31 January 2012

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia.  The beloved fantasy series, with many fans.

Except me.

Now, don't get me wrong.  There were some I enjoyed more than others.  Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader were probably my favorites.  But as for the over all arc... meh.  In talking with my wife I think its because of my age.  Without a doubt I came to this way older than the target audience.  The Last Battle's message was a bit... heavy handed I thought and that took away from the book.  Is it a great intro into the world of fantasy?  Yes.  Is it for somebody like me, at my age?  No; or at least I don't think so.  I wanted to like the series more.  I don't deny its place in the pantheon of important fantasy books.  I just think its something best read at a younger age.

21 January 2012

The Core of My Problem with Apple Customer Support

Yesterday, I received an email from Apple letting me know that there had been a purchase (using my Apple ID) made on an unauthorized device.  Ok, fine I say to myself.  I will take there advice and change my password.  But I can't.  Close inspection of the email shows that  the Apple ID listed is... not mine.  Its a mismash of letters and numbers, ending in @lvvl.info.  Alarm bells and whistles go off in my head.  This is a big barrel of NOT GOOD.  I do some research on my own and discover this site (Hacked iTunes Accounts).

Turns out that there is a know issue with how users pay.  It turns out that if you use Pay Pal or have a gift card balance, it makes it easier for a hacker to take over your account, change your username and password and buy apps.

I then go to Apple's help site.  The site suggests that for my issue, I use their 'Express Lane' email support service.  I fire off an email.  Then I notice that it will take up to 24 hours for a response.

No.  I'm sorry, but Express is not 'up to' 24 hours.  Especially when it deals with my account being hacked.  So, with the help of (jacobnorton and uraifenn) I got some phone numbers and started dialing.

This is where I started have a problem with Apple Customer Service.

I first called around 0700, EST.  The automated voice told me that no one was in.  Ok, no problem, I know its early. I go through the prompts and the voice informs me that it can't help and that I should call back during operating hours.  Then the line goes dead.  I got a bit upset here as most places will have a message indicating the hours that you can speak to a human.  No such thing here.  I then call every 15 minutes until...

Its now 0803 EST.  I give the required information to the automated voice who then transfers me.  I give the same information to the first human I speak to.  At this point I'm starting to simmer at a low boil.  I explain to him the issue that my account has been COMPROMISED.  He then transfers me to Human number 2.  Who then asks for the same information I just gave the last person and the automated voice.  You mean to tell me that at no point the first two entries of my information were recorded and passed on?  Pretty lazy in my opinion.

Here's where I (admittedly) lose my cool.  I tell Human number 2 the issue, that I was a victim of a KNOWN issue, my accounts been hacked and I want this fixed.  He goes off line to see what he can do.  He comes back 15 minutes later and says that nope, iTunes support is email or online chat only.  Excuse me?  My account and personal information has been compromised and taken over and all you can do is email?  No.  I gave this poor soul some rather salty language.  I ask him questions like: 'So, they can sit in front of a computer and type, but not pick up a phone?'  He did not have an answer for that one.

So we proceed to lunch time.  I get an email from the Apple iTunes support saying that they have reset my account information.  Also, they refunded me the money stolen, so that was good.

I decided to send along an email to the iTunes support person who assisted me.  I just wanted to know what Apple was going to do about this known issue.  Surprisingly, I got a response.  Unsurprisingly, the email was just standard boiler plate about how to better protect my account.  Sigh.  I responded to that second email with the information I un-covered, but I'm not expecting any further response.

In the end, I'm glad that I was able to get my account fixed, and the money refunded.  However, I am still upset that a customer who was calling about a compromised account was brushed off so easily.  Will this stop me from using Apple products?  No.  I guess I just expected better.

19 January 2012

2012 In Music - current obsessions

So, the one think I don't keep up on too well is music.  Mostly because when I am in my car all that there is on the radio is talk shows.  So, little new music exposure.  Which, is a REALLY poor excuse.  One of my un-written resolutions is to expose myself to some new music.  One way I've done this is with iTunes, and the other is with suggestions from friends.  Without further ado, here is what is currently on high rotation on my iPod:

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die - I know, right?  This one even surprised me.  It is absolutely the complete opposite of what I usually like.  I'm really digging it though.  Without a doubt I will be checking out more of her stuff.  I know too that there was a recent griping about her SNL performance.  I did not watch it, but to all the celebs who complained about it I say 'You've never had a bad night?"

Nightwish - Imaginarium - This song is right up my interest ally.  I only know a little bit of their work (Nemo, really) but this song is quite good.  Its loud, its fast and its epic.  Not for everybody, but worth a listen.

