Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Playing catch-up

So a few things have fallen through the cracks on what's been going on, so I'll try to get to them today.

I finished Blood Bound a few days ago, and enjoyed it much more than Moon Called. It's hard to say why, but it was a better book. I liked some of the sub-plots like the man whose daughter had been turned into a werewolf, and although he and his wife had been keeping her in the basement in a cage, he was searching for a way to take care of her. The strength of the little exchanges between him and Marcy were surprisingly powerful. I'm on to Iron Kissed, and I'm hoping for more of those little bits of magic.

Monday night I watched "Southland Tales" written and directed by Richard Kelly. It's... odd. And this is coming from someone who loved "Donnie Darko". I really wanted to like it, but there are just little bits that still don't mesh. I think in about a month I'll have to watch it again and catch the parts that I missed. There are parts of it that I think are related to the "philosophy of time travel" from "Donnie Darko" too. I need to go over the elements again, but I have identified the artifact, and have some other ideas as well. There are even some images in the background that are silhouettes of Frank's rabbit mask. I think I will reserve complete judgement until a second viewing. And apparently there are three comic books that go ahead of the movie.

"A new quest has been accepted."

Jennifer and I are doing some planning. More news to come as it warrants.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Picture pages, picture pages...

Okay, that was insanely easy.

Here is the hike to Arch Rock.

And here is the Woodland Scottish Games.

Enjoy.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Yesterday Jennifer and I went to the Woodland Scottish Games with our friends Steve, Lisa, Paul and Gemma, and were met there by Adam and Christa.

We started by meeting at Steve and Lisa's place where I bought a Utilikilt that was too small for Steve. It made my day because I stayed nice and cool, and felt cool as well.

It is the black, survival utilikilt that I bought, and thoroughly enjoyed. Now I have to get a belt. Steve let me borrow one of his that is a policeman's belt, that was really comfortable.

While at the games, we drank much beer. I stuck with Newcastle Brown, but the others had some Fat Tire amber, and a Scottish Ale I couldn't make the name out of, and didn't enjoy. And we had three whiskeys that went around in flasks.

We watched the Wicked Tinkers perform, saw some of the games (caber toss, hammer throw, vertical weight), and a fine performance by a sheep dog moving some very recalcitrant sheep.

As soon as I get my Flickr account going, I'll link to the pictures from both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Oh, the pain, the pain...

Today was awesome.

I met with 12 other people at the Point Reyes Bear Valley visitors center, and we hiked 4 miles out to the ocean at Arch Rock.

The twelve: Nick, Mike, Maura, Andy, Karthika, Vibhav, Matt, Aileen, Brittany, Christy, Jamie, and her friend.

The hike was pretty boring with no great plants or animals, but we all had some good conversation, and it was cool how the dynamic shifted as people got more tired and fell back or moved up.

We had lunch on Arch Rock and were at least 50 feet up from the water, Nick though closer to 75. The weather was perfect, and I really didn't want it to end when we had to walk back. So we didn't let it.

There is a small trail that leads down to where the creek flows into the ocean and through the arch. So we worked our way down there, and played in the alluvium.

We being: Nick, Mike, Christy,and myself, later to be joined by Matt, Aileen, and Brittany.

Then I had to know what was on the other side of this ridge, and we climbed over it and found a beach we could see from above. Mike went into each little sea cave, and Nick hunted for the biggest sand flea. I found turbidites, showed the to Nick and Mike. Mike and I oohed and aahed as good geologists should while Nick the CAD-guy and engineer in schooling called us nerds. Then I had to know what was over the next ridge, and with Mike following close behind found tide pools with double-fist sized sea anemones, and tiny pinky-nail-sized anemones, and tadpoles (I think), and chitons, and little crabs, and hermit crabs, and snails. I took lots of pictures, but have yet to download them.

Finally Mike and I decided we should not hold up the rest of the crew, and we worked our way back to the main trail. Then we slogged our way back to the visitor's center. Nick kept saying we were almost back, and I'd say, "But we haven't gotten to the picnic area yet." "We're almost back." "Nick, we're not to the meadow yet." "We're almost back..."

