Final Destination Trilogy

Thanks to Allison I went last night to a marathon screening of the Final Destination Trilogy. That’s right, all three movies back-to-back-to-back. Well, with little intermissions as well, but close enough for government work.

The first film plays mostly like a suspense film. If you don’t know the story, a group of students are going to France for a school trip and one kid gets a vision of the plane exploding, he freaks out and a total of seven people end up getting tossed off the plane. The plane indeed explodes, and now Death is stalking the survivors who were supposed to die on the plane. They figure out, too late for most of them, that if they pay attention there will be signs and they might be able to continue cheating Death. I say its a suspense film because there is no physical Death, he’s not hunting them with a scythe or anything, and the weight of the film falls on seeing the signs and wondering from what angle death is coming at them. Its a pretty good movie, though I don’t recommend watching it before getting on a plane. I’m not really scared of flying, but seeing this film originally the night before I got a plane to Mexico made me a little edgy. The crash sequence is that ‘good’.

The second movie plays almost more for comedy. This time, one year after the plane crash in the first film, a girl gets a vision of a horrific car pile up and decides to use her car to block an on-ramp for the highway, saving the lives of a bunch of people. Once again, too late for most of the survivors, they begin to understand the signs… well, they know about it pretty early, but no one believes until half of them are dead. Most of the deaths in this movie are somewhat funny in ways, people actually laughed through a bunch of it, and it even ends with a death that almost fall-out-of-your-chair funny. Once again, a good movie for slightly different reasons even one kinda nifty twist, but I don’t recommend watching it before or while on a road trip. The car pile up is… disturbing.

This leaves us with the new chapter, openning today, Final Destination 3. Once again a girl gets a vision of impending doom, only this time its of a gory roller coaster accident. Ever been afraid a coaster might jump the track? Yeah, well, this is worse. Way worse. Like the previous films, she flips out and ten people get thrown off the ride, which has its accident according to plan. And as usual, Death needs to even the score and people start dying. Of the three films, this one, by far, is the bloodiest, goriest, splatter-festiest of the bunch. Some of the suspense from the first one is missing, and the comedy of the second is gone. This movie is people being viciously brutalized, kinda like at this point Death is very angry that people keep screwing up his plan. It was a good movie for what it is, but similar to the other films, don’t watch this and then run off to Six Flags or some other amusement park. Come to think of it, after watching this movie there are a number of things you might be a tad squeemish about doing again, at least the first time or two.

Overall, the Final Destination Trilogy is good, not-so-clean, fun. Two thumbs up.

Posting, Toys and Work

Well, after two months of posting every day (except Mondays), I’ve fallen back into my old habits of not posting as often as I’d like. Frankly, sometimes there is just nothing to post about… or I just plain forget.

Anyway… I continue to buy new toys for myself. After getting the PDA Phone, I’ve gotten myself a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for it, so its like having a little computer, much smaller than a laptop, everywhere I go. I’ve spent some time fixing it up with software, mostly free stuff, and getting it to the point where I find myself using it pretty often. Calendar, contacts, emails, even writing (the screen is small, so writing for the website can be annoying, but I can do it, and will since work is getting really boring again). Its pretty sweet.

Speaking of work, did I mention it was boring? As much as I love the idea of getting paid thirty bucks an hour to play Freecell (up to 75% win ratio, should have myself up to 76 this coming week, 77 the week after at this rate) and Minesweeper (which cheats, the mines aren’t set until you click a square, you cannot lose on the first click, and it always has at least one spot where you have a 50/50 chance and no way to determine logically which one it is), I feel like I want to tear my eyes out some days. When there is work to do, its awesome, like right now, I taught myself how to utilize XML files on the webserver to emulate global variables for a .NET app instead of making constant round trips to the database server for building my objects. But when I’m waiting on someone else to finish their work before I can start mine… I keep telling them, I cannot design a front end for a back end that doesn’t exist. Its like asking someone to design a car chassis without telling them the size of the engine that needs to fit in it. Sure, you can do it, but when you finish your sports car design and they hand you a diesel truck engine for an 18-wheeler, it just means you have to start all over. I can’t build a screen for data input without knowing what fields to put on it. I’d go for dynamic screen building, but it looks bland and just gives you text fields, none of the fancy radio buttons and drops downs that people like to see on their forms. Bah! And then there is this one screen in the application that is blank because I’ve been waiting about two months for someone to give me the info that goes on it (its a help screen that has to have specific guidelines for contacting support desks and all that)… and I’m still waiting.

