Friday, August 09, 2013

The Kennedy Space Center Revisited

  I love the Kennedy Space Center. Pretty much everyone that knows me knows this. I've been there numerous times, and even got to go on some special behind-the-scenes tours thanks to the magnanimity of the mighty Unkk, but I haven't been back there since the baby was born due to, well, taking care of the baby. In the interim the shuttle program shut down, and Unkk was forced to seek employment elesewhere, and I feared that the KSC would be a pale shadow of its former self.

   I was wrong.

   Since last I was in Titusville the orbiter Atlantis was put on display there. My dear friend Ted went there recently and posted pictures of the shuttle that piqued my interest, and so I decided to take this last week before work begins anew and went to, as I thought it would be, pay my respects to the dearly departed...or in this case the dearly decommissioned.

   I left early Thursday morning and managed to avoid the worst of the morning rush hour, arriving at the KSC a little after 10am. As I was driving across the causeway toward the visitors center I could see the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) in the distance, and I grew wistful. Unkk had given me the gift of a lifetime not too long ago and took me into that Mecca of technology back when very few members of the public were allowed within. Now that the shuttle program was scuttled I assumed the building was being turned into a vast museum. That didn't stop me from paying to go inside again, but it didn't have that same spice once it became something anyone with an extra $25 could do. But more on that later.

   As I entered the center I got my first unpleasant shock of the day. I had already paid double what tickets cost on my previous visits for admission, but parking had always been free...but no longer. $10 to park seemed a bit steep, but what are you going to do? I parked, slathered myself with sunscreen, and sallied forth.

The first different thing I saw, though I did see this from the road as well, was a shuttle external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters towering, sans orbiter, over the park. I correctly guessed this to be the entrance to the Atlantis display. Then I got to the actual entrance which has had a complete revamp, and a gorgeous one at that:

   The new entrance deposits you in the Rocket Garden,

and I wandered there a bit til it was time to catch the bus to the VAB. The guide was personable, and amusing, and rattled off stats that I almost knew by heart about the wildlife around the Space Center and various other bits of trivia. We drove along a road I'd never been on before, and saw some of the unmanned launchpads, including this:
   That, ladies and gentlemen, is Space X's facility. If you don't know, Space X is the leading civilian contractor involved in spaceflight. They've sent two successful unmanned cargo missions to the ISS, and hope to have man-rated ships before too much longer.

   We then drove to the VAB, passing the place where Unkk brought us in 2008 to see Discovery launch.

   Here is an aerial view of the VAB, since I didn't think to take any still shots of the exterior:
   It's the building where all the Apollo rockets were assembled, and all the shuttles were mated to their rockets and fuel tanks. I've seen the outside of it since I was 5, and going inside once was the dream of a lifetime. Going inside again was just unbelievable.

   I won't bore you with a bunch of stats, but if you remember how tall a Saturn V rocket is, the doors to this place are six feet taller. Anyway, as I was ignoring the tour guide in my orgy of photography, I took this picture:

   And as I did so I realized it reminded me of a similar shot I took in Westminster Abbey of a stained glass window, and then it hit me. The emotions I was feeling must be similar to what a devout person feels when visiting a grand cathedral or other such place of significance to them. Science, especially the Space Program, is sort of my religion. It fills me with awe, and wonder, and brings me joy when I can share it with others. Kinda cool, no?  I was also assured by several of the KSC people that the VAB was not being mothballed, and that as the new Space Launch System/Orion project ramped up the VAB would become off-limits to the public again, perhaps as soon as a few weeks from now! (though I don't really believe it's quite that imminent)

   Eventually we moved along. We drove past the remains of launch pad 39A, which has been relatively untouched since Atlantis blasted off from there for the last time in July of 2011:
   I couldn't help but remember the last time I was on that road, in Unkk's car, Atlantis was standing on that pad waiting to take her final journey into space. Now all is silence, and corroding metal. I asked why the pad was left more or less as it was right after the launch and the answer was no funding to tear it down. The tour guides are glad of that, but also said, with no small amount of disdain, that they're sure it will be leased to some company or other eventually, then the last of the shuttle launch equipment there will be swept away. It was a bittersweet part of the tour, and I was actually glad to get away from there.

   The tour debauched at the Saturn V display building, another area I've chronicled extensively here before, but I do want to share this
   So after lunching 'neath the 'most complex machine ever built' I took the bus back to the visitors center, and my main reason for the visit...Atlantis. As I approached the giant display of fuel tank and SRBs, I was gripped with both excitement and sadness. This was, after all, going to be like going to the grave of an old friend, right? I mean the tombstone imagery is kind of unavoidable:

