests were carried out at the behest of Hollywood, it was painfully obvious what these file services were created for. So I do not mourn their passing in the least. Yet I wonder what affect it will have on the legitimate file locker companies? While I am not terribly enthused about cloud based computing in general, I do use Amazon’s cloud service to back up my purchased iTunes and MP3 files. Oh and then there is Steam, which is a cloud like service that I am fond of.

I am feeling some ironic amusement though. If you went through various technology and multimedia forums in the past couple of years, the pro-pirate forces had declared bit torrenting dead and the entire future to be these file locker services. As anyone familiar with how spy and terrorist organizations operate, the easiest ones to roll up and eliminate are the highly centralized ones. That is one reason why they operate in cells. Painting big old targets on yourself is not particularly smart and that is what these companies did.

My suspicions are that we will see the file sharing sites gone or inaccessible from America in the very near future. Torrenting will increase with a move to decentralize magnet links becoming the new standard. All of this reminds me of Spy vs. Spy in Mad Magazine as Hollywood and the recording industry use the U.S. government against the pirates.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kimi ni Todoke Volume 1 Premium Edition and Ep. 1 Review

Karuho Shiina’s beloved romance manga is adapted into a beautiful anime depicting an outcast girl’s attempts to make friends in high school. When strange feelings stir in her after meeting the most popular boy in class, Sawako finds a whole new world opening before her. But will that world accept a weird looking girl who has little in the way of social skills?

Kimi ni Todoke Title 1Kimi ni Todoke 01 Sawako Tries to Help

In 2005, a shojo (girl’s) manga (comic book) debuted about a shy girl falling for the most popular boy in school. It is a theme done to death in the genre, but what set Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) apart was the execution and attention to detail regarding the characters. Only the second series by author Shiina, it ended up becoming a smash hit and won multiple critics awards. Being a slow moving character piece, it would not have been a surprise if the anime adaptation changed things considerably. Surprisingly faithful, it not only stayed true to the story, but rendered it with such care that it became a thing of beauty.

The Problem with Newt

Articles: The Myth of 'Newt The Great Debater'

John Ziegler lays it out like it is and I imagine he will take a lot of flack for it. One of the many problems with the extended primary debate season is that it has fooled conservatives and libertarians into thinking they are the only audience. The last I checked, 40% of the country consider themselves "independents" and they will decide who gets the Oval Office after 2012. People need to remember how easy it was for people to hate Gingrich the last time he was in the national spotlight. Toxic does not even begin to describe how bad it will get if he gets the nomination. While I have problems with Santorum and Romney, I would take either of them in a heartbeat over the walking and talking train wreck called Newt.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA!

Contact your local Senator and Congressman to let them know you support free speech on the Web.   Allowing web sites to be taken down by the government simply based on a complaint from someone else about copyright violations is ridiculous. The whole idea of the world wide Web is to allow linking to other sites to share information and these bills would jeopardize the very structure of the Internet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Wrong Box (1966) Review

Featuring an impressive group of actors, this dark farce manages to be both satirical and whimsical at the same time. Set in the Victorian era, it is a classic comedy of errors involving a corpse, a box, and an eccentric family by the name of Finsbury. Expect bizarre situations, innocent romance, scheming relatives,  bird eggs, and the best butler ever in this very amusing movie resurrected through Warner Bros. Archive’s made on demand DVD service.

The Wrong Box Title

Every family has at least one film that somehow becomes a tradition to watch. In my family’s case, one of those films is The Wrong Box, an unfairly obscure comedy from the 1960’s. Long before I ever had a chance to see the movie, I had heard all about it and memorized quotes from it. It would not be until the 1980’s before I got to see it on cable TV. Thankfully, it lived up to the hype from the family!

For years I had looked for it on DVD to no avail. But thanks to Warner Bros., I now have the movie and it is worth the premium price I paid for it. It was a pittance to bring back some cherished family memories. Popping the DVD into the Blu-ray player, I wondered what the quality of the picture would be. To my delight, the very 60’s animated opening credits looked great as John Barry’s whimsical score started and so I settled in to watch this deeply, wrongly funny movie.

Wikipedia, Minecraft, Craigslist, and Reddit Go Black Tomorrow

While it is only the English language version of Wikipedia going black to protest SOPA and PIPA, it will not go ignored by millions of users there and at the other sites participating. WARNING: the link will have a video start up automatically, but the text also covers the details.