Enough. I’m done. Off to clean the bathrooms.

Screen Scrapes and Screen Shots

Its really funny sometimes… the big stuff, world hunger, politicians, war… even things like my car getting broken in to… they don’t really bother me. It all just kinda slides right off my back. But the little things just grate on my last nerve.

I’m a programmer, been doing computers for twenty years and programming for eleven. I’ve worked with all sorts of languages, dealt with umpteen different kinds of servers and thousands of applications, and over time in a career like this, you learn the terminology. Certain things mean certain stuff. For example, when dealing with mainframes or midranges and converting their text displays to another format there is an interim step called a “screen scrape“. It got this term because you are literally scanning the data stream to the terminal or PC, identifying and pulling out text and fields, and munging them through some sort of GUI to display to the user or do stuff to the screen (like autofill certain fields). Then after if they used a GUI, you plug the data back into the fields and submit it to the mainfraim or whatever. You are scraping the screen for data and fields and doing stuff with it. On the other hand, a “screen shot” is an image of the screen captured for display elsewhere (often in user manuals or to accompany a bug report).

Some of the people I work with, some of whom have been around computers longer than I have, keep calling their screen shots “screen scrapes” and its driving me up the wall. And the even worse thing is, because they don’t understand the difference, when I ask for “screen shots”, I usually get back blank stares. Finally they’ll ask, “Do you mean a screen scrape?”

My head explodes on a regular basis.

I Don`t Believe You

One of the guys over at Ofasoft started up a little writing contest. The rules were as follows: Your story must begin with the phrase, “I don’t believe you”. The punctuation and context of this phrase is up to you. It could be a line of dialogue. It could be a message in a strange fortune cookie. It could a personal thought. If you need to sandwich a few words ahead of this, that’s fine. Second, your story must include the phrase “put it down” somewhere near the end. By “near the end,” I mean the last paragraph, or maybe the second to last paragraph. Again, this could be exposition or dialogue. Submissions must be at least 500 words in length, and may be no longer than 3000 words in length. I ended up being the only person to make a submission, even after an extended deadline. So here is my entry:

     “I don’t believe you,” Mrs. Thornsdale muttered. She shifted in the back of the limousine, trying desperately to find a position that was comfortable, would not ruin her dress, and allowed her to avoid looking at Mason. Her faced continued to move, arching eyebrows and lips mashing together causing the corners of her mouth to pucker, as she tried to formulate her next thoughts in to words.
     “I always told her she could do better than you,” came finally drifting across from her side of the car.
     Mason was warm. Not uncomfortably hot, but warm in a soothing manner. His black suit was still a bit ruffled, and there was a stain over the right breast that might not ever come out. The knuckles on his left hand were raw and split, still bleeding in places. And he tongued the inside of his lip to see if it was still swelling. His right eye was surrounded in red that in the days to come would surely turn a deep purple. It stung when he blinked, so he tried not to, but that only made his eyes dry which caused him to blink even more.
     His body was finally settling down, the adrenalin being worked out of his system. Whenever he lifted his hands from his knees they trembled. Mrs. Thornsdale was talking again.
     “I told her you were a thug. And today of all days you had to prove me right. She could have had a husband with some breeding, some taste. But no, she had to fall for a ruffian.”
     He wasn’t a thug, not by a long shot. Harvard educated, he’d built and sold three businesses in his life, each more profitable than the last. The mansion they owned was larger than the Thornsdale Estate and it was only one of four residences they kept. Most days he would have argued all this with his mother-in-law, but not today.
     She was still prattling on about some boy named Dwight who would have made a much finer catch as Mason’s thoughts drifted outside the car, outside the window to the scenery passing by.
     The rows of headstones crept by as the limousine maintained a snail’s pace through the cemetery. Still fast enough that if he locked his eyes in place the names etched into the stones became unreadable. He did this as his thoughts drifted beyond the graveyard and over the last eleven years.
     He snapped back into the car as Mrs. Thornsdale’s narrative caught up to this morning. She turned to face him now, and he kept looking out the window.
     “And then today, on the day of her funeral, you had to get into a fight.”
     There had been at least nine of them, maybe more. And they were laughing. Mason had overheard what they were saying, and every word of it was true, but it had made him angry anyway. He was sure he had broken at least three noses; one of them had exploded in a jet of blood on to his suit. After he’d taken off his jacket and picked up one of the poles that had held up the guide rope, he was sure he had broken a lot more.
     The rage in him was so hot then that even thoughts of it now began to raise his temperature. He’d wanted to kill all of them, despite the fact they hadn’t said anything that everyone else didn’t already know.
     Mrs. Thornsdale was getting angry herself now. “What exactly were you thinking? What was going through your mind to go on a rampage like that at Allison’s wake?”
     Mason barely heard her as he mentally lingered on the last moment of the brawl. Unconscious, broken and bleeding men lay around the front of the church. He had taken several deep breaths to gain the composure to remember the pole and to force himself to put it down. “They called her a whore,” he said.
     His mother-in-law slowly turned and aimed her gaze out the window on her side of the limousine. She breathed a heavy sigh, and placed her hand atop his, resting on the raw split knuckles, and they traveled the rest of the way to the funeral in silence.