   But into the building I went. You walk up and in circles til finally you reach a line. Seriously? We have to line up to go into the room with the shuttle? But I chilled, and waited, and looked out the window:
  Then, finally, we were ushered into a room where we watched a short film that, though very cheesily written, depicted the genesis of the shuttle program. The the doors beneath the screens opened, and we were funneled into a smaller, cone shaped room with a smaller, roundish projection screen directly ahead. It was pretty obvious that this screen was the entrance to the actual exhibit, but the launch videos were pretty amazing, and the music appropriately bombastic and inspiring. Then I saw an inner door behind the projection scrim rise up, though the projected star field kept what was beyond obscured. Then, with a final musical flourish, the scrim rose, and we beheld Atlantis!
   Now I will tell you straight up that these pictures do not do this display even the slightest amount of justice. Instead of a dour, dead, static display of a now-defunct spacecraft, this building, which explains the higher ticket and parking prices, spares no expense in celebrating the Atlantis, and the entire shuttle program. I was actually moved to tears at points, and I look forward to the day when I can bring my baby girl here and share this wonderful place with her. But enough blabber, let me post a few thousand words:

   In addition to the Atlantis herself there are numerous interactive displays, mock-ups that you can sit in, games, an "International Space Station" for kids to climb through (including the above-pictured part that's a clear plastic tube 30' off the deck for the truly brave kids to traverse), a giant slide that replicates the angle of the shuttle's landing glide path, and, of course, the Shuttle Launch Simulator, which is one of my all time favorite motion simulator rides. There is a beautiful memorial to the crews of Challenger and Columbia, and the ubiquitous gift shop.

   I find it hard to describe how moving this display is. I've seen spacecraft up close and personal before. Apollo stuff is all over the KSC, and it's never made me this emotional. I think it's because Apollo, and Skylab, while events I dimly remember watching, are artifacts of a time before mine. I watched as the shuttle program was born, I've seen launches with my own eyes. I've cried along with the country when the crews of Challenger and Columbia never came home. Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour, and Enterprise are not just names in a book to me, and to be almost close enough to touch one of them was a profoundly affecting moment. So rather than feeling like I was visiting the grave of a dead celebrity, I felt like I was finally meeting an old friend. If you ever get a chance to see one of the orbiters on display, I strongly urge you to do so. And if you find yourself heading for the Kennedy Space Center, give me a call. I'm always up for an excuse to go there.

To infinity, and beyond, y'all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Searched Soul

Recently there was a high-profile news story about the murder of a 17-year-old boy here in Florida. It seemed to me to be an open-and-shut case and when the trial began I didn't pay it much attention since I was putting up a show and didn't really have time to follow the news closely. When the not guilty verdict was announced I was outraged, and vented much anger on Facebook and twitter. I labeled it a miscarriage of justice, and defied anyone to disagree with me. As time went on, and people I respect told me things about the trial that I did not know, I began to see that while I still felt that the situation was the defendant's fault, the jury had no choice but to acquit him. This kind of short circuited my brain. I tried to equivocate a bit on Facebook, but that quickly brought hints of ire from those who championed the cause of equality and justice, as I had, and still do. This sent me further into a mental conflict between beliefs, guilt, and the desire to assess facts rather than opinions. Eventually I locked up, and withdrew. I couldn't continue on my course of decrying the verdict, but I couldn't announce that I had changed my mind without seeming to betray the cause I so deeply believe in. I groused about trivialities, bitched about royal babies, and generally became a curmudgeon for a couple of days. Then, yesterday, I took the day off.

  It may not seem like that radical a thing, but I don't get many actual days off. Sure, there are usually at least two days a week when I don't go to work, but since my wife's schedule is so weird (she works 4am-12:30pm) even on my days off I get the lion's share of the baby handling. And no, I'm not grumping about the baby, it's just that caring for a two-year-old is not the most relaxing thing. So yesterday, after dropping the baby off at day care, to took a true day off. I did a little bit of housework, mostly dishes and laundry that desperately needed doing, but I also watched grown-up shows on the TV (a delicious luxury) played on the PS2 (don't judge me and my ancient console ways) drank a couple of beers in the late morning (oh, such hedonism) and essentially did nothing I didn't want to until it was time to pick up the baby in the early evening. I didn't realize how much I needed such a day, or how energizing just chilling out can be. Today will be more of the same, with a bit more housework thrown in, before I must needs go back to work tomorrow to fix a few things and clean the shop in preparation for next week's strike.

So why am I telling y'all this? I'm glad you asked. One of the most important realizations I came to yesterday was that if I try to shape my opinions and beliefs based on the way people will react to them, I'm going to drive myself insane. I believe in equality for all, be they black, Asian, Hispanic, White, Gay, Straight, Bi, Transgendered, Intersexed, Nongendered, tetrapod, amputee, handicapped or handicapable, or whatever the pc term for whomever you are happens to be. I don't care what you do in your own home, so long as no one is hurt against their will. I don't care who you love, or if you love. I don't care who or what you worship, or don't, so long as you don't inflict your views on others who don't wish it. I don't care what your political affiliations are, until those affiliations negatively affect others. I will defend the weak, the impoverished, the marginalized, the trivialized, the abused, the ignored, the forgotten, and the damaged. I will rail against the powerful when they tread on the powerless, and I will accept your criticism when it is constructive, and valid. One thing I will not do anymore, however, is allow myself to become rigid in my beliefs and opinions out of fear of upsetting someone else. For example the fact that I've come to accept the Zimmerman verdict does not change my stance on racism or inequality in the slightest. Nor does it reflect approval of the verdict. It merely means that given our legal system as it is, the jury had no choice but to acquit. I still don't like it. I still think race played a major role in the events of that evening, and I will still do my best to stamp out racism whenever and wherever I can.

