two nerdy nights in a row

Nerdy Thing 1

Last night I went to see the 10pm showing of the Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary “episode” of Doctor Who. While I had watched it already on Saturday night at Alex’s parents’ house (they have cable), I was excited to see it again on the big screen. Overall it was an enjoyable event, despite my dislike for one rather major plot point, which I will leave unsaid (spoilers, my dear!). But I think my enjoyment of this show is fairly fixed and perhaps with a slightly lower bar. In other words, I accept the fact that some episodes are far weaker than others. I also, don’t love the current Matt Smith doctor as much as David Tennant. I also don’t love that they went with a white British man for the 12th doctor, when they could have made more interesting choices such as you know Helen Mirren or Chiwetel Ejiofor*. Yet, in the end I keep watching because I find it to be a fun show, one that makes me laugh (can also freak me the heck out!) and every once in a while can take my breath away with its brilliance.

Nerdy Thing 2
You may not be able to tell at first glance, but this is an epic midnight battle pitting a cleric, a warrior and a half-ling against 5 gnolls and hyena.
We played Shadowrun again tonight. An RPG based in post apocalyptic Seattle where magic suddenly appeared in the world and has led to a fantasy/sci-fi mash-up society with an extensive underworld. Alex runs the game and the original three (Katie, Matt and Bryan) had been playing for over a year when I joined this past spring with my elfish character – Egg. Based strongly on River Tam, she kicks a lot of butt in conflict and can also easily talk her way out of most situations. However she also comes with the slight mental instability (so far Alex has skipped over my character’s flaw of flashbacks, but we’ll see what comes later down the line) and the baggage of being hunted by the secret spy/corporation school that she recently escaped from. Fun character on paper, but definitely one that I haven’t entirely figured out motivation for yet. In many ways her big conflict happened pre-game in the lead-up and successful attempt at escaping, now she is basically on the lam and getting quickly caught up in the nefarious dealings of the original gang. But as to what she really wants for her future, I have little idea.

However, in the end, my favorite part of playing an RPG game is the fun times spent with friends in a way that engages the imagination, usually involves much excitement and hilarity and all comes from a simple idea of rolling dice to decide your character’s fate.

*While I think both of these would have made interesting choices, I am mainly using them as examples to illustrate a point. I actually like the idea of using fairly unknown actors for Doctor Who, as opposed to actors who bring a large amount of work or presence into the role.

Live “Tweeting” Harry Potter 7

In October, Katie, Jenn and I went to Girl Geek Con in downtown Seattle and ended going to see the EMP’s new exhibit on the Archetypes of Fantasy. In that exhibit, they had Professor McGonagall listed under the Iron Woman trope and they played the awesome clip of her calling the suits of armor of Hogwarts to battle.

That was pretty much all it took for Katie and I decide it was really time to re-watch some Harry Potter. We started with number 6 a few weeks ago and tonight we will attempt a back to back screening of part 1 and 2 of Harry Potter part 7.

We are preparing some traditional bangers and Yorkshire pudding to go with our evening and some slightly less tradition cucumbers and hummus. Follow along as we relive the the darkest hours of the Harry Potter series.

[Spoilers ahead, duh!]
Watching Harry Potter 7
The movie definitely makes no qualms about its darker tone starting out with the heart wrenching scene where Hermione causes her parents to forget she exists. Also Fiona Shaw is incredible, wringing more emotion out of a 2 second scene than most actors do with 3 minutes.

The dark lord is dark, one murder and that nasty snake biting the camera scene all in the first 10 minutes.

Ron gets the first joke! And an apt one it is, how often have all of these people risked their lives for Harry?

I love the scene with the multiple Harry Potters, and the great touches of Wesley humor

Katie points out that Hedwig gets a better death in the movie than the book, saving Harry’s life as opposed to dying in her cage.

Poor Molly, she had 4 of her children and her husband out risking their lives to help Harry arrive at the Burrow.

Ron finally puts Harry in his place and reminds Harry that he may be the chosen one, but their friends don’t die for him, they die for a bigger cause.

One of best scenes in the whole 7 movies is the short scene where Fred catches Ginny and Harry kissing and only says “Morning” and some hilariously meaningful looks are exchanged.

Also Bilious is pretty much the worst middle name ever.

I love Luna Lovegood, such an insightful, but very out if character. Perhaps Harry’s closest friend outside of Hermione and Ron.