It will be interesting to see how much this affects things. I have to say that Dick Costolo of Twitter has it very wrong from reading that quote in the article. Of course, Hollywood types live and die by Twitter these days, so I am not surprised by his stance. I do not have a way of blacking out my blog so that will not happening here. Instead I'll let my posts opposing SOPA and other IP "protections" speak for themselves.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ding Dong, the SOPA Bill Is Dead

Some good news that Eric Cantor has killed the bill in the House after a weekend where the author, Lamar Smith, started backing away from it and the White House came out in opposition. The latter shows what use an election year can be for activists to derail unpopular legislation. I highly doubt this positive outcome would have happened otherwise.

I hope the Senate version dies as well.

Health 1-16-2012

Burned out from the weekend, which means it was a good weekend. It is odd living a life that seems to play out as a reverse of most people’s. Most await the weekend to recover from the week and I await the week to recover from the weekend.

Crossword puzzle was longer than my usual, but within acceptable limits. Audiosurf, however, did not go well. Simply cannot concentrate properly and actually had problems keeping my eyes open. Today is also not a good pain day.

For the past week I have moved to using my left thumb to control the game on my Xbox 360 controller in an effort to strengthen it. Since late summer, the thumb has been stiffening and snapping, not just popping and alternates between a dull ache and sharp pain. So far, so good in strengthening it but have miles to go yet. Pain and discomfort have lessoned after seven days with flexibility starting to return.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter Pays a Visit and Blog Renovations

Crystalized water keeps falling from the sky, blown about in the well chilled air. Between that and the cold water to the bathroom repeatedly freezing, I have to surmise Old Man Winter has decided to pay us a visit. Now if I could only find the adapter I need to plug in the space heater fan to aim down the crawlspace! It has been a mild winter so far and it is no surprise that we are not getting off scot free.

I have been tweaking the layout and features of the blog again. Certain gadgets have recently become available that I think will help people navigate and explore the posts. At least, I hope that is the end result. After over five years of blogging here, I only just discovered how to insert breaks in long posts. Yeah, the feeling of being a real genius completely avoids describing how that made me feel.

Check out the top visited posts on the right hand sidebar. Also now there are a list of the most used tags on my posts. If you want to share a post somewhere else, check out the bottom of each one. Linking it to your Facebook, Twitter, or blog account should be easy now.

Meanwhile, things have moved ahead somewhat on the car. We’ve scraped up enough money to buy it back from the insurance company and now have to figure out how to get it back home since it is now over one hundred miles away. Having depleted all our money on this, it will be a long time before we can buy the needed parts for it and it will be many months before it runs again. But it is the only way we can afford a vehicle, I am sorry to say.

An unexpected movie will be the subject of my next review thanks to a make on demand service that will also be part of the essay. It is one near and dear to the immediate family alive and dead. That last sentence sounds awkward, doesn’t it? It happens when you have a very small family.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Regaining Some Momentum

Yesterday the last couple of weeks finally caught up to me with a vengeance. The night before I started shutting down physically and Monday I was not up for doing a thing. This is actually a good thing, because of how much I did before hitting the wall and how long it took to do so. Very encouraging, in fact.

At least I got my first Area 88 review up tonight, though it took multiple days to write. It and hopefully another series will be added to my rotation of filler reviews in-between movies and more serious matters. I’m starting to feel like I am getting my feet back under me for the first time since visiting Indiana between Christmas and New Years. That is more than can be said for the GOP presidential contenders not named Romney.

Finally caught the new Sherlock Holmes film featuring Robert Downey, Jr. Well, it is new to me. It was a pleasant surprise and played like an alternate history version of the characters. Nothing brilliant but very entertaining. One odd issue I had with the Netflix DVD was that it was in 16:9 format, not 1.85:1. Flipping through all the TV picture modes and the Blu-ray player settings verified this. Is there a new version of “pan and scan” aka fullscreen on some DVD’s now?

Before the holidays took over, I had started watching Stargate: Atlantis from the pilot on. Only tonight did I remember that and resumed watching my DVDs. It is like watching it for the first time again due to the new HDTV. I found myself marveling at the sets due to the hugely increased picture size. Hard to believe it debuted in 2004 because it has held up very well.

