the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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The Morning After

The Morning After

I woke up to the news of the horriffic shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. A showing that I had considered attending, since it was practically walking distance from the hotel where I spent the night after my arrival in Denver, but decided against due to the travel and time difference. I heard all the sirens shortly before going to bed and knew something wasn't good. Turns out I was more right than I thought.

On the plus side, jet lag may have saved my life. So there's that.

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92/365: Shapes of Recovery

92/365: Shapes of Recovery

By Saturday night, the vertigo cleared, and Sunday I felt blissfully alive and well on the road to recovery, so Liz and I escaped for a date night: The Hunger Games movie, followed by dinner and drinks at the Bar Louie in Crocker Park, where I realized I hadn't shot anything for the 365 yet.

This one speaks to my obsession with geometry; we have circles (some concentric), lines, squares, rectangles, triangles, spheres, even hexagons. Of course it's entirely possible that I was also at a creative nadir and the previous remark is how I try to make myself feel better about it.

One interesting note of trivia: I have reached the 25% point in the 365 project (admittedly with some posts to backfill as I process what I shot during the Great Discontinuity of vacation). I'm pleased that I've gotten this far, and more than a little intimidated that even with this milestone, the vast bulk of the work is still ahead of me.

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Lately

I haven't been posting much lately because I've either been too busy to write anything or too not-busy to have anything worth writing about. So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to, in more or less random order.

I'm thinking of moving our blogs to private hosting on WebFaction, partly because I like WordPress, and partly because the sale of LiveJournal to SUP makes me uneasy about paying LJ any more of my money. I've been hacking on a Python program to crawl my journal and re-emit it as a WordPress XML export file, suitable for slurping up into WP with just a few clicks, and it's pretty much done. I just have a few decisions to make (should I keep userpics attached to all my exported entries?) and then I think it'll be time to pull the trigger.

At work, we've wrapped up our first big run of cafeteria-free lunches (58 straight lunches, of which we had a repeat-free streak of 56 lunches before hitting some of our "greatest hits" before the end of the year). Naturally, we're blogging it so that we remember where we've gone.

Claire continues to grow and change. Having just passed the 100-day mark, she can now sit in her Bumbo chair, enjoys standing practice, and is really excited about grabbing her toes. I continue to shoot and post tons of cute photos.

We've been doing weekly videoconferences with my parents instead of phone calls. They get to see Claire, and Claire gets to stare at my screen and be confused. Plus my parents get to be the envy of all other long-distance grandparents that they know, who are in awe of their "technical savvy." So, kudos to iChat for making it stupidly easy.

I am in love with Rock Band and want to marry it. If that's not possible, I'd settle for going over to my friend's place to play it on a regular basis. (Turns out that after a couple beers, I am pretty decent on vocals--scary!)

Egad. I have almost 8 GB of music (over four days' worth!) in my "new and unrated" playlist needing review. When am I going to have time for that?

Last night we watched Paprika, the latest film from anime director Satoshi Kon. I'm utterly blown away by it. The coolest thing I've seen in a long time. It's a little bit Dreamscape, a little bit Ghost in the Shell. Good, good stuff.

Not sure if it's the kid (probably) or what, but I've fallen off the deep end of the Christmas season and am starting to scare Liz with my sunny holiday cheer. Usually I'm pretty down on the consumerism and not too hip to whatever religiosity seeps through the month-long shopping orgy of December, but this year things are different. I'm giggling as I wrap presents for Liz and Claire, and--much to Liz's annoyance--bouncing off the walls waiting for the big day to arrive. Is it Christmas yet? Is it Christmas yet? IS IT CHRISTMAS YET???

Speaking of Christmas, I'm happy that I managed to get the annual card produced and out the door relatively on-time. One of these years, I'm going to have inspiration and time in November so that I can get full-bleed, professional printing done, but I'll take what little victories I can get. I may post the images or a PDF at some point if I get motivated enough. (Here's your opportunity to convince me...)

Finally, if it's at all possible, I'd like to be your personal penguin.

Okay, enough of this foolishness. Time to go be Dad for awhile. Cheers!

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Saturday: Photo Progress, DVD Recap

I spent most of the day doing the first big pass through the photos from our trip to Washington, doing some color correction and putting a rating onto everything. The next step will be culling through the good stuff--of which there is a surprising amount!--to find the things worth uploading to share. I can tell I've really improved with the DSLR; I made a point of never taking it out of 100% manual mode for the trip, and more than ever I am getting what I consciously want from what I'm shooting. Although I'm perfectly willing to enjoy the happy accidents, or the tragically awful shots that become beautiful after radical post-production alteration.

