Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SYTYCD Week 9

It's time for the final four dancing a billion dances, but we won't know who wins until next week!

Top Four Dance

Notice how much partner work there was, where it was girl-girl and guy-guy? I thought that was pretty cool. Not sure if there was an agenda for that - I just liked that it was a change of pace. I always like change of pace - you all know that. (Note: apparently there was an agenda, according to Nigel. Blah.)

Gotta mention the intros - it seems like Valerie is leaning more on her contemporary style instead of tap, which she started with at the beginning. However, Zack still sticks with the tap shoes for his introduction.

Valerie and Ricky: African Jazz with Sean

Not really getting the whole "chase" sequence out of the dance. Great dancing, though! I liked the lifts by both of them at the end.

Jessica and Zack: Broadway with Spencer

Zack back with the stairs! (He had some in the first live episode.)

I love how the dancing matches the music very well. When it's dark and dramatic, they are dark and dramatic. But when the music speeds up, they start hoppin'. Nice ending, too. If I had to choose between the two routines so far, it would be this one as the winner.

Valerie and Zack: Contemporary with Tyce

Tyce is doing less Broadway and more contemporary now that they have Spencer Liff. FYI.

I do like that the routine is about someone lifting up someone else, but it's not because of a fatal illness. I'm not going to judge how well Valerie did blindness, but the routine was nicely done. Zack sure had to run around! Jesse Tyler Ferguson spoke truth that the routine did have joy in it, instead of simply pain and sorrow.

Jessica and Ricky: Jazz with Ray

You know it's jazz when the elbows are sticking out and someone's got a high ponytail.

They aren't really in sync with each other on their parallel movements. When they danced together it was nice, but it didn't do it for me. Between these two routines, I'd have to go with Valerie and Zack. Which means Zack is on a roll tonight! (I'd vote for him.)

Jessica and Valerie: Bollywood with Nakul

There really wasn't much substance to this routine. They did some steps, switched sides, and did some more steps! Meh.

Zack and Ricky: Hip Hop with Pharside and Phoenix

Looks like I'm watching a battle between kings. I was on the phone with a friend and only saw the routine, but it looked really jumpy and cool. Apparently it was the greatest thing EVER.

Valerie and AARON! Tap with Anthony

Aaron! It's been too long!!!

I will start by saying I hate Valerie's dress, and not because it clashes with her tap shoes. Aaron just wears cool better, and tap is cool.

Kathryn and Ricky: Contemporary with Stacey

I hated Valerie's dress, but I LOVE Kathryn's. It's got the crazy back scarf that doubles for a shawl at times, and then wings at the end.

Is the lighting a bit too dark? I know Ricky is supposed to be in the pits emotionally, but I could barely see him!

It's hard to go wrong when you're dancing with Kathryn, especially if you're name is Ricky. Great routine, even if I couldn't see Ricky part of the time.

Zack and AARON AGAIN!!! Tap with Anthony

Boy, I am loving this. Billy Joel - how can you go wrong! The tapping goes perfectly with the rhythms of the piano. Not only that, but Zack and Aaron are PERFECT together. They are right in time - and this is not easy tapping. Put Zack up against Valerie now in tapping, and there's no contest.

My favorite routine of the night. Nope - my favorite routine of the season!!!!! One of the few times this season where I wanted to rewind and watch the whole thing over again. Fantastic. Amazing. Crazy at the feet and smooth at the top. Flawless.

Jessica and Robert: Choreography with Travis

Whatever. I'm sure it was a good routine and all, but I just want to see Zack and Aaron tap again.


And now we have the finale! My post will be delayed because of other commitments, but we'll all have fun when we see it!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor RevWho: "Deep Breath"

Saturday night, Season 8 of Doctor Who began with a big dinosaur of a premiere. Well, it began with a dinosaur. A gigantic dinosaur tramping around the Thames and making quite a ruckus!

The series premiere was an interesting mix of presenting new information while hearkening back to some old information. Let's break it down.

Old information: The Doctor changes, but he doesn't change.

There was a lot of time spent from Clara's point of view: her Doctor was gone. In his place is an eccentric, old Doctor. But Clara was reminded from Vastra, the Twelfth Doctor, and the Eleventh Doctor (surprise!) that he is still the same man. While the Twelfth Doctor might be older and Scottish with eyebrows that want to secede from the rest of his face, he's still the Doctor: a clever man who can quickly come to the conclusion that the dinosaur was set on fire like other people in the city.

New information: The Twelfth Doctor recognizes his face.

