Archive for April, 2007

2007 Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Market Google Calendar

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

I have created a public Google Calendar for the Cedar Rapids 2007 Downtown Farmer’s Market. This link will allow you to add the calendar to your Google Calendar.

I have never been to the market. There were many good reviews about it last year. I look forward to going this year. The market is the first Saturday of the month from June through October (June 2, July 7, August 4, September 1 and October 6) in downtown Cedar Rapids. The market is held from 7:30am to 12:00pm.

Welcome Zopa fans

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

I was surprised this morning to see the Zopa newsletter was released. Yep, that’s me in the picture, the guy sitting in the corn field in Iowa. I have been watching Zopa for a while now, and have been anticipating their launch. It sounds like good news that they will have a nationwide launch, not just California. I plan to try out their service as a lender as soon as they are ready. Like the caption on the picture says, “Borrow from this man” soon!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #2 Arrived Today!

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I had received an email notification from a couple of days ago, April 6, 2007 to be exact, saying that my issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #2 had shipped. I was surprised to find it sitting in my mailbox today, April 9, 2007, when I arrived home from work.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: Issue 2 cover

This issue’s cover has Zander and Buffyer on it. [I will add a picture once I get our family digital camera back. Nancy has it with her.] [Updated 4/21/2007: I have added a picture of the cover.] I don’t want to give away the story, but I actually like this issue better than the first. I think that is to be expected, as they are just starting out the story arc. In this issue, you start to get more clues about what has happened since the end of season 7 on TV and the start of season 8 in the comic. I find the writing, especially, to have successfully traversed the media change. (Pretty much to be expected though, as Joss Whedon is the one who wrote the first two issues.)

Looking forward to issue #3!

Zach Johnson wins 2007 Masters!

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Zack Johnson, born in Iowa City, Iowa and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just won the 2007 Masters Tournament!


Sunday, April 8th, 2007

I went to see Grindhouse yesterday. I liked it.

Recently, I have seen Once Upon a Time in Mexico playing on cable. I remember commenting to Nancy, “It has been a long time since Robert Rodriguez has had a movie. I wonder what he is doing?” I wondered, because I remember one of the extras on “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” showed Rodriguez’s house/studio. He showed how he converted part of his house into a studio where he could edit his movies and record music for his movies. Days later I saw the first trailer for “Grindhouse”. As soon as I heard that it was a project with Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, I KNEW that I had to see this movie.

I was not disappointed. I don’t want to give too much away, but as you can see from the trailer, “Grindhouse” is really two movies: “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”. “Planet Terror”, written and directed by Rodriguez, is full of zombies. You can boil the movie down to a group of people try to escape a horde of zombies by shooting them. The zombies are very squishy. “Death Proof”, written and directed by Tarantino, is a car chase movie. You can boil the movie down to a car with a fast car who chases and is chased.

But, the movies are much more than this. For instance, in “Death Proof”, which in my opinion had better acting in that it had better dialog for actors to work with and more character development, could be broken up into two segments. Each segment has a group of girls cast as antagonists for “Stunt man Mike”, the protagonist of the film. I will call the first group of girls the “Texas” girls and the second group of girls the “Tennessee” girls. There is one segment shot with the Tennessee girls where they are in a diner. The four girls are sitting around a table. The protagonist Mike is sitting at the counter. The camera shoots the four girls from right behind them. It appears to be one take, as the camera swings around behind the girls, following the conversion taking place between them. This shot seems to go one for many minutes. The whole time, the girls are carrying on their conversation, eating, and interacting. Doing this in one take would be very hard for the actors, they have a lot of lines! Also, during there conversation, as the camera pans around, it catches glimpses of protagonist Mike sitting at the counter, eating, and appearing to be watching the girls, maybe listening to their conversation. I didn’t notice this at first, the “one-take” aspect of the shot, until a little ways in. Then I realized, “Hey, the camera is panning in this shot. The girls are just talking away, without any apparent cuts. This is cool.”