Here are a few other things I believe:
Government is necessary, but our government is very broken.

Government regulation of business is, to a certain extent, necessary to prevent the abuses of workers that were rampant in ages past. This system, too, is horribly broken.

Governments, both federal and state, have no business being involved in medical decisions, nor do they have any right to legislate morality. What goes on behind closed doors, so long as no one is being victimized, is not the business of anyone but the participants.

Our military, while necessary, is way too big, too expensive, and too bloated. We need to reduce our presence in the Middle East, and stop trying to inflict our ways and values on people who don't want them.

Politicians, aside from Elizabeth Warren, suck.

Most conspiracy theories presuppose a level of competence from the government that just isn't there.

9/11 was not an inside job.

While it is possible that there is a large, heretofore undocumented simian species inhabiting the deep woods of the United States, the continued lack of hard evidence leads me to believe that there is no Bigfoot.

Or Loch Ness Monster, for that matter.

And on the whole, the Western world has its priorities so screwed up that we care more about Twinkies going out of production than we do housing, feeding, and educating those who have nothing.

I could go on with more things, but I think I've made my point. Please feel free to agree or disagree with me. I may not always agree with what you say, but I will defend unto my last breath your right to say it, and I will always do my best to consider any informed opinion, especially when it differs from my own.

Hey, it's almost 10am. Beer time!!!! ;-)


Actually I just want more coffee.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel

It may seem odd to you, gentle reader, but I have never been a comic book fan. That being said, the only comics I ever owned were Superman comics. I've loved Superman as long as I can remember. I read the few comics I had over and over, watched George Reeves on TV, and spent most of my Saturday mornings glued to the TV. In fact if you ask me what the Superman theme music is, there's a 50/50 chance you'll hear me hum this tune:

What I loved about the old cartoons was there was none of this 'violence must never solve the problem' bullshit. If something, or someone was messing with Supes, they got a face full of invincible knuckles. Now that's not to say that I only dug that aspect of Superman. When Superman: The Movie came out in '78 I was so blown away by the charisma of Christopher Reeve, and the amazing (for the time) special effects that I did believe a man could fly, and there was relatively little in the way of fisticuffs by the Man of Steel in that film. I even enjoyed Reeve's second and third outings (yes, I enjoyed Superman 3, Richard Pryor and all). But then Superman 4 was a real let down and they stopped making Superman movies.

   When Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered in '93 I watched, and I enjoyed, but it wasn't really what I wanted in a Superman series. Why I never watched any of the 'new' animated series I'm not sure. Maybe I just didn't know they were there. Oh, and I almost forgot The Superfriends. Well, maybe that should remain forgotten.

   Anyway, moving right along, 2006 brought the promise of a renewal of the Superman movies, but all it delivered was a wiry, emo Superman in low-rise stripper panties and yet another ludicrous Lex Luthor real estate caper. I gave up on ever seeing a decent Superman movie.

   Then, a couple of years ago, the buzz began that Zack Snyder was teaming up with Christopher Nolan to bring Supes back to the big screen. I held my breath. The production stills looked good. Henry Cavil looked buff and had muscles on his muscles, and I dared to hope. Well, today I saw Man of Steel, and I was not disappointed.

     ::::There be spoilers from here on:::::

   I went into the cinema with very mixed emotions. I wanted this movie to not suck, but I fully expected it to, and I was very relieved that it didn't. It rewrites the destruction of Krypton just a bit, so that the Kryptonian people themselves are responsible for the disaster that dooms their planet, but the basics are there. Jor-El, played with understated sincerity by Russel Crowe, warns the elders that the planet is about to go boom, but before they can tell Jor-El that he's full of it, General Zod, played with manic energy by Michael Shannon, stages a coup that sends Jor-El to steal an important artifact, secret it aboard Kal-El's ship, and launch the infant toward Earth. Then he dies, they die, everybody dies...well, except Zod who along with his army is banished to the Phantom Zone.

   Once on Earth we have the obligatory difficult childhood/adolescence stuff, but similar to Tim Burton's Batman we see it in flashbacks while more exciting stuff happens. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner turn in wonderful performances as Ma and Pa Kent, as do the kids who play Clark at various ages. And Cavil acquits himself admirably as the alien amongst us suddenly faced with the decision of whether or not to reveal himself to the people of Earth, or continue hiding behind a mask of normalcy. Of course he has the computer generated ghost of Jor-El guiding him at certain points, but Snyder and Nolan wisely worked things so that deus-ex-machina probably won't be around in future films.