Then he started on guessing distance remaining. The last restroom on the way out is 1.6 miles from the trail head. As we're returning, we see a bridge that branches off on another trail, and Nick says that that means we're almost back. We see a sign that says 0.8 miles to the trail head. Later we see another one. Nick says we're almost back, and it says we have 0.4 miles to go. Later, we We see a sign that says 0.8 miles to the trail head. Later we see yet another one. Nick says we're almost back, and it says we have 0.2 miles to go. I tell him that apparently he's hiking through Xeno's paradox and to shut up.

Finally we're back, and the drive home is another hour and a half. But Jennifer was working today, and on her way home she got my comics for me. Now I have to decide if I want to read this week's books, or finish re-reading Planetary.

I'm sore, but Golden Tiger will keep me going through the night and help me be able to go to the Woodland Scottish Games tomorrow with Steve, Lisa, Gemma, and Paul. And Jennifer of course.

And finally, tonight, I moved on in Portal from where I was stuck in Level 18. I not only beat the timing puzzle jumping from the angled pop-out wall, but got the cube, got back through the wall, and then did the extreme falling/jumping puzzle. Then I was on to Level 19. I still don't know how I go the plasma sphere into the receptacle, but I did. I got past the puzzles on the conveyor, and then I see the incinerator. I died a couple times, but got past that as well. Now I just have to get across the way. And higher.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Further Distractions

After dinner and the movie, Jennifer and I took some time to read.

I wasn't in the mood to try to work through Blood Bound, so I resorted to comics (Is there no problem they can't fix?).

I had already pulled the entire run of Wildstorm's Planetary, and so I started reading them again. And I read through ten issues before having to turn the light off.

I find these books so amazing. The secret history of 20th Century. Written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by John Cassaday.

I do however have difficulty explaining them to others. Imagine a world where every strange thing from movies has happened in some way. There is a Monster Island. There were giant ants and a 50-foot woman in the fifties. H.P. Lovecraft wrote from real life experience. And the Fantastic Four are the villains.

If that sounds good to you then there are compilations available on Amazon.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, I'd recommend going to a comic store and flipping through the pages of one of the trade paperbacks. It'll hook you.

Distractions

Yesterday at 4:30, Jennifer called me and said she'd be coming home one day early from traveling. Then I was directed that she wanted to have a "bed picnic" and watch movies. The movies could be neither educational nor action.

Now a "bed picnic" goes back to when we used to have a TV in our bedroom, and on lazy days, we would get all kinds of finger foods and snacks, spread beach towels on the bed, and watch movies together. Now, Jennifer had been gone since Tuesday, so I wanted to make it a little more fun.

First stop: Costco.

Jennifer's new favorite drink is a Bay Breeze made by me. The way I make one is 1 cup of pineapple juice, 1/3 cup vodka, and 1/4 cranberry juice served over ice in a pint glass with a straw. And were at the bottom of out Ketel One vodka, so I had to be sure that there would be enough for more than one, and if I wankted something. Jennifer has a friend who works at Costco, and he told us that the Kirkland vodka is made by Gray Goose. Yes, it's a different recipe, but it's still Gray Goose. And as I'm walking to pay, I see the 20th Anniversary Edition of "The Princess Bride".

To those that know me: "Shut up." It's got new featurettes and a DVD game. I NEEDED IT! Besides, i had to buy the VHS version twice because I wore the first copy out. Why not have two DVD versions?

Second stop: Hollywood Video

Yes, I'm on Netflix, but sometimes you need things. Now there use to be one nice and convenient in Pleasant Hill, but they closed, so now I have to go to Martinez. Of the three I picked, we watched "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium". I'll tell about the other two when I've watched them. Magorium was all right. It started out fun, and had some great parts; Dustin Hoffman is always amazing. But the end kind of just happens. There's a lot of build up, but they way it closed would be like watching "Star Wars" and rolling the credits immediately after the Death Star blows up. We were both left with a big "...and then what?" kind of feeling. And not in the annoying artsy movie kind of way. Just the annoying way.

