Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Danny Looking Towards Freedom

I knew how much my in-laws cat Johann liked looking outdoors, so I let my mother's cat Danny take a peak of the outside world with the screen door keeping his feline-self safely indoors. It's rather funny I think, considering my old dog Zelda. She spent the vast majority of her life in that house, and she'd always whine about coming inside. Now the cat wants to see the freedom. 

Funny Story: Water Buffalos

At my wife's work, some school kid wanted to quiz her on some kind of school project. They asked how many stomachs does a water buffalo have. The choices were between one to four stomachs. My wife guessed one. She told me afterwards and I guessed four which I was right. Water buffaloes are practically cows on a evolutionary scale so four (same as cows) was the most likely answer. Their extra stomachs help them digest food that would be normally inedible to other creatures. 

Fact of the Day: Kim Jong-suk

Kim Jong-suk was the wife of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Il-sung, as well as Kim Jong-il's mother. She died in 1949, and her legacy was made important when her son took over in the 1990's. However her death is rather mysterious as the only "official" word was that she had died from the hardships from her days as a guerrilla fighter. Theories of her actual death include dying from childbirth to a stillborn child, tuberculosis, and murder.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Meeting Danny the Cat

 My mother got a new cat and because he had been under anesthesia (due to neutering) I didn't see him the first day. My mother was still at work at the time, but as soon as we came through the door, Danny was excited to see us. I know a lot of cats are usually very snooty, so I was little worried since Danny is not a kitten. He's suppose to around a year old or less. Nobody at the humane society knew for sure.

The Final Cut (UK TV Series) Review

 The Final Cut is essentially the last season of the original British series House of Cards. All three seasons are based on books written by Michael Dobbs who also helped (as an executive producer)  with the American version with Kevin Spacey. Like most later reigns of politicians, these are the last years for Francis Urquhart as British Prime Minister and they aren't very happy ones for him. The key issue is cementing a legacy, but will he be able to do it along with beating Margaret Thatcher's record of longest serving Post-WWII British Prime Minister? Francis Urquhart certainly thinks he can do it for his country...and himself.

Fact of the Day: Telstar

In 1962 the satellite Telstar was launched into space. It was the first in history to relay tv and phone signals above the Earth. It was deactivated in 1963 but still orbits the Earth. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Hot Dog Lunch

Today was full of errands, and one stop was to Costco so I could get some printer ink refilled. They needed about twenty minutes to do it. So while we waited we wanted to go eat. Daisy got a hot dog and a drink from the cafe, and I got a slice of cheese pizza and a drink. The cafe stuff isn't the greatest in the world, but it's really inexpensive. 

Victor Frankenstein (2015 Film) Review

 Whether it's the actual Mary Shelley 1818 Frankenstein novel or the 1931 Universal Frankenstein movie, the whole Dr. Frankenstein and his monster have made a huge impact on popular culture from the 19th century to today.  While there have been a lot of Frankenstein movies since I was born, I can only really think of the 1994 one with Kenneth Branagh and Robert De Niro off the top of my head. I heard the newer Victor Frankenstein was rather dull, but I kind of wanted to see it. Mainly because of the movie's main stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. James McAvoy is a really talented actor, and I thought it'd be interesting to see Daniel Radcliffe in a movie that isn't part of the Harry Potter series. Critics and regular folks seemed to dislike the movie with a passion, were they right or were they wrong?

Fact of the Day: Bosnian War

The breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not a peaceful one. From 1992-1995 occurred the Bosnian War. Bosnia was a multi-ethnic country with a small majority of people being Bosniaks who were typically Muslim. A considerable minority of people in the country were Serbs who were mostly Orthodox Christian. The Bosnian Serbs created their own army (and the country of Republika Srpska) and fought against the Bosniaks. Due to religious and ethnic differences, Bosnian Serbs committed genocide against the Bosniaks with thousands killed. Most of the dead were men and boys, while women and girls were violated by Bosnian Serb soldiers 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Random Photo: Light Bulb Art

This art was on display at my local library. I didn't have much time to look at it but it's obviously a light bulb with a strange mixture of flags. I never quite understand some modern art, but it was neat to see. 