I’m particularly happy with this because I wrote it, and I don’t just mean its an original. I mean, I wrestled with the theme, the limitations of the contest, a bit, and then I just started writing. It poured out, and when I was done, I didn’t revise it. Looking at it now, there are a few things I might change or enhance, and I’ve even considered using this in the context of a much larger story. But for now I’ll just let it stand.

I’m a Switcher

No, I haven’t gone from PC to MAC. I’m not that crazy. But after having my car broken into three times in downtown Atlanta, I figured it was time to do something about it. So I’ve switched to public transportation.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not really happy with it. Mostly this is due to pricing and passes. From where I live I have to utilize two systems, I start out in Gwinnette, then transfer to Marta. Both systems sell monthly ‘Unlimited Use’ passes, however, neither accepts the other’s card. And while I get free transfers from one system to the other, it still means I have to carry cash, tickets or tokens on me every day. It also means I can’t take advantage of the monthly discounts.

On the other hand… Not having to actually drive myself to work is nice. I no longer care about all the idiots on the road, its the bus driver’s job, or in the case of Marta I’m on a rail not the street. I get to work more relaxed. And while it takes an hour to get to work, and anywhere from an hour to two hours to get home, that’s time I can spend reading, or writing, or just listening to music absorbed in my own thoughts. Looking over the whole thing, its a pretty sweet deal.

I’m looking to move again, and in my search I’m trying to put myself within reach of Marta, then I’ll be able to use just one system and get a monthly pass. That’ll be cool.

The Sound of Silence

The one thing that sucks most about having your car stereo stolen is driving without music for several days until you get it replaced. I’ve never been one much for keeping quiet when I drive… singing or talking, there’s usually something being said or at least thoughts rumbling around in my head waiting for the right moment to come out. But music always fills in the empty spaces. Driving now is creepy… when I stop talking to myself, I can hear the tires on the road with perfect clarity. I can hear the changing sounds of cars switching lanes. I hear the plink of little bits of road debris plinking in the wheel wells.

Silence has always kinda creeped me out. When people ask that question, “If you had to choose, would you rather be deaf or blind?” I agonize on it for a long time, but ultimately come down on the side of blind. I think I could handle not being able to see… but living it a world of silence, I think that would be too much for me.

Anyway, my replacement stereo arrived today by UPS, so I shouldn’t have to put up with a music-less drive for much longer.


“Running’s not a plan! Running’s what you do, once a plan fails!”
-Earl Bassett, Tremors

Its funny… I often find myself quoting Tremors, but this one stands out. Mostly, this quote keeps popping up because of how I have come to apply it to life. Too many people rely on things that should be backup plans or fail safes as their primary plan. You can see it on the streets when you drive. There are people out there who have insurance, and they’ve covered themselves in the safest car on the road, and they drive like they don’t care about anyone else. They trust the car to save their lives and the insurance to cover the damages, and it never crosses their minds to, you know, pay attention to the road. They run yellow lights at high speed, they change lanes without signaling or even looking, and they are more intent on finishing phone conversations than they are on actually driving their car.

