Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today in music history: 1998

Today we go back to 1998 and find:

"The Boy is Mine" by Brandy and Monica.

I remember loving this song when it first came out.  I had no idea who Monica was, but Brandy had a TV show, and the song was fun, and everyone dueted it at school.

Listening again, though, made me realize what a boring song this was.  There is very little derivations in the notes themselves, and, while I'm sure there were verses, they got lost in the chorus repeated a million times during the song itself.

Not to mention, neither of the girls sounds very good.  I much prefer the Kelly Clarkson/other idol contestant song with a similar theme.

What did you think if this one?

Previously in 1998:

My All

Too Close

America’s Got Talent: 5/28 & 5/29

This week saw two more hour long episodes, one in Tampa, and one in St. Louis.  There were quite a few acts showcased, so lets get right down to it!

We started in Tampa:

Rainbow Glee: This was an ‘urban’ singing/dancing troupe.  They were pretty good, and had a fun interpretation of “Lean on Me” I think they could make it into the top 40

All male cloggers: Another dance act.  With the huge number of dance acts we’ve seen, these guys didn’t really stand out for me.  I don’t think they’ll get past performing in Vegas

Hula Hoop Artist:  This was a neat act, her control of the hula hoops was pretty incredible.  I think I see her getting cut in the last round before the top 40.

Equal vs. fair, and why it matters.

“That’s not FAIR!”  A common childhood refrain, said by many a sibling, older and younger, around the world.

When we are children, we want things to be ‘fair,’ but what we really mean is we want things to be EQUAL.  Same amount of candy, of computer or TV time, same curfew, same same same.
And having things be equal is a very childish thing to want.  If a child doesn’t deserve things to be ‘equal,’ then they shouldn’t be.

A naughty child shouldn’t get the same amounts of treats as a good child.  A child that has homework that needs to be finished should get more computer time than a child that only wants to play games.  A child that has a new episode of their favorite show on should get to watch the TV over a child who’s shows are in reruns.  A child that has earned their parent’s trust should be able to stay out later than a wild child who gets in trouble all the time.

And the cries of ‘Not fair!” abound when this is the case.  But is it not fair, or not equal?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nicholey has met her match...

Holy crap: Why Loki wanted to lose

I found a fascinating theory regarding The Avengers, and Loki's plot:

(Courtesy The Mask of Reason)

Spoiler Alert!  Avoid reading this post if you haven’t seen The Avengers.

No really, look away!

O.k., let’s talk about The Avengers, the highest grossing movie so far this year, and the movie on track to potentially unseat James Cameron’s Avatar as highest grossing movie of all time.  Specifically, I want to talk about the writing and Loki, the film’s key villain.  More specifically, I want to explain how Joss Whedon managed to write the perfect Xanatos Gambit.

For those who don’t know or didn’t click the link above, a Xanatos Gambit (named for the villain Xanatos from Disney’s Gargoyles cartoon) is a plan that literally cannot fail because win or lose, the villain wins.  This is one of those “I wanted you to beat me all along” scenarios, where defeating the villain somehow means the hero still loses.  This isn’t changing your plans to compensate or getting lucky, this is planning all along for every possible outcome to lead to what you want.  And Loki in the Avengers does so perfectly.

Warcraft 101: What I'd change

World of Warcraft has been around for a long time, seven years.  That, in game time, is ancient.  When most games get played for a month or two until the next big thing comes out, Warcraft has managed to retain it’s audience, or even grow it, for a very long time. 

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I would change, or add, to the game.  Here are just a few of them.

First, I would institute player housing.  Currently, when you log out of the game, the biggest concern you have is…nothing, especially if you’re high level.  While you’re leveling, logging out in a capital city or an inn is important, as it gives an XP boost when you log in the next time, but once you are finishes leveling, it doesn’t matter anymore.  The bad part about being able to hang your hat anywhere, is you have nowhere to hang your hat that it your own.  Players have been clamoring for housing practically since WoW premiered, but it still has yet to come to pass.  Implementation of housing in Aion is done very well, and I think WoW could take a page from their book in terms of what works, and what doesn’t.