And quickly the trio is completely on their own, thank goodness for Hermione. She really is my favorite. Her rucksack is the best thing ever.

Kreacher is the Gollum of the Harry Potter series.

Finally a scene with Neville!

Umbridge remains the creepiest of all Harry Potter villains, perhaps even more than Voldemort himself.

Ache, these scenes of Hermione and Ron and all their repressed teenage passionate longing.

Polyjuice potion time! These three actors faced with pretending to be inhabited by the trio do such a fantastic job! Especially Ron’s, somehow capturing that teenage tension in adult bodies, trying so hard to fit in.

I love how the elevators in the ministry don’t just go up and down, but side to side too.

The tension really doesn’t stop in the movie, especially the whole ministry scene.

Ron splinching is definitely even more horrible in the movie than in the book.

And now the the locket, the movie has its ring of doom. Toxic to the wearer, but incredibly valuable.

Wow, they walk through some desolate landscapes, it seems like most of England is burnt or broken.

Ron has turned into quite the downer after his splinching, but his frustrations about Dumbledore’s lack of clear instructions aren’t entirely off.

They do a good job of making Ron’s departure both believable (mostly) and incredibly cutting.

The dancing in the tent scene is so well done – a brief reminder that they are actually just teenagers in a very adult and scary world.

Merry Christmas, come see your parents’ graves, the ruin of the house they were murdered in and meet the world’s creepiest old woman who is actually a giant snake!

Harry attempts to snake fight with a chair, but thankfully Hermione has the good sense to apparate them out through the window.

Also their persistent lack of scarves, hats, gloves or other winter gear is a bit troubling, considering it is so clearly winter.

Clearly going ice swimming without telling your sole companion about it is totally a good idea, even if you do see a nice shiny sword at the bottom. Also wise, leaving on the malevolent locket so it can drown you in the water.

Wow, there is a lot more creepy sticky spider really weird naked Harry and Hermione CG figures in that locket than originally meets the eye.

I find pretty much every scene among the trio that deals with the Ron/Hermione “relationship” hilarious.
“You aren’t still mad at him are you?” – Harry
“I am always mad at him.” – Hermione

There are very few low blood pressure scenes in this movie, but at least they do make them interesting. The sound effects of the scene running from the snatchers in the woods are so well done.

In regards to the snatchers and their decision to take the trio to Voldemort, Katie comments, “It is nice to see some minions with some brains.”

The torture of Hermione by Bellatrix is particularly unpleasant.

While I never cared for Dobby that much, his rescue scene and acquisition of a wand are pretty kick ass.

“Dobby never meant to kill, Dobby meant to wound or seriously injure” – Dobby, a free elf with a few pretty good lines.

Considering the ending of part 1, I am really excited to actually head right into part 2, back to back.

Harry Potter 7, part 2
So to start, we get to watch Voldemort break into Dumbledore’s grave and take the Elder Wand again.

It feels like the first part is all angst, stillness, melancholy, and bonding between the trio, I am excited to get to part 2 with so many good scenes ahead. But I am glad they took the time to tell the stories of part 1 – it adds a lot to the characters.

“The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who study wand lore.” – Ollivander

Wow, that polyjuice potion has been the most helpful thing they learned in Hogwarts by far.

Helena Bonham Carter pretending to be Hermione, pretending to be Bellatrix is pretty darn awesome. Also Ron with a fake beard and shaggy hair is also highly amusing.

Wait a second, why did they enchant the goblin guard, when they actually did have Bellatrix’s wand. Did they just forget to bring it with them to the bank?

Once again, they would all be dead without Hermione and her spell ability to catch them 6 inches from the ground.

I love that Hermione will just as quickly champion abused dragons as enslaved house elves.

When will they learn that Accio never really works if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for.

Big surprise Griphook ends up being more than just a little bit of a jerk, even letting his fellow goblin banker get burnt by a dragon.

Awesome, escape via dragon! This trio has best/craziest/worst adventures.

I also forgot that this is the movie in which the climax starts about 20 minutes in and doesn’t really stop.

Heading back into Hogwarts! So strange to think that the students were the trio’s peers just a few months ago, but now they seem so much younger.

Seeing Harry confront Snape and then having him battle McGonagall is both awesome and heart-wrenching knowing what Snape is truly going through to play the traitor.

Really they are going to lock up all of Slytherin for one bad seed?

