Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First movie date in 6 years?

We were trying to think of the last time we went to the movies together without kids.  I remember going to see Xmen 2 and Return of the King, both of which came out in 2003 (prekids).  We did try a movie date in 2008 for the Batman sequel, but due to unfortunate circumstances ended up taking a foster kid with us.  Not the same.

While it is difficult when you have babies/toddlers, the biggest cause of the gap is not the kids, as you might expect, but distance.  We are 115 km from the nearest year-round movie theatre.  It's quite the drive, and makes movies prohibitively expensive.  $26 for tickets, another $10 for junk food, $40 for a babysitter, $25 for gas, $8 for enough Tim Hortons to withstand the drive...  Lets face it, nothing Hollywood has churned out, ever, is worth over $100 bucks and 3.5 hours of driving to see.

Figured Avatar was one that wouldn't be the same as... a rental, so we decided to see it while Leaf was off on break & we could leave the boys at the sitter's.  It was definitely eyecandy.  I was less impressed with the 3D than I thought it would be, I felt it wasn't quite incorporated naturally.  At times it made me think of the old SCTV "Dr Tongue's 3D House of.." skits.  Look, look, here's an awkwardly placed 3D moment - looks cool in 3D, but doesn't do much to advance the film.  Other times it seemed like scenes weren't in 3D at all.  What most impressed me about Avatar was the digital effects - the first time I've seen a movie where the digital effects weren't obvious compared to the live action stuff.  From what I gather, though, the whole film is digital, & all the characters were filmed in front of a blue screen.  Still, a technological marvel.

The rest of the film - plot, characters, theme, were nothing special.  I wrote a film studies essay many moons ago with the thesis that Hollywood movies have reversed Aristotle's theory of tragedy.  (Plot is most important, characters second, then theme, diction, music, and least important spectacle.)  Avatar fits that thesis like any other Hollywood blockbuster.  Spectacle is most important, followed by soundtrack.  Characters and plot weak.

Still, glad we went and saw it in 3D.  Appreciated the groundbreaking technology.  Nice to get away with Leaf & even nice to have the drive time to talk.  However, I don't imagine there will be another film for quite some time that we'll spend $100 on seeing.  We'll stick with ... rentals...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy Retail Shopping Season!

Hope you all had a good one. Although I guess I'm a little early in using the past tense, since the new tradition is that Boxing day sales just didn't cut it, so now its morphed into Boxing Week sales. This year the crass commercialism also started earlier than ever. Since advertising flyer day is Friday, and Hallowe'en inopportunely fell on a Saturday, Retail Shopping Season started the day before Hallowe'en rather than the usual day after.

Sigh. I know I'm a curmudgeon, but really people. I'm amazed to hear myself say this, but I think I like commercial christmas even less than I liked christian christmas. Although I do appreciate the irony (and hypocrisy) of celebrating the former while espousing the beliefs of the latter.

On the drive back from christmas day get-together, Leaf and I talked about the 'traditions' we remembered from our own childhood. Stores were closed by law on boxing day, so none of the crazy post christmas shopping frenzy nonsense you see today. We both talked about family, and the joy of spending a few days together. Fewer presents were more meaningful presents, and they were handed out and unwrapped and appreciated one at at time rather than an orgy of opening.

We both agreed that one of the highlights of our trip down to see her family was how much fun Mars had playing with his cousins. Running, jumping, tumbling, wrestling... He loved every minute of it. That's what he will remember about christmas.

Two other little Mars moments that make me feel we are doing a good job raising him. Christmas eve dinner he and his two cousins raid the drink fridge and come running to the table with their chosen spoils. Cousins both have the caffeinated pop they aren't allowed to drink. Mars is all excited with the bottle of water he picked for himself as a special treat!

Boxing day he is upset for something or other and wants his toys. He got a crapload the day before. Beeping ones, talking ones, big ones, fancy ones... All he is interested in is the handful of glow-in-the-dark tiny dinosaurs that 'Santa' picked up from the dollar store knowing he'd like them best.


Monday, December 14, 2009

My first ebay sale!

I'm a relative latecomer to ebay. My first purchase was less than two years ago. I was never keen on the idea, and found that paying shipping and handling fees made every 'deal' too expensive. Haven't bought much on ebay. Mostly retro video game consoles and games. Think Atari XE, Colecovision, Pong, and whatnot.

As a compulsive bargain hunter, I've often bought things from yard sales and thrift stores that I might not need, or have doubles of (think video games again), with the rationalization that I could sell it on ebay for more than I bought it for. Of course I never do. I'm a packrat at heart I guess. You should seen my office. It is a constant battle just to keep enough space on the floor to get across the room. Mostly books and video games, my two collecting passions. Closet is stacked to the roof with games and systems. Bookcases overflowing with more games, gadgets, and books. I wonder if I subconsciously want to open a book/video game store one day and am collecting stock.

Six or eight weeks ago, we drove down to the city to do some winter clothing shopping for foster kid James. As usual, first stop was the thrift store on the way into town. I was poking around and found a knotted plastic grocery bag in a bin of junky electronic stuff. Had a peek and found an SNES (Super Nintendo) with some games inside. My personal collection already includes an SNES, but hey, I could convince myself I would one day sell it on ebay, and I don't have a heck of a lot of games for the Super Nintendo. No price, but the nice lady at the cash asked if $6 was OK.

Went home happy that day, since the SNES system is still relatively valuable considering it is approaching 20 years old. I figured my find was worth $40 or $50 depending on the games, I had my hunter-gatherer rush, all is good. Right? When we got home I quickly ran the half dozen game titles through ebay. Not terribly familiar with titles, but they weren't sports games, so might be worth a few bucks in themselves. Turns out one of them was Earthbound, an RPG with a cult-like following, that regularly sells for $70 to $100. I'd never heard of it, but hey, super score!!!

Fast forward to today. I've bought a bunch of things on ebay in the last few weeks. A new Wii remote/nunchuck set, some rechargeable phone batteries, and of course Mars' christmas presents. Been looking for Wii games as well. Figured I'd finally try and sell something from my stockpile to in effect 'trade' for something I'd rather have. Chose the Earthbound game since it is small, valuable, and in demand.

Took me at least an hour to navigate through setting up my first item for sale. Holy complicated, Batman. I'm pretty good at math, but all the various fees made my head spin. Options, more options. Way too hard, which is one of the reasons I'd been putting off the attempt. I did a lot of back and forth on setting a price. Finally got it set up for a "Buy it Now" at $140 US. Quite a bit more than some recent auction wins for Earthbound, but if it didn't sell it would have only cost me a five cent listing fee. I offered free shipping and hoped that someone would splurge for christmas. It sold in 90 minutes. Should've asked for more!

Shipped it the next morning, it was delivered 24 hours and 16 minutes later. Less assorted fees and shipping (and the $1 I arbitrarily decided it cost me out of $6 I paid for the bag), I netted $118.09 CAD. Probably my third sweetest bargain find ever! (First I've already talked about, second was a Vectrex system for $7 at a yard sale). I had some mild guilt since I profited off a 'good cause' thrift store. Rationalized it because I didn't buy it knowing it was really valuable, just knowing that the bag of SNES was a little better value than normally found at a thrift store. Of course, my 'net' doesn't count the countless hours and even more countless litres of gas invested in the bargain hunting hobby. When I think of the number of completely crap yard sales we've been to, or fruitless thrift store trips...

Still, it was fun to make that first sale, and Leaf is amazed. Too late for the christmas presents I've already bought on ebay, but it will be handy to have money in a paypal account for next time.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

The ice age is upon us!

Friday was another snow day at the high school. It was a "major snow squall event" according to environment Canada. We've gone from bare ground to almost two feet of snow in the last three or four days. Amazingly, we missed out on the worst of it. Minden, about 75km west of us, was reporting 121 cm (a whisker under 4 feet) of snow. By the time I finished shoveling the driveway Friday (the first time), I had to redo the walk and stairs because they had accumulated another two inches. Had to redo the whole thing Friday afternoon after the school was closed and Leaf got to come home.

Mars is happy. He likes the snow. We've all just been outside in the back yard cutting down a christmas tree. Daddy with a saw, Mars with a lightsaber. I think Odin might like snow. Except when it gets on him. He mostly stayed in the scoop and was happy to get pulled around looking like the kid who fell down in his snowsuit and couldn't get up again in "A Christmas Story". Which was in the news yesterday. Real kid gets tongue frozen to flag pole. Kid makes international news. Slow news day?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The secret lives of teachers - snow day

I'm no longer undecided about snow. Its sucking already. I think I had just developed nostalgia because I didn't have to do any shoveling last year and my dorm, the cafeteria, and my classes were all less than 100m from each other. Today, we are under a winter storm watch, the van wouldn't start, and I forgot all about wind chill.

A digression. When I was a kid, I didn't literally think that teachers slept in lockers at school and only came out on school days. But it was easy to forget that teachers had outside lives. Marrying a teacher has given me a look at the secret lives of teachers and schools. Its been enlightening.

A segue-way. Today is a snow day for all local schools. I bet you didn't know that teachers have been known to do a secret 'snow-dance' to incite the snow gods to ramp up the precipitation so that they will get a snow day. Of course you didn't. Its hidden in teacher offices behind closed doors.

The rationale behind a snow day is that it is unsafe for kids to take buses to school. However, teachers are expected to be at school. Irony. We talked about it on the way in this morning. Our theory is that while either a bus crash or a teacher car crash is tragic, a bus crash is newsworthy, but a teacher car crash is just tragic.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First real snow & global warming

We've had a dusting a couple of times before, but nothing that lasted the day. Unseasonably warm fall this year. Incidentally, today was the first time that I've worn a jacket this fall. Just sweaters/hoodies until now. Reminded me of the year Doug and I wore shorts all winter. It was a big story down in the big city a week back about being the first recorded November without any snow at all. I'm undecided. Not that I haven't liked the warmer than normal weather, its certainly cheaper on furnace oil, but maybe I secretly kind of like snow. This time of year particularly, it does a lot to brighten up the short dull days. As an added bonus, snow tends to stay whiter here. Mars in enthralled. I asked him and he said he remembers snow but I'm never sure with those kind of questions (he'd say he remembered flying to the moon if I asked him in the right tone). Took forever today getting into the sitters because he had to stop and make hand prints all along the walkway.

Lack of snow also makes me think about the global warming thing. I don't believe in "global warming". Before you eco-freak on me, hear me out. Meteorologists/climatologists can't accurately predict what the weather will be three days from now. This summer, I pretty much started planning on it being exactly the opposite of Environment Canada's predictions. Because they were always wrong.

If it was Monday, and they said warm and sunny on Thursday, I'd plan for rain. The annoying thing was how they would keep revising their model until they got the 'prediction' right. On Tuesday, the Thursday prediction would have been changed to "A mix of sun and cloud". On Wednesday, the Thursday prediction would have been changed to "Cloudy with a 30% chance of rain showers". On Thursday, the prediction would be "WARNING: SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT". By then of course it isn't a prediction, since you're looking out the damn window.

So, if scientists can't accurately model weather 3 days from now, how can they accurately model weather 3 years from now? Simple answer: they can't. Model, revise, model, revise, model, fudge, model, what it comes down to is a big guess. Albeit educated. Will this coming Thursday be warmer than it is today? I don't know, and neither does Environment Canada. They guess, I pick the opposite, we're each correct 50% of the time.

Which brings me to my next beef. Global "warming". That was a mistake. You can't predict the weather, you know (or ought to know) that you can't predict the weather, and then you go and predict the weather will get warmer and expect people to believe you. Global "warming" is and absolute and thus is bad marketing. All it takes is one moronic talking head on FOX to say "Well I heard that up there in Fuktyuktuk the average temperature went down" and you have been proven wrong to the great unwashed masses. From the beginning, it should have been "Climate Change". Will the weather on Thursday be warmer than today? Maybe, maybe not - that's 50/50. Will the weather on Thursday be different than today? Yes - that's as close to 100% as weather prediction can get. You'll never hear "worldwide, weather and temperature was exactly the same as last year - Aha - Climate change is a lie!"

So, while I don't believe in global warming (I'm going to go opposite again and vote for an ice age), I do believe in climate change. I also believe climate change is affected by human beings. It would be naive to think otherwise. So please don't crucify me on a sustainably grown bamboo cross and pummel me with organic carrots.