Second, another idea straight from Aion:  Let companion pets carry items, and generally be more useful.  WoW is attempting that for the next expansion, with the whole-scale implementation of Pokemon into the game world, but the pets only fight each other for glory and honor, and the occasional achievement.  In Aion, companion pets can carry items, and if you keep them out and happy, they will occasionally give you presents too, which is super awesome fun times.

Third, I would implement more mini-games into the world.  Right now, there is a shortened Plants vs. Zombies, and the aforementioned Pokemon to be introduced in the next expansion.  I really think Blizzard could go even further with it, though they would have to be careful not to inundate the playerbase, and risk alienating a decent chunk of them.  But I would really like to see an actual tower defense game, and things like that.  The Darkmoon Faire is a step in the right direction, but the mini-games there don’t really give you a reason to play them, what with only giving one ticket a time.  Basically what this suggestion comes down to is; give people something to do that isn’t killing mobs, or players over and over again. 

Right now, the options in the game boil down to raid, dungeon, quest, RP, or PvP.  Yes, there are subsets of those things to do(achievements come to mind), but in essence, you are doing one of those five things.  And unless you like pretending to be someone else, your choices revolve around killing stuff.  That can be fun, but it does get old.

Anyway, WoW is still a great game, otherwise it wouldn’t have held onto 10 million players all these years, but I do see room for improvement and growth, and I hope Blizzard continues to look at World of Warcraft that way as well.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's random video time!

AMG, this is so freaking adorable!

You should watch it right now.

Melissa Meets Boy: Season 3

Ahh, season 3.  The one where it all started to meld into the Boy Meets World we know and love.  The characters partially developed in the first and second seasons are solidified, and we really get to know who everyone is.

Cory and Topanga started dated, then ended dating, then started and ended several more times during this season.  They were almost as bad as Ross and Rachel, with even more silly antics.  We ended here with the big Disney ending, and Cory and Topanga together, as they should be.

Shawn did move in with Mr. Turner, and there were several speedbumbs along the way there, as well.  Mr. Turner had to learn it is probably not a good idea to lie to Shawn, and they both had to figure out the cohabitation thing.  The season ended with Shawn moving back in with his father, even though his mother hadn’t turned up yet.

Eric became a bigger part of the cast as well, with a decent chunk of time devoted to his last year in high school, and what he’s going to do once he graduates.  Hint: it’s not going to be college, at least not in season 4.

This season was very good, though not quite to the heights we would see in seasons 4 and 5.  There were many highlights though, as follows:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today in music history: 1989

Today, we look back to 1989, and find:

"Rock On" by Michael Damian

So I was laughing through this entire video.  This guy is like a proto-bieber.

He tries to be all rock-like, and fails miserably.  I honestly can't even imagine how this song was popular, it it that bad.

The hook, which is supposed to be catchy, only succeeds in making you laugh at the ludicrousness of it.  The look of the video, I think, is supposed to show that the guy is hardcore, but fails miserably at every turn.

What did you think of this one?
Previously in 1989:

I'll Be There For You

Like a Prayer

Thank you

Excel and you: More quick tips

Today, as is fitting for a day of vacation, I have a couple of quick tips to speed up your Excel sessions.

First, we have a couple of table making items.

Have you ever created a table with a row of labels that you wanted to be vertical?

Class names, y r u so long?

Well, that’s an easy job, found in the cell format option when you rightclick on a cell.

Go here for fun times!

If you highlight the entire row, you format all of them, so go to the alignment tab, and flip the knob on the right from 0 to 90 or -90, and viola, you have a vertical row!

Much better!

Next, have you ever seen the fancy table where each row alternates colors?  If you thought you had to do that manually, guess again!  There is a handy function in the format as table button, allowing you to color a selection of a table you have created, and it puts in the filter selection automatically!

