Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Twitter Fiction

Can you write a story in 140 characters or less?  Introducing Twitter Fiction! 

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a story in six words.  The master of brevity, he jammed several emotions into 33 characters.

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.
I'm no Hemingway (yet), but I can practice.  Here are samples of my first attempts.

Sam goes to the moon. He forgets his spacesuit. Mission Control is not happy.

An attempt at double entendre:
Sandra followed me home. I asked Mom, "Can I keep her?" She said, "Yes." Meow!

Plain ridiculous:
UFO landed on house. FBI rebuilt it and moved me out. I can't remember anything.

And finally, six movies rolled together like unused wrapping paper:
Anakin's mom died. He was mad. He had a son, and now he's glad.

Want to see more?  Visit my Tweets: @Melorama2000.  Check back often.  I'll be adding more.  If you like any particular story, feel free to retweet.  Try some stories of your own and send me a link. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

XP Doesn't Run on New iMacs

Well, almost.  I'll explain the title in a minute.  This post continues my big iMac tirade, which will soon come to an end, after which I will quickly return to my I-can't-get-published tirade.

The story so far:
My 4.5-year-old iMac died.
I ordered a new iMac.
I opined over what killed my old iMac.
When my new iMac arrived, I restored the Mac data, but had problems with the PC restore.

Grading my experience so far:

Quality of the new iMac: A (I would prefer a red one, but they don't make those any more.)

Restoring the Mac side from a Time Machine backup: A+ (I got EVERYTHING back.)

Updated programs that came with the Mac: A (Either the programs weren't installed or the Time Machine restore overwrote them.  I had to run the install bundle program from the Applications disk.)

Installing Boot Camp: B (Easy to follow instructions helped me through the XP Installation, which was in itself confusing.)

XP Restore: C (I think I got all my files and programs back, but the Restore interface was confusing--asking questions that only programmers could understand.  I made the wrong choice and killed the drivers and had to spend another 30 minutes restore Windows XP.)

Installing Boot Camp Drivers: F (Just keep reading.)

That's right.  XP is 98% functional on my iMac, but I can't download the last pieces (the PC-to-Mac drivers) because Apple doesn't want to give them to me.  They have recently announced the phasing out of XP support.  That's typical of their "out with the old" mentality.  For example, Apple was the first to make computers without floppy disk drives.  Also, more recently, they have blocked Flash from functioning on iPads and iPhones.

I understand not wanting to provide support, but why can't Apple provide drivers that already exist?  I only need XP so my music software will run.  I don't want to pay $200 for an overbloated Windows 7 when the XP I already own used to work just fine.  I'm not certain if my music software will even work on Windows 7.  I could possibly need to pay yet another $200 to upgrade that software just to get it to work with Windows 7.

I have a better idea.  I already forked over umpteen dollars to buy a new iMac that purports to run Windows.  Apple, how about you just give me the drivers?  Microsoft still supports XP (at least until 2014), so why did you stop?

I'm not giving up the fight, though.  All I need is a driver that will get my internet working, and then I can grab the other stupid drivers myself.  Once I figure it out, I'll let you know how it works.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marjorie Hudson at Barnhill - Book Reading

Tonight at Barnhill's, Marjorie Hudson read from her book of short stories: Accidental Birds of the Carolinas.  The title refers to birds you don't expect to see in a given area.  Each story is about a Yankee coming down to the South and interacting with the natives.

The parts she read were witty, touching, and well written, complete with a wonderful Southern tone.

I was attracted to the elements of science interwoven into a couple of stories.  For example, in the first story, a science-learned woman comes down to the south.  At first she believes she's above them, but according to Marjorie, she doesn't stay that way.

I went ahead and bought a book.  I'll add it to my cue and review later.  Marjorie signed it for me.  I think I'm up to four signed books now.  Tonight was a first for me--the first time attending a book reading/signing.

There were about ten of us there listening.  Kevin Watson, publisher and founding editor was there to present Marjorie.  The rest of us were two librarians, one published writer, and other aspiring writers like me.  The one published writer was Valerie Nieman.  If there were any others, they didn't identify themselves.

It was a fun experience meeting and listening to Marjorie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Restoring a Mac and PC (XP)

Okay, here goes nothing.  My new iMac has arrived.  Now I will attempt to restore everything on my old (and dead) iMac.  And then I will install Boot Camp, Windows XP, and then attempt to recover everything that was on my old iMac's Windows partition.  I'll document along the way for anyone else who may have to do this.

