Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Forward 2, Fire 3, Back 20+ years

(Go watch this Big Trak commercial. I'll wait…)

So, check it out -"Retro Finds" a '70s and '80s pop culture appreciation blog, has put "Collect All 21!" on its sidebar list of Books You Just Have to Own if You Are A Retro Lover. I'm in good company, too, with "Rogue Leaders: The Story of Lucasarts" and "The Complete Making of Indiana Jones."

The site seems new (and Welsh!) but hey, any site with banner art that includes Big Trak – my friend Mike had one of these and I think I drove him crazy because when I went over there it was ALL I wanted to play with even long after he'd gotten tired of it – and Simon AND The A-Team is off to a good start!

February 25, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, Games, geek, Ohio, Travel, Web/Tech, writing | 2 Comments

Don’t Panic/Infinite Improbability

What are the odds that I'd have a conversation last night referencing Hotblack Desiato and "Well, That About Wraps It Up for God," and then wake up to find this is today's xkcd?

Kindle

Next thing you know, there'll be an army of monkeys at my door with a script for Hamlet they've worked out.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Fiction, geek, writing | 1 Comment

Winning Hand

Thanks to a sudden muffled WHUMP of snowfall late this afternoon, I spent some quality alone time shoveling the driveway after dark tonight. (Digression: Venus was crazy bright. Like airplane-coming-in-for-a-landing bright. In the five minutes it took me to go inside and grab binoculars and come back outside, snow clouds had hidden it.)

So, anyway, I was mentally going over the weekend, and I realized what a fantastic hand of dad-daughter bonding I'd been dealt. Consider: Saturday afternoon, Jenn had to work. Kelsey and I finished up chores, then headed to the library because, in part, she's gotten this urge to see "The Birds." Sadly, the DVD wasn't in – we reserved it – but we did check out two discs packed with old Twilight Zone episodes, which she has also been digging on lately. We also grabbed Jeff Smith's "Stupid, Stupid Rat-tails" Bone collection. (Don't get me wrong – Kelsey's also very much a sixth-grade girl: She checked out "Marley and Me." Again. And she had a kid nostalgia thing going, so she checked out the "Eloise at The Plaza" movie.) Oh, and we checked out a "Choose Your Own Adventure" cartoon DVD, which Kelsey later mercilessly mocked and proclaimed LAAAAAaaaame!

We'd met my brother Nick at the library, so we went to his house for a bit o' Rock Band 2. Fatherly Pride = daughter acing drums on "We Got the Beat" AND Metallica's "Battery."

Back home, we had dinner and then turned out the lights to watch some Twilight Zone, including the classic "The Invaders" – which she totally bought into despite the goofy spacemen effects and the fact that she's known the twist ending for a long time – and "Twenty Two," a genuinely creepy and tense episode that had her asking to watch that "Choose Your Own Adventure" goofiness to kind of lighten the mood.

Today, all three of us went to the YMCA for some track and swimming. I did five miles, but the two coolest were the ones Kelsey ran with me. She did one solid mile, took a break and caught her breath walking with Jenn while I kept going, and came back to join me for another. It's the first time she's run that far with me, and the last half-mile she asked me to talk to her as a distraction, so I kept encouraging her and talking about what it's like on race day and what I focus on when I'm out running by myself and telling her to put up a finger on her right hand every time we completed a lap during the final five.

It was tremendously cool, and my own last mile I practically floated.

That's a stack of chips I'll treasure for a long time.

February 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cat Jenga

Stackocats

…a couple dozen more and we've got ourselves a game!

February 21, 2009 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Weblogs | Leave a comment

How to Make A Writer’s Day in Just A Few Sentences

It's been a seasick kind of week in a few ways.

Then I got an email from a guy I only know as someone who bought a copy of Collect All 21 last fall. In part, it said:

I loved the book. It took me back to my childhood and made me laugh, smile and even cry. There are tons of books out there about Star Wars, everything from
collecting to comics to fan fiction to technical manuals. But this book
is a blast from the past and a look into the life over another fan who
grew up obsessed with Star Wars. It was a fun read from front to back
that reminded me of the easier times in life and best times of my
childhood.