Uh oh they are splitting the party. Harry goes off alone, but thank goodness for Luna.

When Professor McGonagall goes to war, it means business.
“His name is Voldemort, he is going to try to kill you either way, so you might well use it”

Harry never ignore Luna, she always knows what’s going on. Once again Ravenclaw brains win out.

Wow, Voldemort managed to acquire quite an army in the past few months.

“It is the quality of your convictions that determine your success, not the number of your followers.” – Professor Lupin
“Who said that?” – Kingsley
“Me.” Professor Lupin

Apparently destroying horcruxes is the primary way to get Hermione and Ron to finally kiss! Other teenage turn-ons? Apparently battle, adrenaline and war.

Nevin finally gets to show his kick-ass nature.

So if you are counting along, the horcruxes destroyed include Riddle’s diary, the ring, the locket, the cup and the diadem. All that’s left is snake and Harry.

“If we die for them Harry, I’m going to kill you.” – Ron

Wow, not only does Voldemort kill Snape with out a second thought, but he doesn’t even give him an easy death. Instead choosing to slit his throat and have the snake finish him off. Cruel, but it does give Snape the chance tell his final story to Harry.

“You have your mother’s eyes” – Snape’s final words

Fred’s death always hits the hardest. Although Lupin and Tonks are a very close second and third.

Finally time to get to know the incredible person Snape actually was. In other words it’s time for some back story!

The resurrection stone was in the snitch? I had completely forgotten that! But I guess that is how they explain all his parents, Sirius, and Lupin joining him on his last walk.

Of course he would wake up in King’s Cross Station, what better version of purgatory is there.

Do not pity the dead Harry, pity the living and pity all those who live without love. – Dumbledore

The Malfoys always manage to do some good in their steadfast pursuit of their own survival.

Voldemort’s nose is really quite well done. I like out it blurs slightly and never seems entirely in focus.

Poor Draco, reunited with his parents, but never going to be able to live it down.

Never abandon your snake when Neville is around.

Poof goes Voldemort. I had kind of forgotten whether or not Harry had to actually do the killing spell on him or not.

I like that the trio remains a trio, despite Ron and Hermione finally getting together.

You get a nice rejection of violence in Harry’s complete rejection of the Elder Wand. In fact he also dropped the Resurrection Stone in the forest AND has owned the invisibility cloak for several years.

Epilogue time! Of the trio, Harry’s aging is definitely the best, while Ron’s is definitely the worst. Also this means they all got to having children quick at least to have kids age 13 or so at age 36.

Blog victories, Costco, and power outages

So those of you who are friends with me on Facebook already know a bit about my frustrating/fun experience last night trying to update WordPress on my blog. From my younger brother programing his first game before high school, to my Dad managing servers for a living, I have always been surrounded by techie people. I too enjoy techie things, however I have never advanced any of my skills to actually be more than a generalist of a few, master of none. This also means that I have asked for a lot of technical help over the years and always appreciated my friends and families willingness to help. But this also means that when I do find ways to push my own skills and do things all by myself I tend to get prouder than a toddler with a new skill.

With that in mind, last night I got quite frustrated when I discovered that the one-click update for WordPress wasn’t working on my blog. I did most of the troubleshooting I knew, but quickly discovered I was going to have to do a manual update. So after failed attempts to use my host webFTP panel, I downloaded Filezilla. Then after nervously deleting old files off my blog (half convinced that I was going to break the whole thing) I uploaded the new files and successfully updated my blog! In other words, Alex had to deal with both a very grumpy and then positively gleeful Abby last evening.

Costco haul
Okay, on to the Costco. While I had been to Costco briefly before for work, I had been fascinated by this concept of bulk goods for everyone and so I persuaded my co-worker to take me shopping with her. And wow, from flats of apples, double gallons of milk, packets of 5 dozen eggs, to baking powder that comes in 3 pound jars, Costco is a fascinating place. However the best find of the day was discovering that one of my favorite cheeses (a local one called Beecher’s Flagship) was literally 1/2 the price than in a normal story. Granted you need to purchase 1.5 pound of it at a time, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

Other news from Seattle, last night we had a rather massive wind storm with big gusts and apparently some tree limbs managed to cause some nasty damage in North Seattle which resulted in Katie and Bryan loosing power. Not wanting to lose the food in their fridge and freezer, they brought their perishable goods down to use in Ballard and in return we got their lovely company this afternoon. A rousing game of Tichu was played (men against the women as is traditional). The men took an early lead when Alex granded and then went 1-2. Then (following Jonathan’s rule of three power cards in the first hand) I granded, but lost. But Katie and I diligently worked our way back up, but in the last round Bryan pulled of an impressive late round Tichu, leaving Alex and him victorious.

