Consumer BEWARE: Brian Davis Septic Company

  If you live in the Palm Bay/Viera/Melbourne area in Florida, USA and you  own or have an aerobic septic system in  your home? Consumer BEWARE of the Brian Davis Septic Company! Read this!  Continue reading →

PerfectDisk 11: Now Even… Perfecter?

Many years back I was a firm believer in the Norton Speed Disk. It seemed intelligent enough. I could schedule it to run through windows scheduler. Plus, well, it was Norton… and Norton was the best at everything right? After all, the company that made Norton Commander could do no wrong! It was perfect!

Perfect except for the fact that scheduling it always seemed to make the computer run a bit slower than I liked so I ended up running it myself. Oh, and the fact that once I did run the thing it took hours even for the smaller drives at the time. Eventually I stopped falling for the hype and the continual wave of fanboyish support from a surprisingly large percentage of the tech crowd I worked with at the time. The continually high price for the Symantec products coupled with the bloatware they had become became finally drove me away.

I next landed in freeware and shareware land, looking for a light, efficient and cheap option. First I tried just using the windows defragmenter and my system ran like… well… like it was defragged by the same company that designed Windows ME. I stumbled over to Auslogics Defrag next. This program is great… there’s just not much to it. After the handful of intelligent (sounding) features of Norton this was the equivalent of going from a daily diet of double whoppers and milkshakes (so delicious but so bad for you) to vitamins, stale bread, wilted celery and dirty skunky Florida well water. Sure you can live on it but why the hell would you want to?

Auslogics worked. It wasn’t great but the drive performance afterward was better than Windows Defrag and it finished more quickly. It had a small footprint and the price is certainly right… it just wasn’t enough for me. I’d gone too far in the other extreme… I didn’t want to sacrifice features for price and footprint.

Then I found Raxco’s PerfectDisk… I think it was Version 8. It was single purpose, it was small but it was full of intelligent features and it was cheaper than Norton. I was, of course skeptical at first. I’d been fooled by bright and shiny baubles and smooth talkin’ before.

They had me after the first time I ran it.

I’ve reviewed PerfectDisk before (and hopefully will continue to do so) and so I won’t dive too much into the first result… but I can tell you that my drives were more than just a little faster… programs launched quickly and there was a decided “snap” to the system. It scheduled itself. It’s system footprint was reasonable and it had a nice smattering of intelligent sounding… and acting… features.

Well, A couple of weeks ago the fine folks over at Raxco Software once again provided the Geeks with an evaluation copy of their consistently impressive PerfectDisk. The newest iteration, version 11, continues the outstanding tradition set by its predecessors while upping the bar even higher for the competition.

Footprint

One of the first things I look for in a defrag program, or any system maintenance utility,  is the background footprint.  I leave my PCs on a lot. Our server is on 363 days a year… only down when I take it apart to clean it. The home PC is on more often than not. I also work a lot and don’t like to waste time doing system maintenance when I can be stabbing people or flying spaceships. Because of this, I prefer to schedule my weekly defragging for times when I’m at work or asleep. This also means at least some portion of the program is running in the background at all times, waiting to run when I tell it. PerfectDisk uses 2 programs for this… PDAgent and PDAgentS1… and these programs retain the same names between version 10 and 11. A big difference between the two versions, however is their size. In Version 10, these programs were already an impressively small 9,876 bytes combined (all of these figures are under Windows 7 x64). In version 11 drops almost in half to 5,532 bytes!

When loading the actual program, the footprint of the open program increased just slightly from 26,200 bytes to 29,556 bytes… but this still leaves us with a reduction, overall, from 36,076 bytes in PerfectDisk 10 to 35,088 in version 11. Both programs rise by similar amounts while operating defragging, of course, but again I’m not at my computer when it’s defragging. I am at it when it’s scheduled to run.

Features

Next up in my wish list of Defrag program qualities is feature set. The perfect example of a featureless Defrag program is Windows Defrag. It doesn’t do anything but defrag the files. The order of the files is irrelevant. Connectivity to other PCs? Not important. Decent (or any) logs? Hell no. Space management? Go buy another program.