To Play the King (UK TV Series) Review

 To Play the King is basically the second season for the UK series House of Cards. I was a big fan of the American Netflix series which was heavily based on the British original. While Frank Underwood and Francis Urquhart have many similarities, there are many differences between the two men and their struggle to get and then keep power as head of state. The first season of House of Cards showed Francis Urquhart trying to become Prime Minister. Now that he's the United Kingdom's most powerful man, he must learn how to keep that power. Or he might end up just like his predecessor with a painful resignation.

Fact of the Day: Barracuda

Barracudas are large fish known for their fang-like teeth and ferocious behavior. Humans typically are not on the menu for barracudas but rare attacks have been reported but many cases are due to confusion or poor vision on the behalf of the barracuda. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Danny the Cat

My mother informed me of a "new chapter of her life" and that was her getting a new cat. She's never had one since I was born at least, we've always had dogs. She lives alone and it only took about a year for her to feel the loneliness I suppose. She's calling the cat Danny. He is suppose to be about a year old, and he was apparently "taken" from a previous owner who was most likely a deadbeat. Danny got neutered yesterday so I figured it wouldn't be the best day to meet him. I'm sure he doesn't feel the same anymore. 

Funny Story: Charleston Gasoline

I remember going to see my brother when he lived in Charleston, South Carolina. It's about a three hour drive from our home in Spartanburg. When we got to Charleston, my mother stopped at the gas station to refuel. I got out of the car to stretch my legs but then I saw this truck near us. The guy who owned the truck went inside the station and left the pump on auto. It didn't stop at full and it started to overflow and splash all over the ground. We saw him come out to get it and I heard him say "whoops, not again". 

Fact of the Day: Lykov Family

The Lykov family were a Russian family that were "Old Believers" which is a religious domination that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1666. In the 1930's, the family was fearful of being killed by the new Communist government and fled east. They had moved to a very remote part of Siberia and spent many decades completely isolated form society. The only survivor was a daughter named Agafia who was the last remaining member of the family since her father died in 1988. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Baby K

I was looking across my sister-in-law's older photos and I don't think I ever saw this one of my niece Little K back when she was a baby. I find it funny how she has a Chuck E Cheese doll there. She would later grow to love their pizza and arcade. 

Things I like: Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones)

 Even though he dies before the first season (and book) was technically over, Eddard Stark's legacy remains strong many seasons (and books) into the series not only for the characters that remain but as a fan-favorite character. At the time of the series start, he is the current Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. He accepts the title Hand of the King from his childhood friend King Robert Baratheon after the death of their mutual father-figure Jon Arryn. It was obvious that his eldest son Robb was named after Robert Baratheon, and Jon Snow was named after Jon Arryn.

Fact of the Day: Chinese Buddhism Politics

During the 13th Century, Buddhism had been prevalent in the higher classes in China. But changes in the government of the Song Dynasty demanded nobility to embrace Confucianism instead. Buddhism still remained where it was among the middle and lower classes. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Kitchen Helper

My sister-in-law Tiffany took this photo of my niece Little K. She was apparently "helping" in the kitchen. She's probably a better cook than I am. 

House of Cards (UK TV Series) Season 1 Review

 Like many I noticed Netflix's House of Cards TV series with Kevin Spacey a few years ago. I liked the series so far and I had almost waited to see this British TV series on which the American show is heavily based on. I didn't want to it spoil the ending in some way, but I don't really like how they kind of seem to be stretching things about in the American incarnation. I heard the British TV series is better in ways, and it's actually quite short. What the American House of Cards got done in about 26 episodes only took four in the British TV series. It's actually based on a novel of the same name by Michael Dobbs who actually served under Margaret Thatcher in the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP.