Third stop: Damo Sushi

This used to be our favorite sushi place, but the sushi chef we liked left and went to San Jose, and they went all karaoke, and experimental with what the store was about. They've settled down lately, and have expanded their specialty rolls section of the menu. We had great stuff. I had a nigiri assortment with a 49er roll (California roll with salmon on top), and Jennifer had a spicy tuna hand roll, two unagi (plus one from my assortment) and a titanic roll (deep-fried, tempura-battered California roll with unagi on top). Plus we had tempura and miso soup.

All in all a very nice homecoming.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I get it. It's a pun, or play on words.

I've a friend who claims to hate puns. My mom used to send out terrible jokes via e-mail that ended in groaners, and she would label the subjects "For John". And yet, John is one who tends to instigate the pun wars on Yahoo Messenger.

It always makes me remember an early Dilbert from when Scott Adams would draw Dilbert at home and walking around with Dogbert. One time he explained a pun war. It simply goes on until one person gets frustrated because they can't find the next pun, or simply gets tired of it.

John usually wins, but every now and then I come out ahead.

Today's was based on fish. Granted we touched on crabs and whales too, but that's fair game.

And yet this is the same guy that punishes us when we pun at a RPG session. However I think the instigator of the 3 puns per game per player limit was brought up by another of the players. At least the puns are related to the action.

Ah well.

... Hmmmm ...

And just that quickly, I have my idea for part of my next adventure. I'm in charge of our next session, and as my eyes passed over my desk I had an inspiration.

I'll have to look at that tonight when I get home. I wonder how much that is based on "to breathe in".

Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lycanthropy - that thing with the moon

Over lunch today I finished Moon Called by Patricia Briggs.

If I had bought the book or gotten it from the library, I probably wouldn't read the rest. The protagonist, Mercy Thompson, seems to just be carried along by events in the book, and rarely appears to act on anything.

I'll read the next two just because I have them on loan from a friend, and it's helpful to have a little insight into his head for when he's running our next roleplaying game session.

We'll see how the rest of the series is.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

But it's so tasty and moist...

I hate jumping problems. I can figure a maze; I can solve timed problems; however, if a game requires that I hit a switch, run really fast, and then maneuver some jumps all before the door/gate/bridge closes again, I'm screwed.

Hence my stuckness on level 18 in Portal. I know what I have to do. I have to hit the switch which makes the wall pop out and tilt . Then I have to get back on the ledge, make a portal on the titled piece, jump off the side, and make another portal which will then catapult me with my existing momentum over the watery void to where the weighted companion cube sits.

And I can't do it.

I come out at the wrong angle. I can't get of the steps fast enough. I don't jump off the ledge right, and fall into the water. I just plain run out of time.

Crap.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Monkey King

Jennifer and I went to see "Forbidden Kingdom" today, and we had a great time. Jackie Chan and Jet Lit together? Brilliant! The roles they play are awesome. Jackie does Drunken Master... AGAIN! The costumes are superb, the props amazing, and the fight scenes are so cool.

But what it really made me think of was Chinese Opera. I can remember watching a special on Chinese Opera from Showtime in the late 70s or early 80s. The music, the acrobatics, and the costumes. One of the things I remember most was that to stretch their faces, the actors put a wet headband on. Then as it dried it pulled the skin tight.

This special had two parts of the saga of the Monkey King. It it was so much fun. Then when I was a sophomore in high school, I got to go with a friend of mine and his parents to see a live performance of Chinese Opera. You watch this stuff happen, and you can't believe it. There was no wire work, no harnesses, nothing. It's just a bunch of people jumping and diving and somersaulting in big costumes carrying big sticks and fake swords.

I've got to see if Netflix has anything like that available.

I'm not done with Portal yet, but I'm getting close. 18 of 19.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm still waiting for cake.