5:28 PM: I'm opening the box.  Need to get some scissors.
5:30 PM: I have to wait.  The family wants to watch it come out of the box.
5:32 PM: Dang!  The youngest is watching Spongebob.
5:43 PM: Box is open.  Packing stuff taken off of computer.  Youngest back to watching Spongebob,  Keyboard plugged in.  Wired mouse plugged in (for now),  Plugging in computer and pushing button.
5:50 PM: Had technical difficulties: ethernet cord wouldn't click in place.  Replaced cord.  Here we go again...
5:52 PM: Got past Welcome Screen.  Now I'm at the "Do You Already Own a Mac?" window.  This is where I want to tell it to restore from my previous Mac.  I choose "From a Time Machine backup."  I choose the appropriate disk to backup from.  Then it gives me a choice to restore my User Profile, Applications, Settings, Other files.  I'm going to select to restore everything.
5:57 PM: The mac had to calculate sizes and prepare to transfer.  Now I can hit the Transfer button.
5:59 PM: Dang!  I accidentally connected my disk via USB instead of via Firewire,  This is going to take longer.  It estimates about an hour to transfer everything.  I'll be back at around 7PM.
6:41 PM: Registration Screen; Then a few more questions; and then the Thank You Screen.

Okay, this is where I see the first issues and begin testing.  First it asks if I want to install Rosetta.  Yes.
I get another error message that says "Your office database index is missing...click to Rebuild."  Yes.
Another message says I need to do something with Temperature Monitor.  Don't care about that now.
Adobe Reader wants to update.  Sure.

Funny - I just realized that whatever Finder windows I had open at the time of Backup: those are the windows that are up now.
Next up, open Outlook and see if I can retrieve my emails.
I get the "Enter Your Product Key" message.  Oh oh!  Pulling out material.  There's the Product Key.  Typing it in.  Okay - here come my emails.  It's working!

What about iLife 11?  It's supposed to be installed on this computer.  I can't seem to find it.  It appears that the Time Machine backup has overwritten it.  Okay - no biggie, I hope.  I'll just insert the Applications Install DVD and see what my options are. 

7:08 PM: I put the DVD in, but it's not clear what to click on.  Let's see: Instructions - Page 55 says to open "Install Bundled Software".  If I choose "Customize," then it will give me a choice of what to download.  I'll download the whole thing.  Oh oh!  This is going to take another hour.  I'll be back ...
7:35 PM: It finished.  It didn't put icons down at the bottom, but I'll fix that later.  Now I'll run Software Update prior to moving on to install Boot Camp, etc.  Wow, lots of stuff to update--even a Firmware for graphics upgrade.  This is going to take a while.
7:56 PM: It's done.  I'm running Software Update again.  It says I'm good to go.  Next up: Install Boot Camp.

8:04 PM: The Help menu led me to "Boot Camp Assistant."  I'm opening it now.  Whoa - this is a little complicated.  I'm going to have to open the directions on another computer.
8:09 PM: Wait--it's not that complicated.  All I have to do is click "Continue." 
8:11 PM: It's giving me a choice how to apply the Mac/Windows drivers.  I can Download or use the Mac OSX Install DVD.  I'm going to choose "Download" just in case there's more up-to-date drivers out there.  Shucks--taking a long time!
8:45 PM: Now it's asking to burn a CD/DVD or designate a hard drive to place it.  Putting in CD...
8:58 PM: The CD is ready.  Now it's asking me to partition the drives.  I'm going to choose 32GB for Windows.
9:01 PM: It's asking for a Windows disk, but it only mentions Windows 7, not XP.  Documentation says XP should work.  I'll insert XP disc and see what happens.  Computer restarted - no complaints yet. 
9:10 PM: Windows XP is trying to load, but now it's stuck on the "Welcome to Setup" screen.  It says to hit "Enter," but it doesn't react.  I think the keyboard isn't registering.
9:13 PM: The keyboard is definitely not getting any power.  It's probably a driver issue.  Researching on the internet...
9:16 PM: The internet says to remove all USB devices except for the keyboard and try again.
9:32 PM: Okay - I finally got the Enter key to work.  I even had to unplug the mouse to get it to work.  It asks me to accept the agreement.  I press F8.  Next it asks which Partition to use.  If I pick the wrong one, it'll wipe out my Mac.  I choose the one that says "Bootcamp [FAT32]"

Next it asks which format to use for the partition.  The Boot Camp directions clarify: NTFS is if you want a partition greater than 32GB, but MacOS X can't change contents in the drive.  FAT can only go up to 32GB and only allows file sizes up to 4GB, but it allows files to be accessed by the MacOS X.  The instructions say NOT to choose "Leave Current File System Intact".  "Quick" is what you want to use for a first time formatting.  Not "Quick" is useful for erasing and starting over.  I'll choose NTFS - quick.  Windows asks me to confirm and hit "F".  I see that it lists the partition "Bootcamp," so I'm hitting "F."