Look at all the options!

Lastly on this quick little roundup, I’ll deal with decimals.

Have you ever calculated a formula in Excel, only to have the decimals come out all wrong?

Well, if you want to have more, or less numbers after the decimal, there is a quick fix right in the home ribbon!

Why yes, I did spend excessive time on the arrow, thanks for noticing!

To give your number more decimals, highlight the cell, then click the button with the arrow pointing left!  To shrink the number of decimals(this does induce rounding), click the one with the arrow to the right!

And that’s all I have for you today! 

Have you ever thought, ‘I wish I could do x in Excel?'  Leave me a comment, and I’ll try to find a solution for you!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today in Music history: 1988

Today, we again to back to the 80's, 1988 to be specific, and find

"One More Try" by George Michael

This was a super boring song.  I think it was some sort of break up song, maybe?  The title didn't even fit into the song until the last line, which is a bit unusual.

Even the video was boring: George Michael leaning against a wall, singing the song while back-lit, so all we saw for the most part was his silhouette.

Did you have a different reaction to this song?

Previously in 1988:

Anything For You

Get Outta My Dreams(Get into my Car)

Week 10: Closing the gap

I am a mere two weeks away from the big ride, and I don't feel anywhere close to ready.  I really need to get in at least 40 miles in the next week just to make sure I can, but my body is resisting the entire way.  Hopefully I'll be able to push my way through it, and continue riding the rest of the summer!

In more cheery news, I'm all checked in and ready to ride come June 9!

Go here for donations, two weeks to go!

Week 10(May 20-27) totals:      16 miles
Week 9(May 13-19) totals:        16 miles
Week 8(May 6-May 12) totals:  30 miles
Week 7(April 29-May 5) totals: 36 miles
Week 6(April 22-28) totals:         0 miles
Week 5(April 15-21) totals:       12 miles 
Week 4(April 8-14) totals:         12 miles
Week 3(April 1-7) totals:           32 miles
Week 2(March 25-31) totals:    18 miles
Week 1(March 18-24) totals:    26 miles

Total Miles: 198

The funny stuff: Not so funny now, NBC

So all my shows are gone for the summer.  I am sad panda until everything comes back in September.

There has been some news, however.  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that NBC renewed Community for an abridged fourth season of 13 episodes.  I was super happy about that.

And then, the internet exploded.

Sony, who owns/produces Community, fired Dan Harmon.  You may be wondering who Dan Harmon is.  Well, he is the MOST important part of Community.  He created the show, and executive produced it through the first three amazing seasons.  His vision, his procedure, his energy made the show what it was, and I really don’t know if it will be the same.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance: 5/23

Ahh, another one of my summer favorites has come back.  Once this show hits it’s stride, in the performance stage, it’s practically unbeatable.

But to get there, we have to delve through the audition rounds, first.

One reason I really like this show is that they tend to focus more on people that can actually dance, as opposed to the nutjobs that are either delusional, famewhorey, or both.

We met several people in these two cities that were really impressive, or had good stories.

Dancing mom: If she makes it to the show, she’ll be one of the oldest contestants, at 29, but she has the adorable factor of her 5 and 2 year old to back her up.  The best part of her audition was when Nigel had her kids come up to his seat, and then had them give her her ticket to Vegas.  When the 2 year old daughter got on stage in her little pink tut, she started doing toe points and things, and saying ‘my turn!’  Nigel let her, and it was seriously the most adorable thing ever. 

Jarell Rochelle: It rhymes!  His mother is going blind, so Nigel invites her up to his seat as well, and Jarell proceeds to wow everyone with his story, and is mother.

The Exorcist: No, not from the movie.  Hampton Williams claims he can take a persons soul during his dance, cleanse it, and return it to the person more whole.  I was totally expecting this guy to be terrible, but he was great.  He got Mary crying, and everyone generally lauding over him.  Hopefully he can do well in Vegas week.