The feature set for PerfectDisk 11 is expansive enough that rather than just referring to it as a defragger, it’s more accurate to call it a drive management system. It not only helps manage your drive performance through intelligent defragmenting of your files. Though Space Management, it will give you back more of that hard drive real estate and, most importantly, help you remove the duplicates that always seem to build up on a computer used for any sort of work. Run this Dup finder just once. You will be surprised how much space is taken up by duplicates installed by major apps like Adobe.

One of my favorite updated features is the use of presets for SmartPlacement: Raxco’s intelligent file placement system. In version 10, SmartPlacement essentially allowed you define ages for rarely and recently modified files and a simple check box to aggressively defragment empty space. In Version 11, the system has been revamped to include several different levels of defragmentation, from conservative to “classic” to Performance and Performance Aggressive. The more aggressive, the longer the run time but the more significant the impact on system performance.

Defrag Speed

Now that I can actually schedule the defrag without suffering constant system slow downs, the actual speed of defrag is much less important than it used to be. However, I also don’t want to have my drive chewing away at full bore for 8 hours, even if I’m not inconvenienced. I run defrags weekly on by 300GB system drive approximately 50% full and they are typically complete in about an hour on a Aggressive Performance setting… the initial run took longer, as is typical in my testing experience, but the performance difference was noticeable even though I had been using PerfectDisk 10 before. The end goal of any system maintenance software is to promote stability and speed and PerfectDisk continues to deliver.

One experience to note: The first weekend I installed this thing I accidentally scheduled it for Sunday rather than my actual normal day of Saturday when I’m at work. After installing it an poking around a while I decided to waste some valuable time and play some Star Trek Online. I played a few hours and quit. When I closed the window The perfect Disk Status Window was up behind it. It had completed a defrag without crushing my system. I opened up Outlook and it popped up in what seemed to be half it’s already quick launch time.

Price

I’m not a millionaire. If you are, please buy me things and/or send me money. For the rest of you that aren’t, price matters. Norton = $49.99. PerfectDisk = $39.99 for Pro, $29.99 for Home premium. Better product for less money. How the hell could this not be a selling point?

Conclusion

So there you have it. Another year brings another fantastic release from Raxco. If you haven’t used this program before, try out one of their demos and I guarantee you that you will be impressed and that you will become a believer. You simply cannot appreciate the difference a professional disk maintenance tool can make on your own system until you see it for yourself.

A Good Year

It’s been a busy year here at the Pence household.

Like most people, I’m busy celebrating with the better half and quite definitely “nicely relaxed.” this year, I am “nicely relaxed” (ie obliterated… so please excuse the typos) on a steady stream of Mooing Irish Pepsis (Bailey’s, coke and milk) and rum and cokes, but made with this awesome Black Cherry rum. It’s very rare that me and the other half of 2phatgeeks.com actually get a chance to drink up and enjoy. We’re either too poor or too occupied or I’m too tied up with work.

But tonight? No way… Tonight we celebrate one hell of a year, as far as I’m concerned. Tonight we’re gonna tie one on because I can afford it (sort of), because we’ve earned it and because, for once, we don’t have any major crises hanging over my gradually increasing forehead. So let me tell you what we both accomplished this year.

