Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Christmas Carol Train Tour

To the delight of lit fans and mothers alike, Disney is releasing a very advanced (think Polar Express, only better) animated version of my favorite Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol on November 6.

Okay, one of my favorite Dickens' classics. There are so many to choose from!

While in Kansas City last month, I happened upon a flyer advertising a train tour to promote the movie. Luckily it hadn't hit Detroit yet and I could take my children. I don't watch much TV and I don't have the attention span for movies that I once had so, until the flyer came along, I didn't even know there was a movie being released. Crazy since I've devoted the last 3 Decembers to forcing A Christmas Carol down my daughter's throat in the form of reading and plays. Now, with a 3D animated movie, I can force it down my son's throat as well! Yay!

Anyhow, here are a few photos from the train tour. If it hasn't already passed through your city, go! It's free!

The first car had stuff from the movie and no photos allowed. The next couple had various pieces from the Charles Dickens museum in London and was AMAZING! I got to see original manuscripts, first editions, letters, and more. Just like heaven.

A few photos from the museum:

A first edition!

The original Pickwick Papers

The next couple of cars had models that were used to create the animation for the movies. I didn't take quite as many pictures there.

Model of Scrooge & Marley's

The last car was cool, the whole family steps into a photo booth and each member gets a photo of their face which is then morphed into the face of a movie character. All of ours kinda sucked but it was fun.

Alex as Tiny Tim

We also got to see an "exclusive" trailer of the film and not only am I super excited, but happy to report that the story doesn't appear to be overshadowed by Jim Carrey's particular brand of overacting as in The Grinch.

Is it November 6th yet?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leaving the Vintage

Sarajane was on my left, he was on my right. We reached the top of the stairs, heading out into the cold night. I don't remember it being January. I remember him putting his hand on my waist at the top of the stairs as we were putting an end to our first meeting. We were all laughing and it was bright outside, in spite of the hour. The parking lot was glowing as the light from the street lamps bounced off of the snow. I hugged him goodbye and told him to call.

It was a Saturday night.

We were on our fourth date and were walking down the stairs again for our third kiss goodnight. He walked me to my car and my hands found his and held them around me. He didn't give an inch of space between us as he tried to persuade me to go home with him. I wanted to, of course, but it wasn't time yet. Instead, I kissed him, barely noticing the way the street lamps made the snow look like we were standing on the moon.

It was a Thursday night.

The party went by in a blur as I played with my friends and he walked about, finding conversation with people he knew and starting conversation with people he didn't. I always had some awareness of his presence so I could find him when I wanted to leave. Even though the party was far from over, there came a moment when I couldn't wait anymore and I walked over to him and told him I was ready to go. He had to finish his beer and I waited, hiding my impatience by talking to friends. At some point I noticed he had finished and was still in animated conversation with people whose faces I did not recognized. Not caring about the rules, I went to him, leaned in as close as I could and said, "Let's go." That night when we walked down the stairs, it was the last as two people dating.

It was a Saturday night.

Thereafter, any time I've spent at the Vintage, with or without him, has been as a person who has someone. My trips to the Vintage have waned in frequency and I'm not sure if it's because I'd rather be with my someone outside of all of that or if it's because of an increased awareness of the time and space between me and my friends. I do know that there's something still so new about every time I remember my exits.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On My Arranged Marriage to Windows; or, Ubuntu is My Dirty Whore (Part 1)

I don't even know where to start.

Maybe at the Verizon store.


When we waltzed in, irritated as can be about how our "smart" phones were stupid fking pieces of everynameunderthesun and if they didn't stop running out of the memory needed to send a simple gd text message we would run over them with our cars and they'd have to replace them because we have insurance and we'd keep running them over so they'd keep having to replace them until they gave us a phone that was actually smart.


The salesperson quietly led us over to the Blackberry section and told us that the only way to get the functionality we demanded in a phone was to get away from the Windows operating system.

I had a few flashes of the unexpected errors on my home computer. The times when I've had to force the poor thing to shut off when it freezes up. The updates and restarts. The expired anti-virus software that interrupts everything I do.

I blinked it all away so I could drool over the Blackberry in my hand. BB made the transition from old new phone to new new phone amazing. It is the smartest, most easy to use thing ever. I mean it.

That was a few months ago.

This month, I began scoping out the Dell site as I'm considering buying my daughter a laptop for Christmas. She just has all this STUFF. Her iPod, her digital camera(s), her Leapfrog Pen thingy, code upon code upon code from stuffed animals, cereal boxes, and candy wrappers. All of these things require her to use my computer. Now that she's in middle school, she'll have more assignments that she needs a computer for. My poor computer is getting old, it can only handle me. It told me so.

So I started looking at laptops.


That was the word starting at me. I had clicked on "open source operating systems" and there it was: "Dell now offers Ubuntu."

Hmmm. I had heard, of course, of this open source business before but, not being technically inclined, never really looked into it. Now, having started to realize (because of the little black beauty that is rarely farther than a few inches of my hand) that there is a whole beautiful, fully-functioning world beyond Windows, I decided to investigate this Ubuntu.

Twenty minutes on the Ubuntu site and a bit on Wikipedia had my interest piqued enough to send messages to my awesome Canadian friend Duncan and my kid brother, both in the know on technical matters. They both seemed a little wary of giving a kid an operating system that was different than what she'd be using in school.