10:02 PM: Computer rebooted and now it says it'll be done in 39 minutes.  Dude!
10:17 PM: Hah!  Windows XP tricked me.  I looked in on the computer and saw a prompt.  It wanted to ask me some setup questions.  I guess when XP says "Done in 39 minutes," it doesn't mean "come back in 39 minutes."  Rather it means, "Sit with me for 39 minutes while I chug, and I'll ask you random questions at random times.  Would you like some Hold music while you're waiting?"
10:27 PM: Computer rebooted.  Hey, now I have Windows!  Next up: install drivers.  Eject disk.  Insert the CD I created at 8:58PM.
10:33 PM: Okay - now I get a message that says "Boot Camp requires that your computer is running Windows 7."  Dag nab it!  Let me try to put in the Mac OSX disk instead.  Okay - I'm getting the same message.


There has to be a work around.  Internet, here I come.

10:49 PM: I'm not finding what I need.  If I upgrade to Windows 7, I'm not sure that the XP Restore will work.  Supposedly, there's a utility that could help.  Also, it seems that if I can find the drivers, I can download them.  Though, I don't believe the internet works without a driver.  I may be stuck.  If only I could Restore on XP and then upgrade to Windows 7?
10:56 PM: I'm going to try the System Restore anyway and see what happens.  It looks like I have access to my external drive.  At least that driver is working.
11:00 PM: I opened NTBackup.  The first screen says: "Welcome to Backup or Restore Wizard."  I click "Advanced" to see what my options are.  I click "Restore Wizard (Advanced)."  I click "Next," but it can't find a restore point.  I have to Browse to show Windows where it is.  Wow--this interface is confusing.  I check to restore everything under the restore point.  I hope this works...
On the next screen, I choose "Advanced," and then "Restore to Original location."  I get a message that says "Can't back up to locked disk or unknown disk."  What?

I go back and see that I have my Hard Disk (E Drive) listed as wanting to be restored.  What?  I'll uncheck that and try again.  Confused!  Okay, unchecking the E Drive worked.  Next: I'm going to choose "Replace existing files" hoping this might restore some drivers.  :)  Wish me luck.  Advanced Restore Options mention three exciting options that I don't understand.  Sure, why not?  Restore all three.  Then..."Finish."

It says it will take 2 hours to restore.  Wait--now it says 30 minutes.  I think I'll call it a night, and pick this back up tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review - Falling Skies on TNT

I liked it.  The premiere episode has me hooked.  It is surprisingly much like "The Walking Dead" on AMC.  It has hints of Battle: Los Angeles.  It is already much better than "V (2009)."

The first two hours of the show start after the main event has already occurred.  This could be good or bad.  Bad if you like to see the aliens coming (like I do).  Good if you just want to skip to the action.  Based on some scenes in previews, I think that we will most likely get flashbacks to catch us up.

This show is more about the people surviving than kicking alien booty.  I think that eventually, we'll get to that alien kicking, but for a while, it looks like the humans are going to be running.  Noah Wyle plays the main star--a dad who lost his wife to the aliens, and has had a child kidnapped.  He has two other sons with him now.

The show is co-produced by Mark Verheiden of "Battlestar Galactica" fame.  I'm hoping this will guarantee a good show, but then again, Verheiden did "Smallville" as well.

My only complaints are two: #1) the editing was a little sloppy in places; #2) the "Falling Skies" previews during the show itself are annoying.

Here are three scenes that confused me due to editing (no major spoilers here):
  • Right before a commercial break, a robot crashes through a wall and starts shooting at the people.  After the commercial break, I was expecting to see how they got away, but they were already long gone, and there was no robot in pursuit.  Since they introduced the tension, they should have resolved it, OR not introduce it in the first place.
  • At one point, an airship attacks a group of people.  It drops a blue bomb thing, but we don't see what it does.  Did the bomb kill those people?  Did it leave a crater in the ground?  The airship disappears without attacking anything else, and it's a cut to a commercial, and these questions are not resolved (though we assume the guys died).  Could it hurt to show them lying on the ground to show us they're dead?
  • At the very end (not a spoiler), we see six people walking with guns.  The music plays some "we're bad" theme.  But I'm confused.  What does that scene have to do with anything?  Where are they going?  Are they about to go shoot something?  I have no idea what the writers/directors were going for.  It's a lot like on "Star Trek Next Generation" when people walk off the bridge in random directions.  Did they enjoy walking into walls offscreen?
Hopefully, the editing will improve as the series progresses.  The editing issues are still nowhere near as annoying as TNT's habit of showing upcoming scenes at the commercial breaks.  For one, I don't need to see previews for a show I'm current watching.  Often, the clips include spoilers--like for example, think of someone who looks like they just died, but you see them in the upcoming preview--guess they're not dead!  Also, seeing forward scenes or even flashback scenes messes with the flow of the show--as if the producers are taking your bookmark and moving it around for you so you forget where you left off before the commercials came.