   The other players were fine, too. I've already mentioned Zod, and Laurence Fishburne was an excellent choice for Perry White. No Jimmy Olson in this one, which is another mark in its favor in my book. The only real disappointment, and I think it was more in the writing than the performance, was Amy Adams as Lois Lane. I just didn't feel any force of personality from her. Yes she has lines that clearly show how she goes where she wants regardless of whether she was given permission or not, but maybe I'm just spoiled by Margot Kidder. She may make Sean Young look positively centered, but there's no denying that she made Lois Lane into far more than just a handy hostage or damsel in distress. Adams isn't bad as Lane, she just doesn't stand out that much.

   As for the story, all you really need to know is that Zod eventually finds his way to Earth, and the ensuing smack-down leaves Metropolis in ruins. I will say that the final battle between Superman and Zod gets a bit tedious, and they could have very easily taken five or more minutes out of it, but the effects are top-notch and breath-taking. You will have no doubt what a bunch of supermen and women trying to kill the crap out of each other will do to a city, and the ending is surprising. I won't spoil that, but I will say I'm very impressed that they went there, and with appropriate repercussions.

   The movie does suffer from being an origin story, so it seems to drag a bit at times, but overall it is a fast-paced thrill ride of a film that had yours truly totally enthralled. One warning, it is loud. I mean really loud. If you plan to take little ones to this, and they are sensitive to loud noises, do yourselves a favor and bring some earplugs. It is also long, two and a half hours, but it fills those hours well. I will warn you if you are expecting a fluffy, Christopher Reeve smirking and Gene Hackman hamming it up kind of movie you might not like Man of Steel. But if a more believable depiction of what a being like Kal-El might face in our current world appeals to you, not to mention city destroying Kryptonian vs Kryptonian action is what you want, then this is the Superman movie for you. I can't wait for the next one.

Up! Up! And Awaaaaaay!!!
(yeah, I'm glad he doesn't say that anymore, either)


Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Admiral, there be spoilers here! But I'll put them in the third paragraph, so if you haven't seen STID yet, go see it. (except you, Ro Karen. You get a pass)  So this may come as something of a surprise to some of you. In fact it was a surprise to me, but I really enjoyed this movie. As my wife and I entered the cinema I was already composing my scathing tweets and reviews, for I was fully prepared for JJ Abrams to shit all over Trek in all kinds of new ways. But as the film progressed I found myself saying, 'OK, so far so good.' over and over again, until finally I just gave in and enjoyed the ride.

I'm not going to summarize the plot here, but suffice to say that this is a thrill-ride of a movie that never really slows down long enough for you to catch your breath, run to the bathroom, or ponder the plot too much. Say what you will about Abrams, and lord knows I have, he is really good at action flicks. As in 2009, most of the performances are spot-on, and while there are a few head-scratching moments, there is nothing as egregiously stupid as red matter or a supernova that threatens the entire galaxy. I'm kind of sad that I dislike the look of the 'new' Enterprise because there are some truly stunning shots involving the ship, but I just can't get over the ugliness of it.

Now don't let it be said that I thought it was all tribbles and tranya, and here come the spoilers. First of all I am really pissed that despite all the flat out denials from the Abrams camp, Benedict Cumberbatch does eventually fess up to being Kahn. But, to be honest, it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would.  But what did piss me off was we see the origins of Section 31, which is the Starfleet black-ops outfit that infuriated me so much in DS9. I also have to admit that I wasn't that taken with Cumberbatch's performance. Maybe I was expecting too much, but he was very monotone. What you hear in the trailers is pretty much how he talks through the entire film, almost like he's trying to do his best Alan Rickman impression, but not quite getting it right. And Scotty was a little bit too much the comic relief this time, but only just a little.

So this is not the Star Trek we all grew up with, but we knew it wouldn't be. Making a multi-million dollar movie leaves very little room for risk taking, so this is all flash and dash, with very little needed in the way of cognition. I don't imagine we'll see thought provoking Trek until, and unless it returns to television where they'll have the luxury of interspersing action with mental stimulation. So until that day comes at least we can look forward to exciting amusement park rides, and if their popularity paves the way for a return to TV, then it will all be worth it...I hope.

Live long and prosper, y'all.


Nimoy's cameo was kinda stupid and unnecessary, but I liked it anyway.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Doctor Who?

Nerd alert, folks. If you're not into Doctor Who then might I suggest going to flurrious's blog and checking out her wonderful blend of snark, sarcasm, and despair. It truly is hilarious. However if you are no stranger to the TARDIS then come along, my friends, while I rant just a bit.