Trent Reznor and Karen O - Immigrant Song - This song.  Oh man, this song.  Ever since I heard it on the trailer for 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo', I've been slightly obsessed with this song.  I can't quite put into words why I like it, but I play it at least twice a day.

So, any suggestions?

14 January 2012

A rant on the subject of a photography class...

This rant actually goes back a couple of years, so if some of you have already heard it, forgive me.  But recently this rant came roaring back into my head. (via Weird Al's 'Skipper Dan' (don't ask my mind works in mysterious ways))*

Anywhoo, lets take a trip back to the days when I was taking a digital photography class.  Now, maybe it was my own ignorance, but I thought it would be more about taking photos than editing them in Photoshop.  The class should have been called Intro to Photoshop.  But that's not even my biggest complaint about this class.

No, its with the instructor and the students.  And, to be fair, they were ok for most of the class.  But I want to focus on a few stories, that all lead up to my confrontation with the instructor.

1. We are discussing the origins of photography and where it really started to be popularized.  I brought up the US Civil War and the work of Matthew Brady and his associates.  The teacher then asks the class (I don't know WHY she did) when the Civil War took place.  This girl, who looked to be out of high school all of 20 minutes said "1880s?"  After slamming my head against the computer monitor in front of me, I had to give her points for getting within 20 years.

2.  We had to do presentations on a subject about photography.  This one guy is discussing Annie Leibovitz.  I will NEVER forget what happened next.  The student in question states (and this is pretty verbatim): "I heard somewhere that Annie Leibovitz died.  I could not find anything confirming this, so I'm guessing she's dead."

And that's not the worse part.

Oh, no the teacher then responds with: "You know, I think you are right."

Ladies and gentlemen, people almost died that day.  I was furious with this ignorant student who did such piss poor research and claimed that a world famous photographer was dead.  A 30 second search on Wikipedia IN CLASS told me that she was alive, and lives in CT.  I was equally furious with the teacher for just agreeing with this and NOT looking it up on the computer IN FRONT OF HER FACE.

To cap it all off, one day during class break the teacher asks to speak with me.  She says that I seem... upset recently. (Ya think?)

I fire off my opening salvo: "The general level of ignorance in this class is pissing me off."
Her response: "...well, I don't know..."
I turn broadside and let loose another salvo: " For the record, Annie Leibovitz..alive."
Her response: Blank Look (i must have taken out the generators)
I cross the T and fire another shot: "Oh, and the Civil War... 1860s."
Her response: "..well this is a basic college class..."
I swing around and let loose my final shots: "That's basic fucking high school."

So, just remember, do your research, have some basic knowledge and nobody gets hurt.

One final thought.  I know that not everybody will have knowledge on the Civil War.  And I'm not even asking them too.  However, we were seated in front of computers, so it would be pretty easy to get the correct info, instead of making yourself look like an ignorant ass.

Rant finished.

*I knew you would ask, so...There is a line in Weird Al's Skipper Dan which goes :..and Annie Leibovitz would shoot me for Rolling Stone..."  This then set off the rage.

12 January 2012

2012 In Movies - A Look Forward (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a list of movies that I am looking forward to in 2012, ordered by release date.  I’m may not make a point to see all of them, but I consider this a list of big releases that you should consider if you’re thinking of venturing to the cinema.

Snow White and the Hunstman (June 1) - This is Snow White tale I am looking forward too.  Mostly based on cast (Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman; Ian McShane, Charlize Theron as the Queen).  It looks like a bit of a darker tale, so it should hold my interest a bit more I think.

Rock of Ages (June 1) - I'd list all of the awesome that is starring in this adaptation of the play based in the days of 80s hair metal.  I would if I wanted to break the internet, so I'll refrain.  Needless to say I am very excited to see this movie.  The preview alone was awesome; full of 80s cheese and awesome.  Can't wait to see it

Prometheus (June 8) - I've lost track as to weather or not this is an Alien prequel.  But I don't care.  The trailer looks pretty good.  I mean, its Ridley Scott doing space horror/suspense.  This is one I WILL make a point of seeing in the theater.  I get the feeling its scope and grandeur will only be make more epic on the big screen.

Jack the Giant Killer (June 15) - I'm not sure as of yet how I feel about this.  The tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is one that would be ripe for this kind of telling; and the trailer looked pretty nice.  Just not sure yet if it will be family friendly or not.  Although, it has another strong cast, so that may be points in its favor.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) - I picked this book up on a whim one day.  And LOVED it.  I'm a huge fan of alternate history, so this was right up my literary alley.  Then, I heard they were making a movie!  I was dubious at first, but the more I think about it, the more I am looking forward to this.  Its Abe Lincoln.  Fighting VAMPIRES.  What else does one need in a movie?