This piece of information might have gone over the heads of new viewers, but when he looks in the mirror, the Doctor exclaims that he has seen this face before - why did he choose it? Back in series 4, the Tenth Doctor goes back to Pompeii right before Volcano Day and meets a Roman and his family...and the actor was Peter Capaldi, who is the new Doctor. Fast forward a year to Torchwood: Children of Earth, and Capaldi is back again, this time as a modern-day civil servant in London. The Doctor never saw him, but he was in the Whoniverse.

I am really excited to see how they explain this, because I heard that current executive producer Steven Moffat actually asked former executive producer Russell T. Davies if there was a reason Capaldi played both parts. RTD did have a plan, and since I have always loved the RTD-era-plots, I'm excited to see even a glimpse of the past coming back.

Old information: The Doctor needs a companion.

Clara spends a lot of the episode debating whether she will travel with this version of the Doctor again. Jenna Coleman finally convinces me in this episode that she's a great companion, because she does everything well - including that inner turmoil. The Doctor can't go on alone - he needs someone, and Clara decides that she should still go along with him.

New information: Someone else thinks she's the Doctor's girlfriend.

At the very end of the episode a woman named "Missy" shows up and tells the deceased(?) bad guy that the Doctor's her boyfriend and now this dude is in "heaven." Who really knows what this "heaven" place is, but this lady looks crazy!

Some people are already speculating that she's some old friend or foe of the Doctor's from the past, but I'm okay with it being someone new. Maybe old, crazy Clara?

Old information: Title sequences are cool.

No matter the era, the title sequence has seemed to match the tone of the show, from the 1960's black-and-white montage of light to the 1980's tubular synthesizers and computer-generated TARDIS. This new sequence is a huge difference from the other sequences in the new series, and I LOVE it. Gears and clocks are a new change of pace - very steampunk-y. The music is okay - kinda wish they'd just gone with the music from the closing credits of "The Day of the Doctor."

New information: Clockwork droids make a comeback!

I had no idea that these robotic androids that initially made their appearance in series 2's "The Girl in the Fireplace" would be coming back, but as soon as that seed got popped in my head in this episode I got really excited. I was a bit put off that the Doctor never audibly put the pieces together, but it was funny seeing him try to wrack his brain. Plus Moffat wrote both "Deep Breath" and "The Girl in the Fireplace," so the connection was bound to happen sooner or later.

And did you notice that there was a steady stream of ticking or gears going on in many of the scenes? Pretty neat.

Confused information: the TARDIS changed?

There was some talk that the TARDIS had undergone a makeover, but all I saw was new lighting and a really nice chair. Maybe I just don't look too closely at TARDIS interiors to notice things. I did enjoy the fact that the Doctor wants to bring back the "round things." I wouldn't object!

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed watching Capaldi's take on the Doctor. While I enjoyed Matt Smith, I never found his stories to be as interesting as those of the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant. I'm hoping that the stories in this series are able to bring me back to enjoying the Doctor and the story. Capaldi does a fantastic job with whatever he's given: from trying to talk to a dinosaur to convincing a robot not to push him out a floating room to getting Clara to stay with him.

So what did you think? Post your comments below!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SYTYCD Week 8

Hey! Another belated post due to obligations last Wednesday. Fortunately, I don't have any obligations next week, so my post will be up by Thursday morning!

To change it up a little bit, I'm pitting the dancers in a couple against each other. Who were my eyes more attracted to? Who seemed more comfortable with the dance? Who knocked our socks off?

Group performance

I'm never a fan of costumes that make it impossible to know who is dancing. Do we want to be kept in the dark? No! We want to find our favorite dancer and watch them the whole time. If you have a favorite dancer, of course. I don't anymore.

Ricky vs. Valerie: 

A moving prop! They must have practiced that for a long time to find out the right swing of the...swing. Light and airy. Ricky wins the dance for his shoes.

Casey vs. Jessica: 

Ah, disco.

I noticed this last week and this week, but Casey really gets into the routines. Just watch his face! He's like, "Ooh yea, this is so cool and I'm awesome!" even if he's not. He wins this battle!

I liked this normal disco routine (normal disco = oxymoron?) but hated the abrupt ending.

Zack vs. Jacque: 

Hey - I finally spelled Jacque's name without looking! It's about time.

Ah, a quickstep. Nothing spectacular in the routine, but I'm giving the round to Jacque because of the pants. Yes, those were pants.

tWitch vs. Valerie:

And a hundred bride-to-bes suddenly had lightbulbs go off. "I'm gonna make my train removable so my honey and I can dance to Usher!" Thanks a lot tWitch and Valerie.

It was pretty good. tWitch wins, because, well, tWitch always wins.

Will vs. Jacque: 

Another movable prop! That was a great catch by Will. I like him - I wish I'd been able to see his season.

