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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jack Webb TV Shows

Thanks to streaming services, especially Hulu, we've been watching a good amount of old TV shows. Among those are the 2nd version of Dragnet and Adam-12, both produced by Jack Webb, who also starred as Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet.

One over-riding theme on these shows is the purity of the main characters. Friday and Gannon on Dragnet are by the book, incorruptible cops. They solve crimes, and dish out facts, in a straight forward way. The same can be said of Malloy and Reed, the patrolmen on Adam-12, although they tended to have a little more personality.

I completely understand that these are not nuanced shows. They present the law and order side of things and show why the other side is wrong thinking, almost to the point of propaganda. That appeals to me, though. If you went by D&D alignments, I'd be Lawful Good, so this is right up my alley.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Walt Disney World has Quality People

Those of you that know me (or just read this blog) know that I LOVE me some Disney, especially Walt Disney World. Well, this year WDW is turning 45 and I, like most people, won't be able to make it down there to celebrate on the actual birthday. So, being in a somewhat silly mood, I posted something to Twitter. What happened after that was something that I did not expect, but really made me smile. Here's the entire conversation:

As you can see, the Cast Members at Walt Disney World are some great people who obviously love what they're doing. I don't know who was running the WDW Today Twitter account on that day, but I want to thank them for being a great sport.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

I think that the image above says it all.

OK, it says a lot, but not "all". Yes, today is Star Trek's 50th Anniversary. The effect that this franchise has had on my life cannot be overstated. First of all, it's responsible for my geekiness, as I described on my first ever podcast episode. The main reason for that, beyond that I was young when I first saw The Motion Picture, was that it made me think. Star Wars is a great adventure, as is Flash Gordon & Buck Rogers, and that's fun, but Star Trek gave me stuff to mull over and think about after the episodes were over.

What I would consider even more of an influence, however, is that I became an engineer specifically because of Scotty. I've always been good at math & science, but Scotty, or Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise, gave me a direction to focus those skills in. From that I not only have my career, but I met my wife in an engineering class. No engineering, no Michelle, and no Kira.

So, yeah, my life would have been COMPLETELY different without Star Trek.

Want to hear me talk more about Star Trek? Well, I did some guest appearances on other people's podcasts recently. Here are the links for those:

Super Mates 59: Star Trek 50th Anniversary Celebration

Gimme That Star Trek Ep.1: What If the Cage Went to Series?

Listen to the Prophets #048 - The House of Quark

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Countdown. or is it up?

We've recently started watching "American Ninja Warrior" and something occurred to me. More accurately, re-occurred since I did think about it years ago. That involves the clock in various sports. There are several, Football, Hockey, etc, that have a set time limit, so the clock counts down to the end of the period/game. That makes sense.

In what we Americans call Soccer, but the rest of the world calls Football, the clock counts up. That's not because there isn't a time limit, but instead to account for "Stoppage Time", to time when the clock was running but there was a penalty or some other stop in the play. This time gets added to the end of the half, and you never know how long it's actually going to be. That adds a bit of urgency into the game, since the next second could be the whistle.

Now back to what started this all, Ninja Warrior. When Michelle and I first started watching the show, it was the original Japanese version on the G4 network (which I miss terribly). That and X-Play were "must see TV" for us. In that show, the timer counted down for the stages. If you ran out of time, no matter how good you were doing, you were out. Now, in the American version, the timer counts up and they take the top 30 people, whether they finished or not, to the next level.

I think this displays some of the mindset of the cultures. In Japan, it's set up so that you have to try your hardest and, even then, you could fail. Heck, there have been years when no one has made it all the way to the end of the competition, therefore no one wins. In America, that land of the participation trophy, the idea of having no winner doesn't make sense to us. If you compete in something, someone has to come out on top.

Two different takes on how to do it and, since I haven't seen more than a few episodes of the American version, I can't say which is better. The Japanese version does seem to reflect life a little more, though.

Regardless of all that, these people are amazing ... no, more like AMAZING athletes. The fact that they do this in their spare time is stunning. Heck, just check out this run by Kira's favorite ninja:

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

My Top 10 Superhero Movies

Recently, a friend asked me what my top ten comic book movies were. I looked at this as a mental exercise, because my typical answer is "it depends on my mood". This time, though, I set out some criteria for my choices.

  1. The character(s) had to originate in comic books or comic strips. So, characters like Zorro (books), The Lone Ranger (radio), or the crew of the Enterprise (TV) aren’t allowed.
  2. Comic book adaptions of movies (i.e. Star Wars) don’t count, even if they came out before the movie itself.
  3. Theatrical releases only, no TV movies.

So, with all of that in mind, here's my list.