Maybe I'll start watching online instead of live.

Finally, I'll make a quick comparison of "Falling Skies" vs. "The Walking Dead".

  • Post-apocalyptic.
  • Humans running away and surviving.
  • Interesting characters.  (The Walking Dead is more interesting, but I like the "Sawyer" character on "Falling Skies.")
  • Chances of surviving near zero.
  • Are they filming in the same meadows?
  • Zombies are much scarier than these aliens.  At least with aliens, there's the chance of communicating with them.
  • The "resistance" on "Falling Skies" is a little more organized.
  • Dead humans stay dead in "Falling Skies."
  • Many more explosions in "Falling Skies."
 My advice: check it out.  It's better than some other recent stuff that's come out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day - My Boy's Humor

In honor of Father's Day, I'd like to share my boy's humor.  He's a chip off the old block.  A couple of years ago, the assignment was to put together a Father's Day booklet to give to your dad.  As it was the end of the school year, I don't think the teacher had a chance to look at what he wrote.  Still, I wait for the day when the guys in suits come knocking on my door...

Review - The Bucket List

I caught The Bucket List last night on TBS.  Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman both gave a wonderful performance. 

Their characters, Edward and Carter, are diagnosed with terminal cancer and they resolve to spend the next few months enjoying life.  I was expecting something more along the lines of Grumpy Old Men, but got something a little more poignant.  In their last moments, Edward and Carter learn what life is really about.  In between fun experiences and cleverly funny discussions, they reminisce on what they've accomplished, opportunities lost, positions obtained.  They discover what's missing in their lives.

Through a well-written script, this movie will entertain and rip your heart out.  No matter your age, this movie should inspire you to enjoy life and seize the day. 

The TBS-edited version is viewable by the whole family, though younger children probably wouldn't appreciate the subject matter.

My advice: watch this movie, and then go do something with your life--TODAY.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anticipating "Falling Skies" on TNT

Only one day left to wait.  "Falling Skies" premieres on TNT tomorrow night.  It looks like fun.  Aliens come down and wipe out everything.  With no cities and no electricity, those who survive form a resistance.  It looks like what "V" (2009) could have been had they skipped the "We come in peace" bit, and if it weren't so stupid.  It also looks a lot like the Battle: Los Angeles movie, except not from the point of view of civilians instead of Marines.  I wonder if it will be as good as "The Walking Dead" on AMC.

Stay tuned for a review of the first episode in the next couple of days.

In the mean time, you can find out more information on TNT's official Falling Skies website.  There are lots of goodies there.  My favorite is the "Last Defense" video.  If you put in an address, and if it's in Google maps, you can watch that house destroyed by aliens.  Make sure to put in your favorite neighbor's address--you know--the neighbor with the perfect yard.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Analyzing the Death of an iMac

The story so far:

My iMac died this past Sunday.
I ordered a new one, but it's not exactly what I want.

While I wait for the replacement computer to arrive, I'm going to practice taking something boring and making it interesting.  That's what we sci-fi writers do.

What could have caused the death of my hard drive?  I have no idea, but I can venture a couple of guesses.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon.  We were already back from church.  I was working to free up 10GB of space on my hard drive.

You see, for the past few months, my iMac had been running with less than 1GB of space on the hard drive.  A long time ago, that would be plenty of space, but not today with all the memory-hogs we all run.  Snow Leopard always likes to do stuff in the background, such as search indexing and defragging the hard drive.  Once it got down to 500MB free, pop-up boxes kept telling me that space was getting low.  I said, "Okay!  I get the message!" and I set a goal to free up 10GB by the end of the week.

Saturday I had gotten it up to 9.1GB.  So close!!  On that fateful Sunday afternoon, I only had to get rid of 0.9GB more.  It took a while, but I found some duplicate video files.  Delete!  I was then up to 9.7GB.  I tried compacting my Outlook database.  It saved less than 0.1GB.  I saw that iTunes wanted to be updated.  I did that and restarted the computer, though I noticed it was going slow.  Startup showed one of those progress bars that you only see when it's checking the hard drive for problems.

I thought that was interesting.