But, I was already becoming committed. I had learned that Open Office's software, which comes (free, of course) with Ubuntu (also free, of course) allows the user to create word docs, spreadsheets, and presentations that are able to be opened and edited with MS Office products. In fact, most everything you do on Ubuntu (from Linux, btw) is compatible with Windows.

Then there was this: Windows comes on everything I buy, unless it's a Mac, even if I don't want it. I pay for it, it's my operating system. I pay for it and then I have to pay for everything that works with it. I have to buy software that is Windows compatible to work on the OS that I didn't choose. It came with it because they all do. I can't walk into Best Buy and say, "No, thanks. I'm going to use Linux, so just sell me a computer without Windows and I'll put the OS on myself." I can't do that because the computers already have Windows on them and it's included in the price because it isn't free. Then, I end up with a computer with a bunch of extras on it that I don't need/know how to use but am afraid to remove because I don't know what they are or what they do. So, I have to buy a computer, paying extra for the OS I don't want, and remove it myself so I can have the free OS I do want.

Duncan told me that if I decided to go with Ubuntu, there is a large support community. My brother told me that it would be good for him or me to try, but not to guinea pig Jenna.

I began reading. I read a very useful article written by a tech geek who went Ubuntu and then rated it on the basis of whether its various categories of functionality were as good as Windows. Most everything (but for 2 categories) worked as well as or better than Windows. It appeared that the only thing I was going to have to do to Ubuntu to make my computer work for me like it does now was install a different music player to make it play/store MP3 files as the format is proprietary and if Ubuntu came packaged with the software needed to process these files, they'd have to pay for licensing/charge for the OS.

What are the main reasons a person would leave Windows? Frozen screens. System crashes. Security issues (requiring the purchase of additional software to protect a computer). Cost.

I needed no further convincing. Exactly one week ago, I began backing up my files in preparation for my new OS.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Adventures in Water and Ubuntu

I have an irrational fear of water. Always have had.

It's odd because, aside from really good prose, there's little I find to be more breathtaking than a body of water. Still, the second I know my toes won't be able to touch the bottom, that there's any chance I'll fall in, I'm on the verge of clawing my own eyes out.

I'm not a good swimmer, perhaps this is partly to blame.

I had swim lessons when I was a child. When the final day came and we had to jump off the diving board at the deep end to show our parents our new skills, I had a meltdown. I wouldn't do it. I don't know how old I was and don't remember a thing of the lessons leading up to that point, but I remember screaming, crying, begging to not have to do it.

In fourth grade, I went home after school with a friend to swim in her pool. Outside, she ran and jumped into the middle of the pool. It was hot and I was excited, so I followed suit. Upon entering the water, my feet found bottom with my head what seemed like several feet (probably only inches) beneath the surface. Panic set in, even as I floated to the top. I don't know how I reached the edge to grab on and inch my way to shallow water. I was so embarrassed because of how I was feeling and knew somehow that I couldn't show it. I did my best to participate from the shallow end and around the sides of the pool so she wouldn't know how scared I was.

Sometime in my late teens, my best friend and I took an adult beginner swim class. I spent a bunch of my learning time in the shallow end. Toward the end of the class, I would go in the deep end but would only swim across the pool on my back, doing a backstroke. I still couldn't bring myself to jump off the diving board.

Dating an outdoorsy adrenaline junkie has really pushed my fear of water to the limit. I've been able to get over it enough to drive his jet-ski by myself at a good, safe 35 mph, 40 if I'm feeling crazy. I don't do any "tricks" that might cause me to eject myself from the safety of the warm black seat. When he drives me, it is nothing but terror and sometimes I think I may have to trick him, a non-reader, to sit in his recliner where I will strap him down and force him to read Breakfast at Tiffany's just so he knows what it feels like!

The first time he tried to teach me to waterski (he is a very patient teacher, I might add), he had me in shallow water, lifejacket on, learning to get into a starting position. This necessitated floating on my back with the skis sticking out as parallel to one another as possible while he slowly dragged me around. I couldn't do it. I could not lie there on my back floating harmlessly. Why? I have no idea! Maybe it was because I knew that this was a lesson that would lead me into deeper water. I felt like I had no control and I started crying.

Yep. For real. The first and only waterski lesson I had eventuated in crying before I even did anything.

Yesterday, I went on an annual boating trip with him and his friends. They like to get together and play on the water. I'm good with that. I can handle speed on water, like it, in fact, so long as I'm sitting safely on a boat. They tubed, smiling big as they used all of their boating skills to cause each other to fly in the air, flipping as many times as possible, smacking the water with force upon landing.

I had fun, too. I even joined them in the water as they swam. I had a lifejacket on, after all. But every single time one of them would try to convince me to go out on the tube or waterski (It'll be fun! They promise!), I would instantly feel anxious, even possessing the knowledge that I wasn't going to do it. It doesn't matter that I trusted them not to pull me the way they pulled each other. It doesn't matter that I knew I wouldn't drown with a lifejacket on or that they wouldn't let me drown anyway.

In the end, I think it only matters that I don't have control. I can't decide how much water I'm going to swallow or if I'm going to fall off.

I'm not sure I'll ever get a grip on the thing, but I kind of hope so. It would be nice to find that sort of thing fun and not terrifying.

I don't know why I hate it so much, anyhow. Where else can I piss myself in fear and have noone notice?

This got long. You'll have to hear about my impulsive install of Ubuntu and deletion of Windows later.

It'll be fun.

I promise.