So this season has been, and I'm being generous here, lackluster.  We got a new companion in the form of the amazingly gorgeous and perky Jenna Louise Coleman, a new TARDIS control room, and a new mystery for the Doctor to solve, i.e. Coleman's Clara. And on top of all this the story lines are all converging toward the massively hyped, and impossibly expectation-heavy 50th Anniversary Special. So why, then, has this season teetered on the brink of suck since the get go? There have been a couple of decent episodes, Cold War with its Hunt For Red Octoberness, and The Crimson Horror, which felt very much like a throwback to the days of Classic Doctor Who, but this weekend's Nightmare in Silver proved that even Neil Gaiman doesn't seem to know what to do with the Doctor right now. It was ok, but just ok. I'll freely admit that I think the Cybermen are kind of silly, but that wasn't the problem with the episode. So what was/is the problem? I'll tell you what I think, and it pains me to say it.

Jenna Louise Coleman and Matt Smith have zero chemistry together. I don't know if it's a matter of the writers trying to create an Amy Pond type relationship within 6 episodes, or the actors just don't click, but I don't believe that the Doctor really cares about Clara as anything other than an intriguing anomaly, and I really don't buy her level of devotion this soon. Not to mention how totally nonplussed she is at all of their adventures at the stage where previous companions have still been freaking out. Maybe the reasons for that are going to be part of some big reveal later, but right now it just seems like lazy writing to me. Karen Gillan leaves the show, we get a new companion, and she acts very much like Amy Pond. The relationship between the Doctor and the companion usually takes much longer to develop, and I'm just not buying it this time.

I'm still enjoying the show, though I must admit I really don't care what the Doctor's name is, but I sincerely hope that after the season finale next week the writers take a good, hard look at what they're doing, and bring their A game back, otherwise we may very well be witnessing the beginning of the end...again.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wherein I Once Again Use the First Line From a Book I've Never Read

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is 50% of my knowledge of A Tale of Two Cities, and if it weren't for Star Trek and Jeopardy I wouldn't even know that much. But, be that as it may, it is very apropos to yesterday.  As you know I have dear friends by the names of A and B whom I've known since I was but a wee pup.  We haven't seen them, or their younglings G and D, since before Sharon was born.  They live a couple of hours away, which is just far enough to make it more than just a spur of the moment visit, and going for longish drives with the baby has proven to be less than joyous. There have been several aborted attempts to get together, but it just hasn't worked out, until yesterday.  Sharon has finally gotten big enough to use her front-facing car seat, and I thought I'd give it a try. This was also a good chance to see if driving to West Palm Beach, just she and I, would be feasible this summer. So phone calls were made, plans set, and after an hour's delay due to children being slower than the time flow at the event horizon of a black hole (that was this year's winner in the "most obscure simile' contest at Cannes) I finally got Sharon, the CoA, and myself under way.

The drive down wasn't too bad. The portable DVD player and numerous munchies kept the baby occupied, and the CoA's attitude was remarkably pleasant.  We arrived at A's place a bit later than planned, and a fun reunion was had and some of the best steaks I've ever had were eaten. (even Sharon ate some, which is a first)  Everyone adored Sharon, and she was working the room like a seasoned Vegas lounge lizard.

 Well, I say everyone, but there was one being who was less than thrilled with the little pink poop monster's presence. They have a gorgeous dog named BigB (sorry, I'm not sure of the spelling) who is 1/4 wolf. He looks ferocious as all get out:
But he's a big snuggle-bug once he gets to know you. He didn't know what to make of Sharon, though, so he kept his distance. Sharon, on the other hand, is the Baby Who Knows No Fear ™ and kept going after the poor dog with an adorable 'Hi!'. Fortunately he would just move away until we could catch her, but I'll have to keep my eye on her around larger critters until she develops some self-preservation powers.

Not too long after we got there she ran out of steam and crashed:
While she slept they showed me an episode of Community, which is a show I must now watch all of in my copious spare time. We tried to watch another but Sharon woke up and was all giggles and energy, so paying attention to anything else was impossible. D seemed the most taken with her and they played together for quite some time:

Sadly as the day wore on the CoA grew 'bored', the baby started rubbing her eyes, and the time to wend our way home drew nigh. Hugs were given, bags were gathered, and a bundling into the car was accomplished. Assurances were made that the interval twixt visits will be shorter this time (a promise I intend to keep) and we launched ourselves northward. The less I say about the drive home the better, but as fatigue set in, and we all grew cranky, especially the baby, the atmosphere became less than festive. I can now safely say that I won't be sallying forth on any more long trips with both kids without Mrs. Marius along, and I suspect that a 4.5 hour drive with just Sharon and me might not be the best idea, either.  So, as you see, it was the best of times going to see A and B and G and D, but the drive home was quite nearly the worst of times. Curse you, Charles Dickens, for your incredible aptness!! :-)  And our undying love and thanks to A, B, and family. We'll be seeing y'all again soon, promise.

Peace, y'all,

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Justice or Vengeance?