After upgrading iTunes, I was up to 9.8GB.  Then I thought, "What about all those unnecessary language files and fonts?  I'll probably never need 'Swahili.'"  So, I downloaded Monolingual, and let that chug away.  It went for a LONG time.  I was thinking, "Oh yeah!  I'm almost there!  Come on 10GB!"  When it finished, a window popped up: "I just saved you 0.1GB."

NNNNOOOO!!!!!  I was only at 9.9GB.  I thought I heard the computer laughing at me.  Then I searched for any more video files I could delete.  After 15 minutes, I finally found a few.  Delete!  And there I was!

10GB even!!!!

I was so happy that I had to get up and tell my wife.  She said, "Good for you," patted me on the head, and I went back to the computer to go play. 

I was surfing the internet, when thirty minutes later the free space had gone back down to 9.9GB.  Snow Leopard was doing one of its things.  "Oh, no you don't!" I said.  "You're not going to take this away from me!"  I went searching for something else to delete, and then it happened.

The computer was going really slow.  I thought it was one of those graphic-anomaly enhanced freezes.  It would chug for about 2 minutes, and then it would let me get in a click.  I said, "Okay, I'm going to shut down the computer and let the restart process fix whatever problem's going on."  Every two minutes, I was able to shut down another application.  Finally after fifteen minutes of struggling, the Temperature Monitor application gave an error saying something like, "I have lost your hard drive temperature.  Your S.M.A.R.T. is broken."  I knew that wasn't good.

When it finally rebooted, it did that hard disk checking thing again, and then I heard these strange clicking sounds.  I knew I was done in.  It was the spinning circle of death!  The hard disk's heads weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing!

Over the next hour, I did EVERYTHING.  It wasn't so much that I wanted to save the computer.  It's just that I didn't want the computer to get the last laugh with that 9.9GB thing!  I restarted the computer's internal settings by unplugging for 15 seconds and holding down command-shift-P-R.  I still got Click-click-click.  I put in the original install disk.  I ran the hardware checker.  It reported perfect scores.  (It doesn't check the hard drive.)  Then I ran the Disk Utility.  It said, "What disk?"  Great!  The disk can't even mount!  The heads just upped and left the building!  I was hosed!

What killed my hard drive?  I've narrowed it down to two possible causes and the one straw to break the camel's back.
  • I had less than 1GB of space left available for a long period of time--probably resulting in excess chugging that added wear and tear on the disk heads.
  • My wife discovered a vent in the back of the iMac under where the stand goes in.  It was filled was all kinds of dust.  I never realized that vent was there.  A clogged-up vent could have possibly contributed to both a hard-disk crash and the graphic anomalies I was experiencing.
  • Even though Monolingual didn't kill my hard drive, it certainly did locate and destroy thousands of tiny little files.  This increased hard-disk activity probably pushed it over the edge.  I was already experiencing unexplained slowdowns prior to running Monolingual, and halfway suspected a crash coming, though I didn't want to believe it.  If these signs happen to you, then it's probably a good idea to stop whatever you're doing and back up your stuff before you lose your chance.  And don't run any other hard-drive intensive programs until after you've backed up.
In summary, my advice is: Leave more than 1GB of space on your computer; clean out your vents--even that one behind the stand; back up your stuff often--especially when you notice your computer going extra slow and you hear your hard drive chugging away.  Then may you enjoy having a computer that lasts more than 4.5 years.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

iMacs: Like Ordering a Big Mac

My iMac died this past Sunday, and now I'm waiting for the replacement computer to arrive.  Let me tell you what it's like to buy a Mac.

First off, I'll admit that buying anything Apple is magical.  Everything they produce is a work of art.  The cases always look sexy.  Everything is plug-and-play.  You can hardly go wrong with Apple.

Or, at least that's what they'd like you to think.  <shifty eyes>

On the other hand, buying an Apple computer is also like ordering a hamburger at McDonalds.  When you get a Big Mac, you're going to get the beef, and the bread, and the lettuce, cheese, and secret sauce.  It's all laid out for you EVEN BEFORE YOU ORDER THE DANG THANG.  With an iMac, you get four different choices.
  • 21.5-inch: 2.5 GHz (the Cheeseburger)
  • 21.5-inch: 2.7 GHz (the Double Cheeseburger)
  • 27-inch: 2.7 GHz (the Quarter Pounder with Cheese)
  • 27-inch: 3.1 GHz (the Big Mac)
You can these with or without fries.  That is, you can order extra software at a slight discount.

They'll ship the computer to you in 24 hours unless you deviate from the standard order.  Just like saying, "I'll have a Big Mac without cheese," it's going to take longer.  I asked to switch out the tiny wireless keyboard for a wired standard keyboard, and to give me a magic trackpad instead of the magic mouse (I already have one of those).  Because of this change, they just now shipped it today, two days after I ordered.