Things are not going well on the car front. Not well at all. The likelihood of getting the Subaru back and attempting to repair it is dwindling, though my father refuses to give up hope. With it being in a salvage yard in Madison, the odds are against it. Not being able to afford getting a used car is just another complication.

Not exactly an auspicious start to the year. Something has to go right eventually.

Area 88 (2004) Target: 01 Treacherous Skies, Ep. 1: Sky Blue

Adapted from one of the first manga’s to be imported into the United States, this somber and contemplative anime about mercenary pilots fighting in a civil war is not your usual cartoon. While filled with many action sequences, character development dominates the story when a mysterious photo journalist comes to airbase Area 88 within the war torn country of Aslan. Dogfights and death rule the sky while men’s souls are broken under a pitiless sun.

Area 88 Main TitleArea 88 01 Title

Years ago, Netlix suggested this series to me when I was investigating anime in an attempt to understand some of the teens at my church. It looked silly, but I thought “Hey, why not?” and added it to my queue. When it arrived, I cannot say I was eager to watch it, but there was nothing else to watch so into the DVD player it went.

Opening sequences and themes usually set the mood for an anime series (or live action for that matter) and the techno remix of a Bach fugue that opens this promised a lot of action and excitement. Mission (Fuga) by angels is the name of it and it is pretty good for that kind of thing. Pieces of action flew by in rapid succession and so I expected a Top Gun style series without much depth. Boy was I wrong about that. Very wrong.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Health 1-6-2012

It has been awhile since I documented my health issues. Once again, my not liking to write about it caused me to stop.

More tired than usual this week, but somewhat functional and have gotten things done like rebuilding the media center PC and setting up the new home entertainment configuration. Been sneezing a bit from allergies (I think all the dust I kicked up got to me) and crossword puzzles have not been going well this week.

Time for some good news. For the first time I can remember, I did not get sick with an upper respiratory infection during or just after visiting my sister and her family in Indiana. According to them, I was more active than they were used to. The H2O2 therapy is what I am crediting for that.  There has been some tightness and “tickle” in the chest, but nothing has come of it. Normally that has gone straight into bronchitis.

The bad news is I need to shed all the weight I probably gained from Chex mix and cookies while there.

I also discovered that keeping the humidity up during the winter has been beneficial, because it was painfully dry in my sister’s house. So the investment in the small humidifier last winter has been a good one.

To combat persistent minor infections on my scalp and elsewhere, I have started using Nizoral shampoo. Time will tell if it helps my deficient immune system fight back. With the internal battle joined by drinking hydrogen peroxide, it is time to hammer and anvil the infections.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Adventures in Home Entertainment

Sometimes your cup overfloweth and I am having a hard time getting everything posted I want to post. Which is good news on having content and bad news putting it on virtual paper. Since I will not be going anywhere soon due to no wheels, it will help me keep occupied.

Most of yesterday and today were taken up by home entertainment concerns. The 40” HDTV arrived safely to everyone’s amazement, so a domino effect began. The long awaited rebuild of the media center PC had to be done in order to output to 1080P. Being a true rebuild, blood was shed in order to successfully make things work. Or at least that is my excuse for cutting open my middle finger on the right hand. All I will admit to is that hard drives can be dangerous.

So that was actually a smashing success and my old Palit Radeon 3870 is purring away in a new used case with much better ventilation along with an extra used hard drive to  make room for more HD content. Overclocking on the GPU went well. It is not generally realized, but 2d increases in speed when you do that, not just 3D games.

A new Samsung Blu-ray player and assorted cables were mated up with the Westinghouse LD 4055 40” LCD-LED HDTV successfully. None of the problems associated with that specific model have been an issue for me. Specifically, not losing aspect ratios after powering off, but I do have that set to automatic. The dreaded HDMI issues with computer video cards were avoided by getting a DVI to HDMI cable and controlling the overscan from the Catalyst Control Center.

Color control on the set is poor, with only three presets available. Cooler and disabling Dynamic on the picture helped a great deal since the picture is biased toward the red. This was a surprise as I had the impression that LED lit screens leaned toward a bluish cast. Brightness is a wee bit excessive, but not a big issue since we have a very bright living room during daylight hours. If I seem to be complaining, I am not for this has been the fastest to get adjusted TV I have ever dealt with. The default colors are very close to optimal.