The larger premise of “Grindhouse” is that it is a double feature. Rodriguez and Tarantino continue this premise by including “Coming Attractions” and standard movie announcements in between the features “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”. I was taken back by one of the elements. The features were introduced by a sequence of colorful circles with words that would fly in announcing the feature presentation. It reminded me of going to the “Showcase Cinemas” in Milan, Il. This was the movie theater that we had to go to see the latest releases while growing up in the country between Donahue and Long Grove, IA. It was very late 70’s/early 80’s -ish. 🙂

I can appreciate this type of movie is not for everyone. Nancy seemed to have no desire to see it. I think that I, as a geek who likes video games, comics books, etc. was the target audience for the film. One little moment in “Death Proof” even reminded me of “Buffy”. One of the Tennessee girls is “left behind” by the other three on a farm with a scruffy guy. She doesn’t know exactly what is going on as she hasn’t been paying attention. When she realizes that the scruffy guy is walking up to her and she see the other three girls leaving, you can see the “concern” and uncomfortableness in her demeanor. At that moment, she speaks the word “gulp!”. This just seemed like something you would see in Buffy.

History: My first Google Gadget – Goal Chart

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

I have created my first Google Gadget, Goal Chart, back in November 17, 2006.

Goal Chart

It is still hosted on my Google Pages site: Here is a little blurb about the Goal Chart…

It is a simple gadget that shows one horizontal bar chart. In the preferences, you can edit the goal name, goal value, and current value. It is intended to be a “Savings Goal” chart, where you can specify a monetary value and track your current progress toward the goal. The goal value and current value should be decimal numbers. Once the user preferences are saved, the goal progress is displayed in the bar chart as a percentage.

I have had the Goal Chart installed since November 17, 2006 on my Google Personalized Homepage. I use it to track my progress towards paying off my second mortgage. It provides “visual motivation” by showing a bar chart of my progress towards paying off the loan.

Once the gadget is installed in Google Personal Homepage, you need to edit the preferences. The field “Name” is used in the title of the gadget. The field “Goal” is a decimal number that represents what you want to reach. The field “Current” is a decimal number that represents where you are currently at.

Goal Chart Preferences

This shows my load amount of $22,869.00. I have currently paid back $12,168.43 of the principal. This means that I have paid back 53.21% of the loan. Each month when I send in my loan payment check, I update the Goal Chart preferences, changing the “Current” field. This updates the percentage calculation and bar chart.

(How do I know how much principal I have paid back? That’s a good question. It’s also another topic for another blog post. 🙂 )

[Updated April 5, 2007: I almost forgot. The Goal Chart stores the values that you enter using the Google Gadget API for your Personalized Homepage only. The data isn’t shared with me or anyone else. (Besides Google, who is storing your Personalized Homepage.)]

Meet the Robinsons

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Sydney, Adelaide, and I went to “Meet the Robinsons” Sunday. This was the first time I took both girls by myself to a movie. Sydney was very excited to see the movie. I got us a medium popcorn, buttered, and a medium Pepsi. We found our seats in the second row. Sydney sat with the popcorn, sitting next to her in her seat to her left, and the soda in the cup holder in her right arm rest. I sat in the seat to the left of Sydney and held Adelaide in my lap.

The movie started with the Disney short “Boat Builders“. Adelaide was good throughout the short. She sat right up and watched Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. She ate popcorn, one piece at a time. When “Meet the Robinsons” started, Sydney was transfixed to the screen. During the whole movie she kept her eyes on the screen, but still had time to eat popcorn and sip soda.

About half way through, Adelaide started getting fussy. I strategically chose the 12:20pm movie, because I figured that this was during the Adelaide’s normal nap time and I hoped that she would fall asleep. After settling her down with a sippy cup of juice, she fell right to sleep in my arms. She didn’t stir for the rest of the movie.

I enjoyed the movie very much. I hadn’t gone in to the movie expecting much. I thought that the story would be rather thin and uninteresting. But I found the story to be very engaging. I may be a bit simple minded, but I usually try to just let the story take me where it wants to, so I enjoyed the layers of the plot as they were revealed. Since it is a “time travel” movie, there were some expected plot twists, but I liked how they were handled. It may have helped, too, the show was about family and I have my two daughters with me, one eating popcorn and soda glued to the screen, and the other one asleep in my arms. 🙂

I didn’t go to the 3D screening. Sydney was scared in the 3D shows at Disney World when we went there in January of this year, and with a one year old, I thought that 2D version would go over better. Still, I thought that the animation was very good. It was a CGI movie, but I thought that the modeling was good. Like I said, I hadn’t expected much going in, as this was a Disney animation. Disney animations haven’t been very good lately; not like the renaissance during “Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast”. But I was impressed. I think that it was a very good movie for the girls and I to see together.