Now, this is where I complain about the lack of choice.  As I explained in my previous post, a 27-inch monitor is not going to fit on my desk.  That kills off the "Quarter Pounder" and the "Big Mac".  But what if I want a 21.5-inch monitor with a 3.1 GHz chip?  I guess I'd be out of luck.

Do you know what I'd really want?  A red case!  White is so boring.  Why can't Apple sell me a computer in a red case?  Now, that would be sexy!  They used to sell iMacs in "flavors."

Then again, I'm silly for wanting a red case.  Steve Jobs knows what I want, and he's going to tell me what it is.  I can choose one of those four sandwiches, or I can go buy a <gasp> PC computer.  Now there are plenty of those "other" vendors who could sell me a computer in a red case.  But they're not going to give me a piece of art.  A piece of something else, I suppose.  So, Steve Jobs is right.  I really do want an iMac in a white case (like everyone else who's buying an iMac today).  Wow, we're becoming like the gray people in this video!

So instead of getting what I really want, I'm settling for what Apple has to offer.  I'll still enjoy it, but for the price, I could really enjoy it a lot more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My iMac Died

Yes, it's true.  My 4-and-a-half-year-old iMac died.  I'm really bummed out.  And what do I do as a writer?  I blog about it!  Here's a log of the whole experience.  You may find this interesting, especially if you want to know how to restore your files to a new iMac and also how to restore your Boot Camp files.

6/12/2011: My hard drive crashed.  Luckily I did a Time Machine backup yesterday.  It's been a few months since I did an XP backup on the PC-side, but it's also been a long time since I changed anything important over there.  I should have no problem restoring the Mac files, (and I hope some applications as well).  I'm a little worried about the PC side, as I had some music software and I'm not sure if I can reinstall it on my own.

Whatever the case, I need to get up and running again.  There's a lot to do in life, and a lot of my efforts use the computer, and it's mostly on a Mac.  Here's a list of my concerns:
  • What is the cheapest/best route for restoring all our files and get back to work?
  • When I restore the Mac stuff, will it restore the applications as well?
  • If it restores applications, what will happen on a newer Mac?  For example, if I backed-up iLife '06, and the new computer has iLife '11, will Time Machine overwrite the new version to restore the old?  Or will Time Machine be smart enough to not restore iLife '06?
  • How do I restore the Boot Camp partition?  When do I create the new partition on a new computer?  Will the XP Backup restore everything?
  • When I restore Microsoft products, am I going to have to authorization problems (seeing how I'm installing on a different computer)?  Am I going to have to call them up and explain that my computer died?
  • What about those PC music programs?  If XP Backup doesn't restore them, will I be able to gather all my install disks together, etc.?
6/13/2011: Here are my options:
  • Do without and move everything to our laptop.  This is the cheapest route, but the laptop doesn't have the 10-keys.  I can't do math without 10-keys!  Also, our laptop is fun, not work!  And the screen is so small.
  • Replace the hard drive.  (The second cheapest route.)  I'd replace it myself if I could get inside the iMac.  They have everything so crammed in there, I'm not even going to try.  It'll cost at least $100 labor to get it done.  Even then, I would still have the graphic card anomalies, and it will still be too slow to play all the new games.
  • Get a new computer - not an iMac, but a separate tower and a separate display.  If I do this, I wouldn't have to buy a keyboard or mouse.  Plus, if the hard drive crashes four years from now, I may be able to replace it myself.  Or I could more cheaply replace just the tower, and keep using my display.  But alas - look at the prices at apple.com.  The Mac Mini (smallest one) is $699.  It has a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip; 2GB memory; 320GB hard drive (or 500GB for $50 more).  If I want to purchase a display, it appears that Apple only has one available: the 27-incher at $999.  Really, Apple?  You don't have any smaller displays?  That behemoth won't fit on my desk!  Together this all comes out to about $1700.
  • Get a new iMac.  On the other hand, check out their smallest iMac.  It's a 21.5" screen.  It has 2.5GHz Quad-Core; 4GB memory; and 500GB hard drive.  All this is $1200.  So, for $500 cheaper, I get more computer, faster graphics, and a screen that fits on my desk.  I don't get it--how does this come out cheaper?
So, it looks like we're getting a new iMac.  It'll kill our budget, but it seems to be the best option.  We're going to order tonight, and I'll be back in a couple of days to continue the epic!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review - Super 8

Spielberg and Abrams do make a good combination.  Super 8 shows what happens when you combine The Goonies with Cloverfield.  You end up with a awkward collection of kids trying to figure out what the heck that thing is.  With the help of a fat kid, the kid with braces, the kid with glasses, the heartthrob girl, the pesky sister and some stoner dude, the regular-looking kid tries to hold everything together.  (See, I told you it was part Goonies.)