One problem may be audio cable related and that is getting the SPDIF coaxial cable to output properly to my decoder. There is a periodic drop out that would be highly annoying if I actually watched broadcast TV. It may not be worth even messing with since I have not yet discovered a local signal with 5.1 audio.

The Samsung BD-5700 Blu-ray player is a gem. It setup easily and found my wifi network without any issues. Upsampling to 1080p from DVD is excellent and audio is stellar. Options to downsample DTS-HD MA to standard DTS are handy, but it unexpectedly turns out my decoder can handle the core DTS signal natively when passed through. That made me very happy, though I would like to have the full audio capabilities working. But that would require new speakers and a receiver anyway.

High definition content looked fantastic on the Westinghouse when I torture tested it with my library, physical and digital. The 1080p turned out to be far better than 720p, which surprised me. Browsing the web and playing videos online has been a real treat with all that desktop real estate. To make things easier to read, DPI has been set to 120 and large type enabled.

Best of all, after some travails I was able to get my old Yamaha region free DVD player to work with the set. While only a progressive scan player, the picture is not horrible and I can still play my foreign DVD’s on it.

Once again I have to thank me sister and brother-in-law for the HDTV. The timing is good since I have no transportation and will be house bound for the most part.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

China Going Backwards

It has been fashionable in multiple circles to believe that China will take over the title of most powerful nation during this century. Much has been made of their economic growth and of their acquiring companies, land, and ports in other countries. This has presented an impression of an unstoppable juggernaut backed by the reality that they have become the main manufacturer of goods in the world. But does this mean China is ready or able to take over the lead?

I do not think so. Despite their growing military aggression in Asia, there are cracks appearing. With protests sporadically appearing in different regions, the specter of civil unrest has cast a long shadow across the very large country. In December, the village of Wukan rose up against land seizures and managed to make international news. That inspired another uprising in the nearby city of Haimen despite knowing they would be beaten by police.

It is no wonder that the authorities are spooked  for they have witnessed successful uprisings in Arab countries this past year. They too sit on a powder keg of poor and oppressed citizens. But what is interesting to me is that the latest uprisings are in in southern China, which is supposed to be the wealthy part of the nation.

Another intriguing tidbit of information is that the wealthy are looking to escape the country in the future. From other things I have read, there is a sense of fear that another peasant rebellion could happen. So we have the wealthy prepared to pull the handle on their personal ejection seats at the first sign of serious unrest.

So when President Hu wrote a piece saying that China is under cultural attack from the West and then the government restricts television broadcasts in order to present a more pure socialist message it made my antenna go up. This strikes me as being both a reaction to domestic control problems and preparations for conflict. The latter could be internal or external, with the latter being of particular concern to me.

It is not unknown for nations to attack others to bleed off internal pressures that have become too difficult to regulate. However, this may not be the conventional bombing or invading of another country kind of attack. The communists running China have been orchestrating cyber attacks on other countries for years. Asymmetric warfare is at the heart of Chinese military planning, being a theory of fighting a foe who is more powerful by using unconventional means. Right now, that means using cyber warfare against America.

Frankly, I do not think that will do a thing to vent social pressures at home. So the odds of an open confrontation with the United States to whip up patriotic fervor are increasing. While the OWS idiots focused on the spurious one percent here, the income disparities in China make us look well balanced by comparison.

With a housing bubble bigger than the one that popped here and a massive population that are truly dirt poor, China has problems too big to easily fix no matter how much state control is imposed. Actually, state control rarely fixes problems and just breeds more from what I have seen. Aggravating this is how they are driving out Western companies and nationalizing companies again. Wealth and power are being consolidated in the hands of an elite few, as is typical with socialist systems. It is sadly reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

With Europe and the United States poised for even worse financial problems in 2012, China will become even more unstable as the buyers for their manufactured goods dry up. November and December saw drops in manufacturing there, so those ballyhooing increased manufacturing in the States should take a reality check, stat. Demand is still not coming back. The fact that Hu and company think that the US is deliberately taking economic hits to undermine them financially does not help things either.

An unstable China will be prone to doing things that would be out of character for them in recent decades. People in the West have forgotten the China that invaded their neighbors Vietnam and India. Suffice it to say, nobody in the region has though. There is quite a military build up going on throughout Asia right now due to Chinese naval aggression at sea.

