Tuesday Bullets

  • Laura and I attended the October gathering of the Cleveland-area NaNoWriMo group Thursday evening. This is the first of two meetings to ramp-up for November, when we’ll both be cranking out 50,000 words. There were about twenty people in attendance, including Chris “Codeshaman” Miller (Unquiet Desperation, Podiobooks), Blob and Yotto.
  • Laura and I put the border up in the baby’s room Saturday afternoon. The room (which we painted blue immediately after we moved into the house) is going to be a combination nursery/guest bedroom, so long as our guests don’t mind sleeping amidst the pattern of fluffy clouds, smiling suns and moons.
  • I did not watch either of the Living Dead movies that premiered on the SciFi Channel Saturday night. I just wasn’t in the mood for zombie movies.
  • I didn’t manage to wrap up Splinter Cell, either. Sam Fisher’s assault on the Georgian Presidential palace goes well right up until he hops on that blasted elevator; then everything goes straight to hell.
  • Laura’s father had quadruple-bypass surgery on Wednesday and is doing quite well. We visited him at the Cleveland Clinic Sunday afternoon. He’s being released today, which is surprising, as he was originally slated to stay in the hospital for no less than eleven days.
  • Laura made soup for dinner last night. It was very similar to the Tuscana soup they serve over at The Olive Garden. Very, very tasty. I loves me some Italian sausage.
  • I’m working on a new, 3-column layout for the main page. I’d link to a preview, but I managed to completely hose the element positioning while experimenting earlier today. I plan on adding a lot of stuff to the sidebar(s) in the near future. The Blogroll is active as of this morning on the current layout.

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005)

Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon GodDungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005)

Starring Bruce Payne, Mark Dymond, Ellie Chidzley, Steven Elder, Lucy Gaskell, Tim Stern, Clemency Burton-Hill and Commander Adam Dalgliesh.

Directed by Gerry Lively. ((Gerry Lively also directed Hellraiser: Bloodlines. Bad Gerry Lively! Bad!))

With a few exceptions (Battlestar Galactica, Dune, Children of Dune) the words “SciFi original” are my cue to crank the Standards dial down to Very Low. Once my expectations are properly set, I’m able to enjoy drek like Frankenfish, Crocodile 2: Death Roll and Man-Thing.

Monday night, Miscellaneous G™ and I watched Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. The fact that D&D:WotDG was shown on basic cable (the SciFi Channel, no less) a month before its release on DVD wasn’t exactly reassuring, so our outlook was rather grim. Nonetheless, we are geeks, through and through, and we considered it no less than our solemn duty to watch.

Best. Dungeons & Dragons movie. Ever.

Tough Act to Follow

Okay, I’d better qualify that. There are currently a grand total of two Dungeons & Dragons movies. ((Dragon Strike doesn’t count.)) The first one, released in 2000, starred Jeremy Irons, Bruce Payne, Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch. It was universally proclaimed to be a masterpiece of modern cinema. In the director’s commentary of The Return of the King, director Peter Jackson made reference to Dungeons & Dragons:

[Director] Courtney Solomon is a true visionary, and throughout the filming of my trilogy I often asked Fran [Walsh] if our entire endeavor would look like the work of children in a sandbox by comparison.

(It’s Peter Jackson, so imagine that being spoken by a guy with an Australian accent, like Mick “Crocodile” Dundee or Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin.) ((I am not aware of Peter Jackson being in any way associated with crocodiles, but many prominent Australian personalities are… mate.))

Given such high praise and acclaim for the original, how could a movie making its world premiere on the SciFi Channel possibly be better? For that matter, why wasn’t the sequel released in theaters? Because I’m a big, fat liar. The first Dungeons & Dragons was a travesty, and if Peter Jackson ever mentioned it he probably used language too vulgar to reproduce here. Fans of the pen-and-paper role-playing game upon which the movie was based consistently failed their Save vs. Revulsion rolls while viewing it. Actor Jeremy Irons (who played the villain, Profion) reportedly said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Some movies you make because you love the story, others because you need a paycheck. Dungeons & Dragons is one of the latter.”

I’m guessing he said that after he’d cashed the check.

While it clearly wouldn’t take much to improve upon Dungeons & Dragons, the low-budget sequel is actually considerably better. The costumes and sets were decent, as were (for the most part) the special effects. The acting is largely unremarkable, but certainly not bad. Bruce Payne—whose character, Damodar, was Profion’s lackey in the original—delivers a solid performance as the major villain. The story (five heroes must stop the villain from unleashing an ancient dragon and laying waste to the kingdom) is pretty much a standard scenario straight out of the role-playing game, and is rife with references to the source material.