  1. We were finally, legally, without a doubt and without legal issue completely married. We’ve been together seven years this year and we finally made it through, what for us, was a major international hurdle. It was also something I’ve wanted to do since we met and it is more than an major relief, it’s like I’ve finally managed to finish off a major life’s work. It would not have been possible without the continual support of my family, her family and… most importantly, her.
  2. Hell, not only that, we made it through reams of international (though largely US) red tape. Sure, it put us in debt beyond my wildest imagination and involved an enormous amount of stress, but as of this October, we officially made it through the first and most difficult portion of her naturalization. I’d like to throw out a special and very heartfelt thank you to our lawyer, Fernando Palacios. This kindly grandfatherly figure made a significant portion of our dreams come true and we’ll always be indebted. If anyone on the east coast of Florida needs an Immigration lawyer, find this guy… he’s the best.
  3. The credit union I work out announced it’s intention to merge, and absorb, one of the largest credit unions in south Florida. This was a huge deal and resulted in the next item, in addition to essentially securing the future for my family.
  4. I received a promotion to Assistant Manager. I’ve been a Senior Call Center Associate, basically the person you get when you ask for a manager or a supervisor, for over two years. It’s the longest I’ve ever been in a position. I figured, like most folks, that I’d be in this position another year or so. Thanks to the merger, the support of my managers and no small amount of hard work, I managed to claw my way up sooner than expected officially as of this November. This was an awesome surprise and the opportunity I’d been waiting for. It’s a lot more work, but I do find myself loving it. It, along with the above, has lead to the next item…
  5. Finally some relief from having to rely on credit to make our way through every plan and holiday. As 2010 begins, 4 out of 7 credit cards are shut down and in payoff and we’ve still managed to have nearly enough money set aside to pay for the entire awesome Disney Vacation we have planned. It may not seem like such a big deal to some folks, but moving away from Credit and moving into paying for things directly is a huge deal for me. As much as I might miss having the cards to fall back on for extra little surprised for the better half, it’s just awesome knowing that I’m paying these things off and closing them… eventually.
  6. While all of this craziness was going on, we both participated in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. While many of you are very familiar with this it’s honestly the first I’d heard of it. I’ve never considered myself much of a writer. With all of the focus I’ve had lately on work, I used to play saxophone regularly, in several jazz bands and ensembles, but I haven’t had any actually creative outlet in a long time. So this year, when Mel mentioned this novel writing thing, I figured, “What the hell. I’ve got nothing else to do.” To my immense surprise I actually finished… and finished early. It feels like I won a fucking marathon and I certainly count it in my highlights of a year already filled with goodness.
  7. My better half opened and made some real, no-foolin’, people money on the intarwebz! Her Etsy shop took off more than even I expected, and I had high hopes, and she continues to show me just how talented she really is each and every day.
  8. Last but most certainly not least, every member of my family made it through the year still alive and still kicking; mom, dad, grandma, sister, mother and father in law (hang in there guys!) and my brother-in-law not to mention my non-human family: cats, bird, hamsters and all! Sure, some of my family are kicking a lot less strongly than before, but they’re still out there and they make it all worth doing, no matter what a pain in the ass it is.

It was one hell of a year, for sure. After what is sure to be a couple of frenetic months, 2010 will start off with me and my better half finally taking a long discussed and dreamed of vacation at Disney World. Instead of running through two parks in a single day, we’ll have four full days to enjoy it all. For those of you that don’t fully appreciate what this means, let me just say that I will have more fun watching her at Disney than I will actually being there myself. 2010 is already looking up.

To all of you that I’ve argued with, dealt with on the phone, annoyed, pissed off, amused or in any way touched your life, thanks for being a part of making this awesome year even more awesome. I wish each and every one of you as good a year as we’ve had and hope nothing but the very best for all of you and your families.

Happy New Year, Internets… I love you guys.

I Did It!

Sometimes you just don’t know how much you can do until you set a ridiculous goal for yourself.

This year, I decided to participate in something I’d never heard of before: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The trick to this little contest is this, between November 1st and November 30th you write novel (hopefully) of at least 50,000 words. The better half was participating this year and, since I’d just been promoted and just finished up with some arduous immigration stuff, I apparently needed something else to stress over.

I did not expect to finish. I work a lot, and some of that work ends up getting brought home. I have a history of getting great ideas started and having those ideas die out when I begin dealing with the agonizing minutiae that most projects of mine tend to have. I also happen to enjoy time watching TV and movies just vegetating in front of the tube.

No one was more surprised than I was that I finished it.

Not only did I finish, but I finished 5 days early on November 25th! I really did have a good time, despite days where I just couldn’t find anything to write about and spent 1600-1700 words playing out conversations just to fill space. It’s horrendous, I’m sure. Fortunately for me the goal is not to produce a finished product, but a very, very rough draft. It doesn’t have to be good. Hell, judging by the hints, tips and tricks from past year participants, it doesn’t even have to really be a novel. Some people write poetry. In one of the of the many confidence building emails sent out by the staff, they describe portions of the novel where their characters read from the dictionary. The point is to put 50,000 words on paper in a month, period.