10. Batman (Warner Brothers, 1989)

One of the first times I saw a "serious" Batman on the screen was when my friends and I went to the two screen movie theater in town and waited in line for THE EVENT of the summer of 1989. I remember being one of the people that wasn't all that convinced that Michael Keaton could pull off a serious role, but I was wrong. This is still one of the great examples of a non-origin movie, even if they had to link the Joker & Batman.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Studios, 2014)

This is one our whole family enjoyed when we saw it. Kira loved the visuals, and the talking raccoon. Michelle loved the story and characters. I was just reveling in the "comic-ness" of the whole thing. I mean, there was a scene with a Celestial for crying out loud! Plus, this was just a fun movie that didn't take itself too seriously.

8. Iron Man (Marvel Studios, 2008)

You want an example of how to turn a comic origin into a movie? Here you go. Updated for the more modern day technology (no, transistors didn't do everything) and a location change, but pretty much everything from the Tales of Suspense issue is here. Plus, Robert Downey, Jr. did an amazing job which has, fortunately or unfortunately, informed the character since.

7. Batman (20th Century Fox, 1966)

Yes, I rank Adam West & Caesar Romero higher than Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and that for the simple reason that we have the Silver Age Batman characters on screen in a hugely fun romp. I love the original Batman TV Series in all it's tongue-in-cheek glory, and this movie is that ramped up to 11. We recently rewatched this for it's 50th Anniversary and I'm happy to say that it's still one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen, right down to the Bat Anti-Shark Spray.

6. Thor (Marvel Studios, 2011)

Marvel puts out, essentially, a movie about Walt Simonson's Thor directed by one of the best Shakespearean actors/directors of the modern age and you can be assured that it will be on my top 10 list. This was the perfect way to approach the idea of a god as a superhero, and bringing the whole humility thing in without resorting to Donald Blake just gets bonus points.

5. The Phantom (Paramount Pictures, 1996)

Look at Billy Zane in this movie and you'll see someone who's just having a blast in the role. Prior to this movie my entire experience with The Phantom was on "Defenders of the Earth", which isn't exactly the best introduction. This film, barring the stupid "Slam Evil" tag, is just great stuff. Keeping Kit Walker in the 30's/40's is probably the best way to handle it. Heck, I'd love to see The Ghost Who Walks run across Indiana Jones. The Nazis wouldn't stand a chance.

4. The Incredible Hulk (Marvel Studios, 2008)

I have no problem with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. In fact, I like what he's done with the role very much. Ed Norton, though, was a great amalgam of the comic book & TV Banner and I will always prefer him in the role. The nods to every version of the Hulk in this movie are terrific, as is the story. Banner's still on the run and trying to find a cure, & in trying to combat him General Ross unleashes an even worse monster. Great stuff!

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Warner Brothers, 1993)

The single best interpretation of Batman, in my opinion, is Batman: The Animated Series. Bring all of that to the big screen, with a take-off on Batman: Year Two, and you have my attention. Kevin Conroy & Mark Hamill will for all time be the voices that I hear when reading Batman & The Joker, and they are at their absolute best in this movie. Add a possibility of Bruce Wayne NOT becoming Batman, and you have one heck of a film.

2. Superman: The Movie (Warner Brothers, 1978)

You look at this picture and just hear the John Williams score, don't you? There's no doubt about it, Christopher Reeve was the absolute BEST at portraying both Clark Kent and Superman. His earnestness just sells it to the point that you do believe that a man can fly. This isn't a perfect movie, between the "can you read my mind" stuff and the flying back through time deus ex machina, but it's still one of the best out there.

1. Captain America – The First Avenger (Marvel Studios, 2011)

I put Christopher Reeve & Chris Evans in the same club, because Superman & Captain America are in the same club. These are the men who do the right thing, no matter how hard it is or how much they have to sacrifice. I whole-heartedly believe Evans as Steve Rogers, a man who doesn't want to kill but to protect. This is Captain America, the hero that everyone in the world, American or not, can look up to and admire.

What do you think, dear reader? With the criteria above, are there any that I should have had on here? Should Flash Gordon have replaced the 1966 Batman? Should Iron Man 2 be on here in place of something? Let me know your opinion.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Disney Dining

As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm a planner. I like to know what I'm going to be doing on such and such a day pretty early on. It should be no surprise, then, that I'm already into planning our 2017 vacation. Right now the plan is to head back to Orlando, but this time we're going to visit Universal and possibly Kennedy Space Center, as well as Walt Disney World. We won't be going for two weeks this time, but we will be down there for more than one week.

Since we have our timeshare already booked for the first 7 days, we had a couple of more nights that we needed to take care of. Since I have never stayed On Property at WDW, we thought that this would be the perfect opportunity. So, I contacted the experts at Earning My Ears to get their opinions on hotel choices. We've more or less settled on where we're going to stay, but I had another question for them. Staying On Property gives you the opportunity to get a Dining Plan, and I had heard things both for and against this. It also turns out that the Scotts were split on it.