Fact of the Day: Bar-Headed Goose

The bar-headed goose may be the world's highest flying bird. They have been known to fly as high as 21,000 ft (6,400 meters) at one time. They are native to central asia. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Random Photo: Blue's Clues

I remember Blue's Clues when it came out when I was eight. My brain power was a bit above it at the time but limited cable as a kid often left me watching stuff I'd never watch otherwise. Now my niece Little K apparently has this as one of her new favorite shows. Ol' Steve in the show left a few years into it because he was going bald., kind of sad to be honest. 

Ender's Game (2013 Film) Review

Back in 2013 I largely ignored Ender's Game. While I generally like sci-fi, the whole genre can kind of feel...well generic. It didn't seem that interesting even with Harrison Ford obviously displayed as a major character. Ender's Game is actually based on a book of the same name from 1985. The movie itself didn't do well in theaters, and critics raved about other stuff that year. I later learned that the movie was "boycotted" by those who opposed the book's author Orson Scott Card's extreme right-wing political views. Being very liberal myself, I do think it's rather stupid when conservatives bash liberal entertainers, so I'd be a hypocrite if I did the same. After-all I really like Clint Eastwood's movies and Walker Texas Ranger (Chuck Norris) despite being the opposite side of the political spectrum from those two. Ender's Games should truly be judged on if it's a good movie or not.

Fact of the Day: David Rizzio

David Rizzio was the personal secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots. Queen Mary's second husband Lord Darnley (Henry Stuart) was quite jealous of him. Mary and Rizzio had a close friendship and there was rumors that he got Mary pregnant. Lord Darnley along with supporters asked for Rizzio to be handed over during a dinner while Queen Mary was heavily pregnant. The Queen refused but the men eventually got a hold of Rizzio soon after and stabbed him 56 times with Queen Mary as a witness. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Random Photo: Library Box

While they are not new to our libraries, I do love these return boxes they have at our local ones. It's got a belt that returns them but it also lets the system know you returned them as well at that same instant. Out of all the time they've had them, the system hasn't made a mistake once with me. 

Star Trek Beyond (2016 Film) Review

 Since I was not even remotely close to being born in 1966, I was not old enough to enjoy the original Star Trek TV show nor even the first sequel TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 2009 they decided to reboot the series as a string of movies introducing an alternate timeline (that makes a lot of sense) so people can know the characters if they didn't watch a lot of episodes of the old TV series. I had known very well of Star Trek and its impact on pop culture, but I decided the 2009 Star Trek film would be how I knew the series. I really liked it and I loved the sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness even more so. This is the first Star Trek film of the new sub-series to not be directed by J.J. Abrams so while I was looking forward to Star Trek Beyond I had my doubts.

Fact of the Day: Fatherland Front

The Fatherland Front was a political party (which claimed to be a unifying non-partisan movement) that was fascist and eventually took control of the Austrian government. The Nazis of Germany eventually came into conflict with the Fatherland Front. While they were both right-wing fascists parties/states, the Fatherland Front strongly opposed absorption into Germany. Austria lost its independence in 1938 and remained annexed until 1945. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Choo-Choo Mall Train

My mother took this photo of my brother Brandon with my neice Little Iz at the train ride at the Westgate Mall. I'm sure she had a blast. 

Lost in Space (1998 Film) Review

 Lost in Space is certainly not a TV series I can fondly remember. Mainly because I can't really remember it at all. I vaguely remember some re-runs, the space family, and that robot thing. I don't even recall this movie coming out in 1998. The 1990's had many things, but bad ideas were certainly among them. Despite the stupid idea of taking a beloved TV series and turning it into a movie, the cast is quite impressive. I noticed most of the cast from other roles. I remember Heather Graham from Austin Powers, Matt LeBlanc as Joey from Friends, Gary Oldman in many great ones, and Lacey Chabert who has done a lot of voice-acting (like Eliza in The Wild Thornberries) and she grew up to be incredibly beautiful.