As a side bonus, I've also been plowing though a bunch of the music that I'd ripped but not really gotten around to listening to. I finally picked up a copy of the Cranes latest disc, Particles and Waves, which for the past couple of years has been import-only or completely unavailable (and which now seems to finally have some stock in the US). It's mellow and quite enchanting, and I'm really digging it.

Meanwhile, Liz and I are fighting a desperate battle to get caught up on library DVD's... Last weekend we watched For Your Consideration (better than I had expected) and Stranger Than Fiction (quite good but definitely not a comedy, no matter what the trailers would have you believe).

Thursday we watched Children of Men, which (in my estimation) is possibly the best science fiction film in the last ten years, and easily the equal of Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys. Michael Caine's performance (apparently inspired by John Lennon) was a particularly nice surprise, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise grim and gritty world. I was especially amazed by some of the very, very long shots--including a nine-minute shot during an ambush and chase early in the film, and a mind-blowing six-minute shot near the climax (this article discusses the VFX work involved; use BugMeNot to skirt the mandatory registration). It's a bit heavy, so it might be some time before I can rewatch it, but it's so richly detailed that I think I'll definitely have to see it again at some point.

Last night was This Film Is Not Yet Rated, an entertaining, infuriating, often-humorous, strongly biased, and somewhat ethically dubious documentary that attempts to penetrate the veil of the MPAA's super-secret and rather arbitrary movie ratings system.

Tonight's film was Curse of the Golden Flower, a stunningly beautiful (and rather melodramatic) family tragedy that unfolds in the early 900's within the Imperial Palace. Truly, this is a movie with everything: Swords! Poison! Rebellion! Incest! Revenge! Ninjas! Embroidery! Betrayal! Gong Li's boobs! Suicide! Horticulture! Moral ambiguity! Janitorial staff like nothing you've ever seen before! Good stuff.

Unfortunately, in between photos and movies today, Liz and I took a two-hour nap, and now it's almost 0200 (again) and I'm wide, wide awake. I always have a terrible time readjusting to Eastern time after being out west, but this is really starting to hurt...

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DVD Extravaganza

We've had a hard time getting out to see movies lately, but we've been making up for it by making heavy use of the library's online reservation system. All it takes is knowing what you eventually want to see, and a little patience, and suddenly you're inundated in cinematic goodness. Recently:

Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren, who won a Golden Globe for this part, and an Oscar for her other royal portrayal in The Queen. This story of the two of Queen Elizabeth's greatest loves features Impeccable costuming and sets, flawless performances, great casting (I'll admit that, in spite of my ardent heterosexuality, Jeremy Irons is pretty delicious), moving speeches, and--since it's HBO--some surprisingly vivid gore. In case you were ever curious about what being hung, drawn, and quartered might be like, wonder no more! Especially shocking (and rightly so) is the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, as the camera stays close on her for both blows of the axe. Highly recommended.

Rome is another fabulous HBO series. The bulk of this first season relates the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar, starting with his alienation from lifelong friend Pompey Magnus and weaving a dark and inevitable descent into civil war, Caesar's rise to power, and culminates in his termination. But in a stroke of remarkable insight and cleverness, the heart of the show is in two lowly legionnaires who find themselves caught up in swirl of greater events. In addition to being chock full of amazing performances from pretty much the entire cast, and brimming with excellently recreated period settings and costumes, Rome is also unabashedly and unflinchingly adult, practically overflowing with vulgarity, carnality, and violence--all probably quite appropriate to the setting. Oddly, there's a strange inverse relationship at work: the more interesting the sex is, the less we get to see of it, which seems to emphasize the relative importance of the acts in question. And the dramatic arena battle is unlike any you've seen before--it had Liz gasping in shock and me hooting in surprise. Likewise, highly recommended.

It's gotten some mixed reviews, but we really enjoyed the first season of Weeds, Showtime's black comedy series about a suburban mother who turns to dealing pot in order to maintain her family's upper-middle-class lifestyle after her husband dies suddenly. It takes a few episodes to find its feet, but it's full of giggles and guffaws, punctuated by the occasional solid wollop of pathos and drama, and is overall quite enjoyable and deserving of your time. As long as you have a sense of humor, you'll probably find something to like here, even if it's just the charmingly perfect use of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" in the opening titles.