In any case, the discussion came down to comparing costs. All WDW restaurants have their menus online, so all you need to do is a little research. I started out with what would the dining plan add to the cost of our stay. Here are some numbers for you to consider for your trip.

First, the basics. We're talking about two adults and one child under 9 staying two nights. Each Dining Plan has two Snacks per person per night, as well as a beverage cup that can be refilled at any resort. For purposes of this exercise, I'm going to use the price of a Mickey Bar (~$4) as the base cost for a snack and the cup is approximately $17 each*.

That means the snacks for the stay would be $4 * 2 nights * 2 per night * 3 people = $48, and the total cost for the cups would be $17 * 3 people = $51. So we need to subtract $99 from the plan cost to get the cost of just the meals.

Now for the plan breakdown, based on the 2017 options:

Quick Service Dining Plan
(2) Quick Service Meals
Cost for our stay ~ $228
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $129
Cost per Meal ~$33

Disney Dining Plan
(1) Quick Service Meal
(1) Table Service Meal
Cost for our stay ~ $320
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $221
Cost per Meal ~ $56

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
(3) Meals, Quick Service or Table Service
Cost for our stay ~ $492
Cost without Snacks ~ $393
Cost per Meal ~ $66

For comparison sake, let's look at Lunch at The Liberty Tree Tavern and Breakfast at The Riverside Mill Food Court.

At Lunch, we'd likely have the Kids' Pasta ($9.50), Angus Cheeseburger ($16.00), and Pilgrim's Feast ($19.00), possibly having the Boston Cream Pie ($8.50) and Johnny Appleseed's Tart ($8.00) for dessert. Plus 2 drink ($2.99 each) Total cost of the meal = $67.00

At Breakfast the likely choices would be Kid's Mickey Shaped Waffle ($4.99), Bounty Platter w/ Waffle ($9.49), Grits ($2.99), & Create Your Own Omelet ($8.49). Plus Iced Coffee ($4.69) & whatever juice choice they have (not listed). Total cost of the meal = $30.65

Using these numbers as a basis (~$49 average for the two meals), it wouldn't make sense to get any of the plans. However, if we were to possibly go to Chef Mickey's for Dinner, which is a more expensive restaurant, something else might fall in line.

Let's look at another example, just to be complete. This time it's Dinner at The Liberty Inn. Here we'll probably go for the Kids' Chicken Breast Nuggets ($6.49), The All American Burger ($14.49), and the Classic Cheeseburger ($12.99), as well as a Large soda ($3.69) and a Regular soda ($3.29). Total cost of the meal = $40.95

Combine both of our Quick Service examples and we have an average cost of $35.80 per meal, which is greater than the cost of $33 per meal of the Quick Service plan. In this case, it would make sense to have the Quick Service plan and then pay out of pocket if we want to do Table Service somewhere.

So we need to scope out where we want to eat and the likely cost of the meal, we can see if any of these plans would make sense. If that a bit of work? Yes, it is. However, I'm the guy who not only plans out where we're going to eat but, where ever possible, I make reservations for us, so I'd have to do some of this work anyway.

Will this kind of planning be helpful to you? I hope so. Yeah, you have to put some time and effort in but, really, you'll need to do that if you want to get the most out of a WDW vacation.

Speaking of which, I can't recommend this episode highly enough for planning your trip.

* If you don't think they'll lose money on me having a refillable cup for soda during my stay, you don't know me very well. ;-)

EDIT: We ran the numbers this weekend and it looks like the only plan that would make sense for us would be the Deluxe. There's a caveat to that, though. Since the plan only takes effect when we check into the hotel, that means that we would have to eat all the meals On Property for those days, essentially locking us into visiting only WDW. Since we are planning on meeting up with other people, possibly somewhere else, and that hasn't been finalized yet, this might not work for this trip.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016


One of those cartoon "events" that I remember from being a kid is Animalympics. A movie about anthropomorphic animals completing in their own Olympic games. What's not to love?

I remember this being on HBO every Olympic year, and my sister & I would make sure to catch it. I didn't get all the references, but I remember loving it.

Now I get the references to Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali, Mark Spitz, John Travolta, and all the other celebrities. I also get the paradoy of Olympic coverage, as I have watched a number of broadcasts of the games.

This is definitely a cartoon aimed at adults*, but with enough stuff for kids to enjoy, in the best Termite Terrace tradition. Also, since the Olympics are currently going on, what better time for a re-watch? I've added the video below, for your convenience.

* No, I'm not talking about Kit Mambo or Brenda Springer. Not that I'm complaining about them, mind you. ;-)

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