But the biggest surprise of the afternoon wasn’t the Tichu, but instead the Soda Stream that Bryan and Katie gifted us. One part thank you gift, one part early Christmas, their gift was both incredibly touching and a truly unanticipated surprise. This past year has been an wonderful chance to get to know them both more and they have both helped me begin to get a sense that I do indeed have a community here in Seattle. And in addition to the incredible kindness, we now get to have all the sparkling water we could dream of (at least until we have to replace the carbonation cylinder…).

So there you go a rambling and mostly un-edited recap of my day. I hope you all had a good one too!

Random Video Post

Today was a good day, but coming up with something substantial to say at 10:30pm at night doesn’t sound very feasible. So instead you get this video! Background for this is that I have always been a fan of board games, however I have never been a big fan of learning new games. Therefore this video series named Tabletop by the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry fills a vital hole in my life by introducing me to new games and also reducing the amount of time it takes to learn new game mechanics. Oh and did I mention it is hosted by Wil Wheaton and mostly hilarious too.

Further flashbacks

So Alex wants to be a history / english teacher of little middle school students some day, so he is in grad school. Most of the time that means writing papers, studying and generally being a bit too busy. However other times it means you get to go on a day long field trip to see 5 major historical spots in Washington and Oregon and spend 11 hours in the car with your boyfriend! This is the story of how Alex and I spent a Saturday back in July, enjoy!

Itinerary for epic one day road trip

The original itinerary, however due to things taking longer than we planned (and being harder to find!) we ended up skipping Powell’s Books. So of course, now I HAVE to get back to Portland some time soon 🙂

First stop

Our first stop was harder to find than we thought, but this little park sure was purty.

Alex examines the evidence

Alex examines the info about the Monticello Convention

Halfway through Alex and I's epic 11 hour road trip of historic sites in Washington and Oregon.

Road trips have a high minimum level of required goofiness.

Fort Clatsop

We finally made it to our western most point, Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter after reaching the Pacific ocean.

Examining the inside

Alex examines the history

Replicas

The history shows of its impecable lighting

Re-enacting history

Someone re-enacts history

Portland has a few bridges

Driving through Portland on our way to Fort Vancouver

Layout of the fort

Fort Vancouver

Posin'

Posing under the arbor

Yeah, I don't like making my bed either

Yeah, I don’t like making my bed either

I had almost forgotten they actually do have trains in the Pacific Northwest

I had almost forgotten they actually do have trains in the Pacific Northwest

We survived an 11 hour road trip together!

We survived an 11 hour road trip together!

Good Fridays = Good Weeks

Today I was struck by the realization that having a good Friday can completely turn around the whole week. After a long work week full of slightly painful mornings and slightly too long days, having a satisfying Friday really makes all the difference. What made my Friday a good one, you may ask? Well, the short answer is I don’t know, maybe it was having a good conversation with my boss that helped answer some of my communication related questions, maybe it was hanging out with Alex, Matt, Katie & Bryan while they played their RPG game – Shadowrun, or maybe it was the 3 hours I got to play Civilization 5 on Alex’s computer or maybe it was just having enough things go right to tip the scales towards the better half.

Well seeing as tomorrow I have a long day of wine-tasting ahead of me (one of my book club friends got us all to sign up for Living Social deal), I should probably wrap this up. So I will leave you with this informative hedgehog video.*

*Katie recommends you put the closed captioning on and I have to agree. Also fair warning ,there is some language involved, but I think the overall hilarity is worth it.

Day 13 – New animated gif generator!

During the past holiday season I wrote a round up of great animated gifs for a post at work and also decided to make my own animated gif – out of gifts! I seriously am the funniest person alive, people.

But at the time, finding a good animated gif generator was not the easiest thing. I hunted around on Google, wasting a good hour downloading and trying to use an old Microsoft tool, which didn’t end up doing anything – not too surprising because they stopped supporting it back in 1999 or so. I did eventually find a gif generator, but wasn’t super thrilled by the lack of edits and it also just wasn’t very pretty.