Phew!It wasn’t easy. The first 10,000 words aren’t too bad, but when you’re sitting down to write your 1,667 words a day and realize you have no idea where to start or what to say it’s pretty damn frustrating. I found 10,000-25,000 words to be the hardest part. I wanted to move ahead, but was scared I’d finish too soon and fall short of the 50k mark. I started stretching scenes and putting in what I considered filler. I kept hearing the other writers, some of whom had tried multiple times in the past, talk about the fact that it accelerates once you get to around 25k-30k. I was stunned how right they were. The last 25,000 seemed a lot more effortless. I was busy with the action and the ending of my story and before I realized it, 50,000 was only a couple days away.

It’s horrible, of course, and I realize that. Is there a publishable story there? Probably not. If there is, it needs to be heavy edited and probably expanded, I still think the ending just sort of happened. It really doesn’t matter much. I’d never been a writer. I tended to stick to more visual forms of communication. I surprised myself. I got up every day a little earlier and wrote about 600 words before leaving for work, would write more at lunch. If I couldn’t finish off the 1,667 words a day off during lunch, I’d come home and wrap it up. With one exception I hit or exceeded every day. I’m not bragging, I’m just amazed I did it.

Will I do it again? Probably, yes. It’s a lot harder than you think to bring a novel into being and it takes a profound amount of dedication. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ridiculously relieved when I made the finish line. Everyone should complete it once just to see how it feels. It’s a pretty exhilarating experience to pull off.

It’s not about winning or completing something marketable. It’s about writing. It’s not even about hitting the 50,000 words; the fact you take the time to write each day is far more important, even if it’s only 500 words.  Write. Don’t make excuses, just write until you’re done and stop. Making the 50,000 is just the icing on the cake; it’s so delicious and moist, after all.

Next November, I hope to see you all and the 2010 NaNoWriMo! I will try again!

Up, Up, and Fan-freakin’-tastic

For me, it is one of those little joys in life to go and see a movie with my better half. I’ve always been a huge film fan, and I love sharing a movie day, even if it’s an “ehhh” movie (I’m looking at you Ghost Rider), with the other Phat Geek. With Mel so recently back from a really long six weeks away, we decided to go out and spend a couple days catching movies this week.

Monday we went and saw Star Trek. This is good solid geek fare and just as much a part of her welcome back as the dinner that followed. You can check out my review here, but suffice it to say she liked it and I enjoyed seeing it a second time.

Today, though, we went and saw Up. One word: beautiful.

It was an absolutely perfect example of the reasons I enjoy movies and why I especially love sharing them with her. How Pixar consistently manages to put out films of this quality is beyond me. To follow up Wall-E, which was arguably the best animated film I’ve ever seen, with a film that in some very important ways surpasses it illustrates the sort of phenomenal product they’re putting out. With predictably nuanced charm, Pixar has managed to create a film that appeals to audiences on two basic levels.

For the kiddies we had the basic story about an old man and a little boy saving the day from a dastardly villain. The animation is bright and colorful and up to the normal high standards we’re used to in Pixar films. The main characters each have a very distinct look and feel though we can see a bit of the humans from Wall-E in the little boy. The film is presented in a narrower field of format than the usual cinematic fare though you hardly notice it. I have a feeling this has more to do with the fact we saw the 3D version of the film than anything else.

It has been a long time since I saw a 3D film. I just can’t get over the fact that I have to put crap on my head to see a film in the theater. I’d been hearing good things about the more recent usage of 3D and decided to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. The 3D was convincing but there was a welcome lack of purposeful gags playing on the 3D gimmick. There were no ping pong balls bounced at the screen, there were no water guns. The 3D added to the film more by bringing you into it and working with the surround sound effects. All in all I was pleased. Will I go see other 3D films? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely an improvement!