And today, on my way home from my weekly comics run, I stopped by Fry's and bought Portal.

I know it's been out for a long time, but I didn't want the Orange Box. I'm still slowly working my way through Doom 3; I don't need another collection of shooters that I may never play. I just wanted the innovative game I had heard so much about.

Oh, and have you seen this video?

And I thought it was funny before I played Portal.

Men are here! We make fire...

Last night, Jennifer and I had a dinner for a friend of hers. It was a major team effort.

Jennifer got most everything prepped, and all we (the men) had to do was cook the meat. Carlos got to pan fry some scallops in a sauce that is apparently his specialty. Me, I got to grill the filets.

Now admittedly this is a little better than the typical comedienne's trope that the woman prepares everything and the men cool the meat and call the meal theirs. Jennifer went shopping for the food, but I opened the package of filets, covered them with seasoning (salt-free seasoning from Costco, generous ground black pepper, and a touch of salt. Then they sat for about 3 hours in the fridge.

All three of us like streaks rare to medium rare, and they came out perfectly.

But the wine we drank... Oh, it was so good. Carlos started us off with a 2005 Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon. Then with dinner we had a Lava Cap 2004 Petite Syrah. And with dessert a 1999 J Brut champagne.

Wow. And no hangover this morning. I am pretty good at remaining hydrated while drinking.

Oh, with our champagne, Jennifer had made lemon bars and chocolate chip brownies.

One more reason to keep her.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quest for Ducks

Tonight after dinner, Jennifer and I decided we needed to take a walk. We have a wonderful creek near the house called Grayson Creek. It doesn't look like much with the various shopping carts and the water heater, but the wildlife is amazing.

After fighting through the gnats under the trees, we went to the bridge where Center Avenue crosses the creek, and looked at the little falls (no more than 4 inches high). Just on the other side was a black-crowned night heron. That little white arc behind the head is a feather. When it's mating season the ale grows two more. It's really cool to see it/them blowing in a breeze. And you can't really see it in that picture, but in this one you can see the red eye. Truly spectacular.

Further back from the bridge we saw an egret. I'm not sure what kind it was, but there are several types that live around, so it's hard to tell. It seemed smallish and had black legs. Surprisingly, that doesn't cut it down much.

Then we walked away from the bridge and started to see ripple in the water. First they were two male mallards. Then there were some more ripples, and we saw Canada geese. But there were lots of little ripples around them, and with our binoculars, we were able to see five baby goslings. We oohed and ahhed over them, and decided that's why (other than general orneriness) the geese had hissed at us a few weeks ago while we were walking.

A little later a male and female mallard pair came in for a landing, and we're hoping they'll have some ducklings soon. We remember from when we moved in here seven years ago that this is the time for baby ducks, and it's fun to see the groups of them from all the duck that live in the creeks swimming around at various stages of growth. Invariably there is one clutch that hatches late and so you have the group of juveniles that all look like small females, and then this one batch of fuzzy yellow duckings swimming along.

It's really sad how we get off on this, but hey, we're addicted to Cute Overload too, so what do you expect.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

But is there any food?

So today I finished the latest Harry Dresden book by Jim Butcher. And they just keep getting better.

The entire series is a fun read. The internal "physics" of magic is great. It has just about anything a person reading supernatural could want. There are necromancers, demons, faerie/sidhe, holy warriors, fallen angels, vampires (three kinds, yet), and of course wizards.

Harry has become such a well defined character. And even though there is a continuity along the stories, it's not so ingrained in the overall story that Butcher feels the need to rehash all previous events at the beginning of a new book. You don't even get a description of Harry Dresden in this new book for at least 50 pages.

Now, while I know there were problems with the Sci-Fi Channel's TV series, I did find it entertaining, and I do tend to picture Harry like that actor, and I hear Bob's voice from the show when he speaks in the books. Beyond that? Not so much. The show is a fun watch if you haven't read the books, and they would make me want to read the books once I had seen it, but they have less to do with the books than the movie Jurassic Park did with the book.