All the balloons came down (are there 99?) and I thought, "That was it?" And then they danced for, like, 5 more seconds, and it was done! Kind of short. Can I really make a choice? Yes. It goes to Will.

Ade vs. Jessica: 

Jessica gets the luck with two fast-paced routines which allow her hair to be insanely crimped for both.

I guess this is the kind of thing the young kids enjoy. Though Ray Leeper probably channeled a lot of Marko in his routine. (Hair grabbing? That was so last season.) Jessica wins because I couldn't take my eyes off her. Scratch that - I couldn't take my eyes off her ankles. Or the thing covering her ankles.

Ricky vs. Anya

I just finished watching all of season 3 of Once Upon a Time, and I can't look at Ricky without thinking of Captain Hook, played by Colin O'Donoghue.

So I finally get why everyone is praising Ricky. Two examples: his hip thrusts were amazing, and the feet were on fire! Very well done. He wins. (This round - not the whole thing...yet.)

Casey vs. Makenzie

There was supposed to be a neck roll or something at the beginning, and it looked incredibly awkward. There were a couple other times in the routine where things looked awkward to do, and other times that were very smooth. The goal would be to keep the whole routine smooth sailing.

It was okay. Casey wins the round.

Zack vs. Fikshun:

I think it's a bit of a crime that in most of the front-back combos, Fikshun got put in front. I know it was because he is shorter, but Zack is the one that's competing this season! I'm going to give this round to Zack just because.

My man Phillip choreographed the routine, and he did a great job for his first routine. I loved him in his season, and I'm thrilled he's still going strong.

And please, please, PLEASE can we have more same-gender dances? It really changes the pace of the dances and allows for new storytelling. (Not just bad boyfriend crap like that.)

Final Four: Jessica (who kept her whole outfit on - props!), Ricky (duh), Valerie, and Zack.

Going home: Casey and Jacque

I am the most surprised that Zack is the one going to the finals and not Casey. There was a point in the competition where I couldn't tell the two of them apart! But that's that.

The biggest competition is who the top girl will be, even though we know Ricky will probably take the crown. (I would grin if he didn't, to be honest.) I'm going to guess Jessica will take it!

And there's enough time at the end of the show for actual interviews! Wow!

See you next week!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why You Should Watch Doctor Who on Saturday...Yes, You

Saturday, August 23 is a big day for Whovians. It is the day that series 8 (and year 51) begins of our favorite television program, Doctor Who.

We will all be watching this weekend, whether it's in the theaters, at home on TV, or the next day on Amazing Prime (which is what I will be doing).

But you should watch it, too.

Yes, you.

Why? Well, I'm glad I guessed that you would ask that. Here are some reasons.

This is a great starting point.

Doctor Who is a series that doesn't flow in a straight line. There's no obligation to go back to the first episode from 1963 and watch every single episode up to last year's Christmas special. (Thank goodness for that.)

The show has provided many different starting points for fans. Some want to see what the old series was about, and some might just be interested in anything past 2005 (that's when the new series started).

When my brothers urged me to start watching, I began with the first episode of the 2005 relaunch, titled "Rose." It introduced a modern day girl who got caught up in the Doctor's schemes, and decided to follow him as he traveled in his TARDIS through time and space.

For me, that was perfect. I grew to love the Doctor, then played by Christopher Eccleston (#9), and enjoy his many adventures with Rose, played by Billie Piper. But some people might have a hard time getting in at this point. The computer graphics were so-so, and the humor may be a bit too childish at points.

However, there was another great starting point with 2010's "The Eleventh Hour" which introduced us to Matt Smith, the new Doctor (#11). The plot was tight, the new companion knew as much about the Doctor as we did, and Matt Smith proved he was incredibly capable of taking on the role.

However, some people might get lost in the muddy story telling that was exhibited in the later series. If you stuck with it, you came out great in the end, but there's a lot of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff to get through.

So I'm declaring that Saturday's episode, entitled "Deep Breath," is the perfect jumping-off point, even if I haven't seen it yet. The Doctor has regenerated (he's an alien; he can do that) into Peter Capaldi (#12), and he is recovering from this crisis while still having to save the world from something. He has several companions - traveler Clara, and Victorian-era friends Vastra (a reptilian known as a Silurian), Jenny, and Strax (a potato alien known as a Sontaran). These companions have to adjust to a new Doctor, just like the audience will. So as they get to know this new Doctor, so will we!

A new Doctor will be new for everyone.

I can't tell people, "Oh, that Peter Capaldi, he's so sneaky and he has a great catchphrase and he does this thing with the sonic screwdriver that is so cool!" Why can't I say that? Because I know as much about Peter Capaldi's Doctor as you do! That is, nothing.