3D or not, though, the first level of the film is perfect for the little kids and loaded with tons of good humor, too. The damn bird had me laughing out loud as did the scene of the kid getting dragged across the window. I absolutely loved the talking dog thing and it was a great solution to the whole “Why can the people understand the dogs?” issue that occasionally pops up in these animated films. This film would have been a good enjoyable romp on just this level.

But on the second, deeper level this films goes from enjoyable to just plain wonderful.

Underneath the bright colors and funny gags, there is a nuanced and touching story about an old man dealing with the loss of his best friend and wife and of a boy dealing with a father largely missing from his life. In a very general sense the overwhelming message of this movie is that the only way to deal with hardship is to rise above them and become a better person. However, the story that Up tells is a very real and touching and expresses even more tenderness than Wall-E’s beautifully crafted story. I’m not ashamed to say that, on more than one occasion, I teared up during this film. If you can watch this movie with a dry eye, you’re dead inside.

I watched Wall-E about a week-and-a-half ago. I remarked to myself on how perfect the film was. The animation was fantastic, the story both amusing and touching and the message topical and well told.  In the animation department, I still have to give the nod to Wall-E. It is in the message that Up takes the title.

The messages in Wall-E were simple and universal: Life and the Earth are to be protected and Love overcomes all boundaries. These are messages that resonate with people of all ages. Even the youngest child can understand the love between Wall-E and Eve. The love shared by Carl and Elie is no more difficult to understand but the sense of loss and incompleteness expressed by the little old man are far more complex and personal. In the same way the abandonment issues experienced by the little boy, Russell, will not be as easily appreciated by the younger audience. Carl’s and Russell’s stories are both very adult in their themes and both exceptionally well done. The end of the film gave the sort of wonderful warm feeling that everyone needs now and again.

If you haven’t seen this film, you need to. If you have… maybe see it again, and be thankful you’re not on the team at Pixar that’s just been told “Ok… that was great. How can we improve on this for our next film?”

Pinkopalypse

When it comes to computers, there are pink components, and there are good components, but there are scant few good pink components. While for most geeks this is not a problem, for me it is as the better half loves the color pink. So, in addition to doing every odd job I could think of to fill my time, I decided to right a serious geek wrong and make the pink computer I know she wants.

I am not a case modder; not by a long shot. I put computers together in preassembled cases. I’m pretty handy when it comes to putting things IN computers, but I am not known for my vast case modding skills. So while this was intended to be a welcome home gift for the better half of 2PhatGeeks, It was also a learning experience. So, I began.

First, we had to modify the cover. The case was originally black and silver and designed around a nicely geeky RPG/Medieval theme, complete with a shield on the front. Unfortunately The XBlade Design wasn’t going to work for the pink happy box idea I had in mind, so I had to do something. I pondered long and hard, several weeks before she left, in fact, deciding what to put on the case…

1-coverstart

This brilliant design, of course, required I cut aluminum approx ¼” thick. I needed firepower. I needed… my first Dremel! It is an amazing machine that I am not at all good at using. But I managed to accomplish what I needed and lined it with a little bit of rubber tubing and hot glue to cover some of my many imperfections… wow, it’s a metaphor for me!.

2-covercut

Next there was a BOATLOAD of painting. Every peripheral that I could properly paint (as well as some I couldn’t) got a coat of candy pink, white or pink fading to white.

3-start1

One thing you won’t see in this next picture is a fancy pink keyboard. While I knew it would be a challenge, Mel had literally worn her keyboard almost out, half the letters were gone, so I figured I had nothing to lose. If things didn’t work out, well, she was due for a keyboard anyway. Good thing I had planned for the possibility of failure! While the keyboard looked awesome, it just didn’t work. The Microsoft ergo that she prefers is made to pretty dang exacting standards that my painting is not up to! I bid it a fond adieu and replaced it with a new one. Anyway, here we can see some of the peripherals. The mouse looks and feels awesome!

4-midway1

Next I turned my attentions to the case. Every surface was repainted. The chassis frame is completely white, inside and out, while the outside of the case is pink in the front fading to white at the rear. It was far from flawless, as a first attempt, and some minor touch ups were needed, but when I first saw the case front repainted and reassembled, I started to get excited. I think it looks awesome and girly!