So now I get to move on to reading the latest Kelley Armstrong. I got a hint of what Hope (the half-demon protagonist) will be like from reading Dates from Hell, a collection of four short stories by different female authors of modern supernatural. I'm hoping (seriously no pun intended) that she is as fun in the book as she was in the novella.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I wish I could go tomorrow night too...

Last night, Jennifer and I got to see Robin Williams at Bimbo's in San Francisco. I actually got to sit in the same seat that I sat in the last time I saw him. They kept the venue cooler this time; Robin's entire shirt didn't change color with sweat, and it wasn't dripping off of him during the show.

You could tell it was new material since he kept switching accents without logic. Okay, even less logic than normal, but I was thoroughly entertained. He started off by catching someone attempting to video his performance, and going off on them. Something we all appreciated.

Then he got into the swing of things, and took off. He hit on the Chinese, the Olympic Torch, the Japanese, the Canadians, the English, India, the Devil, and various politicians in America. And went on for an hour and a half. Then he came back out and did a little true improv. He had attacked the woman sitting next to me who looked thoroughly bored, and asked her for her name. She said, "Jenny Sue," and he almost lost it laughing. He immediately backed off, saying that it was bad enough that she had two names. He also got on people who had brought their own food. Then he found a lawyer:

Robin: So you're a lawyer? What company do you work for?

Lawyer: For a law firm in the city.

Robin: Oh really? Let me guess, you work in a building, right?

Jennifer and I had a great time, and it helped us get our minds off of today... And getting our taxes done.

I came home halfway through the day, and buckled down to get them done. It's just intimidating, and I couldn't bring myself to sit down and work on them before now. We did get them done, and got them to the post office around 7:30. And this is much better than a couple years ago when it was actually closing in on midnight when we dropped them off.

The bummer was that this year there were no Libertarians outside the post office. That time were were so late taking them in, there was a group handing out lollipops and asking, "So, do you feel like a sucker today?"

But tomorrow things will return to relative normal, and we can all feel like we're working for ourselves, and not Sam the Oiloholic.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Laugh, Clown, Laugh

Today at 2 minutes after noon, I bought a ticket for my wife and I to see Robin Williams "Working on Material" this Monday at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco.

They were sold out by 5 minutes after noon.

It's the primary reason I'm on their e-mail list for upcoming events. It's about the only way I would ever hear about it. We saw him live for the first time in mid-2002. He did some phone interviews on KLLC and KFOG, and we made the plan to go get in line that Saturday when they went on sale. It was his first time doing it, and Bimbo's was not prepared for the demand. Or the scalpers.

Now you can only buy tickets on Ticketweb, and are lmited to two tickets per credit card and the person usign the card has to pick up the tickets at the box office the day of the show.

That Saturday morning, the line went all the way across the front of the club, and around the corner, up the hill. I think the limit then was 8 tickets per person. He was doing a show that Saturday night and a show Sunday. We had just gotten around the corner to the front when they announced the two shows were sold out. The collective groans and sighs traveled down the line, and then they told us they were asking Robin if he would consider doing more shows. The guy acted like he was on the phone to Robin (probably only his agent), and then there was loud begging and pleading for more shows.

Jennifer and I were starving, but we didn't want to leave the line. Then they announced two additional shows, and a four ticket per person limit. By the time we got to ticket office, the second Saturday show had sold out, but we managed to get two tickets for the 10:30 PM show Sunday night.

We made the plan to be there as soon as we were allowed to line up, and so Sunday afternoon we were back in line outside. We chatted with people who were going to see the 8:00 show, and one guy who had seen both shows Saturday, was in line for the 8 and was hoping to get back out and in line with someone he knew to see the 10:30. After finally seeing Robin, I don't think my face could have handled laughing that much in 36 hours.

What we saw was his work in progress for the 2002 tour which he recorded on Broadway.