Sam Shreffler: And he is why I love this show.  We saw him on the bumpers with his cape, and odd look about him, and we expected terrible things, like the wiggles guy from New York.  But then, he got on stage, and Nigel asked him what he did.  We found out he participates in Autism research. “So you have autism, then?”  Nigel asked.  Sam confirmed with a comment about the spectrum, and how he lies on it somewhere.  Nigel was maybe a bit patronizing, but never condescending, seeming to show an actual interest in what Sam had to say.  When Sam danced, it was…not good.  He danced with energy, and emotion, though, and Nigel told him as much, and told him never to stop dancing, even though they couldn’t put him through to Vegas.  It was a great, feel good segment, almost on par with the dwarf dancer from a season of two ago that was actually good.

There were a total of I think 40 dancers that made it through, so this is just a small sampling, but it was good.  I cannot wait for the meat of the show to kick in.

Top 10: Favorite Kid and YA book series

Yay, it’s list time!  Today’s list is my favorite juvenile and young adult book series.  I was an AVID reader as a kid, and much of my time was taken up with series of books.  I loved knowing I would read more about the characters the next month, and my bookshelves were full of my many obsessions.  Dad was constantly trying to build me enough storage to hold them all, and never succeeded, cause the books kept coming out like clockwork.

Now, for this list, I had to set a few parameters, because otherwise the list would be massive.  My main requirements were more than five books(sorry Hunger Games!), easily expandable on the main charaters(this ruled out Harry Potter, only because the series had a definite ending point), and the books had to come first(so no Full House or Ghostwriter books).

I didn’t limit myself to only YA books either, I remember devouring even the easy reader chapter books in the early morning, awake before the alarm clock even woke me up.

Other than that, most everything was fair game.

Before we start, a few honorable mentions:
The Princess Diaries
Ramona & Friends
The Magic School Bus
Choose Your Own Adventure
Captain Underpants
The Bathroom Reader series(I know, technically not YA, but I so enjoyed it as a kid!)
Chicken Soup for the various Souls(see above)

Now that that’s out of the way, lets head out to the list proper, starting with…

Friday, May 25, 2012

Today in music history: 1985

Today we go back to 1985, and find:

"Everything She Wants" by Wham!

This was an interesting song.  It actually had  a vague story to it(guy feels overwhelmed with supporting his wife) but the synthesizers and complete 80's sound are a bit of a turn off.  For reference, this was the B-side to "Last Christmas," and stylistically, they are rather similar in sound.

I don't actually remember this song at all, but I don't have a problem with that.  The video is bland, the music grates after a while, and it's excessively long, to boot.

What did you think of this one? 

Previously in 1985:

"Don't You(Forget About Me)"

"We Are The World"

America's Got Talent: 5/21-22

Another two days of audition shows, but only one hour installments each episode, and both were focused on New York.  Let see what we found there:

Flight Crue: I think this was the basketball trampoline dunk team.  Their performance wasn’t terribly exciting, though the cameras sure tried to sell it hardcore.  I don’t see them getting past Vegas.

Aerial Ring: A guy did aerial stunts using a ring.  He did do some fun spins and things, I think we’ll see him perform in Vegas, and maybe even get a call back, but I don’t see him in the top 40

Modern Irish Dance: So how many times are we going to hear Howard say he doesn’t like dance, except for this one time?  That does get old.  This was an Irish stepping team, and they performed well, but the style doesn’t lend itself to growing much.  If the dance competition is weak, they may make top 40, but otherwise they aren’t making it out of Vegas.

Fast Pianst: This was a pianist that could play fast, obvs.  This does not have potential for a big stage show, like at all.  I don’t even see him playing in Vegas.

Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday

Happy Friday, everyone!

As has become tradition, I have a book for you!  But I am breaking from that tradition just a bit in reviewing a non-YA book!  Amazeballs, right?