Fact of the Day: London Fog

The Great Smog of London happened in 1952 which killed about 12,000 people who were mostly young, elderly, or sickly. Bad pollution had plagued London for centuries so smog was common and often ignored. Bad weather mixed with the burning of coal caused a severe fog that deeply impacted the city. This event led to better regulations for cleaner air. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Niece Winter

This is my niece Little Iz last month during our snow storm. This is probably her first real "fun" in the snow. She'll like it even more when it gets her out of school in a few years. 

Clueless (1995 Film) Review

Since I was just a kid in 1995, I probably didn't hear about Clueless until a few years later. For many years I had assumed the movie was just one "for girls" as if someone was trying to create a Barbie movie or something along the lines of that. But it was pretty well received critically and became a cult classic that has a loyal fanbase. It's actually based on Jane Austen's novel Emma and has pretty sharp (and dark) humor. Most of its main stars I remember from works that typically came after that like Brittany Murphy and Paul Rudd. What brought the memory up was Stacey Dash whom I never heard of before, but she became a clueless voice for the right-wingers a few years back but people mentioned she was in Clueless. I did know of Alicia Silverstone as she was Batgirl in the horrible Batman and Robin movie.

Fact of the Day: Nixon Racism

As part of the "Southern Strategy" of the Republican Party, President Richard Nixon deliberately did things to slow down the the enforcement of desegregation of public schools in order to win over conservative voters in the American South.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Young Mother

This is my mother at only a few years old. She gave birth to no girls, but she does remind me a little of my niece Little K. 

Hugo (2011 Film) Review

I had somewhat heard of Hugo close to the year of 2011. It's rather odd to believe it's been that many years since then. As I've mentioned before, I think Chole Grace Moretz is one of the most talented actresses ever. So while she is now a woman, she's had a healthy career since she was just a little girl. By the time Hugo came out she already was quite well known. I think why I was so hesitant to see Hugo was becuase I had no idea what it was even about. I expected something more on the realm of fantasy but this one is actually more based on history and it's set in France during the year 1931 which was between World War I and World War II. 
The story's hero is Hugo Cabret, who is a young orphan boy who lives in a clock tower at a train station. Hugo once had a loving father but he died in a terrible fire. He then lived with his horrible uncle who was a notable drunk. He luckily taught Hugo how to run the clocks, and when Claude dies Hugo takes over his job so nobody notices Claude is missing. If Hugo is discovered to be an orphan, then he'll go into a rather horrible orphanage system.  So he often has to hide from the police and other grown-ups. But as a penniless orphans, it's difficult to do as he often has to take things to survive. 
Hugo wants to rebuild an invention his father was trying to fix before his death. He ends up taking small mechanical parts from Georges Melies who runs a toy booth. The old man catches Hugo and makes him face justice. But he doesn't call the notorious Inspector Gustave Daste, but rather takes his beloved notebook. Hugo doesn't out-right say why he wants the notebook back so badly, but Melies stands his ground. Hugo tries to get Melies' adopted daughter Isabelle to get his notebook back. Isabelle doesn't try to do anything sneaky, so if Hugo wants the notebook back then he'll have to do things Isabelle's way. 
Hugo did really well with critics, and even earned quite a few Oscar nominations including Best Picture but lost to The Artist. I will say I didn't quite think the movie was that Oscar worthy. It's very well-done but I didn't think the story moved very much until about half-way. I did really like the friendship between Hugo and Isabelle. I was also pleased to see the movie go into the early era of movie making (with the focus about French movies) as that's an era that is hardly known by many today.

Score: B+ 

Fact of the Day: Barber Surgeons

While barbers are well known for cutting hair, in the middle ages they were also expected to perform surgery. They were not doctors, as physicians mainly kept to the roles of academia. When it came to making people better, they would often be consultants. Most doctors during the Middle Ages considered that surgery was beneath them. The mortality rate from surgery in the Middle Ages was quite severe. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Random Photo: Daisy's New Shoes

We went to Shoe Carnival after our pre-Valentines lunch to get Daisy some new shoes. Daisy always has been a big fan of Skechers (I'm more of a Nike person) so she got some pure black ones with the memory foam. 