I've been fairly quiet about the events in Boston this week, mostly because I don't like to speculate without data, and despite round-the-clock coverage by just about every news medium known to man there has been very little actual data.  But now that the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing (just in case you don't know what I'm talking about) are accounted for I'm going to go ahead and discuss. The facts, in a nutshell, are that for reasons as yet unknown two naturalized Chechen immigrants, neither with a history of any sort of violence, suddenly decided to set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing two and maiming hundreds.  After being identified by various videos of the event they were found, fled, one was shot and killed, and the other was eventually captured alive, albeit in serious condition. The two are brothers, the dead one was 26 while the other is 19, and that is what I want to discuss.

Many people are calling for the head of the living assailant, and it is quite understandable, but I'm not so sure about that yet. One friend of mine even asked on Facebook what an appropriate sentence would be, and many respondents seem all too willing to get Medieval on him. Ordinarily, if, indeed such a word can be used here, I'd be all for getting out the rack and hot pokers too, but pending further information I'm reserving my vengeful desires. Let me explain why.

In my job I work with 18-20 year old boys every day. Notice I said boys. Physically yes, they are men, and many of them even deserve the appellation 'man', but many of them do not. The brain of a 19 year old human male is far from finished developing, and while many of them can be very, very smart when it comes to things like information storage and retrieval, they tend to be rock stupid when it comes to things like actually functioning in the real world. I don't know what the relationship was between this boy and his brother, and if it turns out that the younger one was every bit as complicit and guilty of bomb construction and trigger pulling then I'll be first in line at the hanging. But if this is a situation where the older man used the gullibility and malleability of his younger brother to twist him into someone he wasn't, then I hope those who are prosecuting the case have the compassion to at least try to rehabilitate him. Yes he must pay for the crimes he has committed, but we must determine if he is both perpetrator and victim before deciding just how he must pay. Only then will justice be served.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Face Palm

I think it was when the CoA was in second grade that she was diagnosed with ADHD.  I knew this almost from the first time I met her, but it took a while before official confirmation came along. It's important because schools need official diagnoses of mental conditions in order to make accommodations, and she needs a lot of them.  As she grew older it seemed that the ADHD was no longer the only thing going on, but we could never get her health care providers to agree on a diagnosis.  Her psychiatrists said it was only ADHD.  Her psychologists (the last one just stopped returning our calls one day) grew frustrated in trying to nail down the exact situation.  About the only thing they all agree on, including the counselors, is that she needs to be on medication.  So last summer her grandparents footed the rather large bill for an extensive neurological screening at the University of Mississippi that suggested not only ADHD but other things as well and strongly urged us to get her to a neurologist.  Last week she had her first neurologist appointment.  They want her to get an MRI, and have suggested that they strongly suspect she has Asperger Syndrome, which, again, is something I've suggested many times and had her shrinks say no.

 Today she had an appointment with her psychiatrist, and my wife told him about the neurologist's suspicions. His reply was along the lines of, "I thought you knew that already. I've been treating her for Asperger's for the past year."   GAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!  If we had that on an official document we might have been making progress at school since the accommodations for Asperger are different than those for ADHD. So now he's promised to have the appropriate paperwork ready by next week, and we'll see if the updated diagnosis does any good for this school year, but I rather doubt it since it's so late, but at least we're finally making some progress.

So how is your week going?

Marius the Incredulous

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Want My Guts Back!

Sorry for my absence, dear readers, but a particularly nasty virus has made my digestive tract its bitch for the past few days and I haven't felt much like living, let alone blogging.  But since today I finally feel like poop, instead of total shit, let's see what we can talk about.

First of all I'd like to recommend a few books to y'all.  Reading has always been something I've loved, but in recent years my reading habits have all but died. There are various reasons for this, chief of which is that I used to do the majority of my reading in bed just before going to sleep, but since my wife has to be up at 2:30am for work she goes to bed much earlier than I do, so that has ceased. And if I sit down on the couch to read, I'm usually asleep within a few sentences. But I've recently been making a concerted effort to change that. Over the Christmas break we went up to Mississippi to visit my wife's parents so I checked out John Scalzi's Red Shirts from the library. I'd heard about the book from several people, all positive, so I couldn't wait to read it.  It takes the concept that wearing a red shirt on the original Star Trek was a death sentence and runs with it. I was expecting a silly comedy, but it's actually a serious story about what happens when two universes collide. I can't go into the story too much without spoiling, but I really enjoyed it.  I also finished it during the break, so it's a quick read.

The next book I just finished last night. A while back Wil Wheaton recommended via twitter The Bloggess's blog.  Her name is Jenny Lawson and she is hilarious! Her humor is twisted, and vulgar, yet strangely innocent and sweet, and she has a real flair for injecting true pathos in amongst the stories of strange taxidermy and inappropriate CNN interviews. She released her memoir, titled Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and if you like her blog, you'll love her book. I must warn you that she does use a lot of strong language, but I think the best way to describe her style is M*A*S*H with F-bombs instead of real bombs. Lots of raucous comedy interspersed with real emotions and some sadness.