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29) - Things go boom.  More things go boom.  Perfect summer movie brain candy.  It will be nice and light in preparation for...well, not the next movie, but the one after it.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) - SIGH.  I know that reboots are the rage right now, but this one seems just a BIT soon.  At least they are not re-doing Green Goblin, but finally showing us The Lizard, which they teased in the first three movies.  The trailer looks interesting.  Plus Martin Sheen and Sally Field can't hurt anything.  I think I will need to reserve judgement on this one until I see it.

The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) - And. Here. We. Go.  Probably the movie that I am most looking forward to (after The Avengers).  The trailer looks strong, the plot seems to be coming together.  I've had many a discussion with co-workers about how this could all play out, and I think I will be partly right.  In the interest of un-intentional spoiler's however, I'll refrain from sharing.

Total Recall (August 3) - Another re-make.  I did not think the original was all that great, so I am curious to see how this plays out.  Collin Farrell stars, so this should be interesting.

The Expendables 2 (August 17) - Its The Expendables 2.  Hopefully 2x the awesome as the first.  I may not see this one on the big screen, but it will be awesome.

Dredd (September 21) - I sense many fanboys losing their minds about this.  I know that the Stallone Judge Dredd is not held in high regard.  Not knowing the source material, I've always enjoyed it.  I'll be very interested to see how this one plays out.

Red Dawn (November 2) - Another movie I am very curious about.  I like the original, so it will be interesting to see how they play this version out.

Skyfall (November 9) - The next Bond movie.  I am VERY excited about this.  I know Quantum of Solace left a bad taste in the mouths of many (myself included); but I think they have no where to go but up.  Daniel Craig said recently that the writers strike damaged Solace, which makes sense now.  I'm a big Bond junkie, so this is another must see for me.

Les Miserables (December 7) - This story has already had one screen adaption done starring Liam Neeson (I have yet to see it).  This version though is PACKING in the talent.  Hugh Jackman as Valjean!  Russell Crowe as Javert! Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen as the Thenardier's!  Done.  Look for me in the theater!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 14) - I was not a fan of the book.  I have a feeling I will like the film FAR better than the book.  The trailer looks fantastic.  I'm still not sold on the idea of splitting it, but that may change once I see this part.

And there you have it.  The films I am looking forward to this year.  I'm sure there will be others that sneak up on me throughout the year, but it looks like I'll be at the local multiplex quite a bit over the next year.

11 January 2012

2012 In Movies - A Look Forward (Part 1)

This is Part one of the list of movies I am looking forward to in 2012.  Its ordered by its release date.  Also, there are some movies that I've included here that I will not necessarily see, but I wanted to offer my thoughts on its release.

Underworld: Awakening - Kate Beckinsdale returns to the role of Selene.  Now she fights humans as well as the Lycans.  I'm looking forward to this, I've always enjoyed the Underworld movies.

The Grey - Liam Neeson is part of an oil team in Alaska, whose plane crashes.  Wolves hunt them.  I'll watch pretty much anything with Liam Neeson.

The Women in Black - This is here because I'm curious to see what Daniel Radcliff's first post-Potter role will turn out to be.  Judging from the preview, it looks pretty good.

Safe House - From the trailer, it looks like Dezel Washington is being bad ass.  Pair that with Ryan Reynolds as a junior CIA agent and I'm pretty much sold.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace - IN 3D!!  And, no.  Maybe I'll see some of the later episodes in 3D, but this one?  No.

John Carter - Again, the trailer looks pretty good.  Apparently there was this guy from the Civil War that was transported to Mars.  Leads a fight.  Movie looks good.

The Raven - John Cusack as Edger Allen Poe?  I'll buy it.  This apparently tells the tale of Poe's last days as he tracks a murder.

Mirror, Mirror - No, they are not making that Star Trek episode into a movie (although that would be cool) but this is the first of two Snow White themed movies this year.  This one stars Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and upon further review, that is the only reason I would watch this movie.

The Hunger Games - Probably the first movie on this list I am really looking forward to.  I  only first read the books about a year ago, and was surprised at how much I liked them.  The cast for this movie looks pretty strong too.

Titanic - Laugh at me if you must.  In fact, take a moment, I'll wait.  Done?  Alright then, moving on.  I like this movie on a visual level.  Its big, and can only really be enjoyed from that aspect on the big screen.  Plus, the fact they are releasing a 3D version makes me that much more interested.

The Three Stooges - This just looks FUN!  That's all I need.

The Avengers - Need I say more?  If there is one movie I am waiting for, THIS is it.

Dark Shadows - This looks... Interesting.  I've never seen the show, so I have no idea if this movie is a good idea or not.  Johnny Depp stars, and well, I can't say no to a movie with him in it.