The movie takes place in 1980, which means there are plenty of old references that we 40-somethings appreciate.  My only complaint is that someone mentions a Rubik's Cube, which I don't remember coming out until 1981.  Close enough for a movie, I suppose.

I like the one scene where the kids go in to get their Super-8 film developed, and they ask the guy if he can do it over night.  He says, "Dude, no one does overnight."  The audience laughed.  Also, don't get too angry when you see how much gas cost back then!

What's impressive about this movie (and also Cloverfield), is that there are some things that are not revealed in previews.  WHAT A CONCEPT!  We know something is in the train, but what is it?  Other movie producers could learn from Abrams' example and not put the stupid end of the movie in the trailer!  I enjoy trying to figure stuff out on my own.

The kids in the movie are hilarious, and are pretty good actors.  For example, at one point, the fat kid explains that his doctor said he was yet to "slim down," which got a lot of laughs.  I halfway wonder if this was a nod to Jerry O'Connell, who played the fat kid in Stand By Me.  I'll let you enjoy the other gems when you go to see this movie.

Michael Giacchino provides good and appropriate music.  Giacchino is to Abrams as John Williams is to Spielberg.  It appears that these director/composer duos can't be separated.  Giacchino is a breath of fresh air after listening to Williams for two decades.  However, the "Abrams" Giacchino is starting to sound the same.  In any early scene, I found myself thinking, "Hey, I heard that tune on Lost!"  Giacchino is capable of different music as demonstrated in The Incredibles.  So, Abrams/Giacchino: if either one of you is reading this, just know that it would be okay if you went with a different style of music in your next movie.  "What works" doesn't have to be what you need to stick with.

I also wonder about the blue horizontal glare that we see throughout the movie.  It's a nice effect, and it was never annoying--but I just have to know: does it mean anything?  Is it a known artifact of filming on Super 8 film?  If someone knows, please tell me!

As for kid audiences, I wouldn't take anyone under 11.  The suspenseful scenes are ... well ... suspenseful.

Abrams has done a great job with another movie, and I look forward to the next one.

Introducing the Site Map

I'll be renovating my blog over the next month or so, moving toward looking more like a real website.

I have now created the Site Map!  I hope this will help you find the blog posts you seek.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This Time Only Comes Once

It's one thing to look forward to the future, when things are going to be better.  That's when you get that better job, or you finally achieve your dream and become famous.  That's when you're supposed to be "happy," right?

However, do you ever find yourself longing for the times that used to be?  For me, high school was fun.  I couldn't drive yet, and I didn't have a high-paying job; but life was easy.  There wasn't as much to worry my sweet little head.  All I had to do was absorb knowledge, flirt with the girls, hang with the guys, and make the grades. 

I remember the very last day of school.  I walked to the bus stop knowing I would never do it again.  I graduated, and there was no going back.

Then came college at BYU.  That was more fun.  Absorbing more knowledge.  Flirting with more girls.  Hanging with more guys.  Actually dating girls.  Making more grades.  Kissing the girls.  (Yeah--college was fun!)

I got married halfway through college.  That marked an end to dating all those other girls.  I remember the fun it was to date, but it was far better to have a stable companion.  I had moved on to something better.

When I graduated the first time, I stuck around for three more years to complete my masters.  That wasn't as much fun.  It was a lot more work.  I still didn't have a high-paying job.  I was racking up debt that would take years to pay back.  But those first years with my wife and having my first two children were fun.  We lived in a small apartment in the Wymount complex.  It didn't have air conditioning.

Then I graduated again.  I remember walking across campus one last time.

We packed our stuff, left Utah, and I knew I would never ever return to college life.  It was over.  It was time to move on to something better.

But I didn't have a job.  We lived with the in-laws, while I sought employment.  I discovered the actuarial profession.  I took the first two tests.  I made a perfect score on the first one and a decent score on the second. 

Then came the first job.  It took about nine months to find.  We moved out of the in-laws' house, and moved into an apartment.  After a few raises, a house came next.  Then came the next higher-paying job.  Then more kids, etc., etc.  Each of these events was moving on to something better, but also an ending of an era. 

Now, I have so many "never-go-back" moments behind me.  Sometimes I wish I could go back, just for a few minutes to experience these moments again.