The Good and the Bad

  • Monsters. Most (such as the lich, a powerful undead critter) work pretty well. Some do not. The darkstalker, for example, is a bad special effect that hangs from the ceiling and attempts to kill the heroes by being aggressively pointy. The computer-generated dragons aren’t perfect, but they’re a far cry better than anything seen in Dragon Fighter.
  • Heroes. The heroes are portrayed fairly well. The rogue (Nim) is sufficiently devious, the barbarian (Lux) appropriately headstrong, the elf mage (Ormaline) adequately mysterious. However, all the heroes insist on referring to Nim as “rogue,” which is akin to constantly calling your friend Valerie Plame “covert agent” at the ambassador’s dinner. The cleric (Dorian) turned out to be the biggest disappointment. He was suitably pious and turned an undead posse like nobody’s business, but he also turned out to be as dumb as a brick and never actually healed anyone. If you’ve played D&D, you know that the cleric serves two purposes: turning undead and patching up his teammates. Dorian never even produced a bottle of mercurochrome. Plus, his forehead tattoos looked like the realm’s worst combover.
  • Magic. Pretty much a grab bag. The human mage’s spell-casting looks as though someone in the SFX department just got lazy and ran part of the scene through a Photoshop filter. The elf mage’s combat magic, on the other hand, is fairly satisfying. When she uses her Ring of Ramming, a blue ram’s head flies from her hand to strike the unlucky villain in the chest.

As “SciFi originals” go, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God is certainly above average. I felt none of the compulsion to curl up in the fetal position to despair at the loss of two precious hours that normally follows a SciFi Channel Saturday feature presentation. When compared to its predecessor, D&D: WotDG definitely a step in the right direction. It is more respectful of its roots and makes for a fairly entertaining watch.

Feed me, Seymour!

Well, the new comment enhancement plugin breaks the RSS feed. I’m going to look into the problem and I’ll probably be turning the plugin on and off while I do so. I’m not aware that anyone actually uses the feeds, but I’d like them to work regardless.

EDIT: And just like that, it’s fixed. The problem? Two extra carriage returns at the end of the comment quicktags file that were creating a blank line at the beginning of the RSS feeds. That’s a Bad Thing.

While I was putzing around, I changed the location of the feeds. The main feed is now at http://kjtoo.com/feed/ and the comment feed is at http://kjtoo.com/comments/feed/

So get yourself a feed reader (the one built into Mozilla Thunderbird will work, for starters) and subscribe!

Comment Approval

If you’ve noticed that your comments don’t show up right away after you post them, it’s most likely because they’re waiting for me to approve them. Automatic approval is linked to the e-mail address you enter on the comment form (which won’t be displayed anywhere on the site). If I’ve approved a comment with that e-mail address, all future comments from the same address will be auto-approved.

As I mentioned, the e-mail address will never be displayed on the site (to anyone but me), but it will be stored in the mySQL database. If the database or my WordPress account is ever hacked, your e-mail address will be visible to the hacker.

That said, I don’t care if you use a real e-mail address when you post here, so if you want to use a bogus one for commenting in my silly blog, go right ahead. Entering an e-mail address is beneficial in two ways: First, instant gratification for you. All future comments will be auto-approved. Second, less work for me. I get a dozen or so spam comments held for approval every day, and I’d hate to miss a valid comment when I’m running through and deleting ads for bondage gear or on-line poker.

Actually, I’ve been toying with the idea of adding a captcha plugin (worst acronym ever) that would allow on-the-fly approval by requiring commentors to enter an alphanumeric string displayed as a graphic. That would probably make the whole e-mail business moot. What do you think?

Nonade.

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the day Laura Sperry foolishly answered in the affirmative when Pastor Loxterman asked if she’d have me as her husband. This lapse in judgement was well-documented and observed by dozens of people who had been invited to bear witness to her folly.

Since then, Laura has been my supplicant companion, eagerly ensuring that my every husbandly whim becomes reality. While she enjoys the trappings of her office, she remains cognizant of her duties as my wife, and constantly strives to conform to the ideals I have set forth. Ever aware of my lofty expectations, she comports herself in a suitably obiesant manner, never questioning my authority or judgment. She is affectionate when appropriate, and responds to my affections in a manner which pleases me. She is probably laughing her head off as she reads this.

Honestly, I couldn’t get properly dressed in the morning if Laura wasn’t there to organize my wardrobe. I don’t know where I’d be if she hadn’t stuck her nose where it so clearly didn’t belong twelve years ago (thus thrusting herself uninvited into my life), but I’m thankful that she decided to take the initiative and contact the guy who was so ineptly hitting on her friend. My life is richer for the intrusion.

Happy Anniversary to us.

Enhanced commenting.

I installed a WordPress plugin last night that adds several buttons to the comment form, allowing commentors to automatically drop in the appropriate HTML for bold, italics, blockquotes, etc.

Simply select the text you wish to modify and click the appropriate quicktag button. HTML tags will be added before and after the selected text.