Enter this new site (with a slightly inappropriate name) – Mothereffing animated gif. It has a simple ad-free interface that let’s you drag and drop your photos into place, select your desired quality and speed, then download your nicely generated animated gif.

So I decided to experiment from this series of photos I took of Jonathan pretending to be a zombie during a visit home last summer. As you can see the first version got a fun slightly creepy effect from being a lo-res version, but the speed was too high and and I wanted a better quality.

I like how this final one turned out, just the right amount of creepy and plenty of zombie-infected Jonathan! 🙂

 

Day 12 – A collection of interesting links, thoughts about Lent, the weather and why I haven’t been blogging

So obviously my attempt to post 5 days a week in February has not taken place. Sad to say, my goal to take a photo every day has been equally a failure, however I don’t actually feel too badly about it, because I both posted more AND took more pictures than I had during the previous two months.

In the good news department, I have several almost completed drafts of various things rolling around in the blog, so hopefully February will still finish strong.  But as following my long tradition of following up long blogging absences with list/link based posts, here are some interesting tidbits from my life and internet browsing:

1. I decided to give up sugar for Lent, which although containing a rather loose interpretation of “sugar” (basically avoiding sweet things including but not limited to diet coke, honey on my bread (but bread remains okay, cause come on!), the vast majority of baked goods, ice cream, chocolate, etc).  This is actually not nearly as challenging for me as giving up salty things, cheese or other more beloved foods. However I have definitely missed chocolate a few times already and have missed my weekend habit of making pancakes or french toast on Saturday mornings.

2. I found myself quite awed, saddened and overall impressed by this collection of World Press Photo Winners from 1955 to 2011. I agree with Kottke’s statement that these are amazing photos that don’t present a very positive view of humankind (many of the photos are graphic portrayals of the horrible things that humans inflict on each other). However I was also struck that while many of the photos portray deep painful grief, there can be no huge upswellings of grief without the larger underlying foundation of great love. Hopefully a similar collection of the next 56 years will have more photos depicting peace and equality breaking out, than the last 56 years of wars, cruelty and pain.

3. In a fascinating glimpse into Seattle weather, today we passed through sunshine, snow flurries, cloudy skies, and some rain all on the 25 minute drive to church.

4. I loved this list of advice for young people, from which the following highlight can be drawn:

Yes, you should not worry too much about the consequences and you should definitely quit your job that you hate and it’ll probably all work out great. Job quitters are the happiest people around.

5. This last link is mainly for Katie, or any other Star Wars lovers, this great post comes up with the perfect way to integrate the far inferior 1-3 trilogy (the one with Jar Jar Binks) into one’s viewing of the original trilogy. While this would make for an all to epic one night marathon, this definitely stirred my interests in re-watching Star Wars some time soon.

Day 5 – Tax Returns

Today during the day I realized that I had obtained all of the various forms I needed to fill out my tax return, so I dutifully printed them out and assembled them in a pile to be taken home with me. Of course then, I forgot the pile completely, but so caught up with the idea of figuring out how much money I was getting back, I decided to carry on anyways tonight and just look at the various PDFs.

I must admit I take a certain glee in filling out taxes, I think this is probably almost entirely due to the fact that thanks to grad school expenses and student loan interest payments I have enjoyed rather substantial (and always somewhat surprising) tax returns for the past 3-4 years.  Plus, there is something enjoyable about filling in little boxes and seeing the number in the upper right hand corner of the site increase. Sad to say, my experiences with those tax returns of previous years left me a little less enchanted with this year’s total.  While nothing to scoff at, this return rates more in the possible airplane ticket (or two) home and less of an airplane ticket to Paris level.  But in the end I should be glad, because this means I did a better job of estimating what I would actually owe the government and didn’t give them massive interest free loans of my money as I had unintentionally done in previous years.

Also apparently the great state of Washington has NO INCOME TAX, which blows my mind a little, so that also made the conundrum of having to fill out two separate state tax returns much simpler (i.e. nonexistent). So I want to wait a bit, double-check the forms I printed off at work and make sure I have all my ducks in a row, before finally filing and getting my hands on that nice little check. Although as of now, my only exciting plans for its use is attempting to revive my somewhat depressed savings account. Who knew moving halfway across the country and taking a massive pay cut would end up dissolving so much of my nest egg? (to which all the other real substantial nest eggs in the world snort a little and give me a patronizing look)