We have seen him two more times at Bimbo's and each time has been amazing. I am extremely excited about Monday night. Jennifer and I will be waiting in line early (the door's open at 6:30), and hopefully we will get a front row table again.

This, more than skiing or surfing, is what makes California, and more specifically the San Francisco Bay Area, great. The chance to see someone as funny and entertaining as Robin Williams up so close that you can see the sweat on his face.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You Will Know Pain...

I blame my coworker and her enthusiasm for my present condition.

Maura, one of the engineers at work, decided it would be fun to start a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee after work. We had a little over a week's notice, and yesterday she sent out an E-Vite saying that she had found an open field for us to play on today. So at 6:00 today eight of us met, half of us from ETIC and half from the boards she had posted at.

I was confident that I would do well. I've been throwing a Frisbee much of my life, and had played very informal Ultimate during junior high and high school. Plus, I've been going tot he gym now for almost three years, and I thought I was in good shape.

Just a friendly tip, there is a big difference between stationary biking and elliptical work, and running around a field chasing a flying, plastic disc.

Now granted, I've been sick for a little over two weeks, just went to the gym for the first time during that period last night, but I can't believe this. After two scores, I thought I was wiped out. I don't have asthma, and I wasn't wheezing, but I felt like I was just about to start. I'm still coughing when I take too deep of a breath. My back is sore from a couple falls and tumbles I took (note to self: buy turf shoes), the backs of my thighs are tight, and I have to be careful sitting in my ergonomic chair because my knees are a little tender to the touch. Just the surface, the joints are fine.

Now, the balance to this is how much fun I had. I was easily faked out but the guys, and was given a run for my money by Yuko, our Japanese geologist. I came home with grass stains on my shirt, my shorts, and the aforementioned knees. That's knees, not the knees of my pants. I haven't had green knees in years.

And now, once I'm finished with this, I'll go back to my reading chair, resume my book, and relax.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Musica Eclectica and Fun with Parentheses

So, as I have mentioned before, I have an iPod.

And I have a strange span of attention linked to an even stranger taste in music. This is the primary reason I tend to not say what I'm listening to while I post. (Face Down - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus which has just switched to Rock of Ages - Def Leppard) I listen to quite a smattering of music, and yet, still don't listen to everything. I like the Beatles and Beach Boys, but would rather dislocate a digit than be subjected to the Rolling Stones. I like the Alan Parsons Project and the Genesis family including the solo experiments of the former members (Peter Gabriel is the best of those, of course). I like some 70s and 80s metal (mostly Def Leppard and Queensryche), but I continue to branch into other stuff like OK Go and 30 Seconds to Mars which are my newest favorites.

(Betrayed - Avenged Sevenfold)

But usually I can't read to "rock music" which I classify as anything with words and electricity. So I have a small collection of classical music which is not really experimental, but more the equivalent of the Billboard top 100 from the 1700s and 1800s. And then there is my first passion: Movie Soundtracks.

Now first of all, soundtracks are rarely rock music although those do pop up occasionally. My first real album was the two LP set soundtrack for Star Wars way back in 1977. I listened to it whenever I could, and for a while dreamed of joining one of the orchestras that did soundtracks. One of my time travel goals would be to go back in time and play under Karl Stalling and be the background music on the classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

So now I have a large collection of soundtracks (and scores too, as they are now stupidly called). And they are great for background music because I can envision the movie in my head as I hear the music from that scene. (The Rhythm of the Heat - Peter Gabriel) Of course there are some, specifically Jennifer, who can't handle the music playing in the background because the tension that the music is used to help build in the movie, becomes too much for them in the real world.

Now, it's not that the music I'm listening too doesn't affect me. I have several pieces that I cannot listen to in the car. I cannot listen to Gregorian Chant in the car because I used to use that as relaxation music, and I don't want to be that relaxed while driving. (House Full of Bullets - Joe Satriani) The dog fight music fleeing the Death Star from Star Wars makes me aggressive in a dodging around manner.

And I'll give you this free advice: Never listen to the theme song from Speed Racer while on the freeway. Ever.