And finally there is another blog that was recommended to me by my friend Sarah called Parenting Illustrated With Crappy Pictures  which is also hilarious. The author, Amber Dusic, tells tales of her life with two young children and illustrates them with poorly drawn, yet totally endearing pictures.  She also released a book with the same title as her blog, and it's a very fun read. My only complaint is that it is rather short, but for a $10 hardcover it's really worth the money.

Confession time. I started this post at 7:00 this morning, but the baby woke up shortly after I finished the first paragraph and I'm just now getting back to it at 9:08pm.  I think I had more to say than just the books this morning, but my virus addled brain can no longer remember what it was, so I will bid you adieu for now until I either remember what I was going to say, or come up with something else entirely.

Peace, y'all!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Here is my reading of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.

Oops! Accidentally set it for private viewing. This should be better.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Dramatis Personae

Hi, Folks,
  I thought I might take a few minutes before going to rehearsal today to remind y'all, or introduce y'all to, the cast of characters that you're likely to meet here at Marius' Corner.

Marius: That's me, and my real name is Rick. Maybe someday I'll blog about the origin of my screen name, but the short story is Marius was my favorite of Anne Rice's vampires. I teach Technical Theatre at a small, private college on Florida's west coast and I've been blogging since 2005, though there have been some rather significant gaps in my output over the years. I'm also a podcaster, father, sometime anachronist, and full time geek.

Mrs. Marius: AKA The Mrs., The Wife, My Lovely wife, etc.  She's my better half, and should acquire sainthood eventually for putting up with my shit. She's a fellow nerd, though while my nerdities are more along the Science Fiction line, she's firmly in the Anime/Fantasy camp. Neither of us care for Twilight.

The CoA: This is my step-daughter, and it stands for Child o'the Apocalypse.  She is currently 15, and is forcing me to wonder how the human race survived as long as it has. She has a laundry list of mental and emotional issues that we are doing our level best to deal with, but on top of all that she is now a surly teenager who is so oppressed and misunderstood that she almost never gets to play with her DS anymore. (First World Problem doesn't even begin to cover it.) 

The Starbaby: AKA Sharon.  When my wife was pregnant my podcast listeners christened our fetus The Starbaby.  She is now 19 months old and the light of my life.

Artemis: She is our cat.  We used to have two kitties, Artemis and Starbuck, but back in June Starbuck went walkabout and never came back.  He was something of a doofus, and never exhibited any desire to go outside until Sharon starting walking. He never cared for the baby, and once she could chase him I guess he had enough.  About a month or so ago the CoA said she thought she saw Starbuck up the street. We checked it out, and there is a gang of cats two blocks away, and one of them could very well be our missing lummox, but he won't let us get close enough to tell for sure.  If it is him then he's healthy, and happy, and dragging him home (assuming we could even catch him) would just make him miserable, so we're just happy to know(well, at least we think we know) he's still alive.  Artemis, on the other hand, is needy, neurotic, and grumpy, but we love her.

There is also a plethora of friends who will pop up from time to time.  I generally don't use people's names unless they've given explicit permission, so I tend to use initials, so when I say 'I had dinner with A' that's why.

And thus we have our players. If we shadows have offended think but this and all is mended, everything herein is solely my opinion, and unless specifically stated otherwise in no way represents anyone else's.

Ok, gotta get back to work.

Later, y'all,

Saturday, April 06, 2013

The Duel by Eugene Field

I've been dabbling in poetry reading of late, and I intend to make several recordings both of poems that my mother used to read to my brother and me, like this one, and just poems that appeal for one reason or another. I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Howdy, y'all!!  I'm playing with new templates and trying to get Blogger to actually post things the way I type them instead of one huge, squished-together clump of verbiage, so please feel free to comment on the appearance, format, etc. of The Corner. 

So this week has been something of an auspicious one. Our friend Z, who has been babysitting Sharon since she was just a couple of months old, moved away so we enrolled the baby in a nearby day care place.  As I am the morning parent I feared the first day I dropped her off as I expected heart wrenching tears.  As it turned out she didn't seem in the least bit phased by my leaving her there, but that has been slowly wearing off all week, and today she just stood in the middle of the room crying 'Dada! Dada!'  I know she was most likely fine within a few minutes of my leaving, but it left me feeling a bit like a monster.  I know we'll both get over it soon, but it is a bit wrenching.

In the world of work we start tech rehearsals for our next show, Fuddy Meers, tomorrow.  The set is nearly finished, so I am anticipating a boring time of it for me, which is a good thing. 

I don't want to say that I feel guilty about not being that moved by the death of Roger Ebert, though it is sad, but I wasn't a huge fan.  I didn't dislike him or anything like that, I just didn't really pay much attention to him.  I can say that were it not for him and Gene Siskel giving Robocop two thumbs up, which if you saw the trailers at the time came as quite a surprise, I don't know if I'd have bothered with it.  So there is that.

Ok, time to make the donuts.  Later, gators.