We all are going into this new series with unsure minds. What will he be like? How will he redecorate the TARDIS? Will he be funny? Crazy? Charming? Insane? We don't know! We'll just have to watch and find out for ourselves.

Relevant plots in Doctor Who are usually told in one series.

There were some overarching themes in the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who, but fortunately those were all tied up before he left the show. This means that any new main plot details will be new for everyone.

Many shows now have a theme that goes over multiple seasons. This can't be done for Doctor Who since it's 51 years old. Instead, since 2005 the main arc works over the 13-episode series, wraps up, and then a new arc begins. There were some minor carryovers once in a while, but nothing a little Googling couldn't fix.

I can explain confusing stuff very quickly. 

Here goes:

The Doctor is an alien from the planet Gallifrey. Gallifrey was "lost" in a big war that was fought between the Time Lords (one of the groups of aliens on Gallifrey) and an evil group called the Daleks - the pepper pots you always see in ads or magazines. Gallifrey was thought to be destroyed, but it wasn't, and the Doctor is going to spend a long time trying to find it.

He usually travels with a companion, and right now that's Clara, a schoolteacher from modern day. It's not always a girl, and it's not always one person.

They both go back and forth in time AND space, so one minute they're on an alien planet in the year 5 billion, and the next they are helping Queen Victoria escape from werewolves.

How do they do this? The Doctor stole a TARDIS - his time machine - from Gallifrey a long time ago (back when he was William Harnell - #1), which is an acronym for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It looks like an old British Police Box, but it's bigger on the inside.

There are lots of aliens.

The end!

I need more of my friends to watch this show.

It is disappointing that so many of my family and friends thumb their noses at this show because it looks silly. I can, however, understand if you tried starting with "Rose" and got turned off at shoddy production. It is no longer shoddy, people. It is happy and sad and lighthearted and heavy and beautiful and ugly and there are SO MANY PEOPLE who speak in amazing British accents, which automatically makes everything 100% better.

I just want to talk about it with people. It' an amazing show.

(I have the DVDs for the first four series of the new show - I will mail them to you!!!)

If nothing else, just watch this episode.

I dare you to just watch the episode on the 23rd. Just watch it. Let me know what you think, and then if you don't want to continue, that's okay. I'll just be happy that you gave it a chance.

I'll be posting a review here (Doctor RevWho - does that work?) and you can tell me your thoughts.

It's quality television, and it will give you culture!

This isn't Real Housewives or Swamp People or Millionaire Matchmaker or any of those American shows over which you might obsess. This is well-scripted British television with a great cast and a not-shallow premise. British voices aren't that difficult to understand. If you can understand Honey Boo-Boo, you'll have no trouble with this.


So have I convinced you? Probably not. But like I said, just give it one episode. Then I can feel like this article was worthwhile!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

SYTYCD Week 7

Welcome to the rapid-fire SYTYCD blog!

Top 8 dance: So we all know by now that Rudy went home, so it's a little funny that he's such a highlight of the group video. Tanisha, too. Maybe it's because I already know they went home, and I just am noticing them more.

I liked this one, once again, because it wasn't eight different things happening at once. At times there was, but it was restrained.

Ricky and Jamie: Contemporary with Travis 

There were lots of fun flips and lifts that weren't normal, and it made an average contemporary routine much better. It could have used a few more close-ups of them...well...smiling. (The song was "Smile" after all.)

Valerie and Ryan: Samba with Jean-Marc

Geez Valerie's outfit leaves nothing to the imagination, huh? Not a big fan of the tailfeather action.

You know what I noticed? She dances very well in heels because she's a tapper - she's used to dancing with some heel action.

I liked it!

Casey and Comfort: Hip-Hop with some weird guys named Pharside and Phoenix

Do spiders give kisses?

Okay, so I hate the concept, but the dancing is ridiculously awesome. Get rid of the stupid spider thing and that is my favorite dance of the night.

Tanisha and Nick: Contemporary with Stacey

Another flowy-dress, dim-light dance. Eh.

Rudy and Allison: Contemporary with Ray

I dug this routine. It wasn't flowy-dress, dim-light, and they really made a connection with the song. Great lifts, and it's really hard to look at anyone besides Allison. But Rudy did a good job keeping up!

Zack and Mackenzie: Broadway with Spencer

Hey - a familiar Michael Jackson song!

I really wanted to like this routine, but there wasn't enough connection between the two, because they were either doing parallels really far away from each other, or one was spinning and one was lifting up her skirt (that would be Mackenzie). They could have learned the dance by themselves for the most part and then put it together five minutes before!

Jacque and tWitch: Hip-Hop with Dave

Hey, we just survived a huge devastating crisis - let's dance!

There were points where I think Dave Scott wanted them to do a little more pop-and-lock, but Jacque wasn't really doing it. She tried, but not so much. Not a very good routine.

Jessica and Will: As if we couldn't get enough Contemporary with Mandy

There were only eight routines, and four were contemporary - a bit too much.

On Wikipedia Will is listed as "modern" instead of "contemporary," and this is definitely not standard contemporary (thank goodness!). It was different, and I dug it.

Control Freakz

Clearly the audience was all about this routine - they wouldn't shut up! Popping must be a lot more effective while watching in person.

Going Home: Rudy and Tanisha

Aw, too bad. It was nice to have these two personalities in the group.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pinterest My Way

If anyone mentions Pinterest to you, there is that vision that you get in the back of your mind, right?

You know what I'm talking about.

The phrase "I got this from my Pinterest board!" provokes images of cute little home decor projects, fancy centerpieces, or delicious chocolate desserts. At least, that's what it does for me. Most people who have a Pinterest account are thought to be middle aged moms who find really cute ideas but never actually do them, right?

Well, not exactly. Not anymore.

Pinterest was created, I believe, to share ideas and "pin" them to your various "boards" that you could create. People could follow your boards and pin the ideas they liked to their own boards, and the sharing process would start all over again. The pins could take you to various sites all over the Internet, where you could find how to make that gorgeous macrame lampshade or something.

I'm sure many people still use it primarily for food and decorations. But for me, my Pinterest is pretty much my fandoms defined.

At first, I got into Pinterest because of Doctor Who. I had just finished all the episodes of the new series (2005-2013, at that point) and was in withdrawl. I had to get out and find some more stuff, and I didn't really care what it was. At first I just Googled "Doctor Who" and checked out the images. Most of them were pretty cool. But there were also tons of repeats and some stuff that didn't even match "Doctor Who," yet showed up anyway.

Then I found out that there were Doctor Who boards on Pinterest, and I started checking them out. Not only was there amazing artwork on display, but there were GIFs, memes, and images of some of my favorite scenes or jokes. I saved my favorites on my computer hard drive and made them my screen saver slide show for a year.

I didn't actually join Pinterest myself until a month or two later, when I realized it would be a lot easier to get more cool Doctor Who pins. I signed in through Facebook, and as soon as I did that, suddenly a bunch of my friends from Facebook started following me. One day it would be one friend. The next day two more. The next day two more.

The funny part? None of these friends were interested in Doctor Who. I'm pretty sure they started following me because they thought I would be posting cute decorations and delicious food.

I just chuckled when they started following me, and took guesses as to how long they would tolerate seeing Doctor Who jokes and artwork peppering their home screen.

This past spring, when Star Wars came back in my life, I started following boards based on that fandom. To my utter delight, there were even more boards for Star Wars than Doctor Who! Now my computer screen saver is my favorite Star Wars images, artwork, quotes, and more.

Bless their hearts - my sister and one of my best friends send me pins on occasion because they know I would like it. I've gotten random Doctor Who pins from them, and I get a big kick out of it, even though neither of them had watched the show (my best friend has, with her husband, and really likes it now). My best friend also would send me Disney pins, which is a fandom we've shared for a long time.

Now, I have a board specifically for pins of animation, whether it's Disney animation or stuff from How To Train Your Dragon. Some of the stuff on that board now crosses over with Star Wars (since Disney owns it now) and I love seeing all the princesses admiring Leia's blaster and hair! Another one is a meme of Darth Vader saying, "Join the Dark Side...we have Disneyland."

Because I am a teacher, I did finally relent and create another Pinterest account for teacher and food stuff. Lemme just say that there are some amazing teachers with great ideas out there, and I won't be able to do all the ideas I pin, but I'll try a bunch of them. My entire art curriculum for the year was taken from Pinterest ideas. Remember when we had to buy art idea books? Not anymore.

I've also tried to expand my culinary expertise, with varying results. I've had to come to the conclusion that things will always look better than they taste. I tried to make some Funfetti cookies (with real Funfetti cake mix!) and they were all right. My zucchini casserole probably would have been better if I'd bought the right soup. (It was supposed to be Cream of Celery, and I mistakenly got Broccoli Cheddar.) The S'more dessert was a sticky failure, but the one-pot chicken fried rice ended up being delicious.

Eventually, I did conform to my initial thoughts on Pinterest. But I do greatly enjoy having that account where I can share my rabid fandoms with other people. This is definitely not just something for middle age moms.

Do you have a Pinterest account? Do you have regular boards, or do you have boards for your great obsessions? Whatever you have, enjoy it and pin as much as humanly possible! Also, remember that you can purchase actual boards at Target and pin real pictures on it. That's still a thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mini Blurbs!

Short and Stout

I have begun to get a real liking for a stout beer. For someone who normally doesn't drink beer (or if she does, it's a wheat beer) liking a stout beer is certainly strange.

In Longmont, there is a brewery called Left Hand, and they produce a milk stout called Nitro. Don't ask me why I chose to drink it one night, but I did, and I really liked it. I liked it enough to remember the name and order it a second time.

I really like New Glarus' Spotted Cow, but to really throw off my friends, I tell them Nitro is my favorite beer. They usually give me a pretty entertaining look.

School Returns

Monday begins my sixth year of teaching, and in these final days of summer, I'm finding that I am so prepared that I don't have a whole lot to do in the classroom!

We private school teachers don't have to turn in our keys over the summer, so I am in my classroom for a couple of hours about four times a week in the summer. I can do all my church and school music planning as well as slowly get my classes and classroom in order.

I have to say, though, that my room didn't really start looking like a classroom until I put up the posters last week. Then all of a sudden, the room really popped! I always enjoy these days because the room is so tidy. Oh if it could only stay that way...

A-Mison! (like amazing...get it?)

I was watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen last week and one of the Brits really drew my attention. I ended up pulling a Papa: I spent a majority of the movie trying to wrack my brain to remember where I'd seen him before.

I know I could have just done an IMDB search, but I'm at the point where I want to find out on my own and then just use that resource for confirmation.

About 3/4 of the way through the movie, I remembered: that's Ichabod Crane! er, Tom Mison from the show Sleepy Hollow! It was hard to recognize him without a full beard and long hair, and his accent was different too! But I did get him - I was very proud. Papa would be proud, too.

Chromecast Update

A few months ago I purchased a Chromecast, and have gotten middling results. When it comes to streaming from MLB.TV, I think I put the blame on MLB.TV because the issues I've read were affecting other people. Occasionally when trying to "cast" a game, the game will disappear and the words "This game will begin shortly" come on the screen...even though I was already watching the game. This wouldn't happen if the game was on my phone or tablet - only if I was casting. Hopefully MLB.TV figures this out for next season.

But I have had other issues with the cast icon disappearing from my devices. It's happened on Watch ESPN, Hulu Plus, and MLB.TV. I got so frustrated that I rebooted the Chromecast, and now it won't sync with my wifi! I disconnected it and sent a frustrating e-mail to Google.

I did check another site and they mentioned that some wireless routers aren't capable of working well with Chromecast. Although my specific model wasn't mentioned, the maker - ActionTec - was mentioned as not being very good. So if I have issues with a Century Link-issued router, do I call them up and ask for a better one? Can I just use my own that I had before?

Not quite sure. Lemme know if you can help me out.

Books Books Books

In anticipation of my upcoming trip to Universal Studios Orlando and the Harry Potter experiences there,  I am going to start reading all seven Harry Potter books again, from the very beginning.

I have never read all seven right in a row - usually there are months or years between books. But I want to be done by the beginning of October, so I need to give myself a little time.

I still haven't decided if I want to watch all eight movies yet. I enjoyed most of the parts of the movies, but there are other sections that really irritate me. Much of the new Diagon Alley was taken not only from the movie sets, but also from small mentions in the books. So for right now, I think I'll stick with the books.

Care for more mini Blurbs? Follow me at @CeePipes on Twitter and like my Blurb Musings page on Facebook!


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Theater Experience

FACT:

The enjoyment of a movie is directly related to the experience of the moviegoer.

I recently went to my local cinema to enjoy everyone's favorite movie: Guardians of the Galaxy. Well, almost everyone. (I thought it was good - not fabulous.) It turns out that the theater recently did a major overhaul, converting into a dine-in theater. I was not expecting that, though it was nice to have a little table for my Buncha Crunch and a reclining seat.

The thing I really wasn't expecting were the patrons surrounding me. To my left were two preschool-age boys. To my right was a preschool girl. None of them could keep their mouth shut during the movie.

Did the cruddy experience I had affect my enjoyment of the movie? I have no doubt that it did. If I had been in a quiet, normal theater (like I was expecting for the first showing of the day), I would have allowed myself to be taken for a crazy ride. But because I kept being taken out of the experience by annoying children (who have no place in a PG-13 movie, by the way), I couldn't keep the enjoyment alive.

While theaters have done their hardest to improve their facilities in order to attract people (like me) who feel like the theater experience is overrated, other extenuating circumstances (like noisy children or cell-phone-using adults) have kept me away. If I do see a movie in a theater, I try to make it the first showing of the day. This worked very well with How To Train Your Dragon 2, which I saw with my mother and eight other people on opening day.

This doesn't necessarily apply to movies in a theater. I remember getting some bad news before sitting in my living room and watching Dark Shadows. Even though I was by myself, my overall mood meant that I was barely interested in the movie.

When I watch a movie, I want to be completely drawn in. I feel like that is important to giving a good opinion of a movie. It's the main reason why I rarely go to the theaters now. I can count the number of movies I've seen this year in theaters on one hand. The two mentioned above - plus Captain America: The Winter Soldier - were the only three that I really felt I had to go to on opening weekend and deal with the crowds. Every other movie that's come out this year isn't worth my money or my sanity. I'll wait till it comes out at our local library, thank you very much.

Recently my big brother had my lifelong dream: a theater to himself. I used to hate that as a kid; now I crave it. Anything has to be better than loud preschoolers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SYTYCD: Week 6 with the All-Stars!

It's Tara Lipinski time! Last we saw her, we were all raving about her television prowess with fellow figure skater Johnny Weir. Now she's with Mary and Nigel. Hopefully the snarkiness continues!

Group Dance

I enjoy the fact that we can actually see the dancers' faces in the group routine. I hate spending half the song wondering who did that flip. The ladies look fine in their outfits - the guys? Not so much.

I'm no longer a huge fan of the group routines because some people (*cough* Tyce! *cough*) load up the routines with eight things happening at the same time, and it's so hard to follow. I like those routines that have the group (or just two groups) doing something together.

Introduction Blip: I keep forgetting Zack is tap!

Bridget and Brandon: Bollywood with Nakul Dev Mahajan

Somehow Brandon always gets stuck with Bollywood, disco...or both! He's awesome, but isn't he originally contemporary?

Out of all the ladies, Bridget is the one I remember the least. Honestly, last week when her name came up, I actually said, "There's a Bridget?" Not surprised she's in the bottom two.

I'm not a big fan of the Bollywood/disco mix - if they'd just called this Bollywood and gotten rid of the disco ball, I would have liked it better. There was a bit too much for me.

Poor Brandon - I wish he had nailed that final flip!

Tanisha and Ryan: Argentine Tango with Miriam and Leonardo

Ah, Ryan...I remember when his wife (also a contestant) was telling people to "stay away from my man!" Luckily she was gone sooner than he was. Holy muscles Batman...

Not only is Ryan amazing with the lifts, but Tanisha does a great job holding the poses, which is probably just as hard! Plus her legs are doing crazy stuff in the air. Kinda wish this routine had gone longer.

Emilio and Jasmine: Hip-hop with Tabitha and Napoleon

Yeeeeeea Jasmine! Shoulda won last season.

How did she get her arm vertical while still in the basket? I need to see that again.

I'm a big fan of hand/arm dancing. There should be more of it. Lots of parallel dancing, and not much plot development. Did the snake want the throne? I couldn't tell! Good routine.

Valerie and Ade: Jazz with Tyce Diorio

More great lifts and holds in this routine. And she stepped right on top of him as he was doing a plank! I think Valerie is probably my pick - it might just be that her hair is short. I don't care what the the judges say this week.

Rudy and Jenna: Cha-cha with Louis Van Amstel

Cha-cha: home of the giant butt-poof dresses.

Anyone else notice that the lining of Rudy's vest was the same color as Jenna's dress? I may have noticed it thanks to the Twelfth Doctor.

They sure aren't holding each other very close. Isn't one sign of a good ballroom routine the closeness of the partners? I'm not blaming Louis for that. (I don't blame Louis for anything!)

Jacque and Cheon: Contemporary Ballet with Travis Wall

Another hybrid dance. And they're using Tron: Legacy music! Plus points there.

Also wish that this routine was a little longer. I preferred this hybrid more than Bollywood/disco. Nigel was right to point out that they never went away from one camera shot the whole time. I also liked this better than the "Swan Lake" routine in week 1.

Ricky and Lauren: Rockabilly Jazz (??????) with Mandy Moore

I have determined that Ricky is all extremities, which is what makes him so good at dancing. His arms and legs are LONG. He also rarely does complicated lifts...well...because he's all extremities.

This was a very fun dance! I like dances like this.

Casey and Kathryn: Broadway with Spencer Liff

It's not easy to focus on the guy, but Casey succeeded this week with his skinny-tux. He also totally ditches Kathryn. What a schmoozer. Good dance! I agree with the judges that he's climbing the ladder - he's not quite with Ricky and Rudy, but he's close.

Jessica and tWitch: Hip-hop with NappyTabs

I like that this routine actually acknowledges the age difference between the two dancers. Some of those All-Stars are gettin' up there.

This routine is my favorite of the night! tWitch can really act as well as dance, which bumped the faves routine up by many points. Plus the song chosen was perfect! It wasn't some grunge rap number - it was peppy! This might be my favorite of the season. (Uprooting my current fave, which also had Jessica.)

Zack and Amy: Contemporary with Sonya Tayeh

Uh-oh: personal routine. You know that everyone's going to be crying.

You know the best part of this routine? There were parts at the beginning and parts at the end where there was no music. Only rain. And those were my favorite parts, because the music couldn't sweep you up: it's only the dancing that could do it. There were lots of jumps and holds (Amy has abs of steel, BTW) that were awesome.

Geez - could you imagine a "personal" routine that wasn't done well?

Christina Perri on her annual SYTYCD stop because it made her famous.

Why are Cheon and Kathryn dancing behind her? Just get rid of her and have just the two of them on stage!

Cut Time: Emilio and Bridget

Yup, not too surprising. Do you think it should have been someone else?


Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Camper's Guide

My family did not camp when I was a kid.

Scratch that.

My parents hate camping, so we never did it.

That's better.

My parents' idea of a vacation includes a hotel room, pool, and continental breakfast. It does not include mosquitoes, campfire smoke, and the lack of a shower. While we did many a road trip, we never parked our car at a campsite.

However, as we children grew older, we actually discovered that we liked camping. I was influenced by one of my friends, Erin, who used to do a three-week camping excursion that included family camp and church camp. When we were in college, my group, the Fantastic Five, decided to use Erin's camping prowess and go camping ourselves! We've camped together three times since then, with varying degrees of success, but it always guaranteed a good story.

This weekend I went camping with my church, and had a very good time. While there wasn't a large amount of mosquitoes, there was a large amount of hairy caterpillars, which gave the kids in our group something to hunt and catch. I shared a campsite with a family of five, and our site ended up becoming the "party site" on Friday night, when we hosted several other families from the church in a giant s'more cook-off.

What did I learn? Reese's Peanut Butter Cups aren't the only good substitute for s'mores. How about Kit-Kat? Or replace the graham crackers with Rice Krispie Treats for the gluten intolerant? Or replace the cracker and the chocolate with a Fudge Stripe cookie?

We as a church shared two meals together: one evening meal and one breakfast. Both were potluck-style and full of delicious food. I prepared brownie cupcakes, with a surprise inside that I didn't reveal to anyone. When they bit into the brownie, they found two Oreo cookies sandwiched together with peanut butter! It made for a delicious treat.

Most of the trip was spent chilling in lawn chairs, talking with fellow members and getting to know them better. It's hard to camp by yourself, because the most important part of camping is the fellowship.

I'm going to post some reminders for myself here, and you're welcome to use them, too:

1. Get a bigger tent.

When the family I with which I shared the site saw my tent, they laughed. Why? Well, I am borrowing it from my little cousin, who is a fifth-grader that got it a few years ago in a Boy Scout competition. I can fit myself in it diagonally, and last year when I camped it worked just fine.

However, many people thought it was way too small for me this time, and a family lent me their tent for the trip. It could fit me length-wise as well as two other people (if there had been two other people to fit). I was glad for the space, and glad for the generosity. But maybe I should look in to getting a bigger tent.

2. Pack the little things.

I had remembered a few key items - foam sleeping pad, pot holder, marshmallow skewer, hiking boots, bug spray, sunscreen, long underwear (which I needed!), and a storage tote. However, there were quite a few things that I forgot this time around. They include:

- a small broom and dustpan (with which I could clean out the tent)
- a welcome mat (to prevent dirt from getting inside the tent in the first place)
- a flashlight (though I did have an electric lantern)
- my Camelbak backpack
- a coat
- cups
- my lawnchair
- a wristwatch

3. The best food can be wrapped in tinfoil and placed on the fire.

A lot of the food we ate had been pre-made and wrapped in tinfoil. On Friday night I had delicious potatoes, green peppers, and onions covered with seasoning and olive oil. Another family had ribs. In the morning there were burritos. Not all campfire meals have to be a hot dog on a stick.

4. Dogs make camping fun.

Many of the families brought their dogs along for the trip, and that made it a lot of fun. I enjoy dogs, and now more than ever, they like me! I don't have a dog of my own, but I am more than willing to share with someone else.

5. Never underestimate packing.

Camping requires a lot of stuff. If you think you need it, take it.


I'm glad I've learned to enjoy camping. It's not something I want to do all the time, but once or twice a year, it's good to disconnect from the phone and finally see all those stars in the sky.