If you click a quicktag without first selecting text, the opening tag will be inserted at the cursor. Simply add your text, then click the quicktag again to close the tag.

Happy commenting!

The Nest Beneath

I should be a lot sorer than I am, considering I spent a few hours scuttling around like a retarded crab in the crawlspace on Saturday. Laura is in full-blown “nesting” mode, which is apparently normal for women who have little people growing inside them. Part of this nesting involves organizing linen closets, rearranging bedroom furniture and switching offices, and another part involves me crouching over like Quasimodo’s handsome cousin, moving crates and boxes back and forth in our crawlspace.

I’m going to estimate the vertical clearance in the crawlspace at about 3′ 6″, give or take a couple inches. My personal preferred vertical clearance is anything over 6′ 1″. This disparity between actual and preferred led to me colliding with beams and ducts, as well as breaking a lightbulb with my ass. I will say that it was worth it, for a couple of reasons.

First, the crawlspace is now divided into several distinct zones. The northeast corner (farthest from the door) has been declared Long-Term Storage, containing items (and collections of items) that we are not likely to access in the course of a given year, such as “Extra Juice Glasses,” “Photography Books” and “Laura’s Precious Memories (Fragile).”

Several large boxes of “Kris’ Crap” (or “Junk” or “Stuff”) now occupy the middle of the east wall. These contain comic books, collectible card games, Star Wars action figures and assorted role-playing paraphernalia. Under no circumstances should any of these boxes be opened by individuals not wearing a pocket protector.

In the center of the crawlspace, near the concrete block support column, is Laura’s craft stuff: several rolling storage crates filled with assorted paraphernalia that is suited to making either charming knick knacks or bondage gear, depending upon one’s particular proclivities.

Near the entrance, in the southwestern corner of the crawlspace, now resides the seasonal/holiday decoration. Autumn/Hallowe’en decorations have been hauled out into the light, while Winter/Christmas and Spring/Easter decorations silently wait within easy reach.

Now we can walk the living room, dining room and kitchen floors with a certain satisfaction, knowing that there is a well-organized world beneath our feet, and not just a smelly pile of dead hobos who learned the hard way that photo albums do not provide the nourishment necessary to sustain human life.

Oh, and it’s been a while since I waxed poetic about waste removal. I just want to say that we should really do something nice for our sanitation engineers, who make unsightly piles of refuse disappear with little to no restriction on what constitutes “trash.”

Silly hobos.

I can’t believe it’s not whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

1 cup whipping cream
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
small pinch of salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Preparation:

Chill bowl, beaters and whipping cream in freezer. Stir in salt. Beat cream at high speed until it begins to stiffen. Slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla while continuing to beat cream into high peaks.

Serve chilled over pumpkin pie.

You can top pumpkin pie with Reddi Whip or Cool Whip, but nothing beats good, old-fashioned whipped cream. As the refrigerator at 5464 Kellogg Court contained none of the above, Miscellaneous G™ and I decided to stop by Giant Eagle to acquire a suitable topping. In the dairy section, we discovered that Reiter whipping cream was $1.59. As it so happened, I had coins totaling $1.12 in my pocket. By sheer serendipity, Miscellaneous G™ had forty-seven cents in his pocket. It seemed we were destined to top our dessert with real whipped cream!

I will now admit something that may cause my masculine brethren to ostracize, shun and utterly revile me: there’s something to be said for reading directions.

The container of whipping cream had no helpful guide imprinted upon it, so I followed Miscellaneous G™’s advice: Just put it in a bowl and beat the hell out of it. When the cream began to stiffen, I wondered if perhaps I should sweeten the mix. I seemed to recall my mother using powdered sugar, but I wasn’t positive, so I consulted one of the hefty recipe books that (apparently) are not there simply to provide proper ambience. Sure enough, Ms. Crocker advised the use of powdered sugar. I added a tablespoon and continued the frantic beating.

The end result was butter. Sweet, creamy butter. At least, that’s what we assumed it was. Having some knowledge of dairy products, I was aware that butter could be achieved through the exhaustive mixing of cream. In my youth, I churned butter with my siblings. You simply stir cream long enough and voila! Butter.

Still, I’d never heard of anyone accidentally making butter, so I called my mother.

Yes, she said. That’s butter. She advised that I chill both bowl and beaters next time, and add the powdered sugar slowly, instead of all at once. Powdered sugar, Mom said, helps hold the whipped cream together better than granulated sugar. On the Intarweb this morning, I found that adding a small pinch of salt to the whipping cream will help in that regard, too.

When Laura returned from her council meeting, Miscellaneous G™ and I were playing Taiko Drum Master. On the counter was a loaf of French bread, cut in half lengthwise, garnished with raisins, cinnamon and sweet, homemade butter, then baked at 350º for about ten minutes.

When life gives you butter, hey… you’ve got butter.