And that brings me to today.  I have the decent-paying job, a good family, a stable home.  I'm an aspiring writer, having published nothing.  When I walk through the mall, no one knows who I am.  Whenever I have time, I write.  I enjoy writing.  I have no deadlines.  Whenever I finish, I submit.  I make my own writing hours, and I write what I want.  I'm also hanging out with other aspiring writers like me.  It sucks to get rejected and have no one read my stuff, but I'm still having fun.

Soon, I will be published.  I have no idea what that's going to be like.  As I proceed through the Aspiring Writer's Spectrum of Success, each milestone will be a change in my life.  It will be moving on to something better, and it will be the end of an era.  Am I going to miss how things are now?  Most likely.

Conclusion: It appears that I have no choice but to be happy where I am now.  Cherish these moments as they last.  Keep pushing forward in my endeavors, and keep moving to something better.  But always know that there will never be any going back.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review - Pirates 4

Arrgh!!  It was exactly what I expected.  Long.  Fun to watch.  Lots of swashbuckling.  And when it was over, the plot started to fade quicker than my grandma's underpants.  Wait!  There was a plot?

The fourth of Bruckheimer's Pirates series, On Stranger Tides, delivers as promised.  It has lots of Johnny Depp--possibly more than the other three movies combined.  As usual, the semblance of a plot is only an excuse to string together a fun sequence of fight scenes and special effects.

This movie is worth watching in 3-D, though the depth of some of the special effects doesn't quite always agree.  Unlike some recent 3-D disasters, this movie was actually filmed in 3-D and not converted.

Our whole family went to see this movie.  The youngest got bored, but the others had fun.  When we got home, there was plenty of swashbuckling going on until we made them go to bed.  The scantily-clad mermaids did make them a little uncomfortable; but never fear.  Strategic membranes cover up any whatevers-you-call-them-when-you're-children-are-around. 

In my review of the first movie, I mention a certain topologically impossible feat.  Well in #4, Jack Sparrow does not disappoint.  When he is tied up to a palm tree and he can't get his hands free; he shimmies his way up the tree--ropes tied around him the whole way.  (His friend watches in amazement.)  The camera switches to the top of the tree in time to show us Jack emerge and escape from the ropes.  What I'd like to have seen was how Jack got those ropes around all those branches at the very top of the tree!!

Then again, I ought to go easy on Bruckheimer--who, after all, produced Armageddon with all its bad science.  It's only a movie, right?

If you're looking for a fun 3-D movie with lots of action, and you don't want to think too much, then this is the movie to see.  Go have fun!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Joplin: Analysis of a Disaster

In the following clip, a group of 20 people ride out the Joplin F5 tornado in the cooler of a gas station.  You can't see much in the video, but you can hear all the sounds--especially what people say.  This provides some insight into how people react when disaster strikes.

Disasters can bring out the best in us.  In this case, the right decisions were made and lives were saved.  Watch the video, and then continue on for the discussion.

Isn't this a chilling video?  There's something about hearing voices and sounds in the dark.  It's similar to a scene or two from the movie, Devil.  What can we learn from this video?

#1) There is no silence.  Throughout every second, at least one person is talking or screaming.  It's almost as if we humans need to express ourselves when disaster strikes.  Now think of those disaster movies where people stare in awe and in silence.  Sorry, directors!  It doesn't happen in real life.  In contrast, there are some disasters where silence is warranted--that is, if you make a sound, you're toast.  Steven Spielberg is very good at handling these situations.  He always shows how the victim wants to scream/talk/cry, but fights the urge in order to survive.

#2) Cliches run rampant.  Before watching the video, if you had made a list of things you'd expect to hear people say, chances are you'd be right.  I know all the writing classes say to avoid cliches when you write; but what if you desire to capture something resembling real life?  The cliches in this video add to the surrealism.  Could be a useful technique (if only I could get it past the editors).

#3) No F-bombs.  At least there's that one absent cliche.  Twenty random people shoved together in a tiny space during a horrible disaster, and not a single F-bomb?  Writers who love to have all their characters swear like a sailor: take note!  Most people just don't swear.

#4) Humans still have the ability to get close to each other.  Most places we go, strangers are people we're not supposed to talk to.  At least that's how it seems, nowadays.  Anyone could be the next psycho.  Someone could be there to rob the cashier or, heaven forbid, someone might ask you for money if approach them.  It's better to avoid eye contact, make the transaction, and get out of there before someone runs off with your car.  Do you know what I mean?

Then comes a disaster, and all of a sudden everyone becomes best friends.  The facade we all put up falls, and everyone is completely honest with each other.  They're considerate.  They're protective.  Humans do what they're really supposed to do all the time. 

I'm one who believes that humans are inherently good.  I just wish that we didn't have to wait for the next disaster to be reminded of this.

Check out this video to see what's left of the gas station after the storm: