Still Not Playing With a Full Deck of Cards

I got my new company photo ID today. That’s in addition to the photo ID card for the office where I work, a second card that unlocks the door so I can get into the office, and a third one that lets me into the parking garage. In addition to these four cards, which I have to take to work every day (just in case someone checks), I also have a security device (I refer to it as my secret decoder ring) for logging on to the company network. Plus I have six userids and associated passwords that I use on a daily basis. In short, I’m fairly well identified.
Photo IDs have long held a special place in nearly everyone’s list of most despised personal possessions. Mom used to have a driver’s license photo with her hair swept up in the front with the result that we all agreed it looked like she’d arrived at the DMV on a motorcycle.
I have a terrible track record with photos and this one was no exception – it looks like I’m less than 15 seconds from falling asleep.
So in other words, it looks just like me.

Multi-functional Office Equipment

In the process of signing up for the 401(k) and getting set up for direct deposit of my paycheck, a few things have come up lately where the folks at headquarters want me to fax them various bits of paperwork. This seems to be a fairly common practice and is no big deal except that I don’t have access to a fax machine.
My solution is that if something needs to be signed, I print it out, sign it, scan it back into the computer, and then email it to whomever asked for it. If they need a paper copy, they can print it out at their end. This is roughly the same process a fax goes through, except that there’s no telephone call involved and my confidential information doesn’t sit on a shared fax machine for several hours waiting for someone to come pick it up. So far the folks at headquarters don’t seem to have any objections either.
I used to have access to a fax machine, but it was recently replaced with a sofa and several chairs. They all seem comfortable enough, but so far nobody’s announced a training schedule for how to use the sofa to transmit documents

AFI Top 100 U.S. Films

I don’t often play along with the memes (If everyone’s posting the same stuff, how can it be interesting?) but just this once, why not? (This is clearly DDMD’s fault.)
I’m somewhat surprised at how many of these I’ve seen. Friends may be surprised at how many of the ones I’ve seen are not Science Fiction.
The idea is to bold the ones you’ve seen. I think I have some ideas for more movies to watch. πŸ™‚
1. “Citizen Kane,” 1941.
2. “The Godfather,” 1972.
3. “Casablanca,” 1942.
4. “Raging Bull,” 1980.
5. “Singin’ in the Rain,” 1952.
6. “Gone With the Wind,” 1939.
7. “Lawrence of Arabia,” 1962.
8. “Schindler’s List,” 1993.
9. “Vertigo,” 1958.
10. “The Wizard of Oz,” 1939.
11. “City Lights,” 1931.
12. “The Searchers,” 1956.
13. “Star Wars,” 1977.
14. “Psycho,” 1960.
15. “2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1968.
16. “Sunset Blvd.”, 1950.
17. “The Graduate,” 1967.
18. “The General,” 1927.
19. “On the Waterfront,” 1954.
20. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 1946.
21. “Chinatown,” 1974.
22. “Some Like It Hot,” 1959.
23. “The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940.
24. “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” 1982.
25. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” 1962.
26. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” 1939.
27. “High Noon,” 1952.
28. “All About Eve,” 1950.
29. “Double Indemnity,” 1944.
30. “Apocalypse Now,” 1979.
31. “The Maltese Falcon,” 1941.
32. “The Godfather Part II,” 1974.
33. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” 1975.
34. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” 1937.
35. “Annie Hall,” 1977.
36. “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” 1957.
37. “The Best Years of Our Lives,” 1946.
38. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” 1948.
39. “Dr. Strangelove,” 1964.
40. “The Sound of Music,” 1965.
41. “King Kong,” 1933.
42. “Bonnie and Clyde,” 1967.
43. “Midnight Cowboy,” 1969.
44. “The Philadelphia Story,” 1940.
45. “Shane,” 1953.
46. “It Happened One Night,” 1934.
47. “A Streetcar Named Desire,” 1951. (I turned it off halfway through – it was boring – but I’m counting it anyhow.)
48. “Rear Window,” 1954.
49. “Intolerance,” 1916.
50. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” 2001.
51. “West Side Story,” 1961.
52. “Taxi Driver,” 1976.
53. “The Deer Hunter,” 1978.
54. “M-A-S-H,” 1970.
55. “North by Northwest,” 1959.
56. “Jaws,” 1975.
57. “Rocky,” 1976.
58. “The Gold Rush,” 1925.
59. “Nashville,” 1975.
60. “Duck Soup,” 1933.
61. “Sullivan’s Travels,” 1941.
62. “American Graffiti,” 1973.
63. “Cabaret,” 1972.
64. “Network,” 1976.
65. “The African Queen,” 1951.
66. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1981.
67. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, 1966.
68. “Unforgiven,” 1992.
69. “Tootsie,” 1982.
70. “A Clockwork Orange,” 1971.
71. “Saving Private Ryan,” 1998.
72. “The Shawshank Redemption,” 1994.
73. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969.
74. “The Silence of the Lambs,” 1991.
75. “In the Heat of the Night,” 1967.
76. “Forrest Gump,” 1994.
77. “All the President’s Men,” 1976.
78. “Modern Times,” 1936.
79. “The Wild Bunch,” 1969.
80. “The Apartment, 1960.
81. “Spartacus,” 1960.
82. “Sunrise,” 1927.
83. “Titanic,” 1997.
84. “Easy Rider,” 1969.
85. “A Night at the Opera,” 1935.
86. “Platoon,” 1986.
87. “12 Angry Men,” 1957.
88. “Bringing Up Baby,” 1938.
89. “The Sixth Sense,” 1999.
90. “Swing Time,” 1936.
91. “Sophie’s Choice,” 1982.
92. “Goodfellas,” 1990.
93. “The French Connection,” 1971.
94. “Pulp Fiction,” 1994.
95. “The Last Picture Show,” 1971.
96. “Do the Right Thing,” 1989.
97. “Blade Runner,” 1982.
98. “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” 1942.
99. “Toy Story,” 1995.
100. “Ben-Hur,” 1959.

Regarding Harry Potter

I’ve been hearing whispers for months about how a hacker had supposedly managed to steal an electronic copy of the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not watching much TV these days, I wasn’t aware of it, but according to Gavroche, the theft is now being reported in the mainstream news.
A lot of people have been trying to figure out what’s going to happen in this story. Does Harry defeat Voldemort? What role does Neville play in this? Is Dumbledore really dead? Do Ron and Hermione stop fighting and fall in love? I suppose this theft, if it really did happen, could be someone’s way of finding out the answers to those questions.
Just to settle the debate once and for all, here are the book’s highlights:
The climatic scenes take place in Voldemort’s lair, a castle which magically floats above the clouds. (The reason nobody has been able to locate his hideout is because England has a lot of clouds.)
The big surprise in this book comes after Harry challenges Voldemort to a wizards duel. The fight doesn’t go well for Harry and he crawls out on a ledge to get away from Voldemort. He’s already lost his hand at this point and then Voldemort drops the big bomb, “Harry, I am your father.”
Harry screams “Noooooo” and leaps into the void. He manages to catch himself on a branch sticking out from the bottom of the castle and hangs on until Hermione brings the Millennium Falcon to rescue him.
And that’s where the book ends. After that, there’s a brief paragraph from J.K. Rowling in which she explains that there was so much more to write that she needs to keep the Harry Potter franchise alive for at least one more book. She also announces her plans to write a series of Harry Potter prequels. These stories will chronicle the original rise of Tom Riddle in far more detail than in The Half-Blood Prince and will follow James and Lily Potters’ time at Hogwarts.

A Sudden Intake of Breath

I was part of the Shore Leave contingent that attended Balticon over Memorial Day weekend. We weren’t expecting to sell many memberships – Balticon has more of a literary tilt versus Shore Leave’s leaning toward TV and Movies – but there is some crossover between the two sets of attendees plus the opportunity for networking.
Melissa brought along some old program books and other materials so people could get an idea of what the convention was like. She also brought some T-shirts from previous years as giveaways to anyone who registered that weekend.
By noon on Saturday although we hadn’t sold any memberships, we did talk to a number of people, at least a few of whom were considering attending. Somewhere along the line I borrowed an idea from a friend and started offering a free convention membership to anyone who would buy a T-shirt for $60. Nobody took me up on it, but it was a great ice-breaker and allowed me to get a little way out of my shell.
In the early afternoon, a small group was walking past our table when one of the guys stopped and pointed out to one of the girls that Dean Haglund (evidently one of her favorites) would be at Shore Leave. That definitely got her interest, but then she noticed who else was on the list.
“OMIGOD! They have Claudia Christian!”
Heads were already turning when I jumped to my feet and cried, “That’s the reaction we’re looking for!”
It turned out Michelle had never been to Shore Leave before, so we quickly explained what the event was like and that it would be in the same hotel during the second weekend in July. In the end, she declared that she wanted to attend but had to wait until payday before registering.
In the meantime, she’d been eyeing the stack of old T-shirts and asked if she could have one of the shirts from a few years earlier when Bruce Boxleitner had been a guest. Without meaning to, she’d done a great job of drawing attention to our table; we couldn’t have planned anything better. Melissa and I quickly agreed that this was a no-brainer and helped her find one in her size.
As I handed her the shirt, I laughed and said, “Now you know, there’s a condition to this. You have to come back every hour and have that same reaction to our poster.”
An hour later, she came by and did it again!

Getting Hitched

We had a meeting at work last week about a requirement for being able to support our enterprise applications during an off-hours emergency. It’s rare for there to be any problems, but it is better to be prepared ahead of time rather than panicking when something inevitably does go wrong.
Part of the solution was for everyone to provide supply both a home phone number and a mobile number. That’s a problem for me. It’s been almost 18 months since I got rid of my conventional phone line and went to a cell-phone as my only home phone.
Several other people have the same problem and asked what we should do for a second number. The answer came back that we should list our wife or girlfriend’s number.
Having neither wife nor girlfriend*, I still don’t have a second phone number.
The Mad Russian was out of the office that day, so I told her about the meeting the next day, finishing with: “So you and I have to get married.”
She laughed and asked, “OK, but who’s going to tell my husband?”
She’s quite happy with her current phone number. πŸ™‚

*I am accepting applicants!

Visiting the Great Outdoors

Wylie doesn’t get to spend much time outside. He was a stray at the age of six months which is how my brother happened to find him at the pound and that pattern continued over the eight years that Wylie lived with Steve. Pretty much anytime he was left in the backyard, Wylie would take off in a flash, almost as though in his world, fences were a figment of someone else’s imagination. Sometimes he’d be gone for days at a time; on one adventure he was gone for two weeks and just as Steve and his wife were about to give up hope, Wylie approached a police officer and “turned himself in.”
Several months after Wylie joined me in Maryland, I stepped outside to talk to a contractor. We stepped around to the side of the house and a few moments later, Wylie pushed the screen door open and bounded past us with a huge smile on his face. (Dogs may not be able to smile, but Wylie managed it anyhow.) Since then, I’ve been afraid he’d run off and get hurt, and have tried not to let him go anywhere near the door without a leash on.
The problem is, even though I’m doing this for his own good, and I’m pretty sure ol’ Wylie knows I care, I still end up feeling badly that he doesn’t get to spend a lot of out time outside doing all the usual “dog things.” No rolling around in the grass, no chasing the squirrels (and the squirrels around my house are getting cocky, they need some chasing), and no digging up the garden. (OK, I’d probably be annoyed if he dug up the garden, but I’m sure he’d like to try it anyhow.)
That’s not to say that Wylie doesn’t get to go outside, I usually take him out when I’m doing yard work (except for mowing the grass, I don’t want him sniffing the mower). But when I’m doing yard work, he’s still on a leash. Oh sure, it’s long enough that he can go and lay down in the garden (he seems to prefer that to lying under the tree), but he can’t wander around at will and do anywhere near as much sniffing as he’d like.
So this evening we tried an experiment.
From time to time over the past year, when Wylie and I were coming in from the backyard and he was walking along next to me, I’ve taken the leash off for the last 10 to 20 feet. He tends to stay close to me and by the time I’m heading in, he’s ready to go in too. So far, it hasn’t been a problem.
So tonight we went out to the backyard without a leash. Wylie immediately headed out into the yard, but when I called for him, he trotted back right away and sat next to me while I made a phone call and checked my email (hooray for wireless technology).
After about 10 or 15 minutes I got up and closed both gates on the theory that if Wylie did decide to bolt, perhaps I could grab him before he got under the fence. Wylie spent some time wandering around the yard, sniffing some of the bushes and just generally exploring, as dogs like to do.
After perhaps half an hour in the yard, I decided to head in. I whistled twice for Wylie and he followed me back inside. He never even thought about wandering off.
I think we might do this again soon.

A Browncoat is Born

Back in August I gave my brother a copy of the Firefly box set. He’d heard of the show, but having no great interest in it, promptly put the discs to one side with plans to watch them “someday.”
“Someday” arrived last weekend.
During a phone conversation on Saturday, Dave told me he and his wife had watched the first several episodes. After some thought he agreed that it made sense for a frontier planet to have horses instead of cars (after all, building new horses doesn’t require as much of a manufacturing base) but overall he was skeptical of the whole “spaghetti western” motif.
By Wednesday they had watched the first three discs and found themselves in agreement with those who feel that the Fox network executives who canceled the show deserve to be consigned to “the special hell.” (The one normally reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater.)
I got another email from him this evening. His daughters aren’t old enough to watch the show, but he’s taught them to sing “The Hero of Canton.”