This week, we have:

Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

Emma can fit her entire life in a suitcase, and frequently does so when her 5 year old son tells her “the bad men are near.”  They have gone from seedy hotel to seedy hotel for nearly the entirety of Jake’s life, and are moving on from a small town in Texas when we run into them.  As they are leaving town, a mysterious stranger, Will appears, and Jake insists he travel with them.

From then on, the majority of the story is running from location to location, staying away from the bad men, and just a little hate-sex.  Cause of course, that’s what you do when men with assault rifles are chasing you, right?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today in music history: 1983

Today when we look back to 1983, we find another movie song:

"Flashdance...What a Feeling" by Irene Cera

I think everyone knows this song!  It's a fun one to sing along to, again, some more, even though it is terribly 80's with all the synthesizers.  The video isn't much to write home about, just clips from the movie.

What do you remember about this song?

Previously in 1983:

Beat It

Come On, Eileen 

Let's Dance

Glee: New York, No York

This week’s episode consisted of a whole lot of emotion, and not a whole lot of plot.  It makes sense in the grand scheme of things, since we are saying goodbye to a decent chunk of the cast, but it would have been nice to set up something-nay, anything-for next year.

So we start with a freaking hilarious graduation gift from Burt to Kurt.  Burt did the Single Ladies dance for Kurt, in honor of how far they have come.  In a season with a crazy amount of wackiness, I think that may be the scene that got me laughing the hardest.

We then go to everyone saying goodbye to each other in various ways, and it emotional as you would think.  Songs are sung, hugs are given, and we know where everyone is going to be come next year.

Starting with the fabulous trio,

Rachel, Finn, and Kurt:  Rachel got into Nyata, or however the fake theater school is spelled, but Kurt didn’t.  Finn, though he though he aced his Inside the Actor’s Studio audition, did not, and so the three’s plans of moving to New York were thwarted.  Rachel and Finn were planning their wedding through the whole episode, and Finn was CONSTANTLY making sure Rachel still loved him(Yes, it got really old).  After all the fretting, and Rachel deciding to defer, Finn sends her to New York anyway, without him.  So the final tally is Rachel: New York. Kurt: Lima with Blaine, Finn: RANDOM ARMY CHOICE!  Yeah, it was basically that abrupt on screen too, with only a 30 second scene setting it up earlier in the episode.

Brit and Puck: Our favorite underachievers are all set for next year too, with Puck graduating, but no further plans set, and Brit…not so much, as she had a 0.0 GPA.  Puck managed to pass the test due to a kiss from Quinn that somehow managed to bring back his swagger?  I don’t know, that was very strange.  So final count for these two are Lima:2, Underachievers:0.

Mercedes and Mike: You may be asking yourself, why did I group these two together?  Simple answer?  They got the shaft, hard core, though Mike got it moreso.  Mike will be dancing at a school, or maybe a dance company, that I didn’t even bother to write down.  Mercedes got a recording contract as a backup singer on an indie label, as helpfully exposited by Sam, and then was never seen or heard from again, cause can you say shady?  So Lima failed on sucking these two in again.

Santana and Quinn:  Another odd pairing, but they are the last two left, so odd men out, I suppose.  Quinn hasn’t changed since she found out she was going to Yale, she’s still headed there with a train pass to visit Rachel in New York and vice versa whenever they want.  Santana, though, got a whole storyline with Gloria Estefan as her mother.  Santana realizes she doesn’t want to go to Kentucky, she’d rather be a New York girl as well, so her mother gives her the money she’d been saving for eighteen years to send her to a good school, and lets her use it on trying to make it in showbiz.  Santana’s mother was played very oddly, and I don’t think a real person would ever act that way in a million years.  But we still end up with another two escaping Lima’s grasp.

So, final final tally?  Lima:3 Escapers:5.  37.5% return rate for next year is my guess!

“Forever Young” as sung by Will
“I’ll Remember” as sung by Kurt
“You Get What You Give” as sung by the seniors
“In My Life” as sung by the underclassmen
“Glory Days” as sung by Puck ft. Finn
“Root Before Branches” as sung by Rachel