My favorites remain John Williams and the full collection of Star Wars, but Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings trilogy is amazing. I need to get John's Harry Potters, but have almost everything else he's done. Did yo know that John Williams has done the soundtracks for nearly all of Steven Spielberg's movies? It's really an amazing range. Another recommendation I have is the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Hans Zimmer does some great stuff. And of course, Danny Elfman and a new favorite in Steve Jablonsky and his score for the live action Transformers movie.

I leave you now (My Global Mind - Queensryche) to return to work, and my music.

Monday, April 07, 2008

General Randomness - (Geeking Out Warning)

So we'll see if this ends up going anywhere.

When we last left our hero, he was working in Sacramento installing groundwater monitoring wells. I finished all of the work associated with that site (for now), and am now back in the office. I'll be going to Redwood City next week to install some vapor monitoring wells, and then (hopefully), I'll be back in the office for a while.

Sunday, Jennifer and I toured Martinez, Pleasant Hill, and Concord looking at houses that will be going up for auction due to foreclosure. We saw about 15 and will go back to (I think) 7 when they are open next weekend.

Saturday, I got this week's batch of comic books. I'm now two weeks behind in my reading, but I'm looking forward to reading the latest Action Comics with the conclusion of a Superman/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover story. Now, just about anyone who knows me can tell you that Superman is my favorite superhero, but there aren't many who could tell you that the Legion runs a close second.

The Legion of Super-Heroes is from 1,000 years in the future, and is made young people from around the galaxy with special powers. The Legion Constitution states that a new member must have a genuine (or unique among the Legion) superpower. It has to be inherent and cannot be based on a device, and the candidate must have complete control of it. This has brought forth some great new powers, and interesting characters to go with them. The Legion has had several members and many incarnations. My favorite version was the one from the 80s and 90s, and my favorite members are Mon-El, Wildfire, and Elemental Lad/Alchemist.

The 80s and 90s Legion was the same Legion from the 60s, but the characters had grown up, some getting married, and one couple having a child (actually twins, but that comes out later). The characters were well established, and before 1985, the first Crisis had not yet taken place, so you still had the occasional Superboy and/or Supergirl visit from the 20th century. Even after the crisis, the writers worked in the death of Supergirl and (thanks to wanker John Byrne) the non-existence of Superboy. The death of Superboy story arc was incredibly touching, and is right up there with the Great Darkness Saga for powerful storytelling. Now this isn't to say that I haven't liked all of the Legion stories, but those are my definite favorites.

Element Lad (whose real name is Jan Arrah, and was known as Alchemist for a while) has the power to change an object's chemical composition. His typical attack was to bind a villain in or change their clothing into "inertron" the densest and strongest material known to the 30th century. Jan Arrah is the sole survivor from the planet Trom, a world whose population was killed by the mercenary Roxxas who was holding them hostage so that they would make him the richest man in the galaxy. When Jan is not on monitor duty in the Legion Headquarters or on a mission, he returns to Trom to create crystal memorials for every member of his race who was killed. For a while, his romantic interest was Shvaugn Erin who was the Legion liaison from the Science Police, and always caught hell when the Legion would fall out of favor.

Wildfire, real name Drake Burroughs, appeared first as ERG-1. He lived in a red containment suit because an accident had turned his body into pure energy. Various incarnations of his suit let him do different things, but he was mostly known for his energy blasts. His greatest weakness was that if anyone managed to breach his suit, his energies would slowly leak away leaving him disembodied until a new suit could be found for him. Wildfire had a crush on Dawnstar who was an American-Indian (this was before Native American was used), was from another planet, had wings, was immune to the vacuum of space, and could track anyone or anything across the void of space. Wildfire's love went unrequited because he could not leave his suit.