Not even close to recommended, however, is The Illusionist, which I found to be a flaccid, lifeless excuse of a movie, with a decent cast wandering aimlessly about in search of something worthwhile to say or do. In begins with ten minutes of flickery flashback exposition to the title character's youth, so we already know everything important about the him before Edward Norton even gets to do anything. The wanna-be Shyalaman-esque twist ending will probably only surprise small children, and it's telegraphed from before the halfway point of the movie, and ultimately offering little payoff other than the strangely frightening toothy laugh of Paul Giamatti. The film's opening ought to have been my warning sign, but I kept watching in a desperate hope that it would start redeeming itself. The only reason that we stayed with it was because we each had a cat asleep on our laps, and couldn't bring ourselves to disturb them. In short, The Illusionist is 104 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

We followed up with Hollywoodland, which is a much, much better film. In case you've been living on another planet, you're probably already aware that it explores the life and death of George Reeves, the actor who portrayed Superman in the original TV series, and calls into question whether his death was suicide or murder. It's a modern-day film noir with a dash of nostalgia, intercut with what you might expect from a pretty good biopic. I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but Ben Affleck really delivers something special in his performance as Reeves, with numerous, uncanny moments in which it's difficult to remember that we're not actually watching Reeves himself. Reeves' rise and fall is intercut with the story of private detective Adrian Brody's investigation, highlighting the disintegration of his personal life as he becomes increasingly obsessed with Reeves' fate. The film is utterly absorbing, up to the point near the end where the wheels start to come off a bit, and we're left with an ambiguity about the exact nature of Reeves' ending that, after all that has come before it, doesn't feel very satisfying. In spite of the somewhat hollow conclusion, there's definitely enough here that's worth watching in this exploration of the downfall of superheroes, be they last sons of Krypton or just Los Angeles fathers.

Liz and I were both completely surprised and bowled over by how much we enjoyed Flushed Away, Aardman's entry into the world of feature-length CGI animation. The story is cute, the voice acting is tip-top (Ian McKellan and David Suchet were especially fun), and it's loaded with great references and little details that had us continually jumping back to get a kick out of the little extra sprinkles of humor that'd been tucked in. Especially pleasing is that the facial animation is not digitally polished into perfect smoothness--it is deliberately a bit chunky, which brings the feeling of Aardman's hand-crafted claymation to the digital world. Funny, fun, and full of the soul that's missing from so much of modern animation. I think we'll have to pick up our own copy soon.

Finally, a documentary that asks Who Killed the Electric Car? Narrated by Martin Sheen, this traces the history of electric cars from the early 20th century to the dawn of the 21st, and focuses largely on the Saturn EV1 and similar too-good-to-be-true vehicles that bloomed briefly under California's short-lived zero-emissions mandate. Just as these lease-only vehicles were poised to make a major impact on the world, they were recalled and eventually destroyed. WKtEC explores many different suspects for the demise of this promising technology, and casts damning blame on most. If you feel like being pissed off about how The Man is keeping us down and screwing over the planet, this is the movie for you.

One thing I love about getting movies from the library is the surprise factor--we never know what we're going to get, just that it's something we wanted to see and never got around to, which saves us a lot of bother trying to figure out what we want to watch. And with the library just down the street, it's a whole lot cheaper than Netflix too.

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Germany Photos: Intermission

Bloody hell, it's been almost twelve days since I've posted any new photos from the Germany trip. Harrumph. I guess that's what happens when I let myself get distracted by other things: houseguests, complete disassembly of the office/computer space to prep for painting, work, catching up with Tivo (I can't believe I've gotten Liz hooked on "Eureka", woot!), catching up on long-overdue library DVD's (Paradise Now, Munich, and, somewhat embarassingly, Aeon Flux, which at least I didn't have to pay for), slogging bravely through Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, and going to Oktoberfest with [info]geoffimusprime.

Today was part one of the annual two-day company pep rally thing for this year, which, on one simple fact alone, instantly qualifies as the best so far: free beer coupons for happy hour. Hooray, beer!

I have at least rated, retouched, and sorted the remainder of the vacation photos; hopefully I'll get around to posting them over the coming days. And then I'll have to find something else to blog about for a while. ;-)

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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Better Days

Luckily, fortunately, thankfully, I've had a string of pretty good days lately.

Liz had to work for most of Saturday, so I used the time to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list, including a trip to the library to refresh my influx of new music, and a half-day of being able to work in peace in the office. Saturday night, she took me to Grovewood Tavern for dinner, which was utterly fabulous (I had the "Quackitori", seared duck breast yakitori style, and I highly recommend it, especially paired with the Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone). After dinner, we hit the Velvet Tango Room for post-dinner cocktails, where I was introduced to the shimmering delight that is the French 75. I totally dig VTR's vibe, and I got an especially geeky thrill from recognizing Winchester '73 playing on the TV by the bar. VTR is a bit pricey, but the experience--especially on the weekend, where your lady friend gets a perfect rose--is worth it.