5-midway2

6-casefront

Lastly, as I assembled the case, I couldn’t just let the blue lights and fans stay, so I replaced them with white lights and filled the heart in with a pink bit of plastic from, of all things, a girl’s notebook from Wal-Mart.

7-cpuandstand

Behold… The Pinkopalypse! It looks so light and airy and girly I think I just grew an ovary.

8-pinkopalypse

So ended my first real attempt at (admittedly very minimal) case modding and I hope the returning princess likes it! I really believe she will. I learned several good lessons for the future… including that 1. The Dremel is the coolest power tool ever, but that they require patience and that 2. I really suck at painting. By the time you are all reading this, she will be on a flight home and will be seeing it by sometime around 8PM this evening.

WELCOME HOME BABY!

Star Trek Rising

These days, with instant feedback about films, it’s easy to get blinded by the sheer amount of data. The sheer amount of press reviewing or discussing Star Trek has made it virtually impossible to actually get a realistic appraisal of the film. Hard-core traditionalist Trekkers have been badmouthing the film ever since it was announced it wouldn’t include any of the standard casts. Early reviews varied from what seemed like screaming fanboy-ism favorably comparing this film with Dark Knight to firmly stating that this film will not only destroy the Star trek franchise forever, but that all films forever will be tarnished by its image.

This film got 95% on Rottentomatoes.com and gets the sort of praise normally reserved for foreign language, anti-American films at Cannes. Was it really that good? Was this film worth the insane amount of hype?

The answer is… well, yes and no.

The film is excellent. In addition to the now ubiquitous good effects, it has a great story, some really enjoyable humor, solid performances (with one big exception) and some outstanding action sequences. Across the board it delivered the goods when it comes to geeky goodness. It’s not difficult to outperform the rest of the Trek films, since almost all of them sucked horrifyingly. Wrath of Khan is the one universal exception to this rule, with the occasional exception of First Contact which was very good. This film is considerably better than all of its predecessors.

The story is surprisingly good for a Star Trek film. It’s even more surprising considering the fact that Abrams himself was never a fan of the series. He presents the beginning of the now famous story line with a certain reverence for the Kirk-Spock relationship. Oh sure, there are deviations all over the place from what traditionalists would refer to as the “canon.” These are neatly excused by the “altered timeline” explanation. Unfortunately the directors/producer felt it necessary to spell it out, rather than go for a more subtle approach. The cast literally explains why it’s perfectly ok if things are different. It felt a little awkward, but since this film was geared more to general audiences than prior installments, I understand its inclusion.

The acting was, for the most part, very good and the interplay between them all was excellent for a fresh start cast. For the three primary characters it was pretty much all gravy. Chris Pine was solid as Kirk. In this alternate history this version of the character makes sense and this guy is loaded with charisma and bravado… and with even a little more recklessness than Shatner’s Kirk. Karl Urban was just awesome as Bones, and did homage more than any of the other actors to the shows origins. They will need to tone him down a bit for sequels to keep it out of caricature category, but he was hysterical and sounded like he was channeling DeForrest Kelley. Spock was… perfect. Quinto captured the character exactly as I imagined a young Spock to be. Every nuance was exactly as it should have been. The interplay between Kirk and Spock was believable and what it should have been. I was pretty nervous about this casting decision, but it was spot on.

The youngish looking fellow playing Chekov, Anton Yelchin, was great and the almost unintelligible accent was toyed with for a chuckle or two. The Character of Sulu was missing one major piece… the trademark Takei voice. The actor, John Cho, was very capable but the casting director should have at least tried to get someone with a deeper voice. Simon Pegg was pretty much as I’d expected him to be: a funny guy with a Scottish accent. They even tossed him some slapstick gags… actually amusing ones. They also emphasized the intelligence and/or ability of all three of these more minor characters, as well as Uhura (more on her below). Each of them was given a scene showing how they are more than a cut above the average cadet; that they were on the enterprise for a reason.

Of course,  there were a couple week spots.