And then there's Mon-El. He started as a one shot character in the old Superboy comic. His ship crash landed on earth while Sueprboy was still living in Smallville, but he had amnesia from the crash. He looked similar to Superboy, had Kryptonian-like clothing, and possessed superpowers under the Yellow sun, so Superboy named him Mon-El. That's El because they thought he must be Superboy's older brother, and Mon because he crashed on Monday. The bad news was that Mon-El was actually from Daxam, not Krypton. Daxam is still believed to be a lost colony of Krypton, but the race had changed slightly. They were immune to Kryptonite, but vulnerable to lead. Mon-El and Superboy learned this when Mon-El was shot. The shock of the lead brought Mon-El's memory back, and he recalled his history, and his real name Lar Gand. Because lead was a permanent poison to Daxamites, Superboy put Mon-El into the Phantom Zone swearing to come up with a serum to return Mon-El to health. Unfortunately Sueprboy/Superman never came up with a cure, but Brainiac 5, the twelfth level intelligence from Colu, used a kryptonite irradiated serum made from Superboy's blood in the 30th century to cure Mon-El. Then he was essentially invulnerable to all things except magic and a red sun. Mon-El's romance was with the blue skinned Shadow Lass/Umbra who could cast rays and areas of darkness.

As you can guess, the comic is like a big soap opera with the turmoils and hormones of youth and the arguments, rivalries, and romances. It has been a fan favorite since its inception, and we are all frustrated by the cancellation of the animated series after only to seasons. It has been running off and on since its introduction in 1958.

And yes, everything I wrote was from memory.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Beyond the Field I know

It's a wonderful week in the field for me. I'm working in Sacramento this week installing three groundwater monitoring wells. So I'm driving a van (the stylish 1998 Ford Econoline 150) which at this point has:
  • lagging seat belts that tend to loosen over time
  • a radio that drops one or both speakers randomly
  • a clock/radio display that is totally unreadable
  • loose bolts in the wall dividing the cabin from the cargo area (rattle-trap)
  • misalignment pulling to the right
  • thermostat stuck on cold (the latest problem)
And yet this is the best vehicle we have to use because at least we don't have to unload it every night when we get back for security reasons like we would a pick-up. But the weather has been nice once the sun has come out in the morning, and the drive to William Land Park in Sacramento is a nice reminder that at least I'm not making the drive every day like I did for 15 months when I as working in West Sac.

And my coworker and I get along well and talk most of the way up. The drive back has been quiet from our fatigue. No not from working which is pretty minimal, but from liaising with our government regulator. And dealing with the pithy comments of local residents.

Many years ago, Jennifer asked me what I did when I was drilling at a site. I told her that I pointed to where I wanted the hole. Soon after that I was drilling near where our office was and she offered to bring the crew donuts. When she arrived... I was pointing where I wanted the holes drilled.

Now actually, I do more than that. I classify the soils we encounter, describe transitions, and store samples for later analysis. And then when a well is being set by the driller (adding the sand and bentonite seal), I get to stand around. That's what a college education does for you. You don't have to deal with the slop of grout and saturated soil.

So today while I'm standing around watching the driller and his helpers set the well, a resident of one of the nearby houses comes over and begins with what I will loosely term jokes. "Don't you have any shovels to lean on? ... It's true what they say about four guys on a job and only one of them is working. ... I wish I had a job where I could stand around all day." Of course my first thought is, "Well, it's 11:30 on a Tuesday morning, why the hell aren't you working at all?"

Remember, it's the thought that counts.

And then there's our groundwater regulator/inspector who should be retired, but says she has three more years to go (the driller asked her today) because she has to wait for Medicare to kick in. And because we weren't going to do a second well today (the time constraints of a unit price job) she gave us busy work. We (the regulator, the driller, his two helpers, me and the staff geologist) went around the site and let her look in all the wells already installed so that she could be satisfied they had not settled after construction. She said this was a requirement of all wells, but had not been done at all on this site (or most others). There are at present 40 wells on site, and some were installed in the early 1990s.

And tomorrow I get to do it all again.

Oh, just to clarify, I no longer point to show the drillers where I want the hole. I tell the staff geologist where I want them to point to show the drillers where to drill.

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