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Killer Hardware

Well, kiddies, what shall we talk about today? I know, let's piss people off right away and talk about gun control in the US of A. Connecticut, the little state that sometimes could, just passed some of the strongest gun control laws in the country. Not surprising in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, but ultimately, in my opinion, pointless. First let's get this out of the way, I am not anti-gun. I'm anti-me-owning-a-gun only because I regularly hurt myself using my coffee maker, I don't need the added risk of removing bits of myself or my family in an unintentionally ballistic fashion, but I don't mind that other responsible people own guns. And there are some words in the US Constitution that seem to indicate that every citizen (meaning white, landed men at the time, of course) have the right to own firearms. We'll leave that whole 'well regulated militia' part alone for the time being as far more learned people than I have debated what those three words really mean for years.
 Anyway, Connecticut has passed bans on certain types of 'assault' weapons, limit clip sizes, and mandate background checks for all gun purchases. [for the sake of brevity let's just assume that there is a huge 'in my opinion' stamp over the rest of this] Background checks are a great idea. It really bugs me that I have to jump through more hoops to buy a box of cold medicine than I do to buy a shotgun. As for limiting hardware, well that's just legislative theatre designed to make it look like they're actually doing something. Sure, limiting semi-auto clips to 7 rounds seems like a logical step, but a skilled shooter can reload a 6 shot revolver in a few seconds, and changing out clips is even faster. Not to mention that someone who is looking to commit a crime with that hardware can easily get the higher capacity magazines just across the border. And the so-called assault weapons are no more or less dangerous than their less scary looking counterparts. This is the beginning of Connecticut's assault weapon definition: Any selective-fire firearm capable of fully automatic, semiautomatic or burst fire at the option of the user... Well, for starters, any weapon that can go full-auto (i.e. a machine gun) is already illegal for civilian use, the rest is just set dressing. I think that the way to curtail gun violence in the US is not to pass band-aid laws that only look like they're doing anything. The way to accomplish anything meaningful is to increase the penalties for misuse of firearms. When drunk driving penalties became much stricter in the 80s drunk driving plummeted, and no one had to ban booze. Start enforcing existing laws, take the guns away from repeat offenders, require training classes for anyone purchasing a firearm, and close the gun show loopholes that allow people to purchase guns without any sort of checks at gun shows. The genie is out of the bottle in this country, folks, and the guns aren't going away, but that lovely Second Amendment everyone likes to point to when ever this issue arises includes the words 'well regulated militia'. I've been told that that means that every citizen is a member of that militia, so let's regulate them well. Training, education, and accountability are the way out of this mess we have in this country, not more restrictions that will be ignored and difficult, if not impossible to enforce.

Existential Blues

Hello? Hellllllooooooooo!!!! Is anyone still out there? Wow, it's dusty in here. Lots of cobwebs and empty Doritos bags. I guess I'll need to do some cleaning up around the ole Corner. When the Hell did I get a cable spool coffee table? I hate those things. Must be squatters, or worse. Could be a bunch of meddling kids! Anyway, HI FOLKS!! It's your old pal Marius fresh from a muchly needed emotional slap in the face. I just got back from a wonderful dinner with my dearest friend A who has helped me realize that I still have a lot to say. You see I stopped blogging due mainly to my posts seeming to take two distinct and, let's be honest, annoying forms: 1. Oh, God! I'm so old and miserable that y'all should come on over and throw things at the decrepit relic. or 2. I HAS A BABY!!!!! It finally got to the point that I couldn't stand to write that stuff, let alone expect anyone to read it, so I just stopped. And lately I've been feeling like the highly compacted core of a baby-induced black hole, slowly losing my identity to that of The Daddy!! Now don't get me wrong, I am so proud of Sharon that I want to crow about it every 10 seconds, but I also keep hearing, most especially tonight, that I'm not the first, nor the only person to have a baby, and while it's great that you love her and all that, STFU ABOUT THE BABY ALREADY!!! So, here I was, feeling like the brittle jerky filling in a boredom and parenting sandwich, and when I tried turning to my usual place of comfort and succor, The Internet, I found little help. Not that there aren't gobs of folks who offer, but no one was close enough to me, with similar enough experiences to really give me the understanding, and kick in the ass, that I needed. I realized I needed someone my age, and for once my gender, so I called on A. We hadn't gotten together since before the baby was born, and it was high time. So gaining my wife's blessing I went on a mini road trip and had some 'guy time'. We talked, had a beer each(as we both had to drive home), and vented at each other. And I feel better about myself than I have in quite some time. Sometimes the best show of friendship is a metaphorical slap in the face to snap one out of a funk and back into living. And this is the first installment thereof. I'm sure The Daddy will still be a regular contributor, but not as often, and, hopefully, only when there's something particularly cute or important to report, and I will do my best to keep the mopey Marius at bay as well. What I do hope to bring is opinion, outrage, silliness, and above all regularity.(no, I am not eating more bran, I mean the blog you sillies) So dust off that RSS feed, gentle readers. Marius is back, and boy does he have a lot on his mind!! Allons-y!!! Marius the Reborn