I would like to be a fly on the wall in some of the intelligence briefings in the region. Even the cash strapped Philippines government is looking to get F-16 fighter jets because of what has been going on.

It is going to be an interesting year.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Rambling Man

So this 2012 thing looks new and shiny doesn’t it? Wait, don’t rub that finish! Ah… errr, that isn’t rust under there, that’s primer! New finishes are fragile, don’t ya know…

It funny how we use arbitrary dates and magically thinks that they change things. While it is a good system to sort events out, there is nothing real about the change of a date. Things of the world still progress in their own way, ignorant of things such as calendars, appointments, and dates. It is the balance to humans living chained to clocks, calendars, and schedules while being ignorant of most of what else is going on outside of their lives.

December was a strange month ending an odd year. Losing the car to a deer and being essentially stranded here for the foreseeable future is not making me a happy camper. So the trip to visit my sister and her family in Indiana via Amtrak became a welcome respite from dealing with that mess. A mess that is still unresolved with documents promised from the insurance adjuster nowhere in sight.

The big news is my sister is pregnant and that is going to bring quite a few changes to that household. It will be interesting to see how the twins handle a new half-sister come late summer. Meanwhile, forget morning sickness, my sister has all day and night sickness. Not fun in the slightest and I hope she has an easier time of it as the pregnancy progresses.

Rare is it when I can be surprised by something and that goes doubly so for gifts. So when I spotted the huge wrapped box in the living room of their house, the thought that they might give me a Kindle evaporated. Surely that could not be an HDTV?

Of course it was. Just one little problem… how to get it home? Having ridden there on the train, I was sure it would not be allowed on as cargo. After verifying that, it ended up being shipped UPS with no possibility of insurance. So we will have a new TV if it survives shipping. Given the way things have gone of late, maybe I should not have ordered the Blu-ray player to be its companion. We will see.

My other gifts were socks (yes, I requested socks for Christmas – deal with it), pajamas (what, am I six again?), and a replica of my favorite Harry Potter character’s wand (Neville will always be the real hero of the story to me).

Speaking of unsung heroes, Bob Anderson died.  I have always appreciated great swordsmanship and never have gotten to see the real masters names who have been on the silver screen. Reclaiming the Blade goes on my Netflix cue ASAP.

Back on topic, whatever that was. Let me look…

Okay, the visit went well, no lives were lost and no animals killed or maimed in the process – despite being highly tempted. Their tiger cat, Teddy, has a compulsive tendency to micturate on our belongings and my laptop bag was the latest victim. Last time it was my father’s papers from a project he was working on.

Forced cat holding session begun.

Forced cat holding session ended.

My white cat Snooky is always demanding. Being gone for a week has aggravated her a great deal, so I am expected to hold her. Perpetually. Not gonna happen.

So back to the visit. Many a game was played and I won an unnaturally large amount of them. Typifying the mayhem, I won the final Sorry game by coming from behind with my brother-in-law and father with all their pawns in or in the safe zone. Given I was unable to even get on the board for the first go through of the cars, it was quite amazing. But I have to say my two victories in Apples to Apples were the real high point. There is nothing quite as satisfying as using people’s prejudices against them.

Forced cat holding session begun.

Forced cat holding session ended.

Good thing this post isn’t about a subject.

In the mailbox when I got home were the Pro Ana red/blue 3D glasses I had found on Amazon. They are acrylic with plastic frames and will be much harder to lose than the paper and gel kind. Experiments with them and PowerDVD 11 have been intriguing. As I suspected, the latest version of Star Trek converted very well to 3D. The way that film was shot lends itself to being turned into 3D and I have more experiments to perform. Sadly, I cannot put up any images because there is no way around the copy protection used by the program.

There are issues with everything getting darker and colors being somewhat off. Anything intensely red or blue becomes electric and skin tones yellow are the worst of it. Also fascinating is the ability to apply this conversion to still photos. What really surprised me is how useful this may turn out to model building. With depth I can better make out some of the subtle to complex bumps and lumps on aircraft walkarounds. So this may be something useful after all.

One fun thing about them is I can browse the various anaglyphic images on the web. Not bad for 17 cents and $2.98 shipping!

I was going to write about the experiences on the train trips, but enough rambling for now. That can be materiel for another post.