Lots of people deal with relationships, jobs, and other things the same way. They run out instead of trying to work on the problems, instead of trying to fix it.

That’s what this quote means to me. And he’s right… running isn’t a plan, its what you do when every opportunity to succeed has failed. Running is a last resort, and should be treated like one.

3rd time’s a charm

Its a good thing I don’t write on Mondays, because if I did, yesterday would have been a venomous stream of epithets denegrating the upbringing of a portion of society and a slander of the dubious pedigree of their mothers.

For the third time in six months, I exited work with a skip in my step. Having completed a good solid day of work and embarking on my journey home, ahead of schedule and ahead of the traffic, I came upon my car in the parking lot, minus one window and a stereo. In the morning, I’d had visions of program code dancing in my head, and absentmindedly forgot to take the faceplate of my stereo with me. When I returned in the afternoon, I found my rear passenger door was missing a window, and my dashboard had been skillfully disassembled and my stereo deftly removed. I say ‘skillfully’ and ‘deftly’ because the thieves, as always, caused no damage to the dash or the wiring in removing the stereo. They just popped the dash, pulled the stereo and unhooked all the wires.

As with before, its largely an exercise in annoyance to me… my insurance has been in great standing for years. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in almost a decade, have had only one accident and that was eight years ago, I pay my premiums on time. The last two thefts caused no change in my insurance. This one won’t either. I have a zero deductable for glass damage, and the stereo is fully covered. As of today, just one day later, the glass is already fixed, and the check is in the mail for the stereo. By the end of the week, I’ll actually have a better stereo than the one they stole, for less money than I paid for the last one (and certainly less than what the check will cover). I just don’t get it though… is there really a market for stolen stereos? The one they took, you can buy new for about $100. So the thief will hock it for maybe $20 to a fence or pawn, who will turn around and sell it for… $50? I get $200, buy a new $100 stereo and pocket $100. Hell, if I could just get them to steal my stereo every week, I’d make $5200 a year in non-taxable income.

I could do a lot with $5200. But its still annoying, especially when you consider that I would actually prefer to take public transportation if I could get from here to work with transfer silliness and dealing with two systems that seem to want to refuse to work together. And annoyance leads to fantasy, and I dream of car alarms… no. I dream of theft deterant systems. I dream of spinning blades that cut perpatrators off at the knees, simultaneously cauterizing the wound, leaving them to run away on their stumps.

I’ll sleep pretty well for the next few weeks…

Cars and Idiots

I hope I never get into a horrible car wreck in Atlanta on the highway.

Now, while I hope that I never get into a horrible car wreck at all, I feel that if it must happen, I just hope it happens somewhere else. This morning I saw a wreck. Traffic was backed up for a couple miles. Then I spy an ambulance coming up the lane to my left. So I slow up and allow a couple of people from that lane to get in front of me in order to allow the ambulance to pass.

Lo and behold, schmucks from my lane, seeing the lane to their left opening up, dart left to fill the void from all the vacating cars. Slowing down the ambulance as they block the lane and then have to make their way back into their old place. One car even cut off the ambulance, causing them to skid to a halt to avoid a wreck themselves.

Are people really this oblivious? It really makes me was to start taking public transportation despite the fact that it costs more than driving (hideously designed system transfers mean I wind up paying twice for a single ride to work).

I just hope the ambulance arrived to its destination in time, and that the people in the other wreck are okay.

Hey You!

Yeah you! The one with his car right smack in the middle of the intersection blocking traffic trying very hard to not look left or right to see the faces of the angry drivers. Don’t get me wrong, man, I feel your pain. The traffic is slow and you have somewhere to be. But you know what? Part of the reason the traffic going your way is so slow is that down the road some other jerk-off from a cross street is blocking the intersection. When you come to an intersection that is a four-way stop or a traffic light, if traffic is flowing sporadically or barely at all, its best to wait on one side of the intersection until there is enough space or movement to allow your vehicle to make it all the way across. Not only is it courteous, but especially in messy weather, you not blocking traffic can save lives! That’s right. If you are blocking the way when an ambulance, fire truck or police car comes by sirens blaring, they’ll have to slow way down and drive around YOU! Those precious seconds could mean death for someone else. So quit being an ass and stop being part of the problem.