Super Monkey Ball 3D (3DS) Review

One of my favorite times in video game history was in the early 2000's because I was a big fan of the Nintendo Gamecube. Sega's literal first game on the Nintendo console was Super Monkey Ball. It debuted in arcades, and was probably going to be a title for the Sega Dreamcast. However the Dreamcast had failed by the time so Sega decided to make it a launch title for the Gamecube. I enjoyed both the original game and Super Monkey Ball 2 which was also on Gamecube. The only other one I played was Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz on the Nintendo Wii. The problem with that game was that the motion controls (there was no option for an analog stick) made the game even more difficult than usual. It's been quite a few years since I had some time with a Super Monkey Ball game and even though this 3DS game is rather old now it's about time I gave it a chance.

Fact of the Day: Blackbeard Wives

While most details about the life of Blackbeard are debated (including his birthplace and real name), historians figured it was possible that Blackbeard had been married to as many as fourteen women. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Pre-Valentines Day Lunch

 While Daisy has a difficult time accepting my answer, but I always tell her we either go to Valentines day lunch/supper on the 13th or the 15th. Everybody has the idea to go on the 14th and I'm not waiting hours to eat in a crowded restaurant. We went to Longhorn Steakhouse (her favorite) right after noon on the 13th and the crowd wasn't bad at all. They sat us at a huge table despite us only having two people. It felt a little strange. Daisy got her Wild West Shrimp.

Tin Man (TV Mini-Series) Review

 While the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz is not the only work based on the classic books by L. Frank Baum, it is by far the best. From one of the most classic movies ever made, it's a bit of a shame how other works just didn't hold a candle to it. I actually liked Oz the Great and Powerful quite a bit, but I can't remember any other Oz work I liked besides that. I had been debating on whether I should watch Tin Man which is a mini-series done ten years ago in 2007. I think the main reason I wanted to see it was because of Zooey Deschanel being the main star. Even though I haven't seen much of her work, I do have a mild crush on her. When I started Tin Man I was quite shocked to see how much different this Land of Oz really is.

Fact of the Day: Green Broadbill

The Green Broadbill is a small bird native to parts of Southeast Asia. While most birds have notable beaks, they have very weak ones that are almost hidden from the rest of the face. Their green feathers however prove to be excellent camouflage.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Favorite Photos: Library Bingo February 2017

 Daisy loves bingo and as such she brings me to the local library whenever they play it. The room had about seventy something people in it. I always hate that because your odds decrease when that happens. 

Question: Do You Drink Pickle Juice?

While some don't care for them, I think most people like pickles. The juice on the other hand has a small amount of fans who will chug it with joy. I like to sip it every now and then but I don't really like drinking more than that. 

Do you like pickle juice? 

Fact of the Day: Ring Heart

Vena amoris is Latin for "vein of love" which refers to the vein in your ring finger of your left hand. It runs all the way to the heart. This is a reason given of why the left ring finger is where you're suppose to wear a engagement/wedding ring. However this actually a bit deceiving as all fingers have veins that go directly to the heart.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Random Photo: Chicken Time

While I'm a vegetarian, my wife Daisy is not. I don't try to enforce my views upon her, and frankly I stopped caring what others eat a long time ago. She really likes getting a small rotisserie chicken  from the deli at the supermarket. I like that she can get several meals out of it. 

Ghostbusters (2016 Film) Review

 It's been well over thirty years since the original Ghostbusters film and despite the popularity it only got one sequel...until this reboot that is. The main gimmick to the film was that the main cast would be all female this time. I remember a lot of people hating on the movie before it even came out which was pretty misogynistic to be honest. The concept was interesting enough for me, it sounded more original than a remake with guys who could never fill the boots of the original Ghostbusters crew. I knew Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy were in it but I was pleased to see Kate McKinnon (and her SNL co-star Cecily Strong in a smaller role) as I enjoyed her roles (especially politcal impressions) on Saturday Night Live. My wife also didn't realize Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was in the movie until I pointed him out to her.