On Sunday I managed to get more stuff on my list done, and then we hit the local movie theatre for a matinee of Thank You For Smoking, a cheerfully subversive little movie that anyone with two brain cells and a sense of humor should see as soon as possible. Seriously--run, don't walk; it's that good. My only issue was with the quality of the audience, as we seemed to be seated directly in front of, next to, and behind people who insisted on sharing their running commentary, explaining jokes to each other, and so forth. Sorry, folks, but if I wanted the commentary track, I'd buy the DVD, and you wouldn't be part of it. Though it was almost worth it to hear the person next to me try to explain a joke and then, verbally, loudly, not get it... (Seriously, she didn't understand why it might be funny that the firearms lobbyist set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint. "Must be something metal," my next-door Ebert observed.)

Monday marked a return to workplace madness, but it ended early as Liz and I had picked up tickets to see K.T. Tunstall at the House of Blues. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago when I realized that she was in town. I admit, I'm a total poseur, and it took her solo appearance on NBC's "Today" show for her to arrive on my musical radar... I wasn't sure what to expect from seeing her live, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed, and the ticket price was pretty fair, so I figured there were worse ways to spend a Monday night. We had a nice dinner at the HOB (assisted in part by a small parade of happy-hour mixed drinks), and then proceeded to be completely blown away by her live performance. She's touring with a band to back her up, which helps fill out her sound nicely, and there were particularly nice bits featuring various band members soloing on drums, keyboards, trumpet, guitars, and cello. Mellower tracks had a nice dash of psychadelia that reminded me of early Pink Floyd, while the more raucus, upbeat numbers struck me as the perfect soundtrack for blasting down a desert highway, windows down and stereo cranked. In short, even if she's getting mainstream radio (and worse, grocery store!) airplay, K.T. is the real deal, and you should check her out, especially live. Seriously good times.

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Better Living Through Photoshop

I've been totally stressed out by work lately, which means that, at some point, my head exploded and I found myself with a desperate need to play with Photoshop for a while. Thus: a crapload of new LJ icons!

Art of Noise x3
Mike Oldfield x5
Firefly/Serenity x9
Princess Bride x17

Art of Noise
(because I had no music-related icons)

Mike Oldfield
(because I had no music-related icons)

Firefly/Serenity
(because I just can't get enough)

The Princess Bride
(in honor of Valentine's Day)

Typical LJ netiquette applies--please credit me in your userpic keywords or comments if you snag any. Enjoy!

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January Link-o-Rama Redux

Some part of today managed to melt what's left of my brain, so I settled for skimming rather than chiseling away at my reading, and that has degenerated into a need to close browser tabs and assault you all with another installment of...

LINNcircle k(idd valley)One Letter / ORAmA

My cool flickr-based link du jour is Spell with flickr, which lets you spell words using letter images found on flickr, just like what you see here. Nifty!

Some geek reading: Joel Spolsky on "Great Design" and Michal Zalewski on "Cross-Site Cooking" (potentially dangerous shortcomings of how cookies have been implemented by pretty much every browser).

While we're on blogs, who would have ever thought Chewbacca needed his own blog? I guess you could consider it a scathing satire of "the blogosphere" (a term I really loathe), asserting that any random bloggish drivel is about the same as Chewy grunting and growling unintelligibly (and you probably wouldn't be too wrong). It's really, really daft, but it makes me giggle. What a Wookiee!

Artie attempts to scan your iTunes library, find tracks that are missing album art, and fetch covers from Amazon for you to review and drop into iTunes if they are what you're looking for. As my iTunes library--currently closing in on the 45 GB mark--continues to grow, this seems like an utterly brilliant solution that will save me much time, hassle, and pain... Too bad it doesn't seem to like my increasingly ungainly iTunes Library.xml file. Mostly it seems to time out trying to upload or process the data. Your mileage may vary--let me know if you have success!

Which leads me to the obligatory Mac geek section... I have a new favorite browser: Shiira, a nifty treat from Japan that so far seems lighter and faster than Safari and Firefox, and which sports some wicked visuals (I particularly enjoy the page forward/back that peels the webpage away like a piece of paper). I also ran across a pretty good list of must-have Mac software.

Some amusement for the gamers among us: a library of video game endings for those of us (like me) who were too lame to ever finish most of their games, and, when you have eleven minutes to kill, perhaps this short film will help you conquer your "Fear of Girls". (I'm glad to say I overcame that a long, long time ago!)

Finally, something to get us all ready for lovey-dovey season: SVU Valentine cards. Gosh. Um. Yeah. That's not creepy or anything.

Next time, I promise some real content, even if it's lame, or pictures of the cats doing stupid things.

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