Uhura’s character was depressingly shallow and limited. Sure, Nichelle Nichols was a sexpot in her prime, too, but she was a developed character, even if only peripherally so. It doesn’t seem to me like they picked Zoe Saldana because she brought something of the original Uhura to the role. It honestly felt like they just needed someone who was black, young and attractive. It’s sadly ironic since the original casting of a Nichols was such a ground-breaker. Now, unfortunately, we find ourselves going the other way. They need to develop her a lot more for future installments.

Worst of all, sadly, was Nimoy. We all know why he was there, and his comments about people “obsessing with the minutiae” are right on the mark, but his acting was just horrible. He just wasn’t believable as Spock, which is weird to say since he created the character. He seemed just too… human the entire time. The scenes with the young Kirk were painful. The small scene at the end with the younger Spock was at least tolerable, if terribly cheesy. Even then, however, he seemed out of character, as if he were playing a character based on Spock. He also might as well have been named “Spock Exposition” instead of “Spock Prime” in the credits. The audience is not so stupid that it needs everything out, Abrams.

Fortunately, we were only forced to endure a little of Nimoy and I believe we may very well be spared him in future installments.

Without diving into spoilers, the scenes and story arc for this film was excellent and it is impossible for this new series to tell the same story that the old Trek did. The small change in Kirk’s past and the battle including the Kelvin at the beginning are insignificant when compared to the mother of all time-line changes. Eric Bana’s Romulan Nero, while maybe just a tad over the top, is nicely menacing, neurotic and unbalanced. His character has a believable motivation and there you almost feel a twinge of pity for the character. His is not a quest to rule the universe, but to avenge a very personal loss. Trek’s best villain, Khan Noonian Singh from Wrath of Khan, was driven to his particular madness because of the loss of his wife… and it appears Abrams was paying attention.

With all of the good that this film has, it is simply not the masterpiece that was Dark Knight. Any comparisons between this film and DK are ignoring some major flaws and the fact that while the writing here was good for Trek, the writing for DK was exceptional by any standard. I really enjoyed this film, but it was simply not as good as Nolan’s magnum opus.

What this film is, though, is an extremely solid “reboot” for a series that badly needed one. It’s also absolutely the best Star Trek film to date. It is definitely worth your hard-earned dollar this summer. The Star Trek series has always thrived on TV but severely disappointed on the big screen. Perhaps now that Trek exists only in syndication we’ll see this turn into something more than just a one-shot prequel. This was a great first outing for this crew and if they are given more time, and just a little more development, I think Trek will rise from the grave.

Um… What?

Every day on my trip to work I pass by a carwash right next to the gas station I usually hit . Out in front, it has one of those “insert the letters” marquee type of signs, allowing the message to be changed. Usually it has some sort of pithy little saying related to whatever holiday is closest. For the past week this sign has said the following:

Congratulations to
Tom Falcone
Employee of the
Month!

Not unusual in itself, and way to go Mr Carwash Manager for putting your employee out there.

One problem: This is a 100% automated car wash. No employees… ever. Huh?

Wolverine: Operation Not that Bad

Ok, so like every good geek, I set out this last week to see the new X-Men origins: Wolverine. Reviews in the geek community tend to vary from “utter garbage” to despicable. I’m pretty bored with the wife out of town and decided that even if it’s bad, it’s a good way to waste 2 hours. I went in with no expectations other than Hugh Jackman looking cool.

Unfortunately for the geek community, it seems that it’s film reviewers are now just as unaware of what films are for as the more “serious” critics. The film was fine. It isn’t the moody masterpiece like Dark Knight, but then, what is? It wasn’t the Cinema as Art of Watchmen, but that’s not something easily done, either. It was, however, a decent way to spend two hours watching cool effects and things blowing up.

I went back and revisited a lot of the reviews and read them in more detail and realized that 90% of the sites panning the film were doing so because it deviated from the established canon of the X-Men universe. This is asinine. Either the film itself is good or not. Was this a bit formulaic? Sure, what actioner isn’t? Most comics are incredibly formulaic. But panning a film because Wolverine’s claws come out when he’s young or because Emma Frost and Silverfox were never sisters is just plain stupid.

When it comes to discussing how Canon something is, perhaps the comic community would turn it’s attentions on itself first. There are about 5 million story arcs for every character and it’s not at all unusual for character details to be edited after the fact, or for powers to be changed, added, increased or decreased. So if a movie takes bits and pieces and maybe invents a bit of it’s own, does it really upset the balance of the universe? No. Would it have been cooler if the hysterically awesome Ryan Reynolds had more lines as a massively modified Deadpool? Hells, yeah! But my life is not worse because he didn’t.

What these people are missing is the same thing that more formal film critics are missing. People go to movies (and specifically these types of movies) to be entertained. They do not go to learn. They do not go to be “changed.” They go to escape, maybe have a chuckle or two, and to watch things that look cool. Sometimes they want to see those cool things blow up. No one goes into these types of films looking for anything life-changing.

No one is more pleased that films like Lord of the Rings, Dark Knight and Watchmen exist. I love it when the film is not only full of the appropriate action and effects but also good acting and smart writing. What we cannot forget, however, is that these films are not made only for us! Geeks are many, but we are waaaay outnumbered by regular folks who don’t know Sabretooth’s real name or care about how Wolverine lost his memory! Those folks have asses that fit nicely into theater seats. Those filled seats make money for movie companies that in turn pay for more geeky goodness.

The road to Lord of the Rings was paved by the low quality, campy movies like Beastmaster or Swords and Sorcery. Those movies brought the rest of the movie-going world into the fantasy and sci-fi realm. Dozens of B-grade (or worse) science fiction films kept people entertained enough to keep those seats filled, allowing more serious sci-fi and superhero style films and television shows. You can’t have Robert Downey rock your socks off in Iron Man without suffering through Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk. It’s paying the bills by entertaining; It’s how entertainment works.

By the time you guys read this I will have seen the film I was really looking forward to to start off this Summer: Star Trek. Based on the fact it is getting great reviews, I’m not sure whether I should be elated or not. I’ll let you know!

Pic Dump #1!

I decided to clean out the images on my phone memory card last night, in a desperate attempt to give me something to do. I’ve always loved stumbling across pic dumps and a couple of these gave me a chuckle, so I figured I should follow kindergarten rules and share! You’ll have to forgive the quality of some of these, my camera phone is just one step above a daguerreotype.

Breakfast Time?

Breakfast Time?

Well, you didn’t think we weren’t going to have at least one picture of an animal, did you? Flora’s morning kitchen shenanigans now include table top supervision.

The Mileage of the Devil!

The Mileage of the Devil!

It’s time for the Oil Change from HELL!!

Shindler's Lift

Schindler's Lift

Alright, I find this hysterical, but I’m not sure who else will. This is my elevator at work, made by the Schindler company. Schindler’s Lift! HA HA HA HA HA!

Hi, Grandma!

Hi, Grandma!

This is my Grandmother. As you might be able to guess, she would probably kill me if she saw this picture. I snapped this one while helping her out one day. She’s waving at Melissa in Canada.

Living in Florida is so hard!

Living in Florida is so hard!

I took this pretty much just to brag. I took this about a two-and-a-half weeks ago. This is a shot from the table where I usually eat lunch when I get a chance to go outside. Obviously it’s looking back into the parking lot, but it;s under a great open concert shell like covering and those aren’t just random woods back there, that’s a nature preserve here. We have Owl, Dear, Hawk, Sandhill Cranes and pretty much every small bird in the area. When I took this it was about 78 degrees (25.5 C for you metric folks), dry (for Florida) and with a nice breeze. Yeah, it might suck in the summer, but it is freakin’ awesome the rest of the year!

A Delicate Princess!

A Delicate Princess!

This awesome pic is also my current Cell phone wallpaper. This is what happens when you leave your phone unattended at your desk while you’re working on your wife’s computer. Love you, baby!

THIS is Customer Service

THIS is Customer Service

And last but not least: yours fatly. The next time you feel the need to unload your frustration on some poor, unsuspecting Customer Service Rep, remember this.