Saturday, October 24, 2015

When a runner gets a hold of a carving pumpkin....

I wanted to get a picture with the carved cutouts glowing from the candle within, but I forgot to turn my flash off. When I tried it again with the flash off, my smartphone crashed....

Monday, October 19, 2015

ABC's "Once Upon a Time" and Yaz's "Only You"

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I'm catching up on this season's "Once Upon a Time," where our Storybrooke crew has to cross into the land of King Arthur in an effort to free Emma Swan from the curse of being the Dark One. In the second episode, teenage Henry gets his first crush on a teenaged girl at Camelot. At his grandpa's (Prince Charming) urging, Henry goes to talk to the girl (Violet). As things start to turn awkward, he pulls out an MP3 player, shares earphones with her, and starts playing music: Yaz's "Only You."

This is a pretty old song: 1982. At first, I wondered, would a modern kid like Henry listen to something so old? And then, when back in Storybrooke he played the same song on a jukebox, I wondered even more. But then I started to think, in the show's mythology, it was 2011 when Emma got involved with Storybrooke. But Storybrooke had been stuck in time for 28 years, so "modern" music would have been that in 1983 or so. It certainly wouldn't be unexpected to find a year old pop song on a jukebox.

So, yeah, not an anachronism, but actually a contextually appropriate song selection!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to preserve your cash and stay fit in Las Vegas

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I haven't been to Las Vegas in about a dozen years, so I don't know if this suggestion will actually work, but back when I was living in Southern California (i.e., before kids), my wife used to go to Sin City once or twice a year.

I was never that much into gambling; mostly, we enjoyed the different themes of the big-named casinos, and of course the sumptuous buffets. When I did gamble, I was pretty disciplined about it. I looked for the cheapest Blackjack table I could find (usually $5 minimums) - or occasionally Pai Gow Poker. I changed $40 into chips, and then I bet the minimum every hand. I played standard, non-counting strategy.*

* I doubled-down on 11s always, 10s mostly, and occasionally 9s, depending on what the dealer was showing. I split Aces and 8s. I hit on hands under 11, and stayed on 13-16 if the dealer was showing a 2-6; otherwise, I hit until I got to 17 or higher.

The discipline part was this: if I lost the $40, I would leave the table and head back to the hotel room to read or watch TV until the next meal. In addition, if I doubled the $40, I would also leave the table. This limited my daily losses to a maximum of $120. It also capped my maximum winnings, but I didn't go to Las Vegas to make money.

Anyway, we're in no rush to introduce our kids to Vegas, but it occurred to me that my previous approach would work quite well with the addition of running as one of the activities in between gambling sessions. This would probably call for a lot of treadmill miles, though, since it's so hot most of the year in Vegas, and the sidewalks along the Strip are bound to packed with tourists (I guess off-strip running is possible during the winter). The biggest downside I can see is that the desire to go running might lead to reckless gambling, just to reach $0 or $80 ....

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fall 2015 TV: a disappointing new crop of shows so far

Not every TV season can be like fall 2001, which saw the debut of Fox's "24," ABC's "Alias," and CBS's "The Agency," not to mention - for reality TV junkies - CBS's "The Amazing Race." But so far, fall 2015 isn't even close.

I watched the pilot episode of Fox's "Minority Report" and decided that was enough for me.

Since then, I caught the second half of the NBC reboot "Heroes Reborn," which was very strange and also boring, although I didn't watch much of the original series, so perhaps there's something there for long-time fans. I watched that part of "Heroes Reborn" because I was waiting for NBC's "The Player," starring Philip Winchester and Wesley Snipes. It's another one of these "guy who helps out a different person each episode" kind of shows, maybe like CBS's "Person of Interest" with more unrealistic movie-style action. I thought it was okay, and Winchester (most recently on Cinemax's "Strike Back") does have screen presence. I didn't set a TiVo season pass, but if there's nothing else on, I could imagine watching an episode. There's a thread of an arc set up in the pilot episode, but it's mostly episodic, I think.

I tried CBS's "Limitless," which is set in the same world as the Bradley Cooper movie (and Cooper shows up briefly in it). I didn't see the movie, but I did read the novel that the movie is based on. This is about the drug NZT, which supposedly unlocks the full potential of your brain. Here too I found the pilot bland and dull.

Then there's NBC's "Blindspot," starring Jaime Alexander (Lady Sif in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), about an amnesiac woman who wakes up naked - well, covered in a burlap sack - with tattoos all over her body. Each tattoo is the key to unraveling the mystery plot of the week. This has shades of "The Blacklist," "Prison Break" (Michael Scofield had a huge network of tattoos inked on himself to help him with his prison break plot), and "The Bourne Identity." It's held up decently through two episodes, although I seriously doubt that there is any coherent explanation as to who inked her and why. I like these big concept shows, but ever since "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" demonstrated that their showrunners were making things up as they went along, I'm leery of expecting anything that holds together.

Finally, I watched the pilot episode of ABC's "Quantico," which is kind of like "How to Get Away With Murder" if it were set at the FBI Academy instead of law school, and terrorism instead of murder. It may verge on ridiculousness, but at least it's interesting. I'm mildly skeptical of what season 2 would look like, if there is a season 2, because I really don't want the terrorism flash-forward plot to drag out more than one season.