That's awfully damn nice. Seriously. And it showed up when I really needed to hear it. Thanks, Steve. (And yes, he said I could share this.)

February 18, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, writing | Leave a comment

Penguicon 7.0: T-Minus…

    I've been
itching for a full-on convention experience for too long.

    Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis marked the last time I went
and stayed and dove head-on into a multi-day rush of general geekery and crowds of fandom. Couldn't make Celebration IV; tried
hard to make space on the calendar to hit MegaCon with Jim; when that
failed, I made a desperate grab for Dragon*Con – in fact, Jim &
I actually had plans in place and a room in Atlanta booked before a
combination of things threw a wrench into those works; and hanging
out over the past year at some of the local Jeff Harper shows and the inaugural Screaming Tiki really got me hungry again for a road trip. Wizard World Chicago and the Motor City Con
taunt me annually with their relative proximity.

    I've got it bad, man. Baaaaad.

    So after checking my wife's work
schedule and the family calendar and getting an all-clear to buzz the
tower, I made the call last week to the Crown Plaza in Romulus,
Michigan and reserved a room at Penguicon 7.0. Budget-wise it's loads
cheaper than Dragon*Con, it's an easy couple hours' drive, it won't
require taking more than a day off work, if that, and it just sounds
like a boatload of all-around fun with a nice mix of guests and
panels and stuff to see and do.

    For starters, I'm completely addicted
to fellow child of the '80s Wil Wheaton's blogging and writing, and
I'm hoping to get my copy of “Happiest Days” signed. He doesn't
seem to make many trips to our half of the country, so when I saw
he'd be at Penguicon, I took a really long look at what else would be
going on that might make it worth a weekend.

    Spider Robinson will be there,
and I'll admit to coming up short on his reading list, he's still a
science fiction legend, and I have read Mindkiller, which still
stands out as having one of the greatest “OhMyGawdthat'sAWESOME”
mid-book revelations ever. (As it happens, there's no book on my nightstand right now, so maybe I'll put some Spider there.)

    Apart from the guest list, I see more than enough stuff to catch my interest: an Intro to Linux panel, making ice cream with liquid nitrogen webcomics, podcasting, and the Chaos Machine to name a few. 

    I registered this morning.

    Still, what I'm really looking forward to is the whole experience of just being there. For as hectic and exhausting as Celebration III was, there were at least a dozen times a day when Jim and I just stopped and breathed and took things in, feeling that mental excitement and energy all around and said, "Holy shit, this is so. Much. Freaking. Fun."

    That's the best.

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, Games, geek, linux, Ohio, Science, video games, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | Leave a comment

Telepathy: Weer doin it rite.

On my way home from work last night, I stopped at the grocery
to pick up some cold medicine from the pharmacy. As I’m passing the greeting
card section, I think, “Oh, hey, I should pick up a Valentine’s Day card for
Kelsey.” (My wife Jenn and I generally don’t go in big for this “holiday,” but we
usually do get cards for our daughter.)

So I walk up to the Valentine display and give a quick scan,
and immediately my eyes land on a card coated in purple glitter because it’s
got a cartoon drawing on the front with a photo of a cat’s head stuck on top,
and around the Booth house, Kitteh Humer: We Haz It All Da Time. (Funny thing:
The woman I’ve ducked in front of to pick this card out sees it in my hand, and
her face lights up – “That’s the one!” she says with a smile, reaching for one
of her own, “I don’t even have to look at the inside!” “You can’t go wrong with
cat heads on cartoon bodies,” I concur with a grin. It’s a nice stranger
moment.)

I walk over to the pharmacy. I don’t have a prescription, but
I’m getting some of that cold medicine they now keep locked up behind the
counter, so that means I have to stand in the pick-up line.

Which is about 15 people long. This is nobody’s fault and I’m
not mad because I know there’s a drugstore closer to home and not too far out of
the way, and making that stop is still likely to get me home faster than
waiting in this queue.

I set down the perfect Valentine for my daughter and leave
the store empty-handed.

After getting her cold medicine at the drugstore, I leave
without looking for another card because it’s a whole 15 minutes later and
sheesh! who can remember something THAT long when there’s Journey on the radio
begging to be sung along to?

Jenn comes home from work close to 11 p.m.

I’m in bed, half-asleep, but I wake to say hello. As she’s
getting ready for bed, she says, “Oh, you HAVE to see the card I got for
Kelsey. It’s perfect.”

“Dang! I forgot to get one at the drugstore!”

“Well, I figured this would be from both of us anyway. Be
careful,” she says, reaching into a bag, “it’s kind of glittery.”

And this, this THIS is reason #4,834 why I love my wife,
because yes, she has brought the same card I’d had in my hand for our daughter five hours earlier.

LOLBooths: Brainz. We sharez dem.

 

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Weblogs, writing | Leave a comment

Home Life with Ubuntu, Day Three: A Little Geek Tweak

Last night, we had a brief hiccup regarding the newly-dominant Linux systems in our house. I needed to check a particular detail regarding a paycheck. Problem? The corporate site I needed is accessible only to users of a specific browser, which two of our machines now lack. (Am I being paranoid in not naming said browser? Maybe. But I'm still not doing it. You know what I'm talkin' 'bout Willis.)

At any rate, after a quick Google search and, oh, I don't know, maybe a ridiculously stress-free half-hour of effort tonight, I'm able to check the site from home and all is right with the world. Also, for a newbie, in a situation like this, Ubuntu's double-wide scrolling desktop is a
godsend: Firefox open to the directions on one screen, execute the
process on the other. (Yes, I did try the Firefox User Agent Switcher, incidentally. Seemed promising at first, but didn't quite carry the day. No big deal.)

If I've learned anything in my first few days in Linuxland, it's that answers to questions like that are awfully damn easy to find and the solutions are usually pretty smoothly executed. Keith's done a good job instilling a fair bit of confidence in me and convincing me that I'm not likely to kill the OS with an errant keystroke. And bit by bit, by following directions and reading about these processes as I try them out, I'm getting more comfortable with the system by the day.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, linux, Ohio, Web/Tech, Weblogs | 2 Comments

Everyday Ubuntu: Linux in the home, day two

    Okay, so there were a couple tasks on hand for tonight to play around in the Ubuntu environment – and apparently we're not the only ones giving this a shot – Nothing too strenuous, but here's how they went:

    First up is a little updating of the Excel spreadsheet where I track “Collect All 21!” orders and shipping, so I pop in the CD where I backed up all the documents from the Windows machine. Drive spins up, and there's a familiar-looking box full of icons with all my little doodads (hey – there's my Imperial Guard rubber stamp!) – and tucked in there rather randomly – hey, at least it's all on a single CD labeled “Star Wars” – is my CA21 .xls file. Double-click on it and here comes OpenOffice, and it's all good.

    This is, however, a read-only file, so I've got to save it in a new format on the computer in order to make changes. That's fine. I'll create a whole system later and just chuck it in my named folder for now. The “save as” option is a little daunting, since there are a ton of file formats I'm unfamiliar with. After brief consideration, I opt for the top one, since it's not the Microsoft option. My spreadsheet blinks, and it's all mine for the editing. Changes made, I wipe the grease off the wrench and close the hood, which, frankly, is more metaphor than this task actually needs.   

    Jenn's been home doing her usual computing: paying bills, checking email, visiting IcanHasCheezburger – you know, important stuff. The only minor problem she's had is the wireless network asking for a password. She was, in fact, inadvertently trying to use one of the neighbor's networks. I point her in the direction of our own, and she's off and running. Adjustment Schmadjustment: Jenn hearts Ubuntu.

    Next up: Building the next “Misadventures of a Comic Fan” installment for Field's Edge (it'll run Wednesday). There's really nothing different here, since it's all still done through Firefox.

    I've also written this post in OpenOffice Writer, planning to cut and paste it into the Typepad text box. I haven't used Writer much, but I've been using one word processor or another since I was in middle school, so one's pretty much like the next, and this is as intuitive as anything.

    So, that's Everyday Ubuntu day two – again, I realize I haven't really done anything challenging yet that's truly tested my reaction to a hang-up or a missing driver or a plug-in that won't behave, but over the next few days, I'm planning to test our music and photo management systems, set up Jenn's Rhapsody, and see if I can edit video from the Flip camera she got me for Christmas.

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | Leave a comment

Average John & the Ubuntu Switch

So, the Booth Ubuntu Linux switchover is complete, though not completely spit-shined yet, but … dude. This is freaking AWESOME and the overall experience has been way easier and smoother than I had anticipated.

Background: We've been a Windows family with every computer we've had, mostly for price and ease of use. Over the past year or so, I've been increasingly fed up with the constant bloating and slowing down of our computer. Yes, the memory and processing speed are well below cutting edge, but the truth is, we use the computer for pretty basic stuff: Web surfing, blogging, photos, writing. I haven't been addicted to a PC video game since the Star Wars first-person Jedi shooters finally outpaced what my machine could handle, and since last year, the Wii has been more than enough for all our gaming needs. (Okay, fine: I still really, reaaaaaaally want to play Portal, but not enough to buy a new machine to do it.)

Didn't want to buy a new PC with Windows Vista. Macs are fantastic and yes, please, I'll take four if you're buying, but price-wise, they're just not in our budget range.

So: The Linux Alternative. I'm a pretty low-level Magic User in terms of what I feel comfortable doing on our computers. I've hooked up hardware and messed with the guts of machines over the years as far as adding memory and modems, but I've never really taken the plunge and committed to a wholly new and unfamiliar operating system on my own. My friend Keith and his friend Pete, both extraorinarily generous and fantastic and patient computing-gods-walking-Earth, offered us some of their old dust-gatherers upon which to install Ubuntu and give it a try. (Our existing PC can't quite handle it. More on that later.) So, can an average household adjust to non-Windows, non-Mac environment? We'll see how it shakes out.

Here's where we stand now: Keith & I spent an evening putting Ubuntu on two machines – one desktop, one laptop – and he taught me a few Linux basics, since I'm starting from 0,0 on that learning curve. The only trouble spot we had was with the laptop's wireless: Hardware recognized, driver present, but no network activity. Not a huge priority at this point, so we'll get back to it later. (In fact, the actual Ubuntu installation was the easy part. Most of our "work" that evening was the hours spent Googling for and testing solutions to that laptop wireless problem. And making some kick-ass tacos for dinner.)

Back at home now, I've got the new Ubuntu machine running and, after resetting the cable modem, I get it to recognize the network connection and woohoo! we're back on the Series of Tubes Twittering and reading about bacon and zombies and autographed d20s and ooookay, get back to work, slacker! Next up: Printer and scanner hookup. Printer: Peachy. OpenOffice test print: Win. Scanner: Eh, not yet. I need to find the driver CD, but it is hooked up in parallel and not screwing anything up by being there. Pulling photos from digital camera? Check. Video? Haven't tried yet.

I don't think Jenn will have any problem with this: It's all very intuitive and Windows-esque, only without the freeze-ups and slow churns (so far).

Hurdles remaining: Haven't succeeded yet in hooking up the wireless router. For some reason, even if all I do is hook it up and run the computer directly into it, the machine's not finding Teh Intarnets. Similarly, until I can make sure the router is properly feeding us, I can't mess with the laptop's wireless card, either.

Caveats: My daughter will be getting our existing computer. Since it won't run Ubuntu, after backing everything up, I did a WinXP re-install, which strips things out and makes it a bit speedier than it was. So, yes, technically we have not completely abandoned that universe, although I can't right now see a need for me to get back on the machine, since all my docs are on CD and ready to put on this one.  If I find I can get something Linux-based that's relatively simple & friendly – I'm thinking Puppy – I'll put it on her computer for security reasons after we've settled in with the new systems. I'm also hoping to get the wireless working soon so that I can just plug a USB network detector into that machine rather than run cable through the ceiling & walls.

Personally, I'm digging the whole thing, and learning all this stuff is fun. I only wish we'd done it sooner.

February 8, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | 9 Comments

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