Battleship - I refer you to my earlier comments about how I will watch anything with Liam Neeson.  Plus, it looks like a big, loud action flick.  And that's just perfect for a movie like this.

Men in Black III - This does not look like anything special, or new plot wise.  However, I have always enjoyed the series.  The trailer looks good.  Most importantly though, it looks fun, and that's what matters.

Look for part 2 coming soon!

10 January 2012

2011 In Movies - A Look Back

Below, you will find a list of the 2011 movies that I saw in 2011.  Their rank is as they are ranked on my Flickchart.  The number next to the movie is the rank it holds on my list, out of 1060 movies.  What were your favorite movies from 2011?
  1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (15)
  2. Thor (22)
  3. Captian America: The First Avenger (39)
  4. X-Men: First Class (40)
  5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (41)
  6. Paul (94)
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (201)
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (271)
  9. Green Lantern (283)
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 2 (298)
  11. Bridesmaids (489)
  12. The Green Hornet (521)
  13. Immortals (576)

08 January 2012

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

First, a confession.  Prior to this, the only movie related to a planet full of apes that I had seen was the one that came out in 2001, that no one seems to speak of.  And if they do, its in hushed whispers as to not incur the wrath of those who despise it.  Well, second, another confession:  I like that one.  Moving on.

When I heard they were making 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes', I was intrigued.  The previews came out, and it looked pretty damn good.

Let's have a little plot synopsis, shall we?

We have Will Rodman (played by James Franco) who is a hot shot researcher, working on a cure for Alzheimer's and other assorted brain issues.  Clearly, his only motivation is his father Charles (John Lithgow) who is affected by Alzheimer's.  WIll's first test of a cure works, until the chimp he tested it on (Named Brighteyes for the flecks of green that appear in the eyes of those chimps who have received the serum) goes, ahem, ape shit and wrecks the lab.  Turns out Brighteyes had a baby chimp, lets call him Caesar, and was only acting to protect her child.  Clearly the next think to do is to bring Caesar home with him.  Will discovers that the serum moved vertically from Brighteyes to Caesar, and Caesar is one smart chimp.

Eight years later....

Being super smart, Caesar knows when an old man (Charles) is being picked on by a bully (played well by David Hewlett (McKay from Stargate: Atlantis)).  So Caesar drops in and bites off the bully's finger.

Now things get interesting.  The court orders Caesar to a chimp facility run by Brian Cox and Tom Felton (yes, Draco Malfoy (apparently Mr. Felton is getting typecast to play nasty, mean people)).  Shock!  Gasp!  Conditions are not what Will was lead to believe and we see Caesar's mis-treatment of himself and his fellow apes.  Being a super chimp, Caeser becomes the alpha, then breaks out one night, visits Will's house where Will is storing an upgraded version of the serum.  Caesar breaks back into the facility, releases the airborne serum and turns the apes into his army.  In the process, Caesar speaks!  As the silver back was about to mash Tom Felton into little pieces, Caesar clearly says 'NO!'  Whoa.

Will starts to realize what's going on, and follows the apes to the Golden Gate bridge as they run amok and the police line up to stop them.  A pretty decent battle sequence ensues.  End result:  Police - 0, Assorted primates - 1.

Will follows the group to the Muir Redwoods, where he asks Caesar to come home.  Caesar leans in, and whispers 'Caesar is home.'  Will shits his pants.

I was expecting this to be more of an ending where the primates had taken over instead of breaking out and going into hiding.  I have a feeling that there will be a sequel where the chimps finally do take over the world and such.

I liked this movie.  Even though the first bits dragged a bit, once Caesar got into the facility, it started to pick up.  Watching him take over the group was quite interesting to watch, and to see the intelligence in his eyes was... creepy.  If indeed there will be a second one, I can't wait.

04 January 2012

A-Z Book Challenge

So, I came across this challenge on this blog (Laura Pakora).  She is doing a challenge that is to read one book for each letter of the alphabet this year.  Sounded interesting, so I thought I'd give it a go.  No entries on it yet, as I have not started any new books.  This will run from 1 JAN 12 to 31 DEC 12.  I'll have a separate page on my page to track this.  Not sure yet if I will actively seek a book for each letter, or just let it happen.  We shall see...

03 January 2012

Buy Food! Cook Food! Eat Food!

So, when I did our annual Winter gathering with my dad, he had made a stuffing using a grain called  Farro.

This is Farro
So, I decided to try it for myself.  The recipe contained parsley, sage, orange sections, pine nuts and a few other items.  You cook it up over about a half hour, and then you get this:

Final product

Final verdict:  AWESOME!  This will be a staple on the Zupka table for years to come.

Should anybody